COLUMN: Donnachadh McCarthy

News Desk (19 November, 2015) Columnists

"Cabbies are wrong not to support cyclists"

I support black cabbies in their battle to save their businesses from obliteration by the multi-national corporate giant Uber. But sometimes cabbies shoot themselves in the foot.

Take last week’s report in the News that a cabbie was campaigning to stop installation of the safe protected cycle lanes along Jamaica Road. He claims it will increase congestion, but he fails to understand that every driver who switches to cycling reduces congestion for cabbies like himself and local businesses like Albins. Already over 600,000 journeys in London are done daily by people on bikes, thus already significantly reducing congestion on our roads.

Southwark’s population is scheduled to grow from 244,000 in 2001 to 370,000 by 2033. Two thirds of journeys in Southwark could be done by bike in less than 12 minutes! It is crucial, if the roads are not to be completely clogged up, that nearly all of these extra residents do not drive, but cycle or use public transport instead. And international studies show the only way to move to mass cycling is to build protected cycle lanes.

Interestingly, nearly 60% of Southwark households are already car-free, with just 33% of journeys done by car. A little known positive fact is that, despite London’s population growing by nearly 25% since 1988, amazingly, total car usage is down 15% already. So the cabbie is wrong about the roads being more congested.

In addition to easing congestion, it is also crucial that we reduce the vehicle pollution concentrated along Jamaica Way. Pollution maps show it has the highest NO2 carcinogen rating of above 52µg/m3.  This is a real health hazard for the many council estates located along this busy road. About 300 Southwark residents die every year from transport pollution and an estimated 3,000 live with terrible lung and heart diseases from it.

So well done TfL! You should be praised for installing the proposed new protected cycle lane along Jamaica Road, especially in the absence of a single protected route being installed by Southwark Council.

If only the cabbies looked at the stats, they would realise that it will be a win: win: win – less congestion for cabbies, less pollution for the rest of us and a fitter Southwark population.

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