Liveable Streets on the brink thanks to London’s cabbies

Have you hugged a cabbie today? Maybe you should consider it. On 20th January the trade bodies for London’s traditional black cabs (aka hackney carriages) won a significant legal victory against the Mayor of London’s Streetspace Plan.

Essentially the United Trade Action Group Limited and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association Limited went to the High Court to argue that the Mayor’s Streetspace Plan was unfairly restricting their ability to work by failing to recognise the distinct status of taxis as an important form of accessible public transport, stopping cabs from using bus lanes and failure to account for needs of passengers with protected characteristics.

The ruling stated that the Mayor and TfL “took advantage of the pandemic” to push through “radical changes” and that the “decisions were not a rational response to the issues which arose as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Anyone like a glass of quash?

The cabbies won their case and the judges ordered the Streetspace Plan and associated orders by the Mayor to be quashed.

Or squashed if you are not a lawyer.

You can read the full judgement here and there are some highlights below.

Streetspace was just one the many schemes by TfL, the Mayor of London and local councils which go by the names ‘Liveable Streets’ or ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ or ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ or LTNs.

If you want to try and make sense of any of these schemes you need to check out the Mayor’s Transport Strategy 2018 and the Streetspace for London Plan or the Liveable Neighbourhoods scheme or Streetspace for Tower Hamlets.

Or just wander around London until you find a traffic jam, a Low Traffic Neighbourhood will be close by.

Not a good week

So not a good week for the cycling pressure groups who have tried to influence the design of neighbourhoods which they will never visit or the manufacturers of those silly Lycra shorts they wear. But mainly a bad week for Streetspace / Liveable Streets / whatever and the numerous blowhard politicians who supported it irrespective of residents views.

Still could have been worse.

What? Oh it was!

“…doing more harm than good”

Auto Express

You should read this excellent piece of journalism by Hugo Griffiths of Auto Express, Exclusive: the high cost of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, which looked at some of the 138 LTNs across the UK. It’s conclusion? “We find out that rash planning means Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, which were designed to improve residents’ lives, are doing more harm than good”

Some of the complete wastes of money found included (deep breath):

Wiltshire Council spent £412,000 on an “exciting and ambitious project” that saw Salisbury city centre closed to through traffic on 21 October last year and then £10,000-£15,000 to suspend the scheme “indefinitely” ‘cos it was rubbish.

Two LTN schemes in Redbridge, London, costing £297,971 were scrapped after little more than a month so a further £29,762 was spent reinstating the roads because the LTNs were useless.

Auto Express found that local authorities had spent at least £974,483 reversing LTNs so far but the real amount is likely to be higher.

Problems that the London Ambulance Service, Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade encountered because of LTNs is also covered by Auto Express.

So apart from the High Court judgment the cabbies one and the complete waste of money Auto Express revealed it was not that bad a week for Streetspace.

As long as nobody wrote a scathing analysis of the whole affair.

Moral evangelism

Dave Hill wrote this very perceptive and balanced comment piece, We need a big, clear re-think about transport on London’s streets, in his On London online publication which further condemned LTNs.

Here are a few choice snippets from Dave.

[…] the management of London’s streets has been influenced far too much by an active travel activism marked by a triumph of faith over evidence and justified by a moral evangelism that can alienate and anger at least as much as it converts.

[…] cycling is the transport choice of a tiny minority of Londoners, most of them affluent male professionals whose lives tend not to involve physically tiring jobs or lugging bags of tools, small children or shopping around.

The continuing statistical under-representation of young Londoners, black and Asian Londoners, female Londoners and low income Londoners among London cyclists points to cycling having an image problem that works against it becoming more popular.

Ring a bell London Cycling Campaign?

So apart from the damning High Court judgment, the revealing Auto Express article and Dave Hill’s critique it was a great week for Streetspace, right?

Not quite. As in not at all.

As we reported yesterday Whitechapel residents have written an Open Letter to their ward councillors Faroque Ahmed, Shah Ameen and Victoria Obaze asking them to ‘stand with us, people with protected characteristics, guaranteed by law against the discriminatory consultation on Liveable Streets by the Tower Hamlets Council Contractor, PCL Consult.’

Faroque Ahmed, Shah Ameen and Victoria Obaze

You can find the Open Letter here if you live or work in Whitechapel and wish to sign it.

