Thursday, 8 January 2015

Has Boris just announced East-West Cycle Super Highway will be going ahead? But could the Royal Parks still prove an obstacle?


Earlier this week, talking on an LBC radio show, Boris Johnson had this to say in response to a caller about the planned East-West Cycle Super Highway: "It's got to be done".

As far as I can tell, that comes pretty close to Boris saying it's going ahead.

I think we'll find out fairly soon what's going on. We know that Transport for London will be deciding whether to approve the East-West Cycle Super Highway at a board meeting in February. For Boris to make this statement in public so soon before that board meeting suggests that, at the very least, his own mind is made up.

One big remaining question is whether the Cycle Super Highway will go ahead as presented in the consultation or not. In fact, it's worth reminding ourselves that not all of the scheme has actually been put to consultation yet, in particular,  the section between Parliament Square and Lancaster Gate. This section has yet to be agreed with The Royal Parks as it crosses their patch of London. I've circled in red those sections on the original consultation map which have not yet been opened to consultation.



If you look at The Royal Parks's public submission to the consultation, it is pretty clear they think bikes should be on the roads: "the Cycle Superhighway routes must be entirely road based as they pass through Hyde Park". Now, I don't know about you, but I don't much fancy having to man up and 'take the lane' on large chunks of the route through the Royal Parks and that's because significant sections of these roads are either a) damn fast, multi-lane roads, for example at the roundabout outside Buckingham Palace or b) extremely narrow but extremely busy rat-runs (for example, West Carriage Drive) where you simply can't get past on a bike when motor traffic is queuing (which is often) and where close, intimidating overtakes are the norm when motor traffic is free-flowing.

Even more odd: The Royal Parks letter sets out demands that TfL should "indemnify The Royal Parks from any personal accident claims resulting from the use of any parts of the Superhighway route in the parks". You have to wonder whether The Royal Parks have so brazenly demanded this in relation to cyclists or whether they also place similar demands on other roads users, car drivers for example.

So, when those revised plans do come out, it is going to be very interesting to see how The Royal Parks propose to manage the Cycle Super Highway through this key central London section.

Reading the letter from The Royal Parks, it seems to me that the authority is terribly concerned that building a safe cycle route through this area might lead to conflict with pedestrians. Fair enough. But I don't see any evidence that The Royal Parks understand that much of that potential 'conflict' is because they are trying to squeeze people on foot and bikes into small spaces at junctions that are absolutely mobbed by motor vehicle traffic. The elephant in the room is that there is an awful lot of motor vehicle traffic in the Parks. Why isn't The Royal Parks worrying about removing some of that, I wonder?


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

I am completely humbled by this: We can't keep up with the number of employers and other organisations pouring in to support the Cycle Super Highway plans

Just some of the organisations supporting
Cycle Super Highways
This is truly something different.

For several weeks I have been slowly drip feeding updates about the fact that organisations across London are waking up to cycling. 

What's happening now is that the support is turning into a flood. 

It started a couple of months ago. I first got a whiff that some organisations were trying very hard to undermine the Mayor's plans to build two cycle super highways in central London. 

Days later I was contacted by the people behind a pop-up group: Cycling Works London. The purpose of the group was that a bunch of like-minded individuals would spend their time asking their employers and some clients whether they would be prepared to write to Transport for London in support of the Cycle Super Highway plans. Those people were Chris and Jono Kenyon, Nick Kocharhook and Dr Tabitha Tanqueray. And now including me and also Mark of ibikelondon blog. There's one other key individual too but I don't know if he wants me to mention him in public, so can I think him in private for now. 

We started rather timidly and managed to get a few companies to put their name forward. These were all people that we knew but not necessarily people who regard themselves as 'cyclists'. Just people who felt that their employees deserved a better deal on bikes on London roads. 

The first signs that we were getting somewhere came when other people started to get in touch. Before we knew it, the big accounting firm Deloitte was writing to support the plans, encouraging its partners and staff to write in as well. Then came various other professional services firms - law firms Allen & Overy, Nabarros, Charles Russell & HerbertSmith Freehills. 

