Elephant & Castle roundabouts 'as dangerous for cyclists as all bendy buses'

The London Assembly has accused Mayor of London Boris Johnson of failing on his election pledges by putting a question mark over the removal of the southern roundabout at Elephant & Castle.

Elephant & Castle underpasses
Boris Johnson will decide on a scheme to replace the "disgusting and dangerous pedestrian underpasses" at the end of the year

At its meeting at City Hall on Wednesday the Assembly narrowly agreed a motion tabled by Green member Jenny Jones and seconded by Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon calling on the Mayor to reconsider his decision to abandon the redevelopment of Parliament Square and criticising his intervention in schemes to replace gyratory systems at Elephant & Castle and Stoke Newington.

The motion accused the Mayor of failing in his election promise to 'nurture and protect the public spaces that bind us all together'.

Boris answers critics on Elephant delay

In written answers published this week, the Mayor explained why he has refused to rubber-stamp Southwark Council's long-standing proposal to replace the roundabout at Newington Butts with a signalled T-junction and surface-level pedestrian crossings.

"The modelling of the scheme indicated long AM peak queues on Walworth Road and Kennington Lane/Kennington Park Road (Inner Ring Road) and TfL were asked to see if the congestion could be mitigated," wrote Mr Johnson in response to a question tabled by Caroline Pidgeon.

"TfL and I however do not agree that this re-examination would prejudice the needs and safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Although detailed design work is still required, TfL is confident that the scheme will significantly improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians."

Labour's Val Shawcross demanded to know when the "disgusting and dangerous pedestrian underpasses" at the Elephant will be removed.

The Mayor replied: "TfL anticipates that its review of the Elephant & Castle scheme would be complete by the end of this year. After this time I shall make a decision on how to proceed."

Shawcross also asked the Mayor for statistics about cycling accidents at the Elephant.

"In the last five years for which there is finalised data (i.e. 2003 to 2007), there were a total of 68 pedal cyclist casualties at the two Elephant and Castle roundabouts and the short section of link road between," replied Mr Johnson.

"Of these, five were seriously injured and 63 were slightly injured; there were no fatalities ... For the five seriously injured cyclist casualties, four were injured at the northern roundabout and one at the southern roundabout."

Assembly members express frustration

"[The Elephant & Castle] is an absolute nightmare and these plans that were developed by Southwark Council in collaboration with other people would have made a huge difference to the comfort of the area for all the residents of Southwark," said Jenny Jones.

She went on to criticise "the mayor's manic concern for car traffic and car drivers" and accused him of taking a step "a mile backwards" on transport policy compared to his Labour predecessor.

Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon, who is also a councillor in Southwark's Newington ward, said that the removal of the southern roundabout is "a scheme and regeneration plan that's been 10 years or more in the making and was ready to go.

"Every silo in Transport for London had signed it off. The LDA had agreed funding in September, it was all ready to go, and suddenly someone up in the Mayor's office says 'No, actually, we're not sure about it'.

"Yet the discussions had been going on with every party for so long – and I understand that they are still ongoing and it's down to six seconds difference in pedestrian crossing time – and hopefully we will find a way forward."

Conservative Roger Evans told the Assembly: "I applaud the Mayor's decision to dispense with the old hierarchy of different forms of traffic."

Turning to the question of the Elephant, he said: "Perhaps we should reassure some members by saying that the Mayor is not opposed to this scheme, he just feels that in its current incarnation it would be harmful to traffic...

"The Mayor would like to see the southern roundabout redesigned with improvements to the traffic signals."

Mr Evans was then interrupted by Labour member John Biggs raising a point of order, complaining that Mr Evans seemed to be reading a briefing from the Mayor rather than contributing to the debate in his own right.

Labour's Val Shawcross was scathing about Mr Johnson's transport policies: "He is moving to give central London back over to the private driver when we know that gyratories are fast and dangerous and we know that the worst forms of congestion in London are often pedestrian congestion.

"But we never hear from the pedestrian engineer, we hear from the traffic engineer."

Addressing the matter of the Elephant & Castle, she told the Assembly: "There have been five really serious cycling accidents just around those two roundabouts in the last five years which is the same number of cycling accidents that there have been involving all of the bendy buses in the whole of central London for five years.

"These are really dangerous environments; there was a good plan for improving them. The Mayor has pulled it back and redesigned it again to retain the feature of the fast gyratory which will continue the area – which is a residential area also – as being an area which is unpleasant and unsafe for pedestrians and very unpleasant and very unsafe for cyclists.

The motion was supported by 10 members (Labour, Lib Dem & Green) and opposed by 10 members (Conservative & BNP). It was carried with the casting vote of acting chair Darren Johnson (Green).

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