The Mayor and Transport for London’s Streetspace programme, intended to “rapidly transform London’s streets to accommodate a ten-fold increase in cycling and a five-fold increase in walking”, has been successfully challenged by way of Judicial Review. This is a significant accessibility win.

Transport for London “considered it had an untrammelled discretion to exclude taxis, which was erroneous both in fact and law”

Mrs Justice Lang

The Streetspace scheme involved a rapid construction of a strategic cycling network, wider footpaths and a reduction of traffic on residential streets – there was no mention of taxis. However, taxis play an essential role in providing accessible public transport for those with mobility impairments and enjoy a particular legal status as a form of public transport.

There is no evidence that TfL took into account the distinct status of taxis as a form of public transport, reflected both in law and policy. The original assessment and modelling of the scheme was focussed on how best to overcome the identified problems of congestion, air quality and road safety.

Mrs Justice Lang

The judgement also found that TfL failed to have proper regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). The PSED is part of the Equality Act 2010 that requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities. I am delighted that this was included in the judgement as an important signal for local authorities to better understand this legal obligation when approaching public realm design.

The Streetspace programme reminds me of a street design approach known as ‘Shared Space’ in which various design features (such as the removal of pavements to create a level surface) encourage pedestrians and vehicles to ‘share’ the space. Despite laudable aims the schemes suffered from a devastating lack of inclusion; visually impaired people and many vulnerable pedestrians were at a significant disadvantage. In 2015, I produced a report ‘Accidents by Design’ in which we highlighted the problems with ‘Shared Space.

‘Shared Space’ is not a safe place nor a pleasant place, it has turned high streets into traffic free-for-alls, it has caused confusion, chaos and catastrophe.

Chris Holmes, Accidents by Design, 2015

The scheme is similar also to the recent, wrong-headed, decision to ban taxis from Bank Junction even though they had never been involved in an accident. If these schemes are approached, from the start, with the principle of inclusive design then they can be made to work for ALL.

There is no doubt that we need to act urgently to address the environmental and health impacts of our current congested roads. In December, a UK coroner found that “excessive air pollution” contributed to the death of 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, the first time air pollution has been listed on a UK death certificate. The Covid crisis has highlighted the absolute necessity of public health measures, this is not, and should never be about thwarting measures that encourage more walking and cycling. But we now have the worst case scenario and a horrible waste of public money defending a scheme they should never have put forward in the first place. Desperately disappointing that such foolish, thoughtless plans keep getting put out there.

BBC, Streetspace: Mayor of London and TFL ‘acted unlawfully’ in road scheme. 21 January 2021

Chiltern Law, Every Journey Matters (unless you are a taxi), 21 January 2021

Related posts: Accessibility, inclusion and being human. Bus open data: a data revolution but an accessibility fail

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