Posts Tagged Boris Johnson

Boris promises Wi-Fi blanket for London

That’s the headline from ZDNet, reporting the Mayor’s promise of free wifi across London by the 2012 Olympics.

As the article goes on to point out, it does not say how this will be acheived, nor how it will be funded. So far, so Boris.

There is a happy precedent here in Islington. The ‘technology mile’ of free wifi along the Upper Street corridor is an initiative that I promoted for Islington – one of the first of its kind.

In an age before people could get online on their phones, we wanted people to be able to get online in the park or at the bus-stop, or in an independent cafe.

A similar scheme has since been introduced by Peabody on some of its estates around Whitecross Street in EC1.

I think this community wifi is a great idea. However, it’s exactly the kind of provision that’s under threat from the Digital Economy Act.

Having led the opposition to the Act within the Liberal Democrats, I was delighted we voted again to urge repeal of its worst provisions at our special conference on the coalition agreement last Sunday.

Now we need Boris to put similar pressure on his Tory colleagues in the coalition, if there is to be any comfort from his blanket.

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Madras Place: action long overdue

So often when I meet residents impatient for action, it comes down to delays or indifference from TfL. That certainly seems to be the case at Madras Place, N7.

This is the dangerous crossing over the Holloway Road from St Mary Magdalen church to the Central Library and Fieldway Crescent. It’s a busy point for cyclists and pedestrians to get from the west side of Islington to Highbury Fields and beyond. It’s also where Lisa Pontecorvo was killed, wheeling her bicycle across the road, last year.

My colleague Caroline Pidgeon has been helping out by tabling various questions to Mayor Boris – here’s the latest exchange.

Junction of Fieldway Crescent/Holloway Road/Madras Place , Islington

Question No: 3344 / 2009

Caroline Pidgeon

Can you explain why it is taking so long for TfL to make any improvements to safety at the junction of Fieldway Crescent/Holloway Road/Madras Place following the first anniversary of the tragic death of community activist Lisa Pontecorvo?

Answer from the Mayor:

I appreciate that the length of time it is taking to progress what appear to be simple changes to the layout and operation of the junction of Holloway Road/Madras Place and Fieldway Crescent is frustrating. The timelines involved are partly due to the nature and complexity of the Transport for London Road Network and the need to balance the competing demands and priorities of all users, at both the local and strategic level. This is particularly the case at this junction, where the needs of cyclists and pedestrians crossing Holloway Road not only need to be balanced against the vehicular traffic travelling along the corridor, but also against each others’ desires to cross the road.

TfL has now developed six options providing the most appropriate changes at this junction given these competing demands on the network. Further work is required to narrow these to a preferred option(s), to take forward for more detailed development.

Acknowledging the complexities involved in delivering schemes on such a strategically important and heavily congested road network, I note that in some cases scheme delivery has taken longer than it should. TfL is continuing to take steps to address these issues and has reviewed the activities being undertaken across the business with the aim of streamlining and integrating processes to drive improvements in delivery.

As answers go, this one is heavy with jargon, but light on real action. Islington residents are less interested in streamlining and integrating processes, and more interested in getting across the road in one piece.

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Lorries, Tescos and future icons

Lorry deliveries can be a sore point in London.

Our Victorian streets can’t cope with the size of many lorries, their weight shakes our homes, and their diesel fumes pollute our air.

At the weekend, I was at Islington Green with colleagues observing the Tesco lorries in action. The Tesco there is only a ‘Metro’ but it gets a full size artic to restock it. There is no separate delivery entrance so the artic parks in the buslane outside, pushing buses (including 2 bendy bus routes) into the already busy Essex Road, just where it narrows past the Green for the junction with Upper Street.

It’s a nightmare. Tesco are supposed to stick to certain delivery hours but as far as I can tell blithely ignore them. They leave their delivery cages all over the public pavement. They block the road and allegedly write off parking fines as an operational expense; they generally seem to be pretty uncaring about the impact on the community that provides their customers. Perhaps we should boycott Tesco until they are more considerate?

