The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has been accused of acting duplicitously by protesting against every major protected cycle route proposed in London, after saying they don’t oppose them.
The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) told road.cc the LTDA is putting its drivers’ convenience over the safety of cyclists and pedestrians by attempting to block cycle and pedestrian improvements designed to protect people from motor traffic, while making “ludicrous” claims about cycle routes.
On Saturday taxi drivers in LTDA-liveried vehicles joined a local residents’ protest against a North London cycle superhighway, CS11, while the LTDA's campaign against a protected cycle route on Tavistock Place in Central London is ongoing. The LTDA says it wants a "better balance" on those routes and says the LCC is "misrepresenting the LTDA position" on CS11 and Tavistock Place.
The LCC’s Infrastructure Campaigner, Simon Munk, said of Saturday’s demonstration: “The organisation professes to say they are pro cycling. The fact that their members are turning up with an official billboard outside someone else’s demo that they haven’t raised a public concern about until now, I guess I would call that opportunistic.”
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According to statistics from City of London police taxis and people on bikes are involved in 35 collisions per year in the Square Mile of the City of London, with up to five of those resulting in serious injury. The LCC and the LTDA recently made an agreement their members would look out for each other on the road at a recent event in the City of London while LTDA General Secretary, Steve McNamara said he didn’t oppose cycle tracks.
The following day, however, the LTDA launched a petition against a trial doubling of capacity on a cycle route on Tavistock Place in Camden, central London. Capacity of the original two-way track was increased as part of a year-long trial, and the road made one way for motor traffic (see infographic below).
Infographic showing allocation of road space before and during the Tavistock Place trial
The LTDA’s petition says: “We believe that there is sufficient space on the road for two way motor traffic, two way cycle lanes and improved pedestrian areas.”
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However, Munk calls this notion "ludicrous".
“The idea that the way it was before is better is ludicrous, the idea that we can fit thousands of cyclists into half the space. They want two way traffic because it’s slightly easier for them.
“What seems to be happening is the LTDA and cabbies are basically saying improvements to cyclist and pedestrian safety to a hugely popular route are trumped by cabbies having a minor inconvenience.”
“It’s time for them to be clear and honest," he said. "If they support cycle tracks they need to get behind Tavistock Place, and if they don’t, they need to come out and say it.”
Munk and local campaigners are concerned the taxi drivers’ intervention could kill the Tavistock Place trial, meaning the route will go back to a narrow, two-way cycle track which was often over capacity in rush hour. The LCC is urging people to respond to Camden Council’s consultation in support of it.
He believes the LTDA’s change of stance risks distancing itself from its own members who cycle, and being outsmarted by private hire companies who support cycling.
“I think the worry is that other private hire vehicles are out smarting them when it comes to progressiveness towards cyclists and getting cyclists home,” he said.
After the LTDA changed its stance the LCC attracted criticism for engaging with the taxi group. The organisation said in its defence: “Either the London Cycling Campaign treats the LTDA as the enemy, and the LTDA will then in turn engage with the London Cycling Campaign on that basis, or there has to be some form of constructive engagement with the LTDA, that lets campaigners hear what they have to say and hold them to their word”.
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Munk told road.cc: “I would love to have a face to face with [LTDA General Secretary] Steve McNamara and say: how can he have a situation where he says he supports tracks for cyclists and a day later opposes those very tracks?
“They have opposed every single major scheme.”
“They are saying they would support some tracks so long as it has no impact, even a ten second delay, which means essentially they don’t support the tracks at all.”
“There is a point at which we need to say: if they aren’t a cyclist’s friend they are a cyclist’s enemy,” he said.
The LTDA said it believes the LCC is misrepresenting the LTDA position on Tavistock Place and CS11.
Richard Massett of the LTDA, said: “The LTDA remains committed to the Safer in the City campaign and the wider work the LTDA is doing alongside the LCC such as the campaign launched earlier this year regarding air pollution.
"At Tavistock Place and on CS11 the LTDA believe a better balance can be reached between space for cycling and the needs of residents, businesses and other road users at these locations.”
*The article was updated on 11th October, with the addition of collision statistics between cyclists and taxi drivers in the City of London
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