BRAG May Update
Public Inquiry into the experimental Torrington-Tavistock Place one-way system
The Report by the independent Inspector, Martin Elliott, has just been published on Camden Council's website. This is the outcome of a four-week Public Inquiry which was held on this issue last autumn (from 10 October to 2 November 2017).
The Inspector has recommended the Tavistock - Torrington corridor should be WESTBOUND for vehicular traffic, with two separate cycle lanes. Although BRAG's preference was for a return to two-way traffic plus two separate cycle lanes, we were supportive of a westbound solution. This seems a pragmatic approach to sharing the space - giving sufficient room for safe cycling but allowing less mobile residents who need to go west an alternative route to the Euston Road.
The Inspector's Report was submitted first to the Planning Inspectorate prior to being sent to Camden. We learn that it wasn't received in a draft form and is therefore published as released by the Planning Inspectorate.
To access Camden's website on the Public Inquiry, and to download the report, click here.
To quote from the Report itself:
10.1 Having regard to these and all other matters raised at the inquiry and in the written representations I recommend that The Camden (Torrington Place to Tavistock Place) (Prescribed Routes, Waiting and Loading Restrictions and Loading Places) Traffic Order  is not made.
10.2 Noting my conclusions above [8.16.11] I recommend that the Council consider the modification of the Order so as to provide for westbound only vehicular traffic whilst retaining the provision for separate west bound and east bound cycle lanes. As noted above such a modification would require further steps to be taken under regulation 14 (4) of the Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996. If the Council takes a view that the Order cannot be modified then it is open to the Council to make a further Order to provide for the westbound configuration.
Camden Council’s Cabinet Members will make the final decision as to whether the Inspector’s recommendations will be accepted. We have learned that Camden will make a decision at the Cabinet meeting on 5 September 2018.
In the meantime, the Secretary of State for Transport has, by a letter dated 2nd February 2018, directed that the Experimental Order shall continue in force until 31st October 2018.
Local residents objected to the Tavistock/Torrington scheme because it resulted in a widespread congestion across the area, greatly increasing pollution. At the resulting Inquiry, it was shown that the pollution measurements used to justify the change were unreliable. The claims of Camden Council that pollution had not increased within ‘the Bloomsbury Box’ were unsubstantiated.
Camden Cyclists and the London Cycling Campaign were involved in pre-trial discussions with Camden on the trial scheme. They lobbied hard during the consultation period. 86% of the responses to the questionnaire came from people who did not actually live in the Borough of Camden. The Officer's report to the Cabinet meeting on 22 January 2017 details the proportion of the consultation respondents who were not residents but "passing through". Of the 8102 respondents in the "passing through" category, 6791 (84%) identified as cyclists.
Published TFL figures show that of all London Journey Stages only 2% are made by cycling. - 45% are made by public transport, 31% by private transport and 21% walk. [See BRAG's Summary of Response to Public Inquiry]
The results of the consultation on the Tavistock Place trial identified that cyclists made up 84% of the respondents who were passing through, but only 2% of London's total population are cyclists. In our view this invalidates the consultation's findings as sufficient justification for the trial scheme. The figures are certainly not representative of the relevant population.
The facts prove that the determination to appease one lobby group has resulted in a stretch of road in central London being changed without sufficient consideration of its impact on residents or other road users.
Many local residents are cyclists too. We want safe cycling. We want reasonable journey parity for all users of the Torrington / Tavistock Place corridor.
As well as this stretch of roadway, there are now at least 6 other traffic schemes proposed for the local area, all of which will push more traffic onto the heavily congested roads in our neighbourhood, including Southampton Row.
The London wide traffic schemes are being introduced with spurious traffic, pollution and safety modelling. Pollution is increasing, the disabled and elderly are finding it increasingly hard to get around and businesses and residents are suffering.
In February 2018, a list of the most congested roads in the UK was announced. In 5th place was Russell Square (3rd place in London). It is interesting to note that in 2013 Russell Square didn’t even feature in the top 20 and the only major difference since then is the widening of cycle lanes in Torrington/Tavistock Place, removing the west bound vehicle lane. This is the only west bound route between Euston Road and the Strand, as local residents and businesses know too well.
It is generally accepted that removing traffic from one street may improve air quality in this specific area but creates greater pollution elsewhere, as displaced traffic never goes away, it just finds a new route, and increases pollution somewhere else.
Lack of joined up approach re: traffic planning
BRAG has been critical of Camden's lack of joined-up approach to traffic issues, as any change to the road network will inevitably have a knock-on effect elsewhere.
It has been confirmed by Councillor Adam Harrison (Cabinet Member for Improving Camden's Environment) that there is NO single overall plan for the whole of Bloomsbury ward or any other ward / large area in the borough.
To quote from his recent email: "Developing such a plan is unlikely as this would be unfeasible due to the constraints on resources and funding, would probably be too large to be deemed a genuine consultation (you would still have to run localised consultations for particular proposals), and would also not be conducive to responding to, say, issues raised by things like the Prevention of Future Death Notice or to tackling other matters such as improving air quality or encouraging more people to walk and cycle. That said, schemes that are in close proximity to each other and are likely to impact on one another are considered together. However, the Holborn local safety scheme and the other schemes in the Bloomsbury area are considered to be independent of each other."
We are told that the overarching plan for transport in the borough is set out in the Camden Transport Strategy. This strategy is currently being updated and will be subject to consultation in November 2018.