Silvertown Tunnel – the best TfL can offer?

If you invest £1000 in my business, the best thing I can offer you is learning.

21st century planning

The cost of small production lines and website development is so low that £1000 is best spent testing the water: make 100 T-shirts and a website, and see if they sell, rather than building a factory for millions only to find out your T-shirt design is unpopular, or out of fashion.  The idea that the currency of success is now learning – from a friend who once worked in tech startups – seems a very 21st century way of doing business.  There is another way to do business that remains popular though; with plans for Silvertown Tunnel, TfL are doing business in the style of the 1950s.

Silvertown: 1950s planning

1950s thinking – particularly around road design was to ‘predict and provide’:

Predict and provide

The earliest, and perhaps most destructive road transport policy in the UK, whereby traffic levels were forecast, and capacity provided to meet this forecast (University of Nottingham)

At Silvertown, TfL have predicted a massive growth in cross-river traffic by people who will want to drive.  Rather than seeking to provide alternatives, reduce that demand or prioritise those who actually need to drive there, they propose a tunnel:

The Silvertown Tunnel will reduce congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel, improve the resilience of the surrounding road network and support economic and population growth.  (All quotations are from this TfL page or linked documents, unless otherwise indicated).

Despite creating a new, quicker way to drive, TfL claim this won’t attract many additional drivers, in fact:

We estimate that by 2031, delays on the approach to the tunnel would be virtually eliminated.

This is in defiance of the experience of every major road-building scheme in Britain over a period of thirty years, which shows that ‘improving’ roads invariably induces more people to drive:

The average traffic flow on 151 improved roads was 10.4% higher than forecasts that omitted induced traffic and 16.4% higher than forecast on 85 alternative routes that improvements had been intended to relieve. In a dozen more detailed case studies the measured increase in traffic ranged from 9% to 44% in the short run and 20% to 178% in the longer run. This fitted in with other evidence on elasticities and aggregate data. The conclusion was:

 “An average road improvement, for which traffic growth due to all other factors is forecast correctly, will see an additional [i.e. induced] 10% of base traffic in the short term and 20% in the long term.”

(Taken from this post, which summarises this DfT report).

If Silvertown Tunnel is similar to every other major road scheme, it will increase traffic on the Greenwich Peninsula.

Note to TfL - you cannot build your way out of a traffic jam (source - Citylab)

Note to TfL – you cannot build your way out of a traffic jam (source – Citylab)

So, TfL’s other claims seem doubtful too:

The environmental impact of current traffic congestion on some of London’s most polluted roads would be reduced

The scheme would bring about an overall air quality improvement on the main approach routes to and from the Blackwall Tunnel,

TfL promises to charge for the tunnel, and for Blackwall, to alleviate the otherwise inevitable harm.

TfL proposes to use to manage traffic impacts arising from the Silvertown Tunnel is user charging, which would act to deter increases in demand and should therefore minimise adverse impacts (TfL)

A 21st century business proposal

What upsets me about this (apart from the waste of money, induced demand caused, additional pollution and general obtuseness of the approach) is that TfL’s approach does not offer us any learning.

Were we to charge for the crossing now, we could find out how many people actually need to drive across the Thames here.  Demand might be managed sufficiently to avoid the massive expense of a new bridge. Pollution might be reduced in the area.

That’s what happened when Stockholm did something similar, as beautifully summarised in this TED talk.  Introducing a very small congestion charge has a significant effect.

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One or two euros was enough to make 20 percent of cars disappear from rush hours.  If you can reduce traffic even somewhat, then congestion will go down much faster than you might think

People changed their behaviour.  Were they massively inconvenienced?

We did this huge interview survey with lots of travel services, and tried to figure out who changed, and where did they go? And it turned out that they don’t know themselves.  For some reason, the car drivers are — they are confident they actually drive the same way that they used to do.  

This seems logical, but without doing it, we’ll have no idea.  What I can’t understand is why TfL don’t start by charging, then decide whether we need another crossing.  Rather than building another crossing, then charging, then see if things clear up.

This is an amazing offer for TfL: it’s a trial which would make them money, rather than costing it.  (And there’s no negative – it’s infrastructure they will have to build, and unpopularity they will have to face anyway – as they’ve promised to toll the new crossing and Blackwall Tunnel eventually anyway).

TfL desperately want this toxic tunnel

However, even if it were to charge, TfL are adamant that a new bridge is needed:

While a charge at the Blackwall Tunnel would reduce some demand, a charge alone could not prevent incidents at the tunnel.

