TfL’s claim that the traffic in the abolished western part of the congestion zone has not gone up as fast as expected is a clear manipulation of figures. In fact traffic has gone up by 8 per cent, a significant amount, especially as presumably not everyone has yet found out that the charging zone has been abolished.Saying something is lower than expected is dishonest PR. You don’t get football managers praising themselves when they have lost 1-0 rather than 3-0! Boasting about an 8 per cent rise in traffic suggests that the mayor has no understanding of the issues facing London’s transport system.
The abolition – and Ken Livingstone’s populist refusal to reinstate it – is a fantastic lost opportunity. For a while, London was leading the world in being brave enough to begin to tackle one of the worst problems that all cities face. The free movement of private cars in the centre of cities is a historical anomaly that politcians have never dared tackle, and yet London, for a time, was pioneering. Yet bumbling Boris did not have the wit to understand that, just as he fails to realise that with a bit of clever manipulation of road space and squeezing out private cars, London could become a true cycling city like Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
Boris does not understand that limiting car use in central areas is the key to successful cities. But sadly, I suspect that Ken does not – or dare not – either. Yet, the evidence is clear.London has changed since the congestion zone was introduced, and continues to improve despite the policies of TfL, rather than because of them. But it would take so little for London to become so much better with more pedestrianisation, more squeezing of the private car, more priority for buses, more facilities for cyclists and so on. And, of course, my favourite bugbear, closing off Oxford Streeet to all traffic. It will all happen one day, but sadly, probably not in my lifetime.