Michael Barratt MBE: Making the difference

Transport for London’s development impact assessment lead,  Michael Barratt, was recognised in the New Year’s Honours with an MBE. In this exclusive article for Highways he reflects on his work and how it improves safety and accessibility in the capital.

The start of a new year is usually seen as an opportune time for reflection, with many people using it as an excuse to come up with ambitious resolutions or make positive changes to their lifestyle.  Entering 2018, I had more reason than normal to reflect on the year that had gone by: I had recently been surprised by the news that I was to be rewarded with an MBE for services to transport in the New Year’s Honours.

My New Year’s resolutions usually involve me becoming more active one way or another, being an avid cyclist, and it is this passion for cycling that has helped drive my enthusiasm for the work that I do at Transport for London (TfL). It involves me making the city safer and accessible for all Londoners, while working with developers and construction companies simultaneously, to ensure that they can still deliver what they need to efficiently. There’s something really special about knowing that the work that I do positively impacts the lives of others every day – I can walk out of the office on my lunch break and see the differences I’ve helped to make right in front of me.

While I may have received the award personally, it is really a testament to collaboration – none of the work I do can be achieved by just one person. One of the best examples of this is our monthly road safety patrols. The idea came about in 2014 after a cycling stakeholder said he thought that there was room to improve how some roadworks had been set up in London to make them safer for cyclists.

At TfL, we’re keen to encourage as many people as possible to ride their bikes in London, so I was curious to see what could be done to allay any potential barriers to those wanting to give it a go. In order to investigate, we met on site and cycled through the area, which allowed us to gain our own first-hand experiences and realise what could be improved. This made the possible barriers easier to understand and meant we could implement traffic management changes more quickly, making it a more attractive and safe place to travel through.

The success of this led to me setting up monthly, rather than one-off, roadwork patrols, which look at issues that affect any potential road users and are open to all relevant stakeholders. This can include residents, police, borough officers, construction companies and logistics experts, as well as the users themselves. By bringing everyone together, it is easier for stakeholders, who sometimes have differing interests and concerns, to understand each other’s point of view and reach mutually beneficial compromises, which could include amending roadworks, traffic management layouts, signage and barriers. We apply the same ethos to the developer forums that we host, which bring all of the relevant stakeholders together to reduce any potential adverse impacts from development-related works.

As well as bringing creativity and innovation, collaboration offers organisations the chance to share best practice and learn lessons from of others. This is why in 2014 I created Construction Management Guidance, which was the first of its kind, alongside delivering my own, free training to construction site marshals.

By working intensively with construction sites, I have been able to help them reduce the amount that lorries circle around sites by identifying suitable holding bays, consequently making the areas safer for cyclists and pedestrians. I also support these organisations in decreasing the pollution they create by encouraging them to recycle waste materials on site.

Receiving the MBE has made me realise how much I enjoy making a difference to those travelling in the capital. Looking forward to the year ahead, my resolution is to continue building on this work and inspire others to realise the benefits they can gain from working with others too.

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