According to BBC news, Andrew Boff, Conservative London Assembly Member, who was mentioned here in the previous post as one of those who walked out of the chamber thus preventing the debate on 20mph on Blackfriars Bridge, has claimed:
The walkout had nothing to do with the issue of Blackfriars Bridge or air pollution.
This is part of ongoing action that the group is taking in response to the Labour, Lib Dem and Green party groups voting en-block to prevent Conservatives from taking up the proportional number of committee chairmanships, thus depriving the 40% of Londoners who voted for us a voice.He also told the Evening Standard:
The walk-out was in protest at the refusal of the Greens, Labour and Lib-Dems to share committee chairmanships. It's not that we don't care about the 20mph limit- we spend a lot of time talking about it. My instinct is that it should be 20mph.If Boff thinks we should have a 20mph limit, it would be nice if he hadn't prevented the Assembly from taking a vote to send that message to the Mayor. The Conservatives on the Assembly seem to consider their little strategic war on the committee chairmanship issue (and note that these committees are purely advisory and have no power over the Mayor) to have a higher priority than discussing the vital life-and-death issue of danger faced by vulnerable road-users on London's streets. Readers can decide themselves how reasonable they think this position is.
It is certainly not the case, however, that the other Conservative AMs agree with Boff. Gareth Bacon and Victoria Borthwick have sat on the fence in their replies to constituents asking about 20mph:
Clearly the key is to ensure a balance for all road users. Just as it was important to protect the bridge for cyclists, it is also important to ensure that all traffic flows at a reasonable rate.(Note that that this reply shows they understand nothing about the relationship between traffic flow rates and speed limits in a congested environment: slower top speeds normally lead to better flow.) On the other hand, Brian Coleman (aka Mr Toad) is characteristically clear in his view:
The speed limit is a matter for tfl not me but I do not support 20mph zones they are unenforceable but anyway traffic cannot get anywhere near that speed at this junctionNow Coleman, as is well-known, sees London from the passenger seat of a black cab, paid for by Council Tax payers (he has given back his free Oyster Card as he never uses it), from which the speedometer would not be visible. So clearly he has no idea what speeds actually are anywhere. But we know that Coleman has no concerns bout the safety or convenience of non-motorised road-users. He never has had. As well as being the AM for Camden and Barnet, he is on Barnet Council (representing one of the wealthiest and most car-centric areas in London, Totteridge, in the far north of the borough), and is now its Cabinet Member for Transport & Environment. Putting Coleman in charge of that portfolio may be fairly likened to putting Ratko Mladic in charge of race relations.
Coleman's career is objectively documented on Wikipedia. As it says there, without distortion, he has "built up a reputation as an outspoken supporter of car driving". One of his actions as head of Transport in Barnet was reported in the Hendon & Finchley Times earlier this year as being the axing of school crossing patrols. More generally, the themes of his tenure of this office have been the removal of traffic-calming measures, the removal of on-road cycle lanes and banning of cyclists from off-road paths, removal of bus lanes, the widening of roads and junctions, increasing of parking and narrowing of pavements in Barnet. Despite all this excellent work, there are signs now, however, that he may now be falling out of favour with the car-loving voters of Barnet, as he is finding the need to support the extravagant recent hikes in allowances to Barnet councillors, in the context of the cuts in general council funding, by raising money from increased parking charges.
Be this as it may, long before all this, cyclists in his GLA constituency of Camden & Barnet knew all about him. In response to an e-mail from Paul Gasson, then co-ordinator of Camden LCC, in 2001, Coleman wrote:
Thank you for your e-mail of 8th November regarding London Cycle networks.
It is true that the Transport for London budget for the year 2002/3 does not include a budget for the London Cycle Network.
I am not, however, prepared to make any representation to the Mayor over this for the simple reason that I consider cycle lanes to be an unnecessary obstruction to cars, for which of course, roads were built.
I do not intend to be facetious over this matter, however many motorists are thoroughly tired firstly of the delays caused by the building of cycle lanes, followed by the further delays when the completed lanes encroach on road space, coupled with the fact that they are so drastically underused that they regularly provoke outrage at the pointless wastage of public money.
I hope that this is an adequate expression of my views.
Brian ColemanOn another occasion, in response to a similar lobbying letter from an LCC member, he wrote something like (I cannot now find the actual text) "Hell will freeze over before I support spending money on cyclists".
So that's our Brian. Who is, let it be said, is very good to his mother, making her Lady Mayoress during his spell as Mayor of Barnet. I hope she stays safe on the roads, so well managed by her son. Her chances are not good, however, as Barnet now has the worst road safety record of any London borough.
There are, as readers may know, so-called "Biking Boroughs" in London. I have criticised this empty, woolly, underfunded Johnson concept here before. But Barnet was clearly never going to be one of those. Barnet, as a consequence of Coleman's policies and those of his Conservative colleagues and predecessors, is now a a Bikeless Borough.
