Object NOW to flooding Belfast bus lanes with taxis

 

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has launched a public consultation on a proposed experiment to allow thousands of taxis to flood all of Belfast’s bus lanes for at least 12 months. This is madness – it’s the next step on the way to a permanent arrangement and it has to stop now.

You have until Friday 6th July 2018 to object.

Our city is grinding to a halt through congestion, it’s choking on record poor air quality and a public health crisis deepens through inactivity and obesity.

Bus lanes are there to prioritise sustainable transport:

  • buses which do the work which do the work of 50 cars at a time
  • a new Rapid Transit system based on speed and reliability to attract car drivers
  • growing cycling levels which combats both congestion and obesity
  • wheelchair accessible taxis and taxi buses which provide socially-important services

Private taxis are one of the least sustainable forms of transport – half of all journeys are run empty – and there are at least 4,500 waiting to flood into Belfast bus lanes – instantly doubling bus lane traffic.

There’s an insane rule of 14 to 1 at play here – buses move 14% of commuters in Belfast  while taxis move just 1%. And yet the Belfast taxi fleet outnumbers the Metro fleet by 14 to 1. 

This desperate inefficiency is about to be introduced into bus lanes which, for the majority of Belfast, operate during commuter rush hours.

Belfast’s £90m investment in the Glider bus rapid transit system is meant to start lifting out city out of our congestion hell – and just weeks before it launches DfI is proposing to fatally undermine it by dumping thousands of taxis into bus lanes. Taxis which will be legally entitled to park up and wait for two minutes even if a Glider bus is stuck behind it in the bus lane.

You can raise your voice now to stop this crazy policy to hobble sustainable transport to line the pockets of the big business interests of the private taxi industry.

The consultation period is ridiculously short, detail is scant to say the least (no start or end dates for the experiment) and only an email address to return comments and objections.

If you want to object, send your personal comments here:

transportlegislationbranch@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

Alternatively you can copy the text below and paste into an email:

Bikefast is standing together with:


Dear Department for Infrastructure,

I wish to register my strong objection to the proposed Experimental Traffic Control Scheme – Permitted Taxis in Bus Lanes. This scheme must not proceed. Here are 4 key reasons:

1. PROTECT PUBLIC TRANSPORT

METRO AND THE £90M BUS RAPID TRANSIT “GLIDER” ARE THE TOP PRIORITIES TO FIX A CONGESTED BELFAST

Dumping thousands of private vehicles into bus lanes will reduce the reliability, and fatally undermine the reputation, of Glider and Metro.

14% of people in Belfast commute by bus, while just 1% commute by taxi – yet if this experiment proceeds taxis will outnumber Metro buses by 14 to 1 in bus lanes.

Bus Rapid Transit needs to be RAPID – by allowing taxis into bus lanes the Department is accepting that Glider will not be as rapid as without taxis in the way. As recently as January 2017 DfI’s policy position was to deny private taxi access for the very reason that “bus lane performance is improving”. This is a huge and unnecessary leap backwards for the city.

Glider will not launch until after the experiment so it will never have a real-world baseline to compare running speeds and reliability without taxis in bus lanes.

2. PROTECT ACTIVE TRAVEL

BUS LANES ARE CRITICAL TO BELFAST’S GROWING CYCLING LEVELS, UNTIL A DEDICATED NETWORK IS BUILT

The trial threatens the safety of vulnerable users of bus lanes; the Department is “experimenting” with people’s lives. Impatient taxis do not mix with vulnerable cyclists.

Both short-term impacts on congestion (modal shift) and long-term health outcomes mean the recent and projected growth in cycling levels must be protected.

DfI research shows the number one reason people who cycle feel unsafe is “heavy traffic eg traffic in rush hour” and yet this experiment will introduce more traffic into bus lanes making everyone’s journey busier and less safe.

Bus lanes are an island of relative calm for those who cycle in the teeth of a hectic rush hour. Take away that minimum support for cycling, and you take away one of the few remaining incentives that people have to cycle.

This is madness for a Department with ownership of a PfG outcome to increase the % of all journeys which are made by cycling. Allowing thousands of taxis to compete with cyclists in bus lanes can only have a negative effect on city cycling levels.

3. HELP DISABLED TRAVELLERS

MAKE THE TAXI INDUSTRY MORE DISABILITY FRIENDLY

“Maintaining the current situation may also encourage some drivers of Class A taxis to decide to start operating a wheelchair accessible Class B taxi.” (DFI, January 2017)

Those with reduced mobility are badly served by the private taxi industry in Belfast – only around 10% of taxis in the city are Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV).