So far so corporate. 

Little by little, all sorts of other industries came out in support. So, we have almost everyone who's anyone in the London property scene (the exception being Canary Wharf Group). It started with JonesLang LaSalle, then came KnightFrank, then Barratt Homes, Argent (big developers of the Kings Cross area), DTZ, Land Securities, GVA Grimley. And plenty more. 

And fairly speedily, the consumer brands came along too. Unilever, Orange, Hovis (yes the bread), Coca Cola and some retailers including Borough Market''s Cannon & Cannon and Sofa.com (plus one very large one coming that I can't mention yet). 

Then came a clutch of tech firms, boosted by a stonking letter from the CEO of Microsoft UK and from ARM Holdings. A whole host of firms based in Canary Wharf also came forward. 

The banks - Royal Bank of Scotland and just overnight Rothschild Bank. They are joined by an array of theatres - Royal Opera House, Shakespeare's Globe, the Young Vic all of whom said this would boost audiences and improve things for their staff and performers. The actors' trade union Equity wrote in last night as well. And a particular shout-out for Cemex, the construction company - who have been extremely vocal about their support. 

Ludgate Circus - scene of two cyclist deaths
in the last six months. As it might soon look.
In fact, no fewer than 43 organisations have written in over the past 48 hours. It is truly mind-blowing. 

The Dean of Southwark Cathedral has written in support, Canon Giles Godard of  the Church of England parish of Waterloo, St John with St Andrew has written in on behalf of his parish, which covers the south bank between Blackfriars and St George's Circus. Even the Institute of Physics has come out in support. 

And from the Universities - the students union of the University of the Arts (25,000 students), the acting principal of Queen Mary University, the University of Westminster (and we believe UCL as well). Organisations as diverse as the British Veterinary Association and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have also played their part. They've been backed by none other than the CEO of the Financial Times and strong editorial leads in The Evening Standard. Publishers Simon & Schuster were early supporters and joined more recently by Penguin Random House. 

And on a more sombre but equally impressive scale, all of the major London trauma centres have written in support. The CEOs representing London's big hospitals (Barts, Imperial and Kings NHS Trusts) have all swung behind this. Alongside them, City Police - the police force for the Square Mile - has issued a statement in support. They join the London Air Ambulance and the Association of Anaesthetists.

The Evening Standard editorial from two weeks ago
We know of over 160 organisations and I haven't managed to mention even half of them on this list. We also know of many more organisations that have written in support but didn't want to go particularly public about it.

The most fascinating thing has been people's reactions. The companies that have got behind this have all said that their staff absolutely love them for doing this. I think that's very significant. 

I said it at the top of this blog post. And I'll say it again. I - and I think we - are truly humbled. What started as a small group of people nervously asking our employers if they'd back this Cycle Super Highway stuff has snowballed. And to each and every one of those employers, thank you. I spoke with some people at Transport for London last week. They have never, as far as I understand it, had as much public support in a consultation as they've had from all of you. 

The consultations run until Sunday this week. If you haven't already, please add your voice. Either as an individual or on behalf of an organisation. Heres's what you can do to help. 

I can't really add to that. Thank you. And in particular thank you to the Cycling Works team. It was their idea to pick this up and run with it. They've been out flyering. We've all been out planning and getting on with it. Just amazing.




Saturday, 18 October 2014

Evening Standard: Give us this cycle lane! On the same day another cyclist is crushed by a lorry driver in a collision on proposed cycle highway route in City of London

Last night's editorial in the Evening Standard
Last night's Evening Standard. The editorial kind of says it all.

A Yougov poll, also published in the Standard, provided the setting for that editorial piece. The vast majority of Londoners support the planned cycle highways, even if it means taking road space from private cars.