TfL say there were almost 1,000 incidents at the Blackwall Tunnel

Although a charge at the Blackwall Tunnel might reduce some demand from motorists – depending on the level at which it was set – it could not prevent planned and unplanned incidents at the tunnel, which is a significant cause of congestion across a wide area.

So we are building a toxic tunnel due to ‘planned and unplanned’ incidents.  What kind of incidents?

The new Silvertown Tunnel would significantly reduce incidents at the Blackwall Tunnel which force its temporary closure, in particular incidents involving overweight vehicles.

So, we’re going to spend £750 million to accommodate drivers of overweight vehicles – who presumably know they shouldn’t be using the tunnel?

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Source: TfL

Surely TfL can come up with a smarter approach to preventing people using a tunnel they don’t fit down than building another tunnel?

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Image credit: Mcivory

We could even combine my two ideas: charge now, and spend some of the money on better incident prevention and breakdown services.  At at least £2 per journey, TfL can get its hands on perhaps £250,000 pounds a day – this would nicely cover something a high-tech solution and an investment in sustainable alternatives.

I don’t know for sure.  TfL may be right:

We concluded that a charge at the Blackwall Tunnel without any increase in new crossing capacity was not a suitable option, since it would not address our wider objective of reducing incidents at the Blackwall Tunnel and providing more resilience and choice for people crossing the river. In addition, although charging would reduce some demand to cross at the Blackwall Tunnel, there would still be significant congestion and adverse impacts on alternative crossing routes.

TfL don’t know either.  Concluding that a charge wouldn’t work without trying it is lunacy.  The best TfL can offer is a toxic tunnel, at a cost of £750m.  We won’t learn anything for five years, and we’ll face all the negative consequences before and afterwards.

TfL desperately need to take a 21st century approach – trial charging and find out.  Maybe some of those journeys aren’t necessary.  Maybe some of them could be retimed, rerouted or put on a changed mode.  We could find out and TfL could make a profit in the process…

Tell TfL you are against their toxic tunnel here – demand user charging instead.  The consultation is live now until Sunday, 29th November.

And help the No campaign, here.

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Left Dangling: Crossing the Thames in East London

Should we be worried about the proposed Silvertown Tunnel?  Having cycled to work from East London to Woolwich from 2012 to 2014, this part of the world already faces illegally poor air quality, congested and dangerous roads, and a scar in the face of the A2 motorway cut through Kidbrooke.  The unwelcome news that my employer is moving to North Greenwich next year both reminded me of this issue and posed a more immediate concern: how do I get to work?

TfL are pushing to build another road crossing beside the Blackwall Tunnel.  Their latest consultation response came out earlier this year.  There are many, many things which make little sense, but I wanted to start with one which will directly affect me: their attitude towards people on foot and on bikes.

Improving cycling and walking links

At a number of points in the consultation response, TfL responded to requests for better links for people on bikes or on foot.  Each time, they followed the same formula:

We explained in our consultation materials that even with dedicated provision for pedestrians and cyclists (which would be necessary for their safety) the Silvertown Tunnel would not be an attractive place to walk or cycle through, and it was in recognition of this that in 2012 we introduced the Emirates Air Line cable car.

As set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, the Emirates Air Line cable car was introduced to provide a convenient crossing for pedestrians and cyclists between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks.

In reality, few cyclists and an extremely small number of pedestrians would be likely to use a facility within the tunnel given that it would be quicker to cross the river via the Emirates Air Line, which provides connections to key areas on each side of there river.

The implicit claim then, is that, for pedestrians and people on bikes, the Dangleway is “attractive” (quotation 1), “convenient” (quotation 2), “quick(er)” (quotation 3).

As someone unlucky enough to have to work in North Greenwich from next year, and living in East London, here is my Dangleway Level Of Service assessment:

Attractive

Attractive cycling and pedestrian links generally don’t charge you for the privilege of using them.  Or at least, they aren’t substantially more expensive than the alternatives.

If I caught the Dangleway to work with my bike each day, it would cost me £3.40 in either direction; £6.80 return.  Paying £6.80 for a journey, when one of the attractions of cycling is it is practically free is hardly attractive.

Indeed, almost any other way of getting to work would be cheaper: it would cost me £1.70 each way to use the Overground and tube.  Or, at present, no fee at all to drive.

While there is a discount for regular ‘commuters’ on the Dangleway, it is equal to the cost of getting to my new workplace by Overground and tube.  And since I have the choice, there is no chance I will visit the North Greenwich offices five days a week, which is what’s needed to gain this discount.

Attractive cycling and pedestrian links also don’t wobble: as someone who’s afraid of heights, I don’t find adding a terrifying Dangleway ride to my scary enough cycle particularly attractive.