OK, there are cyclists in Barnet. Some of them are in the local LCC group, Barnet Cyclists. As may be judged for their website, however, they are mainly a leisure-riding group, not a campaigning one (uniquely within the groups making up LCC), and most of their riding is, sensibly, in the countryside and not in the Borough of Barnet. There is also an annual "Bicycle Rally" in Barnet, called the Greenacre Bicycle Rally (why "bicycle", not "bike" or "cycle", the more normal UK terms?) Brent Cyclists is taking part in this event this year, and in consequence of this, I happened yesterday to be cycling from Kingsbury to Finchley, trying to chart a west-east course through Barnet that would be suitable for inexperienced riders, families and children, cycling from Brent to the Greenacre Bicycle Rally. I have to say I failed, because what I was trying to do is impossible. There are no safe, attractive routes suitable for inexpert cyclists through Barnet. That is why this is "The Impossible Journey". Everywhere one attempts to find a route in Barnet, with the the aid of the TfL London Cycling Guides, one is stymied by major infrastructural problems: lack of suitable crossing points of linear barriers (motorways, railways and trunk roads), fast and dangerous roads with cycle-unfriendly junctions, and petty and pointless bans on cycling in non-motorised spaces (note that I was trying to make my route completely legal, so as not to bring LCC into any possible disrepute).
If you cycle from Kingsbury to Finchley the major linear barriers in the urban fabric that you have to traverse are the A5, the Midland Main Line, the M1, the A41, the Northern Line (Edgware Branch), the A1, the Northern Line (Mill Hill Branch) and the Northern Line (High Barnet Branch). That's eight linear barriers. O these, six these have no satisfactory crossing points, "satisfactory" meaning without heavy, fast traffic, and legal to cycle on or across. (The Northern Line (Edgware Branch) and Northern Line (mill Hill Branch) do have reasonable crossing points).
I decided to approach the first of these barriers, the A5, from Kingsbury on Cool Oak Lane, which is a London Cycle Network route. It is slightly scenic, with a narrow, signal-controlled bridge across the Welsh Harp Reservoir. Unfortunately, it is also a narrow race-track rat-run with blind corners: a quite intimidating environment for inexperience cyclists, but the best I could find. It would be nice to be able to turn right into Park Road off the A5, meeting it from Cool Oak Lane, but that potentially quiet route for cycling eastwards and crossing the railway and motorway is rendered impossible by a barrier in the middle of the A5. A gap in the barrier for cyclists to turn right would be quite possible, but it is one of those trivial oversights that make cycling in these suburbs a headache that such has not been provided, despite being suggested many times to uninterested Barnet traffic officers.
|Barrier in the A5 at the Park Road junction, from Google Streetview|
Back to Park Road: if you continue eastwards the route is satisfactory and you can cross the railway and motorway, but then you come to the next barrier, the A41 dual carriageway with its big barriers.
|The A41 at Park Road/Beaufort Gardens|
|A41 underpass, no cycling, but the red ring on the sign has faded out. Sympathetic background of storm clouds.|
There is a failure here to understand the disbenefits of forcing mixed mode journeys. Walking is a different mode to cycling, and walking a bike is different again. When Dr Beeching, scourge of the British railway network, closed all the branch lines, he thought people would still use the railways in the same numbers as before; he thought they would just use a different method, bus or car or taxi, to get to the nearest mainline station. He didn't realise that if you force mixed mode journeys, they become far less convenient, and people won't do them anymore. They will go by car so they can go all the way by the same mode, because one mode is always much more convenient than two. So it is with telling people they have to dismount from their bike. They loose most of the benefits of going out with a bike in the first place. Trying to use the bike becomes a pain, and they choose another mode, usually the car. In passing, that's why TfL's attempts to get people to use the hire bikes to go to the Olympics will fail, because the nearest docking station to the Olympic site at Stratford will be at Victoria Park, 20 minutes walk away. It won't be worth mucking about with the bikes.
So, back to our Impossible Journey in Barnet. After walking through the underpass under the A41, it is possilbe to cycle via Cheyne Walk and Shirehall Lane, and under the Northern Line (Edgware Branch), to Hendon Park. Here there is a cycle route marked on the TfL guides, through the park. It isn't marked on the park at all, so it's legality is unclear to me. This can be followed northwards on to the West View path – a very narrow shared-use space. The main thing that is wrong with the West View route, however, is that whenever it meets a minor residential road, it gives way to it, and there is no concern in the design off the junctions to limit the speed of cars crossing this quite important pedestrian route (not so important for bikes as there are few cyclists in Barnet) or to allow pedestrians easily to cross. in fact, the junctions are not designed at all, they are just blocked, as we see here at Sydney Grove, where the route is blocked by railings that force pedestrians and cyclists to do a detour round and where they have to cross a fairly dangerous road with poor sight-lines due to parking.