Main feature in last night's Standard
In the same week, dozens more employers have come out and said they also support the Cycle Super Highway plans. Massive employers, in fact. The UK's largest commercial property company Land Securities joined the Royal Opera House; Queen Mary University has written to the Mayor on behalf of its 17,500+ students and 4,000 staff; the students union of the University of the Arts London has also written in support on behalf of 17,500 students; even the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the CEO of Hovis Bakery (yes, they of the bread fame) have written in support. Special thanks also to the CEO of Brompton Bicycles for his personal support and to Evans Cycles for asking their customers to write in support. No special thanks whatsoever to Wiggle Bike Shop who have remained stunningly silent on all this.

Thank you Evans Cycles, for
encouraging others to show their support
Yet amid all the good news, there are several strands of bad, and one strand of awful, news. First the awful news.

Yesterday, once again, a cyclist was crushed at Ludgate Circus under the wheels of a tipper truck. We know her injuries are severe. The collision took place at exactly the same spot where Victor Rodriguez was killed on his bike by a tipper truck in April and at exactly the same junction where the north-south Cycle Super Highway is due to be built. AsEasyAsRidingABike pointed out on twitter that if the cycle highway had been built, there is no way the bike and the lorry could have even come into conflict. These injuries and fatalities are avoidable. An article in the Times makes the link that while TfL wants to build a cycle highway here, "organisations like the Canary Wharf Group and the City of London have raised concerns over possible delays to motor traffic." I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

It seems quite mundane to jump from this awful situation to the House of Commons but I want to point out that the battle over the Cycle Super Highways is by no means won. Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar & Limehouse - himself someone who cycles and is usually fairly wise on these matters - stood up and made a truly bizarre speech in Westminster. He claimed that the planned east-west Cycle Super Highway would 'prevent' 80% of all commercial traffic and public transport from using the Embankment. He also claimed that only 9% of motor traffic on the Embankment is made up of private cars. I have no idea where he's getting those figures from but they are entirely fictional. The DfT's own figures for the exact stretch of road he's talking about show that 69% of all traffic here is private cars. The 80% figure is just pure fabrication, I'm afraid.

I would like to point out that this week Jim Fitzpatrick has also mentioned that he has met senior figures from the City of London to talk about City / Tower Hamlets issues (the same City of London politician who tweeted a few weeks ago about his dislike of the Cycle Super Highways) and has been talking with Canary Wharf Group PLC about a charity fundraiser. Both organisations have been smearing the Cycle Super Highways to a greater or lesser degree. It would be a shame if an otherwise sensible MP has got himself caught up in those falsehoods.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Canary Wharf Finance Director must declare conflicts of interest before he chairs November's Transport for London committee that decides whether to fund Cycle Super Highways or not

Peter Anderson, FD, Canary Wharf Group PLC
Chair of TfL finance committee that will decide
on the Cycle Super Highway investment
This post is going to be a bit explosive. Please have a serious think about what I'm going to say.

This chap pictured above is Peter Anderson. He is the Finance Director of Canary Wharf Group PLC.

He is also on the Board of Transport for London. He is also Chair of TfL's Finance & Policy Committee. Bear with me on this. It's quite astonishing.

On Friday, the Guardian carried a story in which Canary Wharf Group admitted "it was behind the anonymous briefing" which was published first on this blog and in which, in my view, Canary Wharf Group sought to present a whole range of falsehoods and misrepresentations as fact in order to discredit Transport for London's Cycle Super Highway plans.

Another article in the Guardian states: "Another business lobbyist funded by Canary Wharf has toured the party conferences claiming, wrongly, that the superhighways will delay traffic in London by 6%."

Now, I would suggest there is a conflict of interests going on. It is at the very least inappropriate and I would like someone who reads this blog to have a serious think about whether it could potentially be more serious than that.

There is a piece of legislation called the Greater London Authority Act 1999 which sets out the governance of Transport for London. And the Act is pretty clear about conflicts of interest:


Peter Anderson has sat in TfL board meetings in which Cycle Super Highways have been discussed. Have a look at the video below - a TfL board meeting in February. Minute 4.30 onwards, the board is talking about the first stage investment in Cycle Super Highways. From minute 5.30, here is Peter Anderson talking about those Cycle Super Highways and finding ways to obfuscate: "is the impact [of cycle super highways] greater than the benefits?" he asks and suggests they might "need a redesign".  Here, at board level, is Canary Wharf's finance director going into minute details about segregated bike lanes. It is, in my opinion, rather unusual for a board meeting to discuss such intricate details as the position of kerb lines in the way that Peter Anderson is doing in this video. That raises eyebrows already.

