Where there’s a wheel, there ought to be a way for cyclists

Croydon is scarred by urban motorways that divide the borough, cutting off people from their homes and work. KRISTIAN GREGORY, of the Croydon Cycling Campaign, says it is time to make people more of a priority than cars

Thornton Heath, from a time when the pond still existed, and had not been filled in to make for yet another roundabout

Thornton Heath, from a time when the pond still existed, and had not been filled in to make for yet another roundabout

The picture here was probably taken in the mid-1970s.

It is of Thornton Heath Pond. The area once sported a large fountain at the centre and the tramway passed by, but by the time this photo was taken both the fountain and tram had been removed and the area reduced in size to make room for more cars and buses.

The diminishing this once attractive public space continued over the years and there are few who would still choose to spend an afternoon relaxing there these day. There is little to differentiate the area from any other urban roundabout in Britain.

The small amount of greenery that remains is beyond enjoyment – air and noise pollution see to that, not to mention the challenge of getting to the central area in the first place. It is a familiar story across Croydon.

Conditions on Croydon's roads discourage cycling

Conditions on Croydon’s roads discourage cycling

In the mid-20th century, transport planners rightly predicted the rise of mass motoring, but it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As planners removed public spaces and tore out trams to ease congestion caused by rising car usage, they in turn made public transport, walking and cycling less attractive choices.

Streets became dangerous and unpleasant places for people and the availability of public transport options declined.

Shops moved to out-of-town shopping centres designed to be accessed by … cars. People with no previous need to drive now felt limited without a car. The end result was that the extra carriageway space was quickly filled with new traffic and the congestion that the schemes were designed to alleviate became worse than ever.

Not everyone could take part in this race for petrol-powered independence. Under-17s cannot drive by law. A range of disabilities and medical conditions can prohibit people from driving. Such limitations become more prevalent as we get older, meaning the elderly are disproportionately affected.

Owning your own car is one of the most expensive ways to travel, making it unavailable to many of Croydon’s poorest residents and young adults who face huge insurance premiums. It is a travesty of social justice that the urban realm has been reallocated for a means of transport accessible to a narrow section of society.

Fortunately, thinking has changed. This can be seen in the return of the tram to Croydon in 2000, which demonstrates we can take back space to improve transport options for society as a whole.

The situation for cycling in Croydon is not dissimilar to that of the trams. The tram infrastructure was torn out in the 1950s. Cycling has been removed from the roads more subtly.

With the growing volume and speed of cars on the roads, infrastructure was needed to be brought in to keep cyclists safe from the vehicles they shared the road space with. By neglecting to introduce these measures, cycling was marginalised and made inaccessible, so the number of cyclists on the roads dwindled.

Like the trams, cycling is accessible to a much larger section of the population than driving. Young and old, rich and poor can see most of their travel needs met. A local charity “Wheels for Wellbeing” holds regular sessions at the Croydon Arena where people with a huge range of disabilities can find a bicycle that enables them to cycle around. However, the conditions on our roads mean these people are confined to enjoying cycling within the bounds of the Arena. The tram infrastructure has been returned, but high quality provision for cycling remains absent.

The cycling "infrastructure" in Croydon makes the borough a laughing stock among the country's cyclists

The cycling “infrastructure” in Croydon makes the borough a laughing stock among the country’s cyclists

We need people to cycle now more than ever. Cycling can help tackle a range of problems including the air pollution that is shrinking and damaging children’s lungs; the rising obesity levels which will soon cost the NHS more than smoking; mental illness and mood disorders, for which regular exercise has been shown to be a more effective remedy than many drugs; not to mention climate change, congestion, road danger and the nation’s growing dependence on oil supplies from unethical and unstable foreign regimes.

Above all, cycling is fantastically good fun. The sense of freedom that comes with independent, self-powered travel is highly liberating.

We already know how to make it happen. Everything we need to know about designing liveable cities has been tried and tested in the Netherlands. They now boast the most people-oriented cities in the world: 27 per cent of all journeys across the country are made by bicycle, compared to 2 per cent in Britain. We can take the lessons they have learned and apply them right here in Croydon and realise the same benefits.

Not the sort of thing that you would see in the Netherlands, another example of Croydon's cycling short-comings

Not the sort of thing that you would see in the Netherlands, this is yet another example of Croydon’s cycling short-comings

Creating a more liveable city can take many forms. Wider pavements or full pedestrianisation can create wonderful high streets. Walking routes through parks and green corridors make getting around by foot a pleasure. Walking is better and more enjoyable where it is separated from powered transport, and the same is true for cycling.

The Dutch have separated the key routes for cycling from the key routes for driving, removing cyclist/driver conflict and creating a network that is safe and pleasant for all people to cycle along. As a result, cycling in Amsterdam is between three and 10 times safer per mile travelled than London.

Cycling is up to 10 times safer in Amsterdam than in London - safe enough to encourage cycling from a young age

Cycling is up to 10 times safer in Amsterdam than in London – safe enough to encourage cycling from a young age

Most journeys we make begin and end at the home. If people are to make the choice to walk or cycle then it must be safe in these places. Reducing speed limits where we live, and changing the driving network so that, wherever possible, residential streets are not used as through-routes can transform the area into a peaceful living space where you can talk to your neighbours, do some DIY or let your children play.

Closing off residential streets to rat-runners, and opening up routes between them for pedestrians and cyclists where none currently exist will play a large part in creating a network of safe routes to school for children. If we can achieve this the stress of the morning school run – and its knock on effects-on buses, delivery drivers and workmen – would become a thing of the past.

