In this Mail article (thanks to FFDF for posting it), a “spokesperson” for Sadiq Khan claims the major cause of congestion in cities is roadworks. Not in my observation and experience. The major cause of congestion (and to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, I’ve looked at this from all sides now) is those weapons of mass distraction, danger and delay: traffic lights.

As for 20mph limits, I couldn’t agree more with the aim: to slow traffic in busy urban settings where people on foot, especially children, are about; but couldn’t disagree more with the means to achieve it, viz. telling people to drive by numbers when they should learn to drive by context, and be free to use their own judgement.

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“Accidents” and corporate manslaughter

One of my sayings is, “Most accidents are not accidents. They are events contrived by the rules and design of the road.” Recent fatal “accidents” in Wales involving teenage men prompt me to add “an inadequate driving test.” It’s absurd to put partially-trained drivers in charge of latent killing machines, and add them to the cauldron of defective regulation. Pre-requisites for a driving licence should be cycling proficiency, a rider’s licence, skidpan training, and hours of virtual reality to drum home the consequences of inappropriate speed. My charge of corporate manslaughter against traffic authorities and policymakers still stands.

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Darling proposal

Warm tributes for Alistair Darling today. I remember his daft proposal to add a fourth lane to the M25 to ease congestion. Imagine the cost/disruption! Far simpler to teach drivers to use the inside lane except when overtaking, thus freeing up at least a third of capacity.

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A Common Sense of Place

Following an enquiry from Watertown, Massachusetts, I re-viewed A Common Sense of Place, a short video we made eight (8!) years ago featuring the late great Ben Hamilton-Baillie. It’s worth a look. If I let myself think about it, it makes me angry that the powers – the transport and planning authorities – fail to adopt these supremely civilised ideas, and instead, pursue measures that oppress, depress, cost and fail us on so many levels.

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Google and Manchester lagging behind …

Thanks to Angela West for sending me this. As she said in her email, “why are people suddenly repeating what you’ve been saying for years?”

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Would Adam Smith have despised traffic control?

“Adam Smith excoriated the man of system who tries to control people and suppress human individuality and freedom”. That’s from a book by Jesse Norman serialised this week on Radio 4. So I reckon the answer to the question, Would Adam Smith have despised traffic control is YES!

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Corporate manslaughter?

Medics have called for hospital managers who ignored their warnings about Lucy Letby to face corporate manslaughter charges. Just as, in these pages, I have suggested that traffic managers and ministers should face such charges. Despite my analysis, reform proposals and lobbying, they continue to pursue a system that costs lives and costs the earth.

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ULEZ. Who should we believe?

The idea that Sadiq Khan would distort the findings of Imperial College about the effects of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, or that Imperial’s research could be “bought” smacks to me of conspiracy theory. What I do know is that hitting drivers with yet more punitive regulation is bad news. And letting drivers merge more or less in turn at low speeds and low revs on Equality Streets, giving way to other road-users who were there first, would improve air quality faster than all the high-cost regulation currently in force.

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Air quality and traffic control

The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimates that 43,000 Britons over 30 die every year as a result of air pollution, writes the Telegraph, part of a global annual toll of premature deaths that the WHO puts at a staggering seven million. Long-term exposure to airborne pollutants has been reliably linked to an increase in cancer, asthma, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline and dementia. A 2019 study found that schoolchildren in more polluted areas were 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression by the age of 18. The Royal College of Physicians estimates that the cost of UK air pollution – healthcare, lost days at work, etc – runs to more than £20bn a year. COMEAP chair Professor Anna Hansell notes, ‘studies show that air pollution adds to health risks even at low concentrations.’

Coroner Philip Barlow delivered an historic verdict on the death of 10 year-old Ella Aloo-Kissi-Debrah: ‘Air pollution was a significant contributory factor … During her illness from 2010 to 2013 she was exposed to levels of NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and particulate matter in excess of WHO guidelines. The main source of her exposure was traffic emissions.’

Roads in and out of London are, of course, riddled with traffic lights that maximise congestion and emissions.

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To prove a point

ULEZ has cut NO2 levels in the capital significantly, reports the Telegraph. Air quality monitoring at Hither Green Lane and Catford, near Ella Aloo-Kissi-Debrah’s home, show NO2 has fallen by over 50% since 2012, with half that taking place since it became part of the ULEZ. So it seems that ULEZ has helped cut NO2 by about 25%. Not to be sneezed at. But what reductions would Equality Streets have brought? I have claimed that allowing traffic to flow and disperse naturally can cut emissions by at least half, by eliminating the stop-restart motion caused by traffic lights. Despite countless attempts to persuade the authorities to run lights-off trials to test the case, they never agreed. Wouldn’t the job of London Mayor be handy!

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