Mayor answers to London

Blackfriars Bridge and the 20mph speed limit

Question number2091/2011
Meeting date13/07/2011

Question by Jenny Jones

Have you now read the Transport for London report recommending that four bridges over the Thames should have a 20mph speed limit?

Answer by Boris Johnson (1st Term)

Yes, Jenny, I am aware of the findings of this report which I do not actually think relate to Blackfriars, it is not one of the bridges that is actually mentioned in the report as being suitable for 20mph speed limit, as I understand things. On the speed at Blackfriars Bridge, my information is that the general speed there is in fact nearly 12mph, therefore a speed limit of 20 is not necessary and could be a serious impediment to smooth traffic flow. So I am not convinced of the case for this. I understand why you are pursuing it with such vigour. What I do think is that more work needs to be done on cycling over Blackfriars Bridge and over the accessibility of cycling over the Blackfrairs Bridge, and speaking as somebody who uses that route the whole time I am very much familiar with the problems of the cyclist on Blackfriars Bridge, and I am working with TfL to try to sort it out.

Jenny Jones (AM): Thank you for that answer. In the report that was produced in December 2008 it does in fact say - there are lots of tables, information, facts and figures here:

“Table 11 shows that reducing speeds on bridges gives cumulative effects over six years at seven sites with Putney Bridge giving the best returns. The top four bridges have a high collision rate when compared with the average.”

They recommend Putney, Vauxhall, London and Westminster as bridges that are totally suitable and will actually pay their way in terms of saving lives and the emergency services. Collisions cause congestion because collisions are the biggest cause of congestion.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Of course, that is absolutely true.

Jenny Jones (AM): If you want a smooth traffic flow you have got to get rid of that cause of congestion.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is a very good point.

Jenny Jones (AM): Will you consider 20mph for those bridges?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Obviously I will look at any proposal that will smooth traffic flow. Obviously at the moment we are having a very good record in reducing killed and seriously injured (KSI) in London, although --

Jenny Jones (AM): They have actually gone up, have they not?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): The slight injuries have gone up but I think KSIs are down 13% this year on last year and they were down 13% last year on the previous year. So actually we are doing very, very well in reducing KSIs. There is a small increase in slight injuries and we will come to that and the reasons for that, or the mystery about that, we will come to that later. On the 20mph limits over the bridges, I will look anything. My advice is from the traffic engineers that this would not be a good way forward, it would lead to increased congestion and --

Jenny Jones (AM): Are you saying this report is wrong? This was produced by TfL and handed to you in December, are you saying it is wrong?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It was actually, I am afraid to say, produced under the previous regime and it was handed to the previous Mayor who did nothing about it. I am told that it does not represent the best advice and therefore I am not pursuing it.

Jenny Jones (AM): It is your term. It was delivered to you seven months into your term of office.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am informed it was an emanation of the previous --

Jenny Jones (AM): December 2008.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am informed it was an emanation of the previous administration and that it is no longer thought to be a good way forward.

Jenny Jones (AM): Cycling numbers are up even more since this was produced. So you have even more cyclists and more pedestrians on those bridges so surely this report is actually more valid now than in 2008?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think it is a very great credit to everybody who has been working on cycling in London that the percentage of people of cycling has gone up hugely just in one year, 15%. We have gone up 15% in one year in Cycling London, it is an incredibly achievement. It is absolutely true.

Jenny Jones (AM): Mr Mayor, please could you concentrate on the question.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Even Val [Val Shawcross] has been on a bike now and then!

Jennette Arnold (Chair): Mr Mayor --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): In spite of that, in spite of that, the numbers of KSI, the numbers of accidents, the numbers of fatalities has come down.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): Mr Mayor, I have had to stop the clock because you are not answering Assembly Member Jones’ question.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have answered her question.

Jenny Jones (AM): No.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have. My answer is I am interested in this report; I am not content it is the best advice, we are not pursuing it.

Jenny Jones (AM): OK, in that case could you please give the Assembly a short report of where you think it is wrong, where you think it could be improved. Could you do that for us so that we know --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have just given you a very short explanation which is that I do not think that the 20mph speed limit is appropriate to Blackfriars and my information is that it would not successful in managing traffic flow in the other locations that you wanted and therefore it is not something that we are pursuing at the moment.

Jenny Jones (AM): This report presumably was done by your best minds at TfL and I would like to know why you do not think it is a good report. Can you please give us a written explanation --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I would be very happy to send you a letter, Jenny, detailing that.

Jenny Jones (AM): Also can you please say now that TfL will not stop any boroughs who want to do this?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It has always been my position, and you and I have discussed this at length over the last three years, that where boroughs actively want to have a 20mph zone, and that has full local support, cross party local support, everybody wants a 20mph zone, then of course we will not infer with that, provided they will fund it themselves.

Jenny Jones (AM): Well, this is the problem, is it not, because when Southwark came to you under a LibDem/Tory administration and asked you to give them enough funds to put in 20mph default because they believed it was the best for their residents, you refused. In fact it is always more cost effective to do these things wholemeal than it is to do them piecemeal.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You mean like a biscuit.

Jenny Jones (AM): So now Southwark has to do it piecemeal.

Main question

Jenny Jones

Supplementaries

1Kit Malthouse
2Richard Barnes