Convenient

The Dangleway opens at 7am and is closed by 9pm in winter.  At my last job (in Woolwich), I had to be at work by 7.25, so getting their with my bike via the Dangleway would have been impossible.  Sometimes I have to work late; sometimes I like to join colleagues for a drink after work: a convenient crossing would cater for such circumstnaces by being open 24 hours a day.

A convenient transport link still works when it’s windy, too.

Quick(er)

The average Dangleway crossing takes seven, eight or perhaps even ten minutes.  A quick crossing would not have an alternative mode of transport offering a far swifter route next door (the tube).

Indeed there are few journeys in central London which are 2 1/2 times faster by car than by bike.  Yet TfL’s priority is to make it easier to drive across the river here, not to cycle or walk.

Cycling

Driving

Dangleway success?

If TfL intended to create an attractive, convenient and quick crossing for people on bikes and on foot, they failed: the Dangleway had four regular commuters in 2013 and none in 2014.  An attractive, convenient and quick link for pedestrians and cyclists would be free, open 24 hours a day, and no slower than its neighbouring tube journeys.

What TfL have created in the Dangleway is a tourist attraction, and one that doesn’t even break even.  I don’t mind (although I struggle to see how this fulfils TfL’s mandate); I do object to TfL doing nothing to improve crossings for people on foot and cycling, proposing to spend £750 million on an additional link for drivers and then using this joke of a crossing to pretend that they have done anything for sustainable travel.

In Central London, TfL are finally building for the future, with the East-West and North-South Cycle Superhighways making it possible for ordinary people to consider cycling to work and play and a sensible reallocation of road space towards healthy and sustainable forms of transport a reality.  Meanwhile in East London, they are planning for the past, for a world in which everyone drives, and every driver’s desire to go wherever they like quickly must be accommodated, while cyclists and pedestrians can be fobbed off with a crossing which is inconvenient, unattractive and expensive.

Two factors in mitigation

  1. TfL have given Sustrans £200,000 to sketch out plans for a new walking and cycling link from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf: something far cheaper, and far more sustainable.  It won’t get me to work, but it looks like they are finally considering sustainable transport links.
  2. Silvertown Tunnel makes no sense, on almost any rational grounds.  I’ll write more about them in future, but a close examination of the business, traffic and air pollution cases for the tunnel should make it possible to prevent it being built.

There is far more on this by Darryl at 853blog and at No to Silvertown Tunnel.

CycleDireHighway – CS3: TfL get it wrong again

Since January, I’ve commuted, in part, down Cycle Superhighway 3.  I have been meaning to write for ages about some of the spectacularly dangerous and inept junction designs on the route.  But before I’ve even had time, TfL have done something so colossally stupid, I have to cover it first.

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They’ve only gone and blocked it completely.

Now, I know there are fairly limited (but not unwelcome) improvements planned to CS3 (I don’t know if this is related to that, and when I tweeted TfL asking what they were up to, I didn’t get an answer.  Clearly something significant is happening, and the scale of the work means the cycle track has had to change.

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In the process however, TfL have taken the only safe, segregated route out of the centre of London to the east, and closed it.  And provided:

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There’s a cyclists dismount sign too, out of shot.

The bizarre thing – the thing that shows TfL, or at least large parts of it, still don’t get cycling, or don’t consider it as a worthwhile mode of transport, is that they’ve kept the road open next to it.  It’s a vile little rat-run full of commercial vehicles.

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Yesterday, but I’m making a collection of all the through traffic rat-running down Cable Street if anyone wants it.

Let’s recap.  TfL have blocked the only safe east-west route in Tower Hamlets, when they could have closed the road and let cyclists still have a safe route – and instead, they’ve left open a rat-run to drivers instead.

There’s no warning further up the route – even if there were an alternative.  So what do you think every single person on a bike did?

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TfL – making CS3 less safe, and less pleasant, for everyone.

But don’t fear – there’s still space right next to where all the other pictures were taken for pavement parking.

CIMG9996As ever, I’m trying to be balanced.  TfL are doing some great stuff on CS2, that I blogged about today.  But this is so spectacularly clueless, I still wonder what’s going on inside the organisation.  Sort it out – the works are due to last until November.

CycleSuperHighway: CS2 Super Junction Opens

Cycling home this evening up Mile End Road, I came across TfL and police officers issuing advice to people on bikes…

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TfL’s rep informed me that something a little different had opened…

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Cyclists approach the junction down this segregated lane, to the outside of left-turning drivers (picture looking back up the road)

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So this is how things line up for the race off the lights…  Three lanes of drivers, one of people on bikes – as it was before…

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But the race off the lights never happens.  People on bikes, and drivers going straight on get green, while drivers turning left are held on red (you can just about see the car in the centre with its left-indicator flashing not moving; the cyclist turning left (right of this picture) has made it around the junction in safety…).    

