Blackfriars Bridge: 20mph motion on July 20th


I have just been told by the Mayor that neither he nor his staff have read the 20mph bridges report which Transport for London produced in 2007 and was published in 2008. The report makes a clear case for introducing 20mph on bridges across the Thames and outlines the savings which would result from the decline in cyclist and pedestrian casualties. 

Boris says that Ken didn’t to see it either (I will check with him), which is rather naughty of TfL. I am truly amazed by this revelation, as I naively assumed that Boris could not have made any decisions about Blackfriars Bridge without reading this essential document - or at least having one of his advisors (paid £120,000) read it for him. I know Boris doesn’t do detail, but Blackfriars Bridge is one of those life and death issues where a Mayor really should pay attention.

Many of you are aware that at the London Assembly’s last plenary, a motion to keep Blackfriars Bridge at the speed limit of 20mph was on our agenda. Sadly, the Tory group staged a pre-planned walkout, making us inquorate, and all the remaining business fell, including the motion.

Even if it had passed, the motion wouldn’t have been binding on Boris, but it would have meant he’d feel the pressure and might, just might, tell Transport for London (TfL) to bow to public pressure. Thereal  problem is, Boris just doesn’t ‘get’ the need for 20mph.

In April 2009 I produced a (fascinating) report for the Assembly’s Transport Committee on the issue of 20mph, called ‘Braking Point’ (, which outlined the rationale for 20mph as a potent road safety measure. It was signed up to by all four political parties, so I hoped that Boris might be amenable to the findings, which were that 20mph reduced (socially expensive) casualties, and probably encouraged walking and cycling, while probably improving traffic flow and lowering pollution levels. The recommendations were that two boroughs should pilot a borough wide scheme, with TfL support.

When I later approached Boris with the names of two councils who wanted to be part of the pilot and go 20mph all over their boroughs immediately, Boris expressed huge disbelief that any council could truly want to do that. He simply couldn’t believe that they wanted to apparently slow the traffic down, and so the money from TfL wasn’t forthcoming.

The Blackfriars Bridge issue is becoming a barometer for Boris’ mayoralty. It’s a bridge that has caused a lot of problems over the years, seeing several unnecessary and tragic cyclist deaths. These days, not only is the ‘traffic’ on and around Blackfriars mostly cyclists and pedestrians, the economic argument is that the biggest cause of congestion is road crashes (when I was knocked off my bike by a car on the Old Kent Road and broke my wrist, I blocked one lane of traffic for 10 minutes at rush hour until the ambulance came to take me away) and so lose businesses millions of pounds.

Will this cycling Mayor actually listen to cyclists and road safety campaigners to make sensible choices for pedestrian and cyclist safety, or will his Tory instincts kick in once again and deny logic and common sense? Or perhaps he will do his usual best to avoid making any decision at all, especially a decision that might put him at odds with car drivers, whom he sees as his natural voters.

I will be talking to the otherpolitical parties about bringing the motion on Blackfriars Bridge back to the next Assembly plenary on the 20th July, in exactly the same form as before. Some of the Tories have said they will have a free vote on this, so if they stay in the room to vote, we might see some cross party agreement that cyclist and pedestrian and motorist safety is more important than the Tory fixation on motorists being more important than anyone else on the roads.