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Cyclists “incredibly disappointed” as councillors vote to reopen formerly notorious junction to taxis – despite casualties dropping to “virtually nil” seven years since restrictions introduced after cyclist’s death

“There’ll be increased road danger for those walking and cycling, and we’ll see fewer people ambling, sitting, snacking and a wall of cabs instead,” Simon Munk from the London Cycling Campaign said in response to the proposed trial at Bank Junction

Cyclists in London say they are “incredibly disappointed” after councillors voted to allow taxi drivers access to the formerly notoriously dangerous Bank Junction, where traffic restrictions have been in place for seven years limiting the junction to cyclists, pedestrians, and buses only.

In May 2017, the junction and its surrounding streets, which sit in the heart of the City of London, were closed to all vehicles except buses and cycles on weekdays between 7am and 7pm, as part of an experimental trial introduced to address the widespread calls to improve the junction’s safety in the wake of the tragic death in 2015 of cyclist Ying Tao, who was killed in a collision with a lorry driver on her way to work.

After the trial period saw the number of people killed or injured at the junction fall by more than half, along with air pollution plummeting in the surrounding area and bus journey times being cut by up to five minutes, the 12-hour traffic restriction during weekdays was made permanent.

That decision was made despite the vocal opposition of London’s taxi drivers – of the 12 per cent of residents who opposed making the junction virtually traffic free during the consultation, 79 per cent were black cab drivers.

Bank Junction before it was closed to traffic other than buses and cyclists (licensed CC BY 2.0 by Ronnie Macdonald)

Bank Junction before it was closed to traffic other than buses and cyclists

According to a recent review of the junction, carried out on behalf of the City of London, over the past seven years the restrictions had reduced casualties to “virtually nil” in the area, with only one collision taking place in the 11 months leading up to November 2023.

However, despite the clear success of the scheme from a road safety perspective, on Thursday afternoon City of London councillors voted to allow taxis to access Bank Junction for a trial period, pending approval from Transport for London.

If Transport for London gives it the green light, the change, voted for by the City Corporation’s Court of Common Council, is expected to come into effect for 18 months from spring 2025, and will enable taxi drivers to access the junction between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday, alongside buses, cyclists, and pedestrians. Private car drivers, meanwhile, will remain unable to use the junction between those times.

Bank Junction on Day 1 of closure to traffic (picture courtsesy Bikesy.co_.uk).jpg

> How the City of London listening to cycling campaigners led to a safer Bank Junction

Prior to the vote, plans to lift the restrictions were opposed by the London Cycling Campaign, who argued the current situation offers safety, environmental, and economic benefits for the area, along with – notably – financial and media giant Bloomberg, whose European headquarters is located next to the junction.

“As a major employer in the area our priority continues to the safety and wellbeing of our employees, visitors, and local community,” Bloomberg said in a statement earlier this week.

“We are therefore supportive of the current restrictions, which improve road safety and reduce carbon emissions, and do not want these changes to be reversed.

“We continue to review our own operations impacting traffic in the area, such as the frequency and consolidation of our deliveries to the building, and encourage the use of low emission vehicles and public transport where possible.”

> London’s Bank Junction to be turned into festival space for World Car-Free Day

Nevertheless, during today’s vote 57 per cent of council members voted in favour of reopening the junction to taxi drivers, while 21 per cent backed a plan to keep the restrictions as they are.

“The overall work programme at Bank Junction has meant that the junction is already a safer, more pleasant environment to travel through and we will carefully monitor the impact of re-introducing taxis into this vibrant area,” Shravan Joshi, the chair of the City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee, said in a statement.

“For those unable to use modes of active travel, or who need transportation when public services aren’t available, black cabs have the potential to enhance this public space in line with our Destination City policy to make the Square Mile a desirable, safe and inclusive visitor destination, boosting economic growth.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, Paul Brennan, told the BBC following the vote that “common sense has prevailed” and that the lifting of the restrictions was “an important step towards ensuring the City of London is open and accessible”.

“We are confident once in place, this trial will demonstrate the importance of taxi access and benefit the immediate area and wider Square Mile,” Brennan said.

However, Simon Munk from the London Cycling Campaign said he was “incredibly disappointed in the decision”

“This goes against the City’s own transport strategy and City Plan 2040,” he said.

“The likelihood is that if this trial does go ahead in 2025, there’ll be increased road danger for those walking and cycling, delays to buses, and we’ll see fewer people ambling, sitting, snacking at Bank – and a wall of cabs instead.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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17 comments

Avatar
mitsky | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

May I suggest that those who wanted this be asked to look the victims in the eye, the next time someone is hurt or killed there?
And only those who wanted this should be made to foot the bill for such incidents.

