Legal action blocking safety work is a disgrace
London’s new Deputy Mayor for Transport has described legal action by Westminster Council that is blocking an important new road safety scheme as a disgrace.
In a keynote speech to an Active Travel Summit held at New London Architecture today (2 August), Heidi Alexander spoke of her sadness that six cyclists have been killed on London’s roads since it was announced she was taking on her new role.
She also declared her frustration at Westminster Council for bringing a judicial review of plans for Cycle Superhighway 11 in the same week that a cyclist was in hospital fighting for her life.
Heidi said that it is of course vital for public authorities to engage with the public, listen carefully to objections and amend proposals where possible. But she added that it will not be possible to make our roads safer if we are taken to court by other public authorities. And it will not be possible to reduce the number of people killed on our streets if politicians on all sides and at all levels don’t wake up and take their responsibilities seriously.
The Deputy Mayor also announced that, subject to consultation, construction will begin on two new routes for cyclists within the Mayor’s current term of office. A new route between Camden and Tottenham Hale will see eight kilometres of substantially segregated new cycling infrastructure built on main roads, enabling people to cycle safely between Tottenham, Manor House, Finsbury Park, Holloway and Camden. And a new route between Hackney and the Isle of Dogs will provide a long-overdue connection between Cycle Superhighways 2 and 3.
In her speech today London’s Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander, said: “A week ago today, it was announced that Westminster Council had successfully sought an injunction to stop us starting work to remove the gyratory at Swiss Cottage. Anyone who has ever set foot outside of that tube station will know that you are immediately confronted with five lanes of busy traffic - a hostile, unpleasant environment for anyone walking or on a bike. In a week when a woman was in hospital fighting for her life, Westminster Council stopped Transport for London from starting work on a scheme a few miles away to reduce road danger. It's a disgrace. There is no other way to describe it.”
Heidi’s speech also focused on walking and outer London. In it she says:
- Unlike previous mayoral administrations, where the priority was to keep traffic flowing come what may, we will not be taking out pedestrian crossings. Instead we want to help people cross streets safely and more easily.
- Pedestrian priority as the default setting on some traffic lights will reset the relationship between vehicles and other road users.
- We will work with boroughs who want to introduce new initiatives to reduce the traffic around schools - and we will help promote healthier routes for pupils at the beginning and end of the school day.
- We need to improve the quality of the public realm around transport hubs and invest in better public transport options in outer London.
- Whether it's more and better designed bus routes, or brand-new train or tram lines, outer London has been the poor relation when it comes to London's transport system for too long. In a tight financial environment, these schemes are no less critical but they will likely require Government investment.
At the core of Heidi’s speech is the goal of reducing reliance on cars and getting more people walking, cycling and using public transport. She describes how the Mayor’s Transport Strategy contains robustly evidenced and properly thought-out plans that provide a route to achieving a cleaner, healthier city, and that those ambitions will be backed up by action.
The Deputy Mayor for Transport added: “We need to focus on people. Put people and not vehicles at the heart of the planning process. Make London's streets more appealing for people to walk. Build a London-wide cycling network to enable hundreds of thousands more trips by bike. Make the bus and other public transport options an appealing alternative to the car in outer London. This isn't rocket science, it's basic common sense. We know what the challenge is. We know what the answers are. We just need to get on and do it.”