Thursday 2 June 2011

Blackfriars Bridge, the two faces of TfL and Newham's aversion to blue paint

I haven't spoken much about Blackfriar's bridge, simply because other people have been covering it much better than I could, and have been heavily involved with the protests against the proposed changes.

It is interesting to note how much TfL took for granted when the plans were first released. And, as CycleOfFutility notes, how much this contradicts the eco-fluff words that spill out from their website and other publications. Freewheeler believes that TfL is the enemy.

No doubt there are keen and knowledgable people in TfL who want to enact upon the heady words given by TfL concerning walking, cycling and "sustainable transport policy". It just appears that these people's ideas are sidelined as soon as any major road changes are to be made in favour of the car-centric policies enacted since the 1960s. TfL cannot have their cake and eat it. They cannot be making chic little films involving minor celebrities extolling the magic of cycling, or have a cycle challenge, when, on the other hand, they are taking away cycling space to turn a bridge that has more cyclists than private cars in rush hour into some kind of mini-freeway. And increasing the 20mph limit to 30mph for reasons that seen somewhat less than transparent.

TfL also seemed to do this and present it as a fait accompli with laughable consultation. I assume they felt that the usual suspects would have a bit of a moan about yet another part of the road network made deeply unpleasant for anyone not in a car, and that would be that. Except that this moan seems to have developed some momentum. With members of the GLA asking some awkward questions, cyclists having a protest on the bridge and the LCC really getting their teeth into this change, they appear to have discovered that there might be some room left over for cyclists after all. 

I wait to see what happens with this in the end. TfL are probably desperately hoping it will all blow over, they will rejig the design a little bit and normality will be resumed. To the credit of many who have blogged on the subject, and LCC itself, I don't think that they are looking to let TfL off as lightly as that. 

From one apparently unaccountable anti-cycling shambles of an organisation to another: it appears that the antics of Newham council in relation to cycling infrastructure has reached the attention of the press. Under the banner of "Boris's superhighway not welcome in Olympic Borough", Ross Lydall has a blog outlining the blocking of a cycle super-highway to the olympics. This was first reported in the LCC magazine in Febuary - I wrote a post here.

 The council's response to the story?

Our primary concern is cyclists' safety. Newham council is committed to a cycling legacy from 2012 and we are in constructive negotiations with TfL about the route. Kulveer Ranger will be visiting the borough later this summer so we can work together on the best way forward."
I give them 10/10 for Chutzpah anyway. Their concerns for cyclists' safety runs so deep that they are blocking any attempted taming of the multi-lane free-for-all that is the A11 and the Stratford gyratory. I can only assume this is to encourage us silly cyclists into our cars where we can travel with the comfort of airbags and impact protection bars. It is reassuring to know that they are committed to a cycling legacy after 2012 - presumably for those of us who survive their appalling roads until after the Olympic games. And does it really make much sense to put in the infrastructure for cycling to the Olympic games (remember, the greenest games yet!) after the event? Not that it matters too much since apparently cycles will be banned from the Olympic park anyway for "safety reasons". Should make the velodrome events somewhat interesting if they carry out this ban for all cycles...

TfL are being made to care about cycling because they are starting to face some awkward questions from people about what exactly they are doing to our streets. Newham council don't care about cycling, and they don't care about anyone knowing they don't care. They don't even care if people care they don't care as they have full control of the council offices and a bunch of silly cyclists aren't going to change that. Hell, they even banned the "woodcraft folk" from their offices - it would appear they were going to ask some questions that the Mayor didn't want to answer. Democracy in action.

As cycleoffutility says, Blackfriars bridge matters. It even matters to those of us who use it very rarely or even never at all. Because if this protest gets TfL to rethink their plans then it shows that they can be held to account for their treatment of cycling (and walking). And if it fails, then there is no hope of ever holding places like Newham council to account for their idiotic actions.

1 comment:

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