Now earn your allowance councillors

We almost, but not quite, feel sorry for Tower Hamlets Labour councillors Faroque Ahmed, Shah Ameen and Victoria Obaze because they are in a bit of a fix.

Or, to use a succinct phrase that an East Ender might use, all three are completely and utterly f**ked.

‘Cos the second paragraph of their Open Letter has this little gem of political manoeuvring. ‘Furthermore, we demand this be demonstrated publicly, with a clear rejection of the whip on Liveable Streets’.

Smart huh? Some residents were shafted by one of their councillors (we do not know which one or which ward) a few weeks back as he had agreed with all their complaints about Liveable Streets and promised to raise their issues in a council meeting about the subject.

Residents want public commitment

He then did a 180 degree turn at the meeting and was as quiet as a mouse. Well that ain’t going to happen again, is it? Residents learnt the realities of Tower Hamlets politics the hard way. (Not that there is a soft way.)

Trouble is Mayor John Biggs is, for some reason, rather keen for Liveable Streets to go ahead. So the Whitechapel councillors can either go against his wishes or betray their residents.

This should be one to watch.

To recap. Apart from the High Court judgment, the Auto Express article, Dave Hill’s critique and the Whitechapel resident’s Open Letter it has all been plain sailing for Streetspace.

Good job Moley did not mention the anger across the borough about Liveable Streets. He is nothing if not discrete.

Actually he does not know the meaning of the word.

So just a reminder to residents of how Tower Hamlets Labour councillors lied repeatedly to residents by claiming that Equality Impact Assessments had been carried out when they had not and local disability groups had been consulted when they had not.

Complete fabrications.

Extracts from High Court judgement

Emphasis by East End Enquirer.

  1. Although the Guidance included a section on “Equalities, accessibility, security and inclusion”, its focus was on the risks of COVID-19 to vulnerable people. There was no mention of the essential role played by taxis in enabling disabled people to complete door-to-door journeys. TfL did not carry out any form of impact assessment before issuing the Guidance, on the basis that it could be carried out when specific schemes were under consideration.
  2. There is no evidence that the public sector equality duty was applied prior to the announcement of the Plan. In my judgment, the proposals to prevent or restrict vehicular access widely across London’s streets plainly had potential adverse impacts upon people with protected characteristics, namely, the elderly and disabled, who rely on taxis and private cars to make door-to-door journeys, and could not reasonably be expected to cycle, walk or use public transport. The evidence in this case, summarised at paragraphs 130 – 136 above, demonstrates this. There should have been a conscientious assessment of the “risk and extent of any adverse impact and the ways in which such risk may be eliminated before the adoption of a proposed policy….”
  3. It follows from the findings above that the decision-making process was seriously flawed. Nonetheless, was the outcome a rational response to the transport issues which arose as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  4. In my judgment, the flaws identified were symptomatic of an ill-considered response which sought to take advantage of the pandemic to push through, on an emergency basis without consultation,
  5. The stated justification for the restrictions on vehicle access, namely, that after lockdown, because of the limited public transport capacity, there would be a major increase in pedestrians and cyclists, and excessive traffic with consequent risks to safety and public health, was not evidence-based.
  6. […] the measures proposed in the Plan and the Guidance, and implemented in the A10 order, far exceeded what was reasonably required to meet the temporary challenges created by the pandemic. It was possible to widen pavements to allow for social distancing, and to allocate more road space to cater for an increase in the number of cyclists, without seeking to “transform” parts of central London into predominantly car-free zones.
  7. In my judgment, it was both unfair and irrational to introduce such extreme measures, if it was not necessary to do so, when they impacted so adversely on certain sections of the public. The impact on the elderly and disabled who rely heavily on the door-to-door service provided by taxis is described at paragraphs 130 – 136 above.
  8. I conclude that the decision-making processes for the Plan, Guidance and A10 Order were seriously flawed, and the decisions were not a rational response to the issues which arose as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tower Hamlets council was approached for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.

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As community journalists we do exactly what it says on our tin – we work for the community.

In Tower Hamlets, which covers most of London’s East End, that means we spend a lot of time investigating allegations of political corruption.

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As Love Wapping we were instrumental in exposing the electoral corruption of Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

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