There are lots of things retailers can do to reduce the impact of deliveries on the area, and save themselves money too. Sourcing goods more locally is greener; so is reducing packaging. And those measures in turn would reduce distance of travel and size of lorries.

Sticking to agreed delivery ‘windows’ co-ordinated with other stores; sharing deliveries where possible; and using environmentally-friendly vehicles would also help. Encouraged by a low emission zone!

Meanwhile here’s a good idea, highlighted by Mike Tuffrey at the GLA.

He’s asked Mayor Boris to look at developing a small ‘London Lorry’, as proposed by the London Forum of Civic and Amenity Societies, to allow goods to be delivered to high street around London on smaller and more environmentally-friendly vehicles. Mike suggests thiis concept could be extended to the ubiquitous ‘white van’, be powered by electricity, and potentially achieve iconic status on London’s streets!

Better an icon than an eyesore.

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The world is not yet our Oyster

It’s ironic that the man who presides over TfL, Boris Johnson, uses public transport so little.

Perhaps that’s why so many of his election promises on transport are running even later than the number 4 bus.

The latest example, highlighted by my colleague Caroline Pidgeon, is the rollout of Oyster cards to overground train services. The theory is that Oyster is your passport to all public transport in London. In practice, with many rail services excluded, it’s not. Outer London commuters have to juggle two or more tickets to get to work, while inner London residents get caught out when trying to use Oyster on rail services. It’s a mess. And at present, despite Boris’ promises, we’re likely to be hosting the Olympics before it’s sorted out.

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Face masks at dawn

More swine flu cases have been reported, including a second case in our borough.

Earlier this month, a man in Exmouth Market was diagnosed. Now a woman from Islington has been affected. There’s no evidence that either of them caught the disease in the UK. The first swine flu cases emerged just at the start of the European election campaign. There was speculation that we would be canvassing in face masks, solely by phone or that the elections might have to be postponed (as with the 2001 General election, over foot & mouth). In fact, the worst sneezes on the campaign trail so far have come from hay fever.

But we did have the facemasks out on Friday.

With GLA member Mike Tuffrey, local parents, councillors and school governors, I was protesting about poor air quality at Old Street. Recent Government figures revealed that Old Street Roundabout has some of the most polluted air in the whole of the UK , and breaks EU air quality regulations. And that follows EU figures showing 4,400 Londoners die early every year from pollution.

And what has Mayor Boris Johnson done in response? He’s scrapped phase three of the Low Emissions Zone, which would have forced vans, taxis and minibuses to reduce their pollution. There’s a strong environmental and health case for the Zone. There were genuine anxieties about the impact on small businesses, which is why Liberal Democrat assembly members came up with proposals to help smaller firms meet the costs. The Mayor ignored this and instead scrapped the scheme.

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Accident on Pentonville Road

I’ve just got word of another accident involving a pedestrian trying to cross the road.

This time it happened at the junction of Pentonville Road and Penton Rise where a number 30 bus apparently collided with a 14 year old girl, presumably on her way home from school.

I’m told that the girl is at UCLH and is waiting for X-rays and scans and that the police are doing a full investigation.

This is little more than a month from another serious accident on Essex Road.

And many months after the Clerkenwell councillors first raised the dangerous state of the Penton Rise junction for pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Boris talks a lot about safety, but what we need at Penton Rise is action!

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Cyclists should be allowed to run red lights, says Boris

That’s according to the Evening Standard.

The headline is more dramatic than the story; it’s not all red lights that Boris is talking about, but turning left on a red light. If the red light is for traffic going one-way, say east-west, then the cyclist will be joining the north-south flow, and should not conflict with east-west pedestrians who will also have a red light. So it could work.

The Mayor of London can’t actually change the law on cycling through red lights – that would take national government action – but he is certainly provoking debate. As one cyclist comments in the ES, “Traffic lights are not there because people think they are fun, they are there for safety reasons.” Sanctioning breaking laws that don’t suit you is a slippery slope (and yes, I know Lib Dems have taken a stand on ID cards) and you have to have a very clear rationale.

