After Blackfriars Bridge was refurbished in December 2018, the City of London stopped motor vehicle access to it in April 2020, due to concerns over physical distancing due to the CIVID-19 pandemic. In November 2021 the bridge was reopened to eastbound, motorized traffic despite a petition, signed by over 500 residents, requesting that the bridge remain closed to motorized traffic.
Some of the concerns expressed by the petition organizer, Chris DeGroot, were that “users of the bridge are not comfortable with getting squeezed to the sides while cars whiz past”. Safety of users of all ages and abilities was a general concern but also usage of the bridge by heavier motor vehicles could mean that repairs would have to be made again in the not too distant future. Neither the City or nor the signers of the petition provided any objective data to support their decisions. Although the City indicated they would complete a usage study it remains unknown to what degree detailed data of that study will be released for the public’s consideration.
City officials were quoted as saying that the opening of Blackfriars Bridge to motorized traffic was due to the loosening of pandemic restrictions and changes in the usage patterns along the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) which crosses just east of the bridge. It was suggested that the pandemic caused higher usage of the TVP adding concerns about conflicts with motorized traffic. But as the pandemic has receded the usage of the TVP has returned to more normal activity.
Garfield Dales, Manager of Transportation Planning and Design commented that “Early in the pandemic, we did see a lot of folks out using the parks and the trail network in that area. That’s really what led to the closing at that point in time”. This comment would imply that the City had conducted usage studies of the TVP at the Blackfriars Bridge yet nothing has been made publicly available as to how those studies were conducted, when they were conducted and what the specific results were. This is the type of lack of cooperation with public awareness that suggests that the future, long-term, usage study will also provide very little specifics to the public.
The lines of sight provided near the east end of the Blackfriars Bridge could be of concern. As shown in the above photo fencing, along with the bridge supports, result in limited opportunities for drivers of eastbound motor vehicles to see the approach of higher speed users on the TVP such as cyclists and joggers. If the speed of motorized vehicles is relatively low then this could minimize the concern. Also if there are very few motorized vehicles this also reduces the exposure. The number of conflicts and the severity of consequences of a collision are unknown because no useful data has been made publicly available. But that will change with the study to be completed shortly by Gorski Consulting.
While conducting preliminary examinations of camera positions Gorski Consulting has made some preliminary, video observations of traffic. During four visits to the site a total of 1.5 hours of video was completed. During this time only 64 vehicles were documented crossing the bridge. This is a very small traffic volume.
A test was conducted of our camera locations on May 19, 2022 which were positioned to document the speed of eastbound vehicles as they crossed Blackfriars Bridge. Over a time of 36 minutes 29 vehicle observations were made and their speeds were determined over three, 25-metre segments approaching the TVP. Approaching eastward along the bridge the average speed of motorized vehicles in these segments was 28.1, 29.0 and 25.4 km/h respectively. Two vehicles were observed travelling at over 40 km/h. This is the kind of data that will be useful once a full documentation of motor-vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians is made in the up-coming, official study. Our preliminary observations suggest that there are a large number of users of the TVP crossing at the east end of the bridge and therefore there is a need to consider the number of conflicts. This especially so when more users are riding on faster e-bike, motorized scooters and similar units that may provide minimal opportunity to detect their approach into the crossing.