At least 20 per cent of morning traffic is generated by the school run. Obvious, then, that if children are provided with the safe routes they need to get to school then congestion will be cut dramatically. But even more importantly, young people will be given back their rightful independence to move freely and parents will get back the countless hours lost to needless jams. Any time lost to driving by the lower speed limits needed to make this happen will be more than made up for by the tackling of congestion.

Royal College Street in Camden - how things can be done

Royal College Street in Camden – how things can be done for cyclists and pedestrians in London

Across London this is already starting to happen. Several boroughs are gradually “Going Dutch” by implementing these measures. Once again, Croydon is falling behind.

Five boroughs in London are rolling out blanket 20mph limits on residential streets in a bid to reduce road casualties and encourage more people to walk and cycle. Camden has constructed high quality, segregated cycle lanes along Tavistock Place and Royal College Street. Hackney has been busy removing one-way systems and introducing measures to stop rat running.

As a result of these efforts cycling is booming in these boroughs. It took real political will to make these projects possible and that’s what is holding us back in Croydon.

Until politicians, developers and the wider public understand the need to build a better city then we will continue to fall behind the rest of London and the rest of the world. Cities which prioritise walking and cycling work better for everyone. It will take time and investment but we can convert Croydon, gradually, into the kind of people-friendly place which attracts shoppers, start-ups and all manner of visitors.

  • Find out more by visiting the Croydon Cycling Campaign website

  • Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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34 Responses to Where there’s a wheel, there ought to be a way for cyclists

  1. Thoughts:
    •I love cycling in the summer and in my home town in Tuscany but am terrified to cycle in Croydon or London.
    •I would be happy if I could use public transport more but I have to change two buses plus a longish walk to go shopping.
    •I live in Shirley, a place where residents openly told me that they campaigned against the tram in the past because they were afraid of getting an influx of undesirables from New Addington!
    •It is my opinion that cyclists could have a stronger voice if they paid some road tax. Cars do cost a lot (with large potholes adding to costs) and many motorists do not have a choice but use their car.

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    • angusfx says:

      Cycle campaigners are very aware of how many people are terrified to cycle in our towns and cities. We’re trying to change that – wherever possible, without disadvantaging motorists in any way. But where that’s not possible, something has to give.. rather than actively ban cars, or passively ban all but the most fearless cyclists (which is the sad de-facto situation), some compromise has to be struck. That means asking people to drive a little bit slower, or a little bit further, or to walk a bit further from your parking space to the shop. We want to create choice, not deny it.

      Roads are paid for out of general taxation (“car tax” or VED to give it its proper name is a tax on emissions, so a Prius or Nissan Leaf pays the same amount – £0 – as a bike). Most of the wear and tear to the road surface is done by HGVs – a fully-loaded 40-tonner does something like 1000x as much damage to the road per mile as a hatchback or a bike (both of which do essentially none).

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      • mraemiller says:

        Well, that’s just wrong. Drivers pay road tax. Cyclists dont. The fact that road tax goes into general taxation these days and not (as was the idea) into maintaining roads does not diminish the fact that in term of mere £ (not including fuel tax) we pay more tax to use the road than you do. Whether that means that motorists have more right to use the road I doubt anyone would argue but I do not see why you have to deny that it is the case.

        And what have you got against HGVs? True they do more damage to the road than bikes or hatchbacks but goods have to get around the transport system somehow? Loading a load of taxation onto HGV’s will just mean logistics firms pass that cost onto consumers making it by tansference a form of direct taxation which will hit the lowest paid? Still HGV drivers deserve it. I’ve seen them at service stations in the middle of the night living it up in their tarmac cracking monster machines. They’re only in it for the glamour, money and power.

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      • angusfx says:

        @mraemiller no, drivers pay VEHICLE TAX. And owners of low emission cars.. don’t.

        I’ve nothing whatsoever against HGVs where they’re the best tool for the job (and in many cases they are). Just pointing out that a 40-tonner does thousands as much times damage to the road surface per mile travelled compared to a small hatchback (road wear is proportional to 4th power of axle weight, a 6-axle 40T HGV has about ten times the axle weight of a small car), and doesn’t pay thousands of times as much tax.

        Should they..? Interesting question, you’re right about costs getting passed on.. otoh, if you don’t price these things at what they really cost (from an externalities point of view), you might – and I say might, haven’t even attempted to do the sums – be artificially subsidising supermarkets sending big one-man vehicles in to town, where a fleet of smaller e-vans might be more economically efficient, once you take the externalities in to account, as well as providing more employment.

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  2. mraemiller says:

    It’s fitting Kristian Gregory’s post should start with a photo of the past as that is clearly where the cycling lobby intend to drag us back to.

    An era of fountains and trams where everything urban was beautiful except for, as Harold Macmillan recalled in the first volume of his autobiography, the smell of horse manure. And most importantly, of course, an era where no one went anywhere. Well, my dad went places – he lived in London. My mother was lucky to leave her village once a year. Those were the days.

    “The small amount of greenery that remains is beyond enjoyment”. Croydon has several Parks – the central park and Lloyd Park not to mention Queen’s Gardens. If you cant enjoy any of these the chances are you just don’t enjoy life.

    “Air pollution that is shrinking and damaging children’s lungs”. Pollution of some kind has always existed and always will. It is a basic byproduct of the second law of thermodynamics: entropy in any isolated system not in thermal equilibrium almost always increases. Every time you have energy transfer or change energy into work of some form some energy will be lost in another form – this is a basic fact of thermodynamics. Even bikes create pollution – every time you throw away a rubber inner tube.