The Department itself recognises that by making WAV standard a requirement of access to bus lanes, this can encourage greater investment in vehicles which disabled people need.

Freely handing over bus lane access to thousands of taxis – around 90% of which are not WAV standard – denies society this tool to require private businesses to enable social progress.

4. DEFINE BUS LANES AS SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT LANES

RESIST THIS LAND GRAB BY BIG BUSINESS

“Promoting and assisting sustainable modes .. has to take priority” [over the private taxi industry] (DFI, January 2017)

The Programme for Government’s outcomes demand investment in priority for buses, investment in dedicated space for cycling and to STOP prioritising private car travel.

The only time the public has been asked directly about taxi access to bus lanes (in 2012) 86% of people consulted rejected the current course of action by DfI.

A previous “trial” in 2017 showed that around 50% of private taxi drivers chose not to use bus lanes – there is no real world demand for this measure. That trial, mainly because taxi drivers avoided using the bus lanes, was inconclusive. Another rushed trial, with no clear reasons for it or information on what it’s designed to achieve, will be open to being gamed.

A longer “experiment” now is just letting taxi access in through the back door, against the wishes of the general public and against settled policy.

Here are five Programme for Government Indicators which a policy of de-prioritising sustainable transport runs contrary to:

  • 4. Reduce preventable deaths: Preventable mortality
  • 6. Improve mental health: % of population with GHQ12 scores ≥4 (signifying possible mental health problem)
  • 25. Increase the use of public transport and active travel: % of all journeys which are made by walking/cycling/public transport
  • 29. Increase environmental sustainability: Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • 37. Improve air quality: Nitrogen dioxide concentration

The needs of the private taxi industry are not specified in the Programme for Government, but are being prioritised over sustainable transport by DfI.

DfI must now move to protect this important public space from a private industry in direct competition with bus services and short journey urban cycling – they have a direct interest in seeing those modes diminished.

Bus lanes must be classified as sustainable transport lanes for the sole use of currently permitted modes.

I look forward to your response which I trust will restore sense to public transport policy and retain the status quo in bus lanes – do not proceed with this experiment.

Yours,

 


 

 

You can view the text of the experiment here – although it says for 6 months, DfI have made it clear this will roll on for at least 12 months:

Experimental Traffic Control Scheme Taxis in Bus Lanes 2018 (PDF, 173 KB)

Copy and share this infographic and the link to this page on your social media

It is important to note that the Department will write back to you to ask you to drop your objection.

It is crucial that you DO NOT drop your objection unless they stop the experiment going ahead and retain the status quo. DfI cannot proceed with the experiment unless objections are dropped, or they set objections aside – and they will have to find a justification for this which does not leave themselves open to a judicial review.

You can also sign the petition on Change.org and share that to spread the word among friends and family to take action to stop this mad policy.


More listening

More reading

05 May 2017 – Belfast bus lane taxi trial ends (but attack on sustainable transport limps on)

20 Mar 2017 – Bus lane taxis “impede other road users, increase journey times” says.. Infrastructure Department

04 Apr 2017 – Push to keep taxis in Belfast bus lanes backfires (Irishcycle.com)

03 Apr 2017 – Belfast taxi postcard campaign in tatters

27 Feb 2017 –  DfI: Taxis in bus lanes trial will not default into a permanent arrangement

19 Feb 2017 – Survival guide to 84 days of taxis in Belfast bus lanes

18 Feb 2017 – Department declines to answer questions ahead of taxis in bus lanes “trial”

08 Oct 2014 – Reform and revolution | Taxis in bus lanes

06 Oct 2014 – Rapid transit? | Taxis in bus lanes

01 Oct 2014 – Wall of steel | Taxis in bus lanes

26 Sep 2014 – 4,000+ taxis in Belfast | Taxis in bus lanes

23 Sep 2014 – Perspective | Taxis in bus lanes

22 Sep 2014 – Fightback | Taxis in bus lanes

21 Mar 2013 – What value in the perception of cycling safety?

21 Feb 2013 – All Taxis in Bus Lanes – Why I Am Opposed (niroads.com)

07 Feb 2013 – DRD determined to halt Belfast cycling progress?

18 Sep 2012 – NI Greenways response to taxis in bus lanes consultation

05 Sep 2012 – Taxis in bus lanes a backward step for cycling

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