|West View path junction with Sydney Grove|
|Chapel Walk. Walk!|
We are nearing Finchley now, and there is a traffic-free cycle route, marked in green on TfL Guide no. 3, that goes in roughly the right direction, along the course of the Dollis Brook, through Windsor Open Space. Except that it has now been closed to cyclists. This is obviously a very recent development, as the roundel signs look new.
|Welcome to Windsor Open Space says the sign at left. But not you, you with the bike. Remember, Barnet is officially a BIKELESS BOROUGH.|
On this occasion I found a better road under the Northern Line (Mill Hill Branch) than I had used before. Dollis Road, under the viaduct, is deeply unpleasant: narrow, with speeding overtaking traffic, centre islands just where you (and overtaking cars) don't expect them, and a terrible road surface (Barnet has given up maintaining it's roads in the current climate (financial as well as meteorological). Crescent Road is much nicer, but then, where it meets Nether Street, the junction layout prevents you cycling northwards into Nether Street. I got off again to do this manoeuvre. So, as so often, a piece of engineering designed to prevent residential rat-running by motorists catches cyclists, through mere thoughtlessness on the part of council officers not interested in cycling, and prevents them from finding a decent route. The Dollis Brook walk continues further north, and I lookied ito this, but again, cyclists are not welcomed.
|Lovely Barnet: graffiti-covered welcome to Riverside Walk, but no cycling again. Becoming something of a theme, isn't it? If you're on a horse you're out of luck as well. "Roads for motorists, paths for pedestrians" could be the Coleman Barnet motto.|
So that was my Impossible Journey in Barnet, which, on Sunday, I will do, hopefully, with a group of keen Brent cyclists. Congratulations if you have stuck with this.
Brent Cyclists, through Brent and Harrow Assembly Member Navin Shah, asked the following question of Boris Johnson in April:
TfL have said that the main potential for cycle growth in London lies in the Outer London Boroughs. Some of these, for example Brent, have been designated as “Biking Boroughs”, and are eligible for small funds from TfL, while neighbouring boroughs are not eligible for these funds. Given the target for cycling mode share of 4.3% by 2026, how does the Biking Boroughs scheme in its current form aid integrated cycle provision in London?The answer came back:
All Outer London Boroughs were given the opportunity to become Biking Boroughs at the end of 2009. Following a competitive process which evaluated the level of commitment and political support for cycling in boroughs, 13 boroughs were awarded Biking Borough status in early 2010. Each borough has since developed a Biking Borough Strategy to inform their Local Implementation Plans (LIPs). The Biking Borough grants will supplement this.
All boroughs are encouraged to work together through their sub-regional partnerships to ensure their delivery plans are integrated with those of their neighbouring boroughs. In addition, all boroughs are able to use their LIPs transport funding to promote cycling and deliver cycling infrastructure where this is seen to be a local priority.So, an extraordinarily hands-off approach there from Boris Johnson, this supposed champion of cycling, in saying that boroughs will only deliver cycling infrastructure "where this is seen to be a local priority". And if it is not? No cycling infrastructure, as in Barnet. Authorities like Barnet are completely free to opt out of Boris's "Cycling Revolution". Not much of a revolution, is it, if you happen to live in one of these boroughs?
Barnet Council has created a Bikeless Borough. There is virtually nothing for cyclists in Barnet except cycling on the traffic-choked, boy-racer filled main roads and residential rat-runs. No cycle lanes, paths, parks, home-zones, nothing like that. In Brian Coleman's Barnet, there is no room for the bike. Bikes, as he said so clearly in his email to Camden Cycling Campaign, just get in the way. It will get even worse when the TfL/Barnet Council changes to the North Circularl/A41 junction at Henlys corner get built.
Well, as a final thought, I must retreat from that statement slightly. The Bikeless Borough is 95% the fault of Barnet Council, but I put the other 5% of the responsibility at the door of local cycle campaigners. Granted, they have had a particularly difficult political situation to deal with in Barnet, but, also unfortunately, Barnet Cyclists, the LCC group in Barnet, have been led for some years by a gentleman named Jeremy Parker, who though a very personable chap, I have to say has completely wrong ideas about cycle infrastructure. He seems to have got these ideas from John Forrester, leader of the vehicular cycling sect in the United States, and vehement opponent of cycle lanes. Parker did, indeed, live and cycle for some time in the States. Parker's ideas are written down here and here. As these documents date from about 14 years ago, my apologies to him if he has significantly altered his opinions in the meantime, but I don't think he has.
Jeremy Parker's most characteristic idea, that he often articulates, is that:
The entire street London street network is already the London cycle networkThat is, cyclists don't need any other network, anything special. He is therefore in general opposed to "cycle facilities".
I am afraid to say that in the state of Barnet's cycling environment today, you see what happens when the councillor who believes that "cycle lanes are an unnecessary obstruction to cars, for which of course, roads were built" meets the cycling campaigner who believes that "The entire street London street network is already the London cycle network". You get the Bikeless Borough of Barnet.