    In an ideal world all power needed for everything would be generated by one massive power station and magically relayed to every road vehicle only one energy transfer from electrical to kinetic energy along the way. Unfortunately I don’t think even Doctor Who can do that one.

    The article states that “planners removed public spaces and tore out trams to ease congestion caused by rising car usage”. Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. The rise in car usage was only one reason for the scrapping of trams. Similarly, “The tram infrastructure has been returned, but high quality provision for cycling remains absent.” Well, that’s also a sort of half truth. Croydon has a tram system but the tram system it has now is nothing like the pre-War one. Why? That was rubbish…?

    Okay, here’s the logic of trams. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy in any isolated system not in thermal equilibrium almost always increases. Therefore if you have a lot of little systems (bus petrol engines) that is more inefficient than generating ALL your energy in one location and relaying it to the vehicles. Superficially therefore trams and rail transport seem completely logical … generate all the energy in one place and distribute it electrically to the vehicles and bingo no unwanted energy loss.

    Yes, theree is, of course, an obvious downside to trams. You have to have a mechanism for getting power to the tram and this means a physical connection either by electric rail or overhead wire. And this means the tram usually has to run on fixed tracks. The trick of getting the power to the vehicle with minimum energy loss is solved by limiting the number of dimensions and routes which the tram can travel in. Basically, the less permutations of movement you have the more energy efficient the tram service is.

    It’s true many motor manufacturers connived in lobbying for the removal of trams in order to sell more cars but it’s probably not true either that the pre-War tram system was a problem free panacea. Yes, Croydon has a “tram system” today but it doesn’t actually share the same streets as cars and buses except in a very few places. The modern tram system in Croydon is more akin to an urban light rail system and the reason it works is that for the most part the different types of traffic are kept separate.

    As always the main problem with trams is tracks. As they ran on ordinary roads pre-war tram tracks did not have the level of foundations that the Croydon tram does. And it was the continual breakdowns and digging up of the road which did for the pre-War tram system. Modern tram systems are much more sturdy. That’ll be why the Tramlink took four years to build.

    A large part actually utilises old railway to the point where arguably it is not a tram system at all but a light rail system. Indeed, Boris’s unfulfilled promise to extend the tram system to Crystal Palace was really an exercise in rebranding railway tracks as tram tracks. The reason it wasn’t done is probably the knock on effect it would have had on the rest of the rail system. For example people commuting to the City from Sutton now have to change at Norwood Junction in order to allow the extended East London (really a rebranded overland train) to work.

    “The availability of public transport options declined”. Croydon has three railways stations, an all-night rail service to East Croydon, a tram system and a bus network. How many public transport options do you want? It’s certainly a reason I live here – Croydon may be ugly with an urban motorway and two flyovers but it’s one of the easiest places in the country to get out of.

    “Owning your own car is one of the most expensive ways to travel, making it unavailable to many of Croydon’s poorest residents and young adults who face huge insurance premiums.” Actually that’s not true. It’s true you can go to Brighton for £3, Birmingham for £7 and Manchester for £20 by train but you’re highly restricted on the times you can travel. Although it now takes less time to get to Manchester by train, the optimum time for the cheapest rail price hasn’t changed meaning that the only difference this makes to my life is I spend less time on a warm train and more time wandering the cold streets.

    Car sharing on long journeys is still the most financially efficient form of travel. My 1-litre Corsa can take four of us to Taunton and back for about £40. £10 each. Even if you could get a rail ticket to Taunton and back from London for £10 or megabus it for £1 (which you can’t), it’d still mean staying overnight which would cost at least £30 each if you paid in advance. The car remains by far the most efficient form of transport for long-distance travel.

    I’ve tried everything. National Express 12-hour round trip to Manchester for £20. Okay megabus is cheaper than train or car but time is money and even if it isn’t, who wants to spend their life in coaches? That said the all-night coach service back from Birmingham was actually faster than the night rail service that replaced it …erm …

    “Such limitations become more prevalent as we get older, meaning the elderly are disproportionately affected.” My uncle is over 80 and still drives – I cannot imagine him on a bike. If he fell off he’d be hospitalised and at that age that means complications and probably death.

    “Everything we need to know about designing liveable cities has been tried and tested in the Netherlands.” No, it isn’t. They don’t have the same population density as us. The Netherlands has a population density of 1,287 per square mile and the UK has a population density 663 per square mile. Basically per unit of physical area there are 2 people in the Netherlands for every 1 person in the UK. The entire country is only 13,044 square miles. The UK is 93,788 square miles. There are simply less places to go in the Netherlands. You cannot just transplant statistics in this way.

    YOU may live in an area of high population density but many people don’t and the easiest and most financially efficient way for many of them to population centres is by car.

    “Closing off residential streets to rat-runners, and opening up routes between them for pedestrians and cyclists where none currently exist will play a large part in creating a network of safe routes to school for children. If we can achieve this the stress of the morning school run – and its knock on effects-on buses, delivery drivers and workmen – would become a thing of the past.” You don’t need to be an expert in percolation theory to realise that if you reduce the number of streets that are available to drive on this will increase the volume of congestion on the remaining “main roads”… not reduce it….? This is really salami tactics from a lobby group who’s self-interest is painfully transparent.

