Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Two wheels good, four wheels better

When Orwell penned his dystopian masterpieces, Animal Farm and 1984, I doubt he had TfL in mind. For sure, these books are addressing much darker and deeper issues than cycle provision. But I am reminded of some common themes whenever I read a TfL road planning document. Nearly all of these documents employ a completely different version of English to one used elsewhere. Instead of newspeak , TfL employ a more wishy-washy version, which I term ecofluff, which says nothing at all, whilst filling up reams of paper.  And of course, in Animal Farm all animals were equal, pigs just more so. In TfL-land, they say there is a hierachy, which actually puts cycling and walking top, but then move away from this in documents to say everything is important, when, in actual fact, car provision is considered first and everything else fits around it if convenient.

Hex commented on this blog and referenced a TfL response document to questions about the Tottenham Hale gyratory redesign. This document shows the above two concepts beautifully.

The first question and answer is :

The proposals show no pedestrian crossing on the High Road at the junction of Philip Lane?
The proposals have been developed with the needs of all modes of transport being important. The decision to remove this pedestrian crossing facility has not been taken easily. We considered how many people use the crossing as well as how many vehicles pass through the junction. We want to ensure that pedestrians have safe, convenient footways and crossing points. However, we also have to ensure traffic flow is maintained.
Changing Monument Way and the High Road to two-way traffic will affect the flow of traffic using the junction. Traffic signal phasing and the location of stop lines will be changed. The re-phasing means southbound traffic on the High Road will flow in a more continual way. If the signal controlled crossing remained, the flow of traffic would be severely affected. The junction would very quickly become blocked. Many people, who responded to the consultation, commented on the loss of the
crossing facility at this junction. We are continuing to look at what other options for pedestrians could be introduced instead.

The pdf map can be found here. Removing the crossing will mean pedestrians need to go up to Monument Way and cross 5 separate crossings to come back down to the shops, or take their chances across 5 lanes of traffic. Note also the little caption showing that pedestrian space has been converted to road-use to fit in 2 lanes south-bound.

This is a classic example of all road users being equal, but car users being a bit more equal than anyone else.  There is clearly no alternative to the pedestrian crossing. The stretch of High Road between the Town-Hall approach and monument way is impassable to pedestrians.

TfL pretty clearly state in their response that car users are prioritised. The answer clearly demonstrates that the re-design wasn't approached with cycling and walking as a key part of the scheme, but to be shoe-horned into it if convenient.

This is even more clearly put into perspective when you look at one of the other questions

Why have you stopped lorries’ turning left from Markfield Road into Broad Lane?
Our original plans showed a traffic island restricting the left turn for lorries from Markfield Road into Broad Lane. Local businesses and freight operations are key users of the traffic system and we have taken on-board their comments and concerns regarding this issue. We have therefore reviewed the location of the new traffic island and will allow all vehicles (including lorries’) to make the left turn from Markfield Road into Broad Lane.

 Markfield Road is part of the gyratory by-pass for cyclists leading to Crowland Road and the A10. Lorries having to turn right would have to go up to monument way before turning onto the A10 instead of the shorter route down Broad-Lane.  I don't know why lorries would be restricted in turning left here (I might say to try to mitigate left turn accidents between cyclists on a TfL cycle route and lorries if I felt TfL would think of such a thing), but what I do know is that they have looked at it and changed their mind! How different to the pedestrian crossing!

Then after some more vague replies on environmental issues such as air quality and congestion, we reach the cycling part of the Q+A.

Why are some cycle lanes shown as two way and some do not look complete?
The cycle strategy tries to provide for confident cyclists on the road using a mix of cycle lanes, bus lanes and wide general traffic lanes. These are not always obvious when looking at the plans. This is complimented with a variety of off-carriageway facilities for less confident cyclists in many areas. We have tried to reduce the number of times cyclists need to cross from one side of the road to the other, as far as possible.

So, it isn't that cyclists haven't got much in the way of provision, and that the provision supplied is disjointed and takes away from pedestrian space. Oh no. It is because we all can't read a plan. I like the use of the word confident in the answer. One wonders how much confidence TfL believe is requisite for road cycling. Hopefully less confidence than needed if one wants to cycle on the present road system, where the word confidence could be replaced by the term suicidal.

And finally, the crowning glory of TfL ecofluff speak - the question asked about priorities.

Why has the scheme not being designed to reduce motor traffic or give preference to walking and cycling?
We want to make Tottenham Hale a better place to be. The proposals have been developed with the needs of all modes of transport being important. Removing the one-way system will allow the transformation of the area, making the area a more attractive place to live, work and visit. Our proposals will provide an opportunity to meet the needs of proposed future developments in the area.

One can read this response any number of times and be completely mystified about its meaning. It is the pinnacle of ecofluff nonsense. Take the first sentence - "We want to make Tottenham Hale a better place to be". All this is saying is that TfL aren't actively wanting Tottenham Hale to be worse than it is now. Which is nice, although one could say this isn't reflected in their previous responses. Then they say all modes of transport are important - although clearly some more important than others and then finally some more aspirational waffle. At no point is the question answered because it is clear that TfL isn't designing to reduce traffic or give preference to walking and cycling, but this answer wouldn't fit with the ecofluff philosophy - summed up as "what TfL says ,  isn't what TfL does".

I am sure that Tottenham Hale will be a better place without the race-track one-way system which isolates it with a ring of vehicles. But this plan is such an insipid and short-sighted view, and should be so much better. The congestion around the one-way system is often caused by people driving to the retail parks, presumably travelling short distances to get there (as nice as it is, I doubt the retail park draws in crowds from all corners of the country). The congestion won't go away because of a redesign, it will just be relocated. Roads will fill up with traffic to capacity in areas like Tottenham Hale anyway. What is needed is some brave thinking, something in which TfL has no interest.

1 comment:

  1. I saw a cyclist being crushed by a lorry on Markfield Road today. I'll be surprised if he makes it and if he does I can't see him walking again.. It was horrible.