Boris Johnson has announced a £5 billion fund to “overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London”. This, he said, would result in cyclists “enjoying hundreds of miles of brand-new separated lanes, with ‘mini-Hollands’ blooming like so many tulips in towns and cities right across the country”. Mini-Hollands were first promoted by Mr Johnson when he was Mayor of London and are being implemented in several London Boroughs. Exactly what are Mini-Hollands?
In reality there is no clear definition but they typically involve the promotion of cycling with more cycle lanes, junction improvements to improve safety and road closures to reduce traffic. This web page gives details of the schemes in the London Boroughs of Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest but there are several other boroughs planning similar schemes: https://tinyurl.com/wemwlba . Sometimes they are called something different so in Lewisham their plans are named “Healthy Neighbourhoods”. But they have one thing in common – they are all prejudicial to the interests of car users. They are even damaging to the interests of bus users as additional traffic congestion delays buses and causes some routes to be cut as bus lanes are “repurposed” as cycle lanes.
Most of these schemes include road closures that aim to reduce traffic by simply blocking it. In reality people don’t stop using cars they simply find alternative longer routes that typically add to congestion on main roads and increase air pollution.
There are also major concerns about delays to emergency service vehicles (ambulances, fire engines and police) as delays to those can cost lives. This problem is being ignored by proponents of such schemes. They also ignore the fact that the disabled and elderly can use cars when they cannot walk far or cycle, and that some journeys are simply impractical via public transport.
The schemes are often put in without proper public consultation and there is enormous opposition to road closures. But are such closures actually legal?
Can a local Council legally close roads? Roads can be closed by the use of Traffic Orders but there needs to be reasonable justification for such closures and time given for objections. There are also several Acts of Parliament that might be relevant. For example:
– The Road Traffic Act 1984 which contains this sentence (in Section 122): “It shall be the duty of the Greater London Council and of every other local authority upon whom functions are conferred by or under this Act, so to exercise the functions conferred on them by this Act …. to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic….”. Road closures aimed simply at reducing traffic appear to be ignoring that duty.
– The Traffic Management Act 2004 which puts a duty on local traffic authorities to manage their road network to make sure that traffic can move freely. Again this duty is being ignored.
– The Equalities Act 2010 which restricts discrimination against people with disabilities or based on age when road closure proposals negatively impact those sections of the community.
These pieces of legislation might enable a challenge to any such proposals.
Make Sure You Oppose Them
Readers should make sure they oppose such schemes. Mini-Hollands are not a way to improve the health of the population and as cycling is an inherently more dangerous way of travelling, encouraging it actually makes road casualty statistics worse (as is apparent in the figures from Holland).
Mini-Hollands are a euphemistic name for damaging road closures which create enormous inconvenience for road users. It’s all double Dutch to anyone who knows much about road safety, traffic and environmental issues.