    “…not to mention climate change, congestion, road danger and the nation’s growing dependence on oil supplies from unethical and unstable foreign regimes”. It’s not all bad news. Even George W Bush could see that you can’t solve the world’s oil under-supply problems by invading other countries forever. That’s why he invested a lot of money in developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles like many of Boris’s buses are today.

    This partially solves the energy distribution problem another way and means you can generate electrical energy, centrally store it efficiently without everyone having to travel everywhere by horse of milkfloat. Trams may seem like a logical solution but actually they aren’t because actually continually digging up roads to lay tram tracks was very energy inefficient – so inefficient the efficiency savings of central energy generation were actually lost in the re-laying tracks every time a utility provider needed to dig a hole in the road. I’m sorry to break it to you but trams were pants – ask Harold Lloyd.

    There are other solutions than everyone going everywhere at 20. They need investment from central government. By the way the world expert on the lack of oil supply can be found jetting all over the world to moan about it here http://www.peakoil.net.

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    • Ha, ha, ha…

      For a comedian, Anthony, that is really funny.

      1,600 words – longer than the piece on which you are commenting – and yet you manage to miss the point completely.

      Hilarious. A gas, you might say.

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      • mraemiller says:

        I do get the point – it’s not that subtly relayed: “Get on your bike because that is what is good for you”. Sorry, but I dont want to. I’ve never found it exactly comfortable since I stopped being a boy for one thing.

        Anyway it’s not just a rant I am telling you interesting things about energy generation because …erm… I happen to be an expert…and can. Take it or leave it. Then again you dont need to be a scientist to see a statistic like “Amsterdam is between 3 and 10 times safer per mile travelled than London” and think that’s one big standard deviation. London isn’t Amsterdam and you cant just transplant statistics in the way 20’s plenty do and expect people to take you seriously. And if we are going to pedestrianise the remaining bits of of the town center that aren’t already someone legalise pot as well like in Amsterdam so that I can take lots of drugs and kill my last remaining social aspirations to go anywhere else thus solving the problem.

        Why does Croydon need a motorway in the middle? Ask all the commuters in Purley down to Brighton – they’re the ones who put it there who’s minds you have to change.

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    • angusfx says:

      Cars are indeed extremely economical for long trips – once you’ve covered the cost of depreciation, insurance, MOTs, tax and the rest. That’s the main reason I don’t own one – little to do with climate change, lentils or the rest, it’d cost me £60 a week to run it, and to justify spending that kind of money I’d have to spend the entire weekend driving. Thanks but no thanks. Kristian’s piece referred specifically to young people & those on low incomes – people for whom an extra £60/week is not an option.

      Finally, re percolation vs congestion – you’re not familiar with traffic evaporation then. Is some of that traffic an immovable fact? Certainly. You, the buses, the people driving their grannies around, the vans. Nevertheless, walk past any Croydon primary school of a morning. They nearly all have catchments under a mile – in many cases half a mile – and a big queue of cars outside. Or just read Marzia’s post above, or ask half my friends or some of yours, or just look around you at who cycles and who doesn’t. A good chunk of the traffic on Croydon’s main roads – even if a minority – is people making journeys that would be perfectly reasonable by other means. And I’d like them to do so – so that on the occasions I do drive (rarely, when I have to) it’s not such a dreadful experience. It’d be nice to be able to blame them for being lazy, but when the roads are too scary to cycle on you can’t really blame them.

      As it goes, I don’t think most cycle campaigners want 20mph limits on main “A” roads. We want Dutch style bike lanes to keep us away from the traffic, then the traffic can do as it pleases. If there isn’t room for cycle infrastructure (read: if the borough or TfL are too cheap to build it – mostly comes down to money in the end), then maybe. Mixing with 30mph traffic is just a no-no for so many potential cyclists, so instead they clog the road up with yet more cars.

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      • mraemiller says:

        That’s a nonsensical argument. £60 a week becomes an option when driving allows you to earn an extra £61 a week. You dont want to increase your overheads but you might do if you had something to gain by it. Before I had a car I used to get by blagging lifts off others and most of the time this worked …but it doesnt follow that if you dont own a car personally you can never use them or car policy doesnt impact you.

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      • angusfx says:

        Indeed – and if it lets you go from £1060 a week to £1061 a week, and you don’t mind two hours a week sitting in jams for your extra £1, go right on ahead!

        But we’re talking about people going from £0 a week to £250 a week, and immediately spending a quarter of that on just getting there. Will some choose that? Sure, but we’d like people to have a few more options available.

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  3. Au contraire, Mr A E Miller.

    This is about going bike to the future, not some nostalgia trip – like the one sold to us by car manufacturers, whose advertisements invariably show some joyous individual cruising down near empty roads instead of stuck in a jam, breathing in noxious fumes and hunting for a parking space.

    You say that “the Netherlands population density of 1,287 per square mile and the UK has a population density 663 per square mile” – well, Croydon is part of London, where the figure is nudging 11,000 per square mile, with the figure for London being higher than that.

    It makes no sense to encourage and enable more people to use an inefficient, polluting, space consuming means of personal transport when towns and cities elsewhere are moving towards a modal shift towards greater use of public transport, walking and cycling. Indeed, the proportion of car-free households in Croydon is rising, and in some inner London boroughs car and van owners are now in the minority.

    We’re not trying to force you out of your car – economic factors might do that. What we want is to extend the choice of transport, so that cycling in Croydon increases because the roads are safe, inviting and attractive to use, just like Amsterdam and Copenhagen and other European cities.