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You are also free to wait where the cone is in the middle of the junction for a two-stage right turn; if doing this, you get a four-second head start (dodgy proposition, but it’s a start…).

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Most people on bikes weren’t using it yet – it only opened at 12 today.

Brilliant news!  Well done TfL.  Much safer and more pleasant (and now operating in both directions).

Two acute problems with the route, obvious from the start (see my consultation response on CS2) now rear their ugly heads again.

Why aren’t people using it already?  Answer, because the preceding track isn’t there yet.  But unfortunately, it never will be.  This is the part of the route where TfL caved in to traders’ objections (led by the then mayor, but that’s another story).  So people on bikes will be rounding buses at that stop and dodging the various kerbside activities conducted along the road – loading, unloading, rubbish clearing – all in the usual company of taxis, buses and motorbikes.  There will be more casualties in this stretch of road until TfL sort it out.

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My earlier picture showed a person on a bike turning north up Cambridge Heath Road.  Having two good east/west cycle routes in Tower Hamlets makes the complete absence of safe north/south routes (except Regent’s Canal Towpath) even more noticeable.  This is Cambridge Heath Road, two hundred metres north of the other pictures.  Four lanes wide (five further north), and lacking any space for cycling.

TfL is doing great work on CS2.  But a safe, attractive journey runs door-to-door.  Finally making CS2 safe begs huge questions about the dismal, dangerous roads which surround it.

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CS2 upgrade – people on bikes voting with their wheels

This was the scene on Mile End Road outside the Royal London Hospital, heading into town at around 9.15 this morning.

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I cycled through the gap.  The drivers in the right-hand lane were going nowhere, and I didn’t fancy choking on coach fumes, the coach stuck behind the bus in front, for the next few hundred metres.  The two people on bikes behind me did the same, slightly to my surprise.

This was the scene half a mile further down the road, at around 2.30pm on my way home (going away from town):

CIMG9097There may be scope to encourage people to walk on the pavements a little more – although I guess at busier times of day, they’re more likely to do so voluntarily.

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People are voting with their bikes about where they’d rather cycle.

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Since it was 2.30 – outside the six hours a day during which the bus lane operates – until recently I’d have been cycling on the outside of these cars.  (The drivers appeared to be managing whatever their ‘kerbside activity’ was unhindered.CIMG9102

It ain’t perfect by a long chalk – this LCC post covers the pros and cons of this stretch pretty well here.  But honestly, what would you prefer:

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Segregation – finally on the way.

CS2 Upgrade Consultation Response, from a local resident

Comments on individual sections of the route (Sections 1 – 7)

1 Do you support the proposals for Section 1 (Aldgate to Whitechurch Lane) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade?

Yes

Please give any comments on the proposals for Section 1 (Aldgate to Whitechurch Lane) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade below:

These proposals are generally very good.

2 Do you support the proposals for Section 2 (White Church Lane to Cambridge Heath Road) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade?

Yes

Please give any comments on the proposals for Section 2 (White Church Lane to Cambridge Heath Road) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade below:
As a cyclist, I’m very much in favour of these proposals. As a pedestrian, I understand and partially share the Mayor of Tower Hamlets concerns at this point. This road is very, very hard to cross at present and this will make it harder. This does not reduce the need for these cycle improvements, but further pedestrian crossings would certainly be desirable.

3 Do you support the proposals for Section 3 (Cambridge Heath Road to Beaumont Grove) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade?

Yes

Please give any comments on the proposals for Section 3 (Cambridge Heath Road to Beaumont Grove) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade below:

This proposal substantially improves this stretch of road for people on bikes and pedestrians (subject to my overall comments on wands and junctions).

Again, it draws attention to the need for general improvements on roads such as Cambridge Heath Road and Sidney Street.

4 Do you support the proposals for Section 4 (Beaumont Grove to Westfield Way) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade?

