Blackfriars Bridge: how far to push the limits of peaceful protest?

In the face of a unanimous motion of the London Assembly and the Mayor’s own misgivings, Transport for London plans this weekend to build a dangerous new gyratory on the north side of Blackfriars Bridge, a road scheme that has been criticised from all sides for putting the interest of private motor vehicles ahead of the pedestrians and cyclists who, taken together, will be the majority of the road’s users.

The Mayor’s ‘ambassador for cycling’ is Andrew Boff AM. He recently had this to say:

‘I am staggered that so many cyclists use Blackfriars Bridge, if it was on my commuting route I wouldn’t because it is too dangerous. I hope a full review of the new layout and speed limits on the bridge and the publication of all the relevant data will result in a sensible solution that will address the needs and safety of all users.’

Unfortunately TfL’s head of surface transport Leon Daniels has stuck up two fingers to Mr Boff and everyone else and are ploughing on ahead with the new gyratory.

Image credit: Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest

TfL’s contractors aim to have the job done by Monday, so as not to have works going on at the same time on Blackfriars and the neighbouring Waterloo Bridge. Waterloo Bridge is currently in the middle of six weeks of roadworks by British Telecom. As Leon Daniels says in the TfL press release:

‘In order to keep disruption to Londoners to an absolute minimum our contractor will be working 24 hours a day from the evening of 29 July to the morning of 1 August, thereby getting the work done in the shortest possible amount of time and avoiding clashing with other planned bridge works in central London.’

The Blackfriars Bridge flash rides planned for Friday night are all very well for expressing opinion but are unlikely to keep the bulldozers at bay. However, if sufficient riders were to linger awhile, say for 48 hours, until Monday morning, they might just prevent access to the site by TfL’s contractors. TfL would have to reschedule the work, rebook the contractors, and so on. The delay might mean the Mayor would take notice and do something, rather than just talk about making London better for cycling and walking.

Alternatively, if word got around that something was brewing, and the Mayor decided to bring in squads of Police to guard the bridge, it would become very apparent that he was heavy handing a situation in the face of overwhelming public and political opposition. That would not be very good PR.

It would require a significant number of people to be prepared potentially to put themselves in harm’s way, possibly sacrificing a few D-locks and risking arrest for obstruction of the public highway. A couple of months ago on the radio show Jenny Jones AM, the Green Party’s candidate for Mayor, said she hoped she would not have to resort to lying down in the road to prevent TfL’s scheme.

I guess we’ll see how strong opinion really is among London’s cyclists who are rapidly learning that in Transport for London, we have a formidable enemy.

  • http://www.kimharding.net/blog/?cat=9 Kim

    Where is Swampy when you need him. Then again A number of well dressed city types setting up camp in the way of the bulldozers would be an even more more powerful image. You know the sort of people who actually commute to work over the bridge, to show that not everyone who rides a bicycle is an “eco warrior” or a tattooed cycle courier (not that there is anything wrong with being a stereotype).

  • Sarah

    It would be great to hear how last night’s protest went. Wasn’t able to make it but I plan to be there Monday morning.

  • Andrew

    It’s ironic that a demo about safety for cyclists resulted in unsafe cycling by some of the demonstrators.

    It’s really unfortunate that the demo left a powerful impression of reckless and discourteous cycling by some of the demonstrators. Ignoring traffic regulations – cycling through red traffic lights, on the wrong side of the road and on the pavements – does nothing but harm; it re-enforces the negative stereotype of cyclist as antisocial hooligan.

    And a message to those pavement cyclists: it is wrong of you to aggressively harass pedestrians who you say ‘get in your way’. The pavement is for pedestrians. If you’re too scared to use the road, don’t cycle, take the bus.