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    • mraemiller says:

      “It makes no sense to encourage and enable more people to use an inefficient, polluting, space consuming means of personal transport”

      My Corsa is about the smallest and most energy efficient car you can buy – that’s why I bought it. Moreover with 4 of us in it it’s probably less “space consuming” than your bike is. Of course it’s not as energy efficient as cycling nothing is – but three of your four criticisms of it are slighly dodgy. That I am not healthy I cannot argue with.

      “We’re not trying to force you out of your car”

      Of course you are – the article is explicit about this – and that’s not a completely stupid policy aim. The problem is really that you are selling it to me with a load of nonsense. Telling me things like my car is inefficient, polluting, space consuming may be designed to appeal to my self interest but are actually an immediate turn off precisely because that isn’t totally true. Not everyone drives around in a brash oversided motor in order to …er …compensate for other things. Stating things that aren’t true or are huge generalisations is an immediate turn off. You should start from the point of “driving less often will mean planning your life better” or “there’s nothing in it for you but this will help society as a whole” then people might take it more seriously. If you tell me, for example, that it’s harder to drive when I know it’s easier … that’s just laughable. Appealing to my self-interest is a waste of time. Because I know what that is and isn’t – and most of the time it isn’t a bike.

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  4. @mraemiller “Stating things that aren’t true or are huge generalisations is an immediate turn off” – indeed – and could be a contributory factor to the number of thumbs down you’ve received for your missives on this page.

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  6. Sorry I’m a little confused by Mr Miller’s comments, this was an article about redressing the imbalance of urban space design and allocation to enable healthier and more sustainable forms of transport that are accessible to the wider population of Croydon.

    At no point did I advocate an end to private car ownership and usage. Our ideas take a lot of influence from Dutch city design and planning, and as their cities function much better than ours do, I fail to see how it can be said that these ideas don’t work.

    Mr Miller notes that the population density of the UK is lower than the density of the Netherlands, suggesting he believes a high population density is necessary for a cycling culture. The population density of Croydon/Greater London however is surely far greater than any city in the Netherlands, so I fail to see how cycling would therefore not be an option for Croydon on population density grounds.

    I won’t address the other points made as they appear to form a straw man argument but I will finish by adding that the census data is out and car ownership has declined in Croydon over the past 10 years with one in three households in now owning no vehicles at all. We need to look closely at these trends and design a city fit for a future where a much smaller percentage of the population rely on cars for transport.

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    • mraemiller says:

      The point is that it is different. The UK is a country with areas of extremely high and extremely low population density which ON AVERAGE has a lower population density. The question is really …should people in areas of high density who use road X frequently dictate road use policy without any thought to those who live in areas of lower population density that are more remote and who’s needs might be different. It is a philosophical question of “ownership”. Do the roads belong to everyone or do they belong to the locals. At one time all roads were run locally then they were natioanlised. And now we seemingly have a fudge where TfL believes it runs all the A roads and the council believes it runs all the B and below roads. Do you know how uniform the population density of the Netherlands is before you transplanted the statistic – the answer is no?

      “At no point did I advocate an end to private car ownership and usage.”

      Well, let’s take that back a bit. I pointed out that if you take all cars off B roads and residential streets by making everyone travel at 20 mph or below – you cant delete car users but you can make the use of cars ridiculously slow – then rather than reducing congestion this will simply increase congestion on roads with a higher speed limit.
      To which your minions answered

      “Finally, re percolation vs congestion – you’re not familiar with traffic evaporation then. Is some of that traffic an immovable fact?”

      So really the plan is – make it really hard to drive down residential roads and overall the traffic will simple “evapourate”? Of course it wont. It will be like the Congestion charge. Usage of the roads dropped when it came in, but has since risen to levels as high as before it was introduced. Meaning it is achieved nothing but to be a flat rate poll tax on people who need to enter central London for business and, indeed, many people who live there.

      Traffic will not evapourate – It might transmute into another form? Cyclists. But then again it might not. Your plan (if I understand it properly) is to replace cars with cyclists. Not all cars – but some. But how many is some?

      Of course if you reduce the number of car drivers they also become a much smaller lobby group meaning that it will be easier to pedestrianise larger and larger areas of cities – which will make the number of car drivers smaller still – so you can put in more cycle lanes etc etc … and endless vicious cycle which would end with no one driving at all

      “Mixing with 30mph traffic is just a no-no for so many potential cyclists, so instead they clog the road up with yet more cars.”

      Here we have the real agenda. You don’t want to share the road. This is not illogical. As I point out above the thing that makes the tramlink work whereas old fashioned trams didn’t is that in actual fact the number of places where the two different forms of traffic share the same space is clearly limited and controlled.

      I mean, what does “closing off rat runs” mean? It means removing cars from the street. Not a completely stupid idea but if we are going to do it let’s not mess about – lets go all the way and reduce the amount of money we spend maintaining roads. Many 2nd world countries get by fine without maintaining all their roads to such a high standard. Why not Britain?

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      • angusfx says:

        Seems straightforward enough to me.. the council roads belong to the locals, the ‘A’ roads belong to TfL. They do more or less the same thing in the Netherlands – it’s not some hippy bike paradise where nobody drives, but everybody there understands that residential streets serve a different purpose to ‘A’ roads, and they’re regulated and designed appropriately. So on the residential roads, they slow traffic down or keep it out, and on the ‘A’ roads they keep bicycles and fast traffic clearly seperated.

