London LIPs: if Northern Ireland can suggest it…

Most London Borough’s Local Implementation Plans (LIPs) for the next five years have gone through the consultation process, so it’s probably too late to make comments now. But it’s still worth commenting on what was put into them as indicators of how far Road Danger Reduction (RDR) is being considered by London Boroughs. We have commented on how much RDR is being referred to before . LB’s Lambeth, Southwark, Ealing, Haringey, Brent and Corporation of London all refer to the RDR approach. But most are failing  to push through RDR policies, or even set out a full RDR agenda. Below we look at what’s going on…Let’s put everything into context:

  1. The LIPs are set out according to the Mayor of London’s requirements. This means that the framework is decided by TfL, not the Borough, and is not friendly to an RDR agenda in the first place. The usual “casualty reduction” agenda is implicit in the strategies that have to be outlined, with anybody wanting full RDR having to put it in the non-mandatory sections.
  2. Even where LIPs have good targets (for increasing cycling and walking modal shares, for example), that doesn’t necessarily mean that the policies in place are going to achieve them. If, in five years’ time, these targets have not been met, I doubt that the Cabinet portfolio holder (or relevant officers), if still in place, are going to commit hara-kiri. And at least partly that will be because relevant factors, such as levels of funding, the price of petrol etc. are beyond the power of the local authority.
  3. Indeed, the LIP often claims more for the local authority than maybe it should.  Reductions in reported casualties are generally assumed to be unequivocally good (although they may be due to very low levels of walking and cycling, particularly by elderly and young people), whereas they may have happened anyway.
  4. The programmes for each Borough come under principal headings such as Corridors and Neighbourhoods. A borough may be committed to implementing measures which will be in accord with policies favourable towards benign modes and sustainable travel – or it may not. Ultimately this can only be seen when reviewing a range of specific features such as streetscape design (for instance, is footway space removed for car parking or is it increased?) or parking standards (low or high for cars?)
  5. Last, but not least, whatever the intentions stated in the LIP, what actually happens will be decided by a variety of factors – such as pressure from local Councillors – which are not apparent now. Of these, perhaps the most obvious (and stated as a risk factor by many Boroughs) is provision of adequate finance by TfL.

Nevertheless, a LIP is the basic guideline for practitioners and anybody with any interest in local transport in London will have to refer to the LIP(s) in their area for the next five years as the basic reference point. So here is an – albeit impressionistic -review of some elements of LIPs (we’re looking at the draft LIPs which may change before the final adopted versions).

What’s good…

First prize for pushing RDR in a LIP is probably going to go to LB Lambeth We like rate – based targets very much, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. Lambeth have KSI rates per km. travelled as a Key Performance Indicator. Sadly, few other Boroughs do: LB Ealing has done in its Borough Cycling Strategy for some time, giving a rate-based target of cyclist casualties.

Just in case you think this is too far-fetched: the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment’s recent Road Safety Strategy to 2020 includes rate-based targets and measurements of road users’ perception of safety. Of course, these are KPIs rather than the headline targets which are still aggregates or overall KSIs for a road user group, but it is something.

Lambeth also:

  • Retains the road user hierarchy dropped by TfL when Mayor Johnson came to power.
  • Spells out a detailed RDR plan which differentiates RDR from traditional road safety.
  • Promotes “eco-driving” to reduce emissions and reduce road danger.

LB Haringey refers to the exposure levels of cycling and walking in the discussion about the level of hazard for both modes, a useful way of countering the idea that cycling is hazardous (normally referred to as “dangerous”, which is something else): the much greater health disbenefits of not cycling are mentioned in this context.

LB Hackney correctly points out the association with economic recession and road death reduction 9soemthing frequently avoided by “road safety” professionals who like to claim credit for such reductions).

LB Brent has : OBJECTIVE 9: REDUCING ROAD DANGER.

“(i) To continue to implement Road Danger Reduction principles and ensure a safer on-street environment, always focussing on the needs of the most vulnerable and ‘at risk’ road users, namely cyclists, pedestrians, school children and older/mobility challenged individuals – whilst striving to facilitate new infrastructure that improves the attractiveness, ease and efficiency of walking and cycling in the borough.” And a nice “friendly circle” diagram:

 

LB Ealing has KSI rates per cycling trip targets.

LB Southwark refers to reducing road danger – but

..and what’s not.

LB Southwark then moves away from an RDR position to a focus on : drunk pedestrians.

In fact, most Boroughs are still apparently stuck with the idea that because some road users are more vulnerable than others, that’s where the problem lies.

So LB Camden (p.191) under the “Principal risks and how they will be managed” states: “The growing number of cyclists on the roads is one identified risk to meting targets.(sic)” and  the impression is clearly that cyclists are the problem: and since the casualty reduction paradigm rules among professionals, it is easy to see why support for sustainable travel has been so patchy and ineffective in this country. The point is to stress that increased numbers can reduce casualty rates, and press ahead with this si the main target. Of course, measures to reduce danger to cyclists and all other road users – but this should be the case anyway, not just because there are more cyclists about.

It may, of course, involve more through measures: “Smarter travel and increased levels of road safety education (sic) should help to mitigate (increased cyclist casualties)”. This is likely to be beyond what traditional road safety can offer – so naturally some LIP writers are troubled. The point is to move beyond traditional approaches, and if a Borough can’t deal with issues (like law enforcement) then that has to be addressed beyond the Borough.