As local residents, workers and visitors may be aware, Transport for London introduced a range of temporary changes to the A10 Bishopsgate highway in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. I think it’s fair to describe these changes as controversial – many cyclists support them, many of those with complex physical needs or who may need to commute across the city with luggage in the rain, do not. This scheme has also been opposed by many TfL licensed black cabs.
My personal view is to base an argument for continuation on data collection during a highly unnatural period of time is not appropriate. I recognise the Mayor of London’s ambitious plans for the environment and his commitment to pedestrianise areas of the City, however, much of the polluting traffic in Bishopsgate is derived from TfL’s own busses and taxis. The action proposed in this scheme does not address that issue. In fact, it actually makes taxi journeys from Liverpool Street Station considerably more expensive for commuters. It also doesn’t recognise the seasonality of commuting – many don’t mind walking or cycling in the summer, but in the cold winter months, the need for cheap, efficient, reliable public transportation is key for keeping London a global business hub.
Therefore, it has come as a bit of surprise that TfL have written to me to confirm their intention to retain the scheme with a new Experimental Traffic Order. This means that there will be a new six-month public consultation on the scheme, beginning from 17th January 2022.
TfL outlined the reasons for doing so alongside further details about the engagement and consultation below.
Bus journey times have significantly improved
We found that the performance of buses on the Bishopsgate ‘corridor’ has significantly improved since the scheme was introduced. Northbound bus journey times along Bishopsgate are 38 per cent lower now than they were before the pandemic, and southbound journey times are 26 per cent lower. The chart below plots northbound bus journey times since April 2019 – July 2021.
Traffic levels in parts of central London are currently lower than they were before the pandemic, and it is very difficult to predict future traffic patterns as London continues to recover from the coronavirus. We will need to continue monitoring bus journey times in future as traffic patterns stabilise, and as more people return to their workplaces.
Large numbers of people are cycling on Bishopsgate
We have found that very high numbers of people are using the Bishopsgate scheme to cycle: our monitoring so far has shown that there have been highs of 8,000 people cycling per day on Bishopsgate. These numbers are despite a drop in the number of people travelling in central London during the coronavirus lockdowns.
The chart below shows the number of people cycling along Bishopsgate between 6am and 10pm since March.
As London continues to recover from the pandemic it will be more important than ever to support and encourage everyone who can to be more active. Active travel can make people healthier and happier, and it plays a part in managing and reducing congestion as well as improving our environment. We remain focussed on delivering the key aim of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, to achieve a minimum 80 per cent of trips to be made on foot, by bike or by public transport by 2041.
Feedback from users and other stakeholders
Although the Bishopsgate scheme has been hugely successful in terms of its effect on bus journeys and cycling, we recognise that there have been some concerns about it too. These have focussed in particular on access to the Bishopsgate corridor for disabled people, and also for freight and servicing trips. There was some support for the changes we have made, and some people were concerned at the manner in which some temporary schemes were introduced last year; specifically, that there was not opportunity for consultation in advance.
In considering what the future of the Bishopsgate scheme should be, we paid close attention to this feedback too.
A new Bishopsgate experiment
Having taken the outcome of our monitoring into account, together with the feedback we received about the scheme, we intend to retain the scheme with a new ‘Experimental Traffic Order’ (ETRO), which could last for an 18-month period. We believe this is the right thing to do because:
· Traffic patterns in London are hugely variable at the moment. We will use the new experimental period to comprehensively monitor the effects of the scheme throughout London’s recovery from the coronavirus
· Retaining the scheme with an ETRO would give us opportunity to make minor changes to the scheme if we find it necessary
· The new experiment would give people using the Bishopsgate corridor, together with businesses and other stakeholders, opportunity to contribute to our monitoring through a new six-month public consultation
Engagement and consultation
There will be a six-month public consultation on the experimental scheme starting from 17th January. The consultation will supplement our monitoring of the experimental scheme, and it will help us to decide what the future of the Bishopsgate scheme should be beyond its 18-month experimental period.
The consultation and supporting documents are now available at: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/bishopsgate