Avatar
Muddy Ford replied to mitsky | 3 weeks ago
1 like

mitsky wrote:

May I suggest that those who wanted this be asked to look the victims in the eye, the next time someone is hurt or killed there?
And only those who wanted this should be made to foot the bill for such incidents.

Do you think black cab drivers will care? I would rather walk than use a black cab and have to endure their toxic opinions on everything. They are self serving only, and it wouldn't surprise me if overheard conversations in the back of a cab are used to help sway their causes.

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squired | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

I have to admit that since the most recent changes (widening of pavements, etc) I no longer cycle through Bank junction.  The time sat at red lights while literally nothing is passing through the junction is dreadful.  Instead I go via Old Jewry. From a pedestrian perspective though it is much better and you can pretty much ignore the traffic lights because so little passes through the junction.  Similarly, Cheapside is also significantly more pleasant now that it isn't just a queue of cars.  

Avatar
thereverent | 3 weeks ago
5 likes

This is an unneeded change as Taxi's can drop passengers to anywhere Bank during the restricted times, they just couldn't drive through. They wanted their rat run back.

The area has been so much nicer with the current restrictions, not looking forward to the chane (if TfL pass it).

At least with Threadneedle Street now just pedestrian and cyclist and Queen Victoria Street cycle only at the Bank end it shouldn't be as bad as it was.

Avatar
Rendel Harris | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

Quote:

of the 12 per cent of residents who opposed making the junction virtually traffic free during the consultation, 79 per cent were black cab drivers.

The City of London only has around 8600 residents, which means by those figures a minimum of roughly 800 black cab drivers live there. On the very rare occasions I take a black cab the fares are horrifying but given that the average price for a property in the City is over £1 million (about twenty times the average cab driver's takehome) this seems a bit unlikely as is the probability of almost 10% of the City's residents being cabbies.

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Weren't some of those "cabbies" driving high-end Maseratis and Bentleys?

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ubercurmudgeon | 3 weeks ago
9 likes

It is worth remembering the paucity of democracy in the City of London, even by British standards. Only 20% of councillors are elected purely by residents. The rest are mostly elected by voters who represent businesses. And to be a councillor you have to be a Freeman of the City, so either a member of a livery company or nominated by people already in the club.

Avatar
Brauchsel | 3 weeks ago
16 likes

"For those unable to use modes of active travel, or who need transportation when public services aren’t available, black cabs have the potential to enhance this public space"

This decision allows black cab drivers to use Bank junction between 7am and 7pm. Other than Christmas Day, public transport services are always available at that location between those times. 

How cabbies manage to get away with pretending they're a public service deserving of special treatment is beyond me. I can only guess that they overhear things they shouldn't overhear while ferrying around the people too important to get the bus or tube. 

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chrisonabike replied to Brauchsel | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

As per usual the first point is presumably supposed to disguise the second - and indeed of course it's more "more convenient / private than public transport".  Which is of course true.

Taxis have a place.  That isn't however ahead of active travel or public transport.

Cabbies probably see things they shouldn't see either.  I wouldn't believe the stories though!  Like tales of what happens in cabs, or observations about ferrying people who wouldn't be expected to be visting said important people - especially during the small hours - to and from their houses.

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Munin replied to Brauchsel | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

"How cabbies manage to get away with pretending they're a public service deserving of special treatment is beyond me".
To be fair they pay huge cost in buying the only vehicle that they're allowed to drive. They're wheelchair accessible too, which bumps the price up even further. I hear that they cost over £80k

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Munin | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Munin wrote:

"How cabbies manage to get away with pretending they're a public service deserving of special treatment is beyond me". To be fair they pay huge cost in buying the only vehicle that they're allowed to drive. They're wheelchair accessible too, which bumps the price up even further. I hear that they cost over £80k

They are very expensive to buy but many black cab drivers in London now rent their vehicle for between £200 and £400 a week. A large overhead to be sure but then when they are charging up to £120 for a one-way trip from Heathrow to central London that could be fairly quickly recouped. The average black cab driver takes home, after overheads, around £50,000 a year which even in this inflationary age is not bad sugar.

The cab drivers do love to posit themselves as the great friend of the disabled and the only alternative to a private vehicle for wheelchair users in London. This is increasingly untrue as nearly all stations now have step-free access, buses have special drop-down platforms to allow wheelchairs to board and so on. Also, most disabled people I know are struggling to get by on DLA or PIP and certainly can't afford to take black cabs when the minimum charge for a 6 mile journey is £39, if they do need a car Uber Assist provides wheelchair-accessible vehicles for less than half the price of a black cab.

