SYSTRA Ltd’s Response to the City of London’s Draft Transport Strategy Consultation
This article is SYSTRA Ltd’s response to the consultation on the City of London Corporation’s first Transport Strategy www.citystreets.london/.
SYSTRA Ltd deliver engineering, consultancy and development services that enable the safe and efficient movement of people and goods; we have been involved in UK mobility and mass transit schemes for 50 years. Today we work on schemes that connect communities across the UK and Ireland at all scales; from projects that facilitate walking and cycling for local trips to some of the largest infrastructure programmes. Our head office on Old Bailey in the City of London supports over 100 technical and support staff.
SYSTRA support the vision, aims and outcomes that sit at the heart of the City of London’s Draft Transport Strategy. As a market leader in providing expertise on the development, implementation and evaluation of schemes to encourage more sustainable and active travel choices, we welcome the draft Strategy’s focus on creating world class pedestrian and cycling environments in conjunction with a reduction in motor traffic. This approach should benefit all people moving to, from and within the Square Mile and serve to create a more pleasant street experience for staff and visitors alike at our head office. We are pleased to see that the draft Strategy aims to embed TfL’s Healthy Streets Approach at the heart of its transport planning, given how this approach aims to ensure that streets are designed with peoples’ experience of them at their core.
The draft Strategy is clearly ambitious, both in the scope of proposed interventions and its potentially transformative impact on the travel behaviour of both individuals and businesses, especially those involved in freight logistics. SYSTRA agree that this level of ambition is necessary to ensure that mobility in the Square Mile continues to function and improve for all residents and workers as the daily population rises. The proposed use of temporary interventions and trials allowing schemes to be tested in action is to be applauded, with plenty of evidence from around the world and in our own experience of how such approaches can lead to better schemes with a greater level of public support.
Innovative approaches and policies can be found throughout the draft Strategy, from supporting an updated variable motor vehicle charge for central London, through introducing a default green man at pedestrian crossings, to supporting the ‘Turning the Corner’ campaign. Whilst some of these innovative proposals will mean radical change at either a London or national level, SYSTRA are in favour of the City of London’s willingness to propose innovative new approaches and ways of thinking with respect to transport planning, particularly those with evident benefits where applied elsewhere in the world.
We support the adoption of the draft proposal by the City of London and believe that many of the schemes and proposals it includes offer a strong example to local authorities in London and beyond. It should also be recognised that many proposals will require support from and coordination with the Mayor, TfL and other London Boroughs to be truly effective and we hope that this comes to pass.
SYSTRA broadly support all the proposals within the draft Strategy. The City of London itself highlights ten proposals which will have a particularly strong impact, our comments on those which may have the greatest impact on our employees, clients and other visitors are detailed below.
Proposal 2: Put the needs of people walking first when designing and managing our streets
Support: All SYSTRA employees based in our London office walk within the Square Mile during their normal working day. Prioritising the needs of people walking through the range of measures proposed should make the area a more attractive one to walk in, although it is noted that many of the measures at crossings may serve to increase delay for both motor vehicles and cyclists. We have some concerns with relation to accessibility, notably that the City will continue not to adhere to the recommended guidance on tactile paving in consideration of the recent review of inclusive mobility, guidance on tactile paving and the planned consultations in 2019 on Building Regulations. On this basis, our full support for this proposal will rely on it adhering to the highest standards to consider the needs of all under the Equalities Act.
Proposal 11: Take a proactive approach to reducing motor traffic
Support: Given rising problems relating to air pollution, congestion and obesity SYSTRA are strongly in favour of schemes that encourage a reduction in motor traffic, and therefore endorse the aim of achieving a 25% reduction by 2030. We do note though that this aim would be best served by working in conjunction with TfL and surrounding London Boroughs to ensure that this reduction in the Square Mile is not simply driven by displacement. Without an inner London wide approach, we are concerned that the City of London’s proposals will have a negative impact on congestion and air quality in neighbouring boroughs.
Proposal 20: Apply the safe system approach and the principles of road danger reduction to deliver Vision Zero
Support: Adopting a vision zero should embed a priority of making the Square Mile’s streets safer throughout the transport planning process. One of the most notable aspects of this policy is the implementation of a 15mph speed limit across the Square Mile. Whilst the potential safety benefits and improvement in environment for people who walk and cycle of such a reduction are laudable, in light of recent research on the impact of 20mph speed limits, we believe significant effort and investment will be required in enforcement or physical street design achieve the necessary speed reductions to realise these benefits. Furthermore, we question whether such an ambition is deliverable against existing traffic regulation and if the City intends to lead on any required changes to legislation to match their ambitions.
Proposal 24: Apply a minimum cycling level of service to all streets
Support: For cycling to be attractive to all, streets must be perceived to be safe to cycle on, which necessitates limiting or removing the need for cyclists to interact with motor vehicles. This proposal chimes with TfL’s recent Cycling Action Plan with respect to cycle routes needing to be either segregated or on streets with low traffic volumes and speeds. It would be preferable to see the initial sections of the core network delivered faster so that their benefits are felt prior to 2030.
Proposal 29: Support and champion a central London Zero Emission Zone
Support: Reducing emissions is a key factor in improving urban air quality, though it should be noted that zero emission vehicles still generate dangerous particulates through the wear of brakes, tyres and road surface. This proposal should therefore be very much in tandem with attempts to reduce overall motor vehicle traffic. We recognise the ambition for this to apply across central London and would feel the impact of this proposal would be significantly diluted if applied to the Square Mile alone.
Proposal 43: Establish a future transport programme
Support: We welcome the encouragement of new and emerging transport technologies, the benefits of which we are increasingly assisting our clients to leverage and that we expect to significantly change people’s mobility experience for the better in the near future.