Monday 28 November 2011

An exciting tube project in Vauxhall (beyond the Northern line)

The BBC reports today the Governments multi-billion pound investment programme, including the Northern Line extension to Battersea, saying the government will consider allowing local authority borrowing against the Community Infrastructure Levy to support the scheme, subject to a commitment from a developer to contribute and develop the site.

It's a different tube project that I want to talk about:

One of the most inspiring things I heard at the Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea (VNEB) exhibition is the research undertaken into having the rubbish from all the new buildings removed by vacuum tubes rather than dust carts.

It sounds like science fiction but Sweden's Envac have 50 years experience of doing just this. And if it still sounds fanciful for this huge development project, they're working right this moment on a project of equivalent scale in Helsinki - with recycling thrown in of course.

How can this kind of scheme be encouraged and nurtured? The obvious starting point is to impose a limit on motor traffic, a vehicular 'gastric band'. That will bring this kind of imaginative thinking from pipe dream to pipe reality. Good grief, you'd even see drinking fountains and taps at railway stations as the sane replacement to lorry transported bottled water .

There's a load of guff talked by Boris about equality - giving people the choice to choose their mode of transport. The reality is that most kids and many other people would love to cycle to get to where they want to go but don't because the volume and speed of motor traffic,the lousy road layout, and the aggression of drivers make it an unequal option.

The way to liberate people to cycle and walk in the city is quite simply to throttle motor traffic and give the direct and easy route to the cyclist and pedestrian. Limit the capacity to the motorist, make them go around a maze or the M25 to get to their destination. But give the cyclist and pedestrian their desire line; give them cashpoints and drinking fountains, attractive shop frontages (or better, book and stuff library frontages) and riverside views. Put in loads and loads of hire bike docking stations.

Sure there'll still be a quantity of really unavoidable motor traffic but a lot will simply evaporate, as the dust cart example shows, and as the Netherlands have proven.

There are wider actions too, including making sure the planning regulations support local businesses, by providing affordable housing and workshop space alongside the swish apartments, rather than forcing them out of town resulting in vans and lorries trundling for miles and miles through residential streets just to get to inner London.

The plans for residential properties need to nurture active travel. If it's easier to jump in the car or in a cab than on the bike the design is failing.

VNEB can be the new Amsterdam.

A really good first action to implement in the next month or two with a bit of white paint and a couple of signs is for TfL take away one of the southbound lanes on Vauxhall Bridge from motor traffic so that the UNBELIEVABLY DIRE cycle lane becomes a delightful wide cycling boulevard instead. I've used the cycle lane twice recently on weekdays at 3.30pm and it made everything clench up. I can't believe that anyone responsible for roads could conceivably have cycled it and not immediately condemned it. What were the traffic 'engineers' who dreamt up such a monstrosity thinking, and why wouldn't a cycle friendly Mayor dramatically improve it immediately?