        The congestion charge is an interesting one. You’re absolutely right about its effect – but the fact that traffic went down in the first place suggests a fair few people DID have a choice, and voted with their feet. A lot of the reason that the congestion got worse after bringing in the now cancelled WEZ? People living within the WEZ got subsidised use, and no longer paid to travel across the boundary – so extending the zone, paradoxically, took away the barrier for people driving from Kensington to Mayfair. Not that I suspect £8 was ever much of a disincentive for that set. People are smart and innovate – even if you made it £50 (not something I advocate), businesses would figure out a way.

        True, the population of the Netherlands is more flatly distributed, yet TfL’s own statistics are enough to show you that most of the traffic on Croydon’s streets isn’t people driving in from Crawley for a day out. In fact, much of it is exactly the kind of journeys that people in the Netherlands make by bike. We’d like the people making those journeys to have a choice – survey after survey has shown that that choice has been suppressed by traffic danger. Funny thing with suppressed demand is, surveys usually massively underestimate potential demand. How many people in Crystal Palace would have thought about going to Surrey Quays or Hoxton for a day out before they built the Ginger Line? Now it’s standing room only a lot of the time.

        I’ll share the road with heavy 30mph traffic if I have to. It’s not nice, but I’ll do it. But a lot of people can’t, and won’t, and keep telling us as much. Which is why on the main roads, most of the cycle campaigning world agrees that seperate infrastructure is the answer. I’m absolutely happy to share residential roads with people driving the last half-mile to and from their homes – but if it’s only the last half-mile, 20 makes no difference to your journey time & makes things a whole lot more civilised for everyone.

        You need to stop thinking in terms of negatives. “Make it hard to drive down residential roads” – no, not if you live there! “Make it pleasant and (subjectively and objectively) safe to cycle down residential roads” and secondary age kids will be able to do so on their own, having a massive positive impact on the jams at school-run-o-clock. Can’t you see that’s win/win?

        Like

  7. mraemiller says:

    “Indeed – and if it lets you go from £1060 a week to £1061 a week, and you don’t mind two hours a week sitting in jams for your extra £1, go right on ahead!”

    I mean that’s everything that’s wrong with the slogan “twenty is plenty”. It’s not just offensive on the basis of some abstract argument about who should be given more road space. I find the slogan offensive on the level of a lack of vision and ambition. It isn’t just the fact that you dont physically drive that’s offensive but the fact that you dont seem to exactly be driven in the metaphorical sense. If you never speculate anything you dont gain very much. What you’re saying is “I’m happy to sit here and earn less” because going somewhere else would be uncomfortable. People dont commute for fun – they do it because they want to get somewhere …and not just in a literal physical sense. It sort of sums up a lack of ambition and, yes, drive.

    Actually, many people I work with and drive about do earn from £0 to £250 a week and many people in comedy travel hundreds of miles literally for £0 when you figure out what they’re paid vs the travel costs. I regularly put off people from traveling stupid distances to do my gig because I feel bad booking people who are just not going to break even on it. But that isn’t the point …the point is they may get seen and they may get other work out of it … or that’s what they think … some gigs this is true for … but not really mine that much. But …well, at least they’ve got some drive. Some ambition. What I’ve really got against the 20’s plenty brigade is they just seem to some up some kind of lack of it.

    If nothing else please come up with a less depressing slogan…

    Like

  8. Arfur Towcrate says:

    Anthony – you said that ” I happen to be an expert” – in what, exactly?

    Like

    • mraemiller says:

      Well, I am a scientist. I do know the basics of energy transfer. I do know a bit about the energy industry, What do you want me to say? I’ve thought about it and a lot of this doesn’t add up …………………………………………?

      Like

      • Arfur Towcrate says:

        You’re a “scientist” yet apparently you earn a living driving yourself and other wannabe comedians around the country. I think that says it all.

        Like

  9. mraemiller says:

    “How many people in Crystal Palace would have thought about going to Surrey Quays or Hoxton for a day out before they built the Ginger Line?”

    What’s in Surrey Quays? I mean I have been there and all I’ve seen is an industrial estate, a shopping center and ….erm … down the river a bit the museum to Brunel. Is there a great cultural thing I’m missing in Surrey Quays? Please tell me if there is … I’m genuinely curious? Although to be fair I only see it at night most of the time …

    Like

    • angusfx says:

      Parks, interesting bits of dockside architecture, a great kids farm (like the one in CP park but about five times the size with a fantastic cafe), a handful of decent lunchtime pubs, dinghy sailing on the docks, the river path, a ferry across to Canary Wharf, Greenwich and all its attractions a 20 minute walk downriver, a multiplex cinema in the shopping center. Croydon’s got way more in terms of shops and nightlife though.

      Like

  10. mraemiller says:

    You’re a “scientist” yet apparently you earn a living driving yourself and other wannabe comedians around the country. I think that says it all.

    I do both. I am renaissance man. The oil industry is notoriously volatile. It is okay as a job but you cant rely on it for a steady income – so in the great OPEC price war of 1999-2000 when half the industry was sacked causing a massive skills shortage………… I diversified. Where did I claim that I earn ALL my money from stand up…? Neither do I drive to ALL my gigs – about 1 in 7-10 … it depends. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. But yes, I am qualified and also unlike most of the people on this thread I probably have used every good, bad and awful corner of the London transport system. I’ve even used Silverlink. And it’s interesting that while other tube lines that go out to the suburbs up north have fast and slow trains that miss stations sometimes in order to make the service sensible …Croydon is stuck with an “underground” train that stops at every single station. Why?

