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Car free central London?!

London Cycling Campaign | 15th May 2020

It has been a day of major news on London, cycling and the ongoing crisis. And much of that news is as a direct result of ongoing campaigning work from us and our amazing local groups...

A big chunk of central London to go car free?

  • The Mayor has said that sections of central London will go car-free to make “one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world”.
  • The press release says: “Some streets will be converted to walking and cycling only, with others restricted to all traffic apart from buses. Streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch [read:Bishopsgate], Euston and Waterloo and Old Street and Holborn [read: most of the “London Boulevard” of Old Street, Clerkenwell Road and Theobalds Road?] may be limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists… Access for emergency services and disabled people will be maintained, but deliveries on some streets may need to be made outside of congestion charging hours.”
  • It also says: “Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge may be restricted to people walking, cycling and buses only, with pavements widened.
  • And “TfL is looking into providing Zero Emission Capable taxis with access to both these bridges, and other areas where traffic is restricted.”
  • TfL is also “working with the City of London Corporation… to improve routes between Old Street and Bank [read: Moorgate], and between Cannon Street and Holborn to Bank [read: the A40?] for walking and cycling.”
  • TfL has published a page on its Streetscape plans, including a map of where cycle routes could go.
  • “Work has begun on the first temporary cycle lane along Park Lane where the speed limit will also be reduced to 20mph.” Tfl’s Streetspace page also says Balham High Road is getting temporary tracks, and that 30km of permanent tracks are coming during summer.

Our read: it looks like the City could go car but not bus-free for much of the day – with both City and TfL roads combined creating a huge area. But will the Mayor allow in lots of zero emissions vehicles at all hours? And will all of TfL’s roads in the City be included? Or will some get wider pavements and cycle tracks but remain in use through the day by cars also?

It also looks like Westminster are set to do very little during the crisis, or at best reading they simply haven’t organised anything with the Mayor yet. Hence the “may” around some of this. That said, given the borough boundaries, TfL could close Waterloo Bridge to general traffic without Westminster, by doing so on the south side with Lambeth.

We're also still digesting the news - the Streetscape page has several guidance documents on it of interest, including one that appears to highlight high priorty low traffic neighbourhood schemes TfL and the Mayor is encouraging boroughs to consider.

More news below the nice picture...

Congestion Charge and ULEZ returns

  • The Congestion Charge, LEZ and ULEZ will be resumed on Monday. But reimbursements for NHS staff and now care home workers will be extended.
  • From 22 June the Congestion Charge will rise from a daily £11.50 to £15. And go seven days a week, with hours extended until 10pm (starting 7am).

Secondary kids and pensioners – no free buses

  • Free travel is temporarily suspended for Freedom Pass and 60-plus card holders at peak times. Passes suspended for secondary school kids mean they are likely to stop using buses or tubes, most likely. This also means safe routes and areas around secondary schools becomes imperative!

TfL gets funding reprieve

  • TfL has been bailed out by the government by £1.6 billion that will keep TfL running for just over four months. The bailout conditions from government include government appointees to TfL’s board, fare rises at 1% above inflation and a large loan to be repaid added to TfL’s woes.
  • The Mayor, Sadiq Khan responded to the government bailout saying: “this is not the deal I wanted. But it was the only deal the Government put on the table and I had no choice but to accept it to keep the Tubes and buses running… London has been the only major city in western Europe that hasn’t received direct Government funding to run day to day transport services since it was cut by the last Government… The old model for funding public transport in London simply does not work in this new reality… We will have to negotiate a new funding model with Government – which will involve either permanent funding from Government or giving London more control over key taxes so we can pay for it ourselves - or a combination of both.”
  • London boroughs are due to get a significant chunk (around a fifth?) of the £250 million the DfT has set aside for emergency walking & cycling responses to the crisis, we have learnt. This will be far from enough for every borough to do what it needs, though, and what proportion of the £2bn earmarked by the DfT for walking & cycling in England, if any, London gets also remains to be seen.

Sadiq says why there’s #NoGoingBack

  • Sadiq is also quoted as saying: “We have to keep the number of people using public transport as low as possible. And we can’t see journeys formerly taken on public transport replaced with car usage because our roads would immediately become unusably blocked and toxic air pollution would soar… We will need many more Londoners to walk and cycle to make this work… If we want to make transport in London safe, and keep London globally competitive, then we have no choice but to rapidly repurpose London’s streets for people. By ensuring our city’s recovery is green, we will also tackle our toxic air.”

Boroughs need to take action

  • Sadiq’s press release said: “TfL is working closely with those boroughs who are keen to do more to bring in changes to their roads in the coming days and weeks.” Our reading: many boroughs still aren’t set to do much, or anything, in response to the crisis, and therefore won’t get funding from the DfT money being disbursed, it would seem, by TfL.
  • Lambeth has announced immediate plans to deliver “4 low traffic neighbourhoods; 3 healthy [cycle] routes incl. protected cycle lanes; 3 access-only roads; 6 more locations for pavement widening” by August, with far more coming dependent on funding.