What raises eyebrows even more is that we now know Peter Anderson's employer, on whose board he also sits, has been briefing against TfL's own cycle super highway policy (although we don't know when precisely Canary Wharf started to do that). We also know that, to date, Peter Anderson has never declared any interest in cycling and its relationship to Canary Wharf. You can see Peter Anderson's declarations of interest online.

So, that's issue number one.

But issue number two is more astonishing.

Peter Anderson is also the Chair of the TfL Finance and Policy Committee. This is the committee at which funding for TfL projects gets decided on. And if you look at the agenda for that Committee, you can see that on November 25th, Peter Anderson will be chairing the meeting that decides whether or not to fund the Cycle Super Highways. Look at Page 4 on the Forward Schedule from the last meeting, and it's staring right at you: Cycle Super Highways Programme will be discussed in the November meeting of the TfL Finance and Policy Committee, chaired by Peter Anderson.

In other words, the Finance Director of Canary Wharf Group PLC, an organisation which has been actively briefing against the Cycle Super Highways, is going to chair the Committee next month that decides whether or not to finance those very same Cycle Super Highways. AND, that Finance Director has not yet declared his company's activities or any interest in the Cycle Super Highways.

If Peter Anderson is to chair this meeting my belief is that he needs to immediately:

a) Declare the extent to which lobbying by Canary Wharf Group PLC, and their appointed lobbyists, at political party conferences over the last 45 days have targeted TfL plans for 'Crossrail for bikes'

b) Declare the extent of lobbying by Canary Wharf Group PLC, and their appointed lobbyists, to its tenants over the last 60 days that have targeted TfL plans for 'Crossrail for bikes'. (It is interesting that Deloitte, a big 4 accounting firm has declared support for 'Crossrail for bikes'. KPMG, which is a tenant of Canary Wharf Group, however, has not).

c) Declare what contact and communication Canary Wharf Group PLC, and their appointed lobbyists, have put on London First to make statements about TfL's plans for 'Crossrail for bikes'.

d) Declare what contact and communication Canary Wharf Group PLC, and their appointed lobbyists, have put on the Federation of Small Businesses to make statements about TfL's plans for 'Crossrail for bikes'.

e) Declare what contact and communication there has been between Canary Wharf Group PLC, and their appointed lobbyists, with HM Treasury in the last 60 days that have made reference to or pertain to TfL's plans for 'Crossrail for bikes'.

f) To what extent George Iacobescu, the CEO of Canary Wharf Group PLC is using personal funding and contacts within the Conservative Party and specifically with George Osborne to impact the TfL's 'Crossrail for bikes'.

If this is not a clear, inappropriate and incorrect failure to declare conflicts conflict of interest, I don't know what is.










Wednesday, 8 October 2014

City of London reports suggests it wants radical plans to reduce motor capacity on main roads in inner London. Another report suggests Canary Wharf Group strongly disagrees with that. Meanwhile, major corporates Orange, Unilever and now Royal Bank of Scotland show they are socially responsible employers and announce support for cycle super highway plans

Earlier this week, the City of London published its report on the Cycle Super Highways. I'm going to analyse the report below.

But before I do, I want to point out something that is probably more important than the City's inner workings. And that is something quite impressive. Thanks to the stirling work of the Cycling Works team, we now know that  Royal Bank of Scotland has written to the Mayor in support of the Cycle Super Highways on behalf of its 12,000 employees in London. The phone giant Orange has done the same. And Unilever, the Anglo Dutch corporate giant has written a very personal account of why it wants the Mayor to build the Cycle Super Highways: "We have tragically lost employees in the past who have been killed while trying to cycle to or from work. We do not want to lose any more." I have even had a note from the Dutch ambassador saying she intends to write to the Mayor as well.

