Smooth Operators


[I]n a recent consultation document it would appear that our Mayor ‘Bicycle Clips’ Boris has all but given up on trying improving the average speed to transverse London, with an average of 10 mph it has hardly changed since the days of horse drawn transport in Victorian London.

His traffic boffins have come up with an idea called ‘Smoothing Traffic Flow’ which it is claimed can make journey times more predictable but not any quicker. With London’s streets now gridlocked for most of the working day due to roadworks your journey times are pretty predictable now albeit at walking pace.

The scheme has some good initiatives, such as Pedestrian Countdown which is a timer telling pedestrians crossing the road how much green time remains, it is a pity those same lights are ignored by pedestrians already.

Another is lane charging where it is hoped to charge utilities a fee every time they dig up the road, unfortunately legislation brought in when London was given its own mayor 10 years ago, the then (unelected) minister for London, John Gummer, capitulated to the privatised utility companies in their outrageous demand for unrestricted access to the ground beneath London’s streets. That dreadful decision, leading to Oxford Street being dug up 176 times in a single year and the Strand 154 times and has remained to this day. With this situation Boris almost thrown in the towel on his promise to charge utilities per hole in the road.

The Mayor has also ordered a review to identify which, if any, traffic lights may be unnecessary and could safely be removed, which sounds great until you realise that in the last 10 years over a 1,000 additional sets have been installed and that newly planned signals will be exempt from the review, so just to stand still they are going to have to get very busy removing some old ones.

With London’s population predicted by some to reach over 12 million in the next 15 years and with increasing wealth giving many the opportunity own a car, London is set to become as bad as Mumbai.

The majority of roads are not controlled by Transport for London and local boroughs are continually harassing motorists with the zeal of a religious convert. Not content with having a small army of traffic wardens, The People Republic of Camden (a nuclear free zone, in case you asked) is building kerbs out into the road to reduce lane capacity. While the Guardianista’s of Islington are working flat out (sorry for the pun) to ensure they have the tallest road humps in town, and with a mandatory 20 mph speed limit on all its roads, chance would be a fine thing to be able to travel beyond walking pace.

The previous Mayor’s initiatives to improve air quality have, it would seem, come to nothing. Scientists are baffled why despite vehicles being cleaner due to legislation forcing owners to install systems that reduce PM10 particulates. If they had cared to ask me I could point them in the right direction, one monitoring site is opposite Madame Tussaud’s where traffic moves at a snail’s pace along the Marylebone Road, another is located at Tower Hill near where by selling a 3-lane road to private developers they have created a daily 12-hours gridlock.

2 thoughts on “Smooth Operators”

  1. The traffic situation in London is certainly dire. I haven’t driven a car for 5 years but I do travel a lot, using buses, tubes, trams and trains.

    I think that only a coordinated plan can improve matters. For example, removing unnecessary traffic (e.g. people driving alone who could be diverted to public transport) would help; scheduling (e.g. allowing deliveries to shops and businesses only early or late, not during the busy part of the day) would help; timetabling non-urgent road works (thus encouraging agencies to do a lot of work all at once, not spaced out) would help; and so on. None of these singly would make much difference but together they might.

    I would like to see public transport given priority (e.g. make “let the bus go first” a law, not just a pious exhortation), make it more efficient and cheaper (as in free?) to get people out of their damn road-clogging cars. A good start has been made now that Oyster users can hop from bus to tube to train to tram. How about Oyster-readers in taxis?

    I greatly dislike speed humps both in principle (use material from humps to fill potholes?) and also because of the damage they do to me when I have a bout of back pain. Unfortunately, car drivers are such a selfish bunch that only physical restraints have any effect on them.

    There are too many traffic lights in London. They help slow traffic to a crawl; they do not “regulate” it. As they become congested, they jam the flow. But, again, with selfish motorists (who increasingly ignore the amber and even drive over on the red) it would be worse chaos without them.

    Boris needs to learn that bicycles are not the answer but part of the problem. Cyclists not only misbehave on the roads but also invade the pavements and pedestrian crossings. Putting more untutored cyclists into circulation with his bicycles-for-hire scheme is going to make that particular problem worse. That’s without mentioning the relaxation of some traffic laws for cyclists which is quite insane.

    In Victorian London, employees used to go to work on foot over what seem to us incredible distances. Never mind getting people onto bicycles, what about getting them onto their feet for some good honest walking?


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