    Like

  11. Arfur Towcrate says:

    “I am renaissance man.” – isn’t that a euphemism for “a jack of all trades”?

    Like

    • mraemiller says:

      If Robin Ince can get on radio talking about physics with no qualifications and Hugh Dennis can give the Stonely lecture to the Petroleum Exploration Sociery despite not being qualified in geology and Patick Moore could make a career without any qualifications… And Jimmy car could be head of marketing at Shell… And Harry Hill and Simon Brodkin both be fully qualified doctors… The short answer is no … What’s the matter, get under your skin I know something, does it?

      Like

  12. I use public transport a fair bit, I walk to many places and I drive when I think it’s appropriate (which I admit is quite often). I used to cycle until the time I woke up in the back of an ambulance. These are all valid ways of getting around and each will appeal to different people at different times. However, I am convinced that one change that would dramatically increase the quality of life in Croydon for everyone, motorist and non-motorist alike, would be significantly fewer car journeys being made. I don’t have any great ideas but this shouldn’t be a polarised discussion. After all, we’re all in it together.

    Like

    • mraemiller says:

      The debate is always polarised because unless you can increase overall transport network capacity you have to chose one form of tansport over another. Asking people if they would like to cycle more and then asking them what prevents them cycling is disingenuous. If the answers are “yes” and “cars” that isn’t actually the same as them saying they are happy about reducing the capacity of the road network for carrying cars. Still kid yourselves if you like but you’ll find out at the ballot box …. Since it is obviously nonsense that if you reduce the number of drivable roads you will reduce congestion you then have to come up with fantasy dogmas such as traffic evapouration to try and explain how making people drive for twice as long by knocking a third off the speed limit will reduce accidents. It may reduce fatalities but it isn’t automatically going to reduce accidents. That’s what the limited data so far actually shows … which matches with common sense.

      Here’s the thing. The Conservatives campaigned to end the war on the motorist and not put up more speed cameras or put more humps in the road because their voters are in what is quaintly called the shire counties. While the Liberal Democrats campaigned that they would lower speed limits and make towns “more environmental” because most of their voters are in towns. Blanket 20mph zones are not logically the best solutions to traffic speed enforcement or speed control but they allow both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives to appear to following their contradictory manifestos to the letter while twisting the spirit of each into a complicated knot.

      Actually it doesn’t matter what the speed limit is. It matters that it is enforced. And this is where everything falls apart. Most drivers and driving lobby groups think all speed limits are nonsense and imposed to fit ideological dogma and that speed cameras are entirely about revenue generation for local authorities. Now there may be something in this … but, as Peel used to say, “Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law”. This is the basis of Policing by Consent. The problem is that once you set up a system of fines which generates the revenue to apply the enforcement system the revenue it generates can be diverted and gradually people being to suspect that actually the end game is not speed fines as road safety but speed fines as form of indirect taxation – this undermines policing by consent. If the vast majority of people don’t obey a law is becomes meaningless – regardless of how many people pay lipservice to the statement that they believe in it. Most motorists know that speeding is wrong but they still do it because they don’t get caught and because motoring lobby groups lobby to keep enforcement at a minimum.

      20mph zones can only really work if they are enforced. The technology to do this already exists but the Jeremy Clarksons of the world and the Daily Mail would go mental around the argument that it is an intrusion of the state into the lives of the individual. Actually, this is ridiculous. Because if you could use the technology to eliminate speeders and bad drivers not only would less people be killed on the road but everyone’s insurance premiums would go down. But transport policy isn’t driven by common sense it’s driven by extremely vociferous lobby groups who politicians are scared of. Most politicians today are professional and their main drive isn’t ideology but simply chasing votes based on statistical voter info. This is how you end up with a 20mph zone that no one enforces. And the piggy in the middle of this disconnect between the law and the implementation of the law are the police who lose the confidence of the general public as a result and the idiots who actually follow the letter of the law. It took years to finally convince most motorists that just because you feel safe at 35 doesn’t mean it is safe. Then to drastically cut the urban speed limit to 20 which is the aim of most militant members of the cycle lobby immediately undoes all this good work because it will be seen as a breech of trust. The nadir of the political police disconnect is, of course, the politicisation of the police themselves in the form of Police and Crime Commissioners that only 14% of people voted for.

      Okay, here’s an example of what I mean. Attlee scraped trams because he thought they were awful, noisy and congesting and an annoying lobby group and received much hate for it. MacMillan got Dr B to axe loads of railways because he thought they were inefficient (most of the Croydon tram actually runs on previously axed branch lines so infrastructure for it was relatively cheap), Ken Livingstone brought in the Congestion Charge and pedestrianised the top side of Trafalgar Square completely messing up the gyratory system and stood on a platform of “I hate motorists”. All these changes had positives and negatives to them but they had something else as well – they were transparent. They were policies people voted for. No one voted for unenforced blanket 20mph speed limits – they are the worst kind of political fudge.