No

Please give any comments on the proposals for Section 4 (Beaumont Grove to Westfield Way) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade below:

I strongly oppose the flawed design which leaves cyclists unsegregated from motorists along this part of the route. Why? 1) I have been cut up dangerously by bus drivers along this route in the bus lanes. 2) I have had a number of terrifyingly close passes by taxis along this route in the bus lanes. 3) Along Mile End Road when bus lanes are not in operation, one is frequently left picking one’s way around parked minicabs and having the prospect of speeding, undertaking vehicles approaching rapidly from behind. 4) At this point in the route, there is a gap of over 30m between buildings. Expecting cyclists to share with drivers so close to the site of Brian Holt’s death is particularly crass. This one weak-point will serve to invalidate the route for many families and those who, for obvious reasons, do not wish to cycle surrounded by traffic. Segregation must be included along this stretch to make this upgrade worthwhile.

Otherwise, this proposal significantly improves the area, including the junctions, subject to my overall comments regarding wands and junctions.

5 Do you support the proposals for Section 5 (Westfield Way to Merchant Street) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade?

Yes

Please give any comments on the proposals for Section 5 (Beaumont Grove to Merchant Street) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade below:

As far as Burdett Road, the proposal remains strong, although please see my general comment about left hooks/encroachment at junctions due to removal of segregation in the approaches.

At Burdett Road, I am pleased that we will finally see the proposals consulted upon eighteen months ago implemented. I hope that the parking permitted along Burdett Road to the North of Mile End Road can be limited to ensure the advisory cycle track remains useful. (This also highlights the need and space for segregation along the whole of Burdett Road, although this is one for another day).

Further West, I approve of the proposals, subject to my general concerns about wands.

6 Do you support the proposals for Section 6 (Merchant Street to Bromley High Street) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade?

Yes

Please give any comments on the proposals for Section 6 (Merchant Street to Bromley High Street) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade below:

Eastbound, I would be concerned about the left-hook risk at Bromley High Street, caused by the wide radius left for turning motor vehicles.

Outside Bow Church DLR, a 1.5m lane is far too narrow for the number of people who are likely to wish to use this. A single-stage crossing for pedestrians would obviate the need to waste space in the middle of the road on an island.

Otherwise, these proposals appear generally good, although please see my general comment about wands.

7 Do you support the proposals for Section 7 (Bromley High Street to Bow Roundabout) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade?

Yes

Please give any comments on the proposals for Section 7 (Bromley High Street to Bow Roundabout) of the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade below:

It’s disappointing that more is not being done at Bow Roundabout, but perhaps as more people are able to cycle the perception of pressure on roundabout capacity will reduce and it will become more politically possible to put in safe crossing facilities for pedestrians and people on bikes.

Overall proposals and About you

8 Do you support TfL’s overall proposals for the Cycle Superhighway 2 upgrade?

Yes

Do you have any comments on the overall proposals?:

When I first saw CS2, I thought it was a joke. I subsequently spent a year and a half living three minutes from Mile End Road and I swiftly learned to avoid it unless there was no other way to reach my destination – which, unfortunately, was often the case. I now live a little further East and still use it only when I have no choice. I would welcome the chance to turn the Superhighway into something which I and others could use without fear of taxis, buses, car doors and (most dangerously) rapid under-taking vehicles outside bus lane hours. Therefore, overall, I support these proposals very strongly.

Across the proposal:
– I am concerned about the reduction in width of the cycle track to 1.5m at a number of points. Even now, horrible as it is, this road is heavily used by people on bikes. 1.5m is too narrow to accommodate the growth we will surely see once people are able to cycle safely.

– I am concerned at the reliance on paint rather than segregation at junctions. As on CS2X, there is a removal of segregation in the approach to possible left-turns by motorists. Leaving segregation until nearer the junction would reduce turning radii and ensure vehicles do not encroach on the cycle lane in advance of their turn. This could be topped by wands to avoid damaging encroaching vehicles if necessary.

– I have limited confidence in wands. The destructive effect drivers have over street furniture over time is clear across London. Clearly it’s preferable to have a wand in between me and speeding vehicles, but I suspect the wands are likely to prove both insufficient and expensive – subject as they will be to repeated replacement.

I’m pleased about the inclusion of a number of banned turns, which may begin to reduce the rat-running in some of Tower Hamlets backstreets, many of which are forbidding for bicycles. However, this proposal draws attention to the need for an overall strategy to improve these routes, notably by creating a safe, segregated connection between CS2 and CS3. This could be achieved by segregating Burdett Road (as proposed by the LCC as their Ward Ask and for which there is ample space) or by removing through motor traffic from Sidney Street and segregating Cambridge Heath Road. Either way, to realise the potential of CS2 greater attention is needed to the routes across Tower Hamlets to enable people to reach their destinations safely beyond CS2.

I suggest it’s worth considering these proposals http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/exempting-people-cycling-from-signals-and-how-that-can-benefit-people-walking/ regarding junctions.