Meanwhile, I now know that Canary Wharf Group is meeting all sorts of people about the Cycle Super Highways. This follows an anti-cycling briefing note which was being distributed by people linked to Canary Wharf Group and a very clear reference to the backroom antics of (what is probably also) Canary Wharf Group in last week's Evening Standard by a TfL board member.

On the one hand, we have major companies like RBS, Unilever and Orange showing social responsibility to their staff. On the other hand, it seems pretty likely, we have Canary Wharf Group.

And then we have the City of London.

Now, I find it rather odd that the City is putting out twitter statements like the one above. And I say that because the actual content of the City's internal report is much more balanced than this sort of "shock jock" twitter commentary, which is rather unusual to see from the Square Mile's twitter account.

If you read the City's very detailed report, it is actually quite balanced. And quite radical. Here's why (bear with me, I need to do a bit of context first)

First the context: The briefing note that has been handed out by people linked to Canary Wharf Group, is all about maximising central London for private motor cars. And, frankly, sod everyone else.

Unilever is supporting the
Cycle Super Highways.
Its HQ is at Blackfriars
But the City of London's report is very different. The core focus of the Square Mile shows that City of London politicians are completely opopsed to the sort of thinking being displayed in that briefing note that has been handed out by people linked to Canary Wharf Group. What the Square Mile is saying is that it wants to make its part of central London work better for pedestrians. Not for private cars. A key element of the City's report is that pedestrian crossing times need to be improved and it worries they will be made longer by the cycle highways. "A reduction in wait times are needed rather than increased or at worst they should remain the same". Actually, I can't disagree with that (although the grammar is rather odd).

The City's report goes even further. It points out that pedestrian crossing times have actually got worse in London over the last 10 years and it specifically blames TfL's motor vehicle policies for that:

"Over the last decade or so, pedestrian wait times at signal crossings have gradually increased. These increases have been made by TfL in order to maintain capacity for motor vehicles. It involves increasing signal cycle times which means it will take longer for the “green” man to appear. This also means that many pedestrians now ignore the “green” man and cross when they can, again increasing road danger."

In other words, under this Mayor and the previous Mayor, TfL has tried to squeeze in cycle facilities and pedestrian facilities. But it has done this by insisting on maintaing car capacity.

Now this gets a tiny bit technical but please please read this because it's important. You simply cannot maintain capacity for motor traffic and also fit in space and time for safe cycling and safe walking. It just isn't possible unless you build a gazillion new roads.

This is why Chicago's Mayor stood up and pledged a goal of ZERO road deaths within 10 years. How's he planning to do that? He's going to focus on making the roads safe enough for "even the most vulnerable – children, elderly, and persons with disabilities – [to] travel safely within the public right of way.” You cannot do that without restricting motor traffic. And the implication of the City of London report, although it does not say this directly, is that TfL needs to start reducing motor traffic in central London more than it has in the last decade. It is absolutely right about this. And Canary Wharf is, in my opinion, absolutely wrong.

Just a fraction of the companies that have written to the Mayor telling him to build
his Cycle Super Highways

There's a lot in the City's report I just don't agree with. There are parts in the report where I think the City is being plain cheeky. It appears to be asking for TfL's cycling money to be spent on a new pedestrian link to a new boat pier at Blackfriars. It makes some rather cynical comments about Blackfriars junction. I can't help but feel quite angry, for example, that the City meekly approved the current Blackfriars junction design a few years ago (despite significant public opposition) that it now describes as "confusing" and as having a "high collision" rate. But people, and local authorities, are allowed to change.

That said, the general direction of the City's report is not bad. The City is clear that it wants to support the Mayor's cycle super highway plans. But it quite rightly wants to stand up for the majority of its road users who are on foot. Now, when it comes to Upper Thames Street and Embankment, the majority of road users are not on foot. Because much of this route is a traffic-snarled, nasty environment. And the City's report does rather cynically mix up sections from one super highway plan with another in order to present a 'worst case' scenario at points.

