Lockdown cycle lanes could now be ripped up across the UK after the High Court ruled Sadiq Khan’s ‘Streetspace’ scheme was unlawful.
The controversial scheme, which saw roads closed and others reduced in size to create new cycle lanes in the height of the pandemic last year, was found to be ‘seriously flawed’ by a High Court judge today.
The ruling means similar schemes implemented by councils up and down the country last year could now be scrapped, a lawyer in the case revealed.
However Transport for London insists it will keep its make-shift cycle lanes while it appeals the judgment.
It comes after Justice Lang today ruled London’s ‘Streetspace’ scheme was ‘seriously flawed’ and ‘took advantage of the pandemic’ to push through ‘radical’ and permanent changes to London‘s roads.
The judgement followed a legal challenge by organisations representing black cab drivers who were angry about being banned from a new bus-only route on the A10 in Bishopsgate.
Justice Lang said the A10 scheme treated cab drivers unfairly and should be abolished, but her judgment also called for an end to the Mayor’s wider Streetspace initiative, including the introduction of several hundred miles of temporary cycle lanes.
The lanes sparked criticism from motorists for increasing congestion, and one on Kensington High Street was removed late last year following a local outcry.
Sadiq Khan was today criticised for ‘superficial’ and ‘seriously flawed’ planning by a judge
Justice Lang said the A10 scheme treated cab drivers unfairly and should be abolished, but her judgment also called for an end to the Mayor’s wider Streetspace initiative, including the introduction of temporary cycle lanes. Pictured is one on Euston Road
In addition to cycle lanes, Streetspace – which was put in place last May – saw the implementation of bus gates, banned turns and restricted access to streets in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods across London with the aim of encouraging walking and cycling.
In her judgement, Justice Lang called Streetspace an ‘ill-considered response’ which sought to ‘take advantage of the pandemic to push through, on an emergency basis without consultation, ‘radical changes’ to London’s streets.
She added: ‘The scale and ambition of the proposals, and the manner in which they were described, strongly suggest that the Mayor and TfL intended that these schemes would become permanent, once the temporary orders expired.
‘However, there is no evidence to suggest that there will be a permanent pandemic requiring continuation of the extreme measures introduced by the Government in 2020.’
Today’s judgement follows a legal challenge by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) and United Trade Action Group (UTAG) against the decision to ban cab drivers from the new Bishopsgate Bus Gate scheme.
The scheme was part of plans to make the area one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world.
In the lengthy and detailed judgement, Mrs Justice Lang, underlined a series of failings by TfL and the Mayor, describing their decision-making process as ‘seriously flawed’, with the decision to exclude taxis being based on ‘superficial’ and ‘inadequate evidence.’
The judge noted that denying taxis access to London’s roads could have ‘severe consequences’ for passengers who cannot walk, cycle, or use public transport and that ‘the needs of people with protected characteristics, including the elderly or disabled’, were ‘not considered’.
A similar lane on Kensington High Street was removed following an outcry from motorists and local businesses
Mr Khan oversaw the rapid construction of a cycling network using temporary plastic bollards
The court also highlighted the inadequacy of the Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) undertaken by TfL, describing parts as ‘perfunctory or non-existent’ and finding that it ‘read as if its purpose was to justify the decision already taken’.
The judge also found taxi drivers had a legitimate expectation that they would be able to access bus lanes to ply for hire effectively, which had been unlawfully breached.
This expectation was supported by TfL’s own Bus Lane Policy, which asserts that taxis ‘fulfil demands that cannot be met by the bus, train or tube’, and by previous Mayoral statements on the importance of taxi access to bus lanes.
Lawyers for the Defendants argued breaching this expectation was justified by the pandemic, but Justice Lang found it ‘unfair and contrary to good administration to use the pandemic as a justification for restricting taxis access to bus lanes’.
Finding the treatment of taxis was irrational, the Judge described excluding taxis as an ‘ill-considered response’, which ‘sought to take advantage of the pandemic’ to push through ‘radical changes’ which ‘far exceeded what was reasonably required’.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the LTDA, said: ‘It’s fantastic to see the Judge rightly recognising the key role licensed taxis play in our great City.
‘This is an extremely important judgement for London’s hard working taxi drivers and the passengers who rely on them.’
Today’s judgement follows a legal challenge by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) and United Trade Action Group (UTAG) against the decision to ban cab drivers from a new bus lane in Bishopsgate (pictured is the road shortly before the works were completed)
Darren Rogers, of Chiltern Law, who acted on behalf of the claimants, said: ‘This was a hard fought and complicated Judicial Review where the regulated took on the regulator and sets a precedent when authorities close roads without proper analysis and care.
‘Untramelled discretion must be scrutinised and reviewed. Mrs Justice Lang’s judgement lays bare the unlawfulness of Streetspace as a plan and in practice.
‘This sets a very decent precedent for similar schemes being challenged in other parts of the country.’
TfL said: ‘We are disappointed with the court’s ruling and are seeking to appeal this judgment.
‘Temporary Streetspace schemes are enabling safer essential journeys during this exceptionally challenging time and are vital to ensuring that increased car traffic does not threaten London’s recovery from coronavirus.
‘We absolutely recognise the need for schemes such as our Bishopsgate corridor to work for the communities they serve and have worked hard to ensure that people across London, including those who use taxis, can continue to get to where they need to be.
‘We also recognise the need for schemes to be delivered in a fair and consistent manner and have worked closely with the boroughs to create clear guidance for implementing schemes, updating this regularly to reflect what we have learnt. These schemes will stay in place pending our appeal.’