I don’t have a problem with the left-turn idea, where there’s no conflict with pedestrians. But I don’t know how many lives it will save. After all, many of the fatal accidents involving cyclists and large vehicles occur when the cyclist is going straight ahead, but the vehicle is turning left. And Lisa Pontecorvo was killed wheeling her bike across the road.

My bane is cyclists ignoring zebra crossings and red lights at pelicans. There’s no way there’s any safety argument for that; simply an unwillingness to stop or slow down for pedestrians.

I suspect that Boris’ big idea isn’t about practicalities but about positioning. It’s a way to appear cycle-friendly while passing the buck to the Government.

Meanwhile, one thing the Mayor could do, as soon as he likes, is get rid of the ubiquitous railings which trap cyclists and pedestrians alike at junctions – like the exciting plans for Oxford Circus.

No change in the law required. So what are you waiting for, Boris?

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Fawcett March meeting

We had the March meeting of the North London Fawcett Group last night.

I arrived in a rush from a day working in Chesham, looking for the venue, a community centre in Ossulton Street NW1. On the way from Euston, I passed two sites that reflect Fawcett’s interests; the former home of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson women’s hospital – and ‘Secrets’, a lap-dancing club. Not my destination.

Nor, it turned out, was the first community centre on Ossulton Street. The Somers Town community centre was hosting a pensioners’ choir, which looked fun, but not what I was after. Back across the street, and there was our meeting in the Ossulton estate hall. Intriguingly it had a pile of skipping ropes in one corner, but we resisted temptation.

We’re lobbying the Mayor of London to fulfil his pledge to provide more Rape Crisis Centres for London. And we also talked about marking the 250th birthday of Mary Woolstonecraft (aka Mary the mother of feminism) who is buried in nearby St Pancras churchyard.

Details will be on the group’s website in due course.

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London Region Lib Dem conference

I didn’t get to our regional conference yesterday as I had another busy day in Islington.

I hared off early for a breakfast time photo op at Highbury Corner about road safety: Boris wants to reduce the time we have to cross main roads, and we’re not happy about it. Lots of support from passers by! And a chance to talk to the folk already starting to queue at the Post Office.

Back to work, then out again for a lunchtime photo op about bus fumes with residents in Holloway. After work I dropped by the Town Hall to join the huge numbers of people saying farewell to Islington’s popular head of social services, Paul Curran, who is retiring. Then off for canvassing in Barnsbury – very positive response – ending up with a campaign team meeting. Phew!

Anyway, thanks to the joys of Twitter, by reading the #londonld hashtag, I can catch up on the highlights I missed.

Party President Ros Scott told members there was now nothing to choose between the Labour and Conservative parties.

Then Vince Cable spoke about how the Lib Dems were the only party to warn of the impending economic crisis, getting “something very big, very right”. He told the banks to start lending and stop abusive payments. And he argued that Labour could implode after selling their soul to the bankers. The financial crisis “merits a wartime mobilisation of resources” but the Government isn’t spending money allocated to social housing. He concluded that the Lib Dems are gaining real traction & other parties’ support is weakening.

All of which is pretty much what voters in Barnsbury were telling me!

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On your marks!

Not very impressed with Boris’ latest wheeze.

He’s reducing the pedestrian time at crossings, and proposing to console us with a countdown telling us how long we have left.
First it’s postmen having to trot around London, and now it’s the rest of us.

There are already pedestrian crossings in Islington where you have barely 5 seconds to get across the road.

I’m not against countdowns at crossings. They’re used in central Amsterdam at busy pedestrian crossings, where there are also trams and cyclists in transit. But in Amsterdam the countdown is on the red phase, telling pedestrians how long they have to wait, a bit like countdown at bus stops. Altogether more pedestrian-friendly than a countdown on green, telling you you’ve run out of time to cross. Surely that’s what the flashing green sign is for anyway?

It’s obviously a while since Boris got off his bike and walked about. What happens when the countdown gets to zero and you are still wheeling your shopping trolley or pushchair across?

I know the Olympics are coming, but this is ridiculous.

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