But if you go with the overall impression of the City's report, it is about supporting the Cycle Super Highway plans but seeking to ensure benefits for pedestrians as well. I'm quite ok with the principle of that and I think most people would agree. I'm afraid I can't say the same for what Canary Wharf Group seems to be up to.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Something quite amazing is happening: Over 50 Chief Execs of big London employers have already written to Boris telling him to get on with building the cycle super highways. The wind direction is blowing in favour of this change. You need to get involved.

Mediacom is a big global media player. It sent a clear message out last week saying that it intends to back the Mayor's plans for cycle super highways in central London. Their tweet below states very clearly why it thinks this is important. And it is not alone.






















We don't know precisely how many employers have written to the Mayor. But, through a pop-up campaign called Cycling Works!, we know that over 50 of them have already written to the Mayor and also chosen to make their announcement public on the Cycling Works website

What is clear is that employers big and small are lining up to get behind the cycle super highway plans. What is also clear is that what I'm going to write below only scratches the surface. Many, many more are coming.

Let's have a quick look at what's happened so far.

This week, the senior partner of the £1.1billion revenue global law firm Allen & Overy added his voice: "The roads of London have to be made safer for cyclists. This is a business issue as well as one for the wider community. As a civilised society we must take all necessary measures to keep people travelling about their daily business safely. Segregating cyclists and other traffic seems to be one of the most efficient and effective ways to achieve this. This is a message that is resonating around London businesses and other employers who are lining up to tell the Mayor they back his plans to build two safe, continuous, comfortable cycle super highways through central London."

He is joined by a company statement on behalf of Deloitte UK, one of the big four global services firms.

The NLA, London's Centre for the Built Environment issued a statement this week "[urging] its members to respond to the consultation; to comment on detail and support the overall proposals"In fact, a whole host of major property agencies, developers and investors have got behind the schemes. So far, we've seen property giants The Crown Estate, Knight Frank, Barratt Homes and Jones Lang LaSalle state their support. The mega agent GVA Grimley (which manages properties worth over €40billion) has also just put out a press release stating "Property consultancy GVA has thrown its weight behind plans to expand the existing network of Cycle Superhighways in London, as a TfL consultation over the scheme's expansion gets underway...cycling should form a key part of any major city’s integrated transport infrastructure."

New look New Bridge Street in the City of London? 

























Yesterday alone, 13 more CEOs did just that. Employers ranging from charities, to small tech companies with 50 employees to multinationals with 10s of 1000s of employees are getting behind the schemes.

In the health sector we've so far seen support from the CEO of NHS Barts Health Trust together with the CEO of the British Veterinary Association, the Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Managing Director of British Military Fitness

More tellingly, the Chief Exec of the London Air Ambulance has this to say: "We treat some of the most critically injured people in London and unfortunately one of the sickest patient groups are these cyclists who have been injured by large vehicles..We hope the proposed new measures will help to reduce the number of casualties and will be following these plans with interest."


The updated list of employers who have put their names behind the cycle super highway plans and chosen to do so in public is on the Cycling Works website and it is growing by the hour. China Daily and Euromonitor added their names yesterday, alongside other UK media and information businesses. The National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts has joined a whole host of big and medium-sized technology companies, including Equisys, Marmalade and Digital Craftsmen.

I think this is genuinely incredible. It would have been very hard to believe, a couple of years ago when 10,000+ of us were shivering in the rain on the London Cycling Campaign Go Dutch ride, or when a few thusand of us took to the streets to protest at Blackfriars, that we would eventually see major multinationals, charities, hospitals, software and tech companies, real estate investors, media companies and retailers all coming together to ask for responsible, safe routes for cycling through central London.

The wind is blowing in the direction of safe, convenient cycling in central London. Responsible employers are backing this because it helps their business but also because it protects their employees. If you read some of these messages of support, there are genuine and harrowing tales of staff maimed and, in some cases, killed, on their journeys to work. Deaths and injuries that are preventable.

If your employer isn't behind this, they should be ashamed of themselves. So many others are leading the way. Take action now please, if you can.