      Logic has nothing to do with transport policy. Trams kill more people per mile driven than cars do but we’re still told they’re ALL great with unqualified enthusiasm. It isn’t actually true that my car is more expensive to run than a 5 zone travelcard but if you repeat the same lie over and over people must buy it. Neither is it true that this is a class issue – unless all cabbies are posh. Nor is it true that driving slow will reduce pollution in save fuel. Otherwise cab drivers would charge by the mile driven not the minute driven. That said drive at 60 rather than 70 and watch your fuel bill go down. We can have 20,30,40,50,60,70 mph limits but not 25 because this is “too confusing” despite the fact trains and trams have speed limits in 5s and this is not confusing. It’s entirely logical to suggest that the UK could be like a country with a completely different population density pattern and geography …all those old people really want to cycle up Gypsy Hill. And of course travelcards cost a bomb because they’re financing the rest of the rail network. It costs more to commute between Leeds and Manchester on the trans-pennine service than it does to go to Manchester and back to London on the train. That’s the level of insanity. And anyone who talks about traffic jams should try commuting to Richmond … you have to go up to Clapham Junction change and come back down because there’s no direct route. Driving immediately cuts off an hour. It’s all nonsense.

      And while I’m here could someone please tell the man who decided to make bikes “foldable” so you can get more of them on the train that a lot of cubes of lethal metal are not desirable.

      Like

      • angusfx says:

        Makes absolute sense, apart from one thing – which is that different modes, and different speeds, use vastly different amounts of capacity (of course there’s variation within each mode, just to complicate things). If you can shift people from a high use mode to a low one (whether that’s by persuading them to ride bikes, subsidizing public transport, or encouraging car sharing through multiple occupancy lanes or shockingly high fuel duty), that’s traffic evaporation for you. The statistics around short trips made by car – and the traffic jams outside schools with catchment areas the size of a 50p piece – suggest there’s potential for improvement there.

        Same with the accident stats. Trams (and buses) kill more people per vehicle mile than cars. However, a bus can carry 80 people and a tram 200. So per passenger-mile, trams are likely to work out better.

        Not sure what you mean about Richmond, it’s the same however you go:-

        * 30 minutes from Gipsy Hill if you sprint for the two-minute connection TfL won’t tell you about at Clapham, 40mins if you miss that connection and get the regular one. About the same from East Croydon. Walking and general faffing about at either end takes it up to the best part of an hour usually.

        * Can drive it in half an hour without breaking the speed limit if there’s nothing on the roads, but usually takes at least twice that (at least via Trinity Road / Upper Richmond Road). Weekends seem to be even worse than rush hour on that route.

        * On a bike it’s 30 minutes if your surname is Wiggins or Hoy, 45 if you’re reasonably fit – but it’s “A” roads all the way though so really not very pleasant. There’s a scenic route up through Balham & along the river which is lovely, but takes twice as long. That works out OK if time-spent-on-bike counts as time-not-spent-in-gym, but not very practical otherwise.

        Like

      • Arfur Towcrate says:

        Anthony, dear boy, do stop posting gibberish. People might think that not only are you a fool, but also a complete and utter bore. There’s a good chap.

        Like

  13. mraemiller says:

    Mr Towcrate, Boring other people is a very effective and legitimate tool of political campainging – it’s certainly worked for 20’s plenty. Ad hominem attacks and the dismissal of all opposing views as gibberish are the whines of people who dont want to engage their brains or in any arguments because they are driven purely by ideology. Many on the left including Mr “I hate drivers” Livingstone slavishly support public transport not just because of whether it’s good or bad for people but because it fits their ideology of mass ownership and state paternalism. Socialism is about common ownership so it’s not a shock all the parties of the left are in love with it.

    “If you can shift people from a high use mode to a low one (whether that’s by persuading them to ride bikes, subsidizing public transport, or encouraging car sharing through multiple occupancy lanes or shockingly high fuel duty), that’s traffic evaporation for you.”

    This is true but by definition you then have to limit the places people go or support regular services running at under capacity that are hugely financially inefficient. This is the problem Beeching grappled with. Force the whole of London to drive at 20mph and you would force all the traffic that uses it as a through route onto the M25 – this would result in either road pricing or widening an alreaedy 4 lane motorway. The vision of 80 people on a bus instead of 1 looks great but if you run thousands of busses on a regular pattern to outlying locations in order to make the service regular you have to run lots of empty busses. This is exemplified by the Estate Agent in Devon who recieved the complaint “When you sold me this house you said it had a regular bus service” to which they replied “Yes, it does …the bus goes at the same time every day”

    “Walking and general faffing about at either end takes it up to the best part of an hour usually.”

    As you will discover if you ever regularly drive anyone on invaldity benefit a lot of places this is nonsense. In the car I can go door to door – this is the real reason why politicians have so much trouble getting people out of cars – …and it is a nonsense I can get to richmond in the same time by train as by car (by the way I’m going from East Croydon not Gypsy Hill) I have lots of reasons to go to lots of different places in South London. Although it does depend what time of day. An orbital tram connection to Richmond and Sutton will never happen as it would cost too much in new infrastructure and even if it did …have you been on Silverlink – it’s called that because you die of old age on it. You will never think of ways to actually change people’s choice of transport use if you are in ideological denial of the advantages of a car. Everytime I point out I find this or that route faster by car you try to convince me the service is better when it is not instead of accepting the heresy that perhaps the service provison may be crap on that line. How many times do you have to go round that circle before you admit you are in denial? Never

    Traffic evapouration is nonsense. It hasn’t worked in the Congestion Charge zone. And simply making it impossible to drive then claiming the traffic has magically evapourated is nonsensical too.

    Like

  14. My main issue with cycling in Croydon is the fact that a significant proportion of the population are thieving gits and wanton, opportunistic vandals so I can’t be confident in leaving my bike anywhere. I want the council or anyone really, to provide some kind of actual, real bike security in the shopping areas so I can travel in and out by bike.

    Like

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