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Munin replied to Rendel Harris | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

£400 p/w to rent a taxi equates to £20.800 dead money per year. That's a lot of money they'd need to earn before they actually start earning. If you add fuel too that figure that could be nearer £25+k.
The last time I took a taxi from Central London to Heathrow terminal 5 if cost £82..not £120...split between 4 not bad.
To "fairly quickly recoup" the cost of a taxi using your system they'd need to be unbelievably lucky by getting around 5 fares daily and consistently to and from
London and the airport. More chance of
winning the lottery.
They could possibly earn £50k per year, but I think they'd need to work 12+ hours 7 days per week... slavery!
I know some taxi drivers who've given up their
time to take part in taxi charities...there are a surprisingly large amount of them. Also, lots do their bit on Poppy day.
Many disabled people aren't struggling to get by. They, like most of the people who prefer to use taxis as public transport, like the convenience of getting door to door and the safety that that brings them. A 6 mile journey is unlikely to cost £40 unless it's 3am... that's the night rate for working unsocial hours. Fair enough. You mention Uber and their wheelchair accessible vehicles. You'd need to wait for ages or prebook in advance as they have less than 100 out of their fleet of 100.000. Every London taxi is wheelchair accessible...because it's a professional driver's vehicle. There are currently around 16k London taxis on London’s streets. Mostly good, professional men and women from all over the world and all driving a vehicle that's known to be the one least likely to be involved in pedestrian/ cycling traffic incidents.
I'd like to add that I'm a cyclist who often uses that junction and am not " incredibly disappointed " that black cab passengers will have access to it.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Munin | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Quote:

A 6 mile journey is unlikely to cost £40 unless it's 3am... that's the night rate for working unsocial hours. Fair enough. You mention Uber and their wheelchair accessible vehicles. You'd need to wait for ages or prebook in advance as they have less than 100 out of their fleet of 100.000.

The standard daytime rate for a journey of six miles is £31-£39 depending on journey time. As for Uber accessible vehicles, I've just looked at my Uber app: here in Peckham, asking for a wheelchair accessible vehicle (in rush hour, 18.25, note) to go to my GP surgery three miles away I have a choice of an "Access" vehicle suitable for wheelchairs that can be here in fourteen minutes or or an "Assist" vehicle with a driver trained in helping disabled passengers in seventeen minutes, either costing £11.96 (see screenshot). So either I am incredibly lucky with that one shot or your statement that one would have to wait ages or prebook is somewhat inaccurate.

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Munin replied to Rendel Harris | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

A wheelchair accessible vehicle is a vehicle that can accommodate a wheelchair with a person still in the wheelchair...not folded up in the boot.
A 6 mile journey would cost about £27.80. You've already proven your tendency to exaggerate with the claim of £130 from Central London to Heathrow

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Munin | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Munin wrote:

A 6 mile journey would cost about £27.80.

See below from the TfL website. £31- £39 and "may be higher if there are delays or heavy traffic", tell me a time in London at rush hour there wouldn't be. Would you by any chance happen to be a cabbie yourself?

Avatar
Brauchsel replied to Munin | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Munin wrote:

They, like most of the people who prefer to use taxis as public transport,

It goes where you want it to, and for the duration of your hire no other members of the public can use it. If a black cab is "public transport", there's no reason that a charter jet isn't.  

There are good cabbies about, and I've even met some who don't hate cyclists, but their protected cartel needs to go. No reason whatsoever these days for people running private businesses to be exempt from traffic laws around bus/cycle lanes. 

Avatar
Munin replied to Brauchsel | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

A charter jet would never be licensed by a local transport authority...good try though.
However you twist it they're public transport because they're the only purpose built vehicle fit for purpose. Current model is 6 seater, has hearing loop, intercom, 28 foot turning circle, ramp for wheelchair access, available to hail on street when light is illuminated, insured as a Hackney Carriage vehicle, fitted with a taxi meter and viewable to passengers, driver needs to have passed rigorous examination process for knowledge and character. All of these points are stipulated by TfL before the vehicle can be licensed as a Hackney Carriage vehicle. A Hackney Carriage vehicle is a publicly hired vehicle(and has been in London since 1639) They're also consistently voted the world's best taxi service.
It's not a protected cartel as absolutely anyone can become a London taxi driver. All that's needed is dedication and commitment. Prove how it's a cartel.

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