At 7.30am, London’s Marylebone Road is even more congested than usual. Seemingly endless lines of cars, taxis, lorries and vans stretch back for at least a couple of miles. Horns sound; the gridlock is total.
Ever since it was built in the 18th century to catch spillover traffic from busy Oxford Street to the south, this road has been one of the capital’s thoroughfares, a major east-west arterial route connecting the City with the A40 into the Home Counties.
Until recently, it was a six-lane highway, essential for the huge quantity of vehicles — 80,000 every day — that use it.
Then, some years ago, it went down to four lanes for private vehicles after a bus lane was installed on either side.
And now, in some stretches, it is down to a single lane each way for cars, vans and lorries. Hence the gridlock.
As these pictures show, hardly any cyclists are actually using the new lanes on the Marylebone Road — perhaps because the build-up in traffic has caused too much pollution for them to risk it
Why just two lanes? Because London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has taken advantage of emergency government powers — introduced this spring as a result of the pandemic — to install cycle lanes, financed by taxpayers.
Transport for London says this is a ‘temporary measure’ and ‘under review’. But many believe the changes are likely to be permanent — and the capital’s drivers, businesses and local residents are furious, saying the measures are crippling trade and ruining the neighbourhood.
As these pictures show, hardly any cyclists are actually using the new lanes on the Marylebone Road — perhaps because the build-up in traffic has caused too much pollution for them to risk it.
And it is not just London. The same pattern has emerged, almost overnight, all across Britain: cities and towns are facing narrowed lanes, closed roads and interminable snarl-ups and pollution.
For example, on the same weekday morning earlier this month, some 120 miles to the west, Bradford-on-Avon was also stuck in a polluted, Covid-generated gridlock.
The same pattern has emerged, almost overnight, all across Britain: cities and towns are facing narrowed lanes, closed roads and interminable snarl-ups and pollution. Cars are seen in rush hour traffic in Bristol
The tailbacks in this beautiful Wiltshire town have arisen after the local planning department took it upon itself to redesign the streets because of the pandemic.
Some £30,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on a new one-way system designed to ‘improve social distancing measures’ by widening pavements.
The result? Chaos, increased pollution and, once more, furious locals and businesses.
Sian James of Harlees fish and chip restaurant said she was losing hundreds of pounds a day after a collapse in customer numbers as a result of the measures.
Meanwhile, the traffic tailbacks have become so bad that it takes up to 45 minutes for drivers to cross the town, which has a population of less than 10,000.
More than 2,600 people — a quarter of the town’s population — have signed a petition, forcing minor changes. But the Town Hall is adamant that the one-way system will remain.
Local councils are taking these steps thanks to a post-Covid government initiative called the ‘active transport’ policy.
This allows local authorities for the first time to impose traffic schemes designed to discourage driving — and encourage cycling and walking — without consulting local residents or going through the normal planning process, which can take years.
The Department for Transport is making £250 million available to local authorities. And Town Hall planning departments are taking up the sums with alacrity, introducing one-way systems, ripping out parking spaces and recklessly ushering in ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’.
The effects have been devastating. Just as independent businesses in town centres are crying out for customers more than ever, traffic restrictions have brought drivers and the local economy to a standstill. And day by day, as normality and higher traffic levels return, the streets become more devastatingly stationary.
The picture is repeated elsewhere. In Liverpool, a pop-up cycle lane on West Derby Road — a key route across the city — has caused so much congestion that residents are planning a blockade to compel the council to remove it. A rush hour road in Liverpool is pictured above
Figures released this week by the satnav company TomTom showed a 25 per cent increase in London’s traffic congestion alone on this time last year. ‘This is a co-ordinated attack on the world’s highest-taxed drivers: they have become cash cows,’ said Howard Cox of the campaign group Fairfuel UK, adding that dozens of MPs support his campaign against the new measures. Drivers pay the Treasury £40billion a year in taxes — but the war on them is deepening.
‘Most of the transport political advisers are young, fit, well-off, urban-based Lycra-wearing cyclists. No pro-motoring groups are included in any discussions. That cannot be fair.
‘Every single driver wants to breathe clean air too, but there is no need to hit them in the pocket, ban them or block their freedom to drive by narrowing the roads for the benefit of a minority of road users who do not pay any [vehicle] tax.’
Given the devastation that Covid and internet shopping have already wreaked on Britain’s high streets, these new measures could not have come at a worse time.
A new survey by Fairfuel UK — shown exclusively to the Mail — found that 38 per cent of small businesses across the UK said they would lose customers as a result of them.
In Worthing, West Sussex, local firms are suffering as new Covid-19 cycle lanes have reduced the A24, one of the main roads into the town centre, to a single lane, often