Air Quality and the ULEZ – It’s a Vindictive but Unjustified Measure

This article is by James Hockney who is a Councillor in the London Borough of Enfield and represents the Bush Hill Park ward. He was the Conservatives Parliamentary Candidate for the Edmonton constituency at the last General Election.

We all want better air quality, right? Well, I have good news for you. It is getting better. 

This map from 2013 shows almost all of London outside the Central London Congestion Charge area with emissions within safe levels. Main trunk roads routes and major junctions, plus Heathrow, are the exceptions. 

However, this map is seven years old and the situation has improved.

In the latest report on Air Quality from Aether UK, which dates from 2017, it was estimated that almost all the areas identified as having dangerous levels of pollution in a study in 2010, now had safe levels of air quality. TfL’s own figures show a steady fall in emissions of NOx and this is predicted to continue.

There are a number of reasons for this. European Union legislation has been requiring lower emissions from vehicles for more than two decades. The latest standards are deemed acceptable, even in the new Ultra Low Emission Zone in Central London. Heavier vehicles have also been subject to the “Low Emission Zone” – which covers almost all of London – since 2008. A Ken Livingstone policy; implemented by Boris Johnson.

Car use has also fallen dramatically, with journeys to work by car or motorcycle in London halving from almost 154m a year in 2000 to just over 70m a year in 2017. Cycling in the same period has almost quadrupled from 11m to 40m and public transport use has increased from 260m journeys to 330m.

So, are further measures justified?

This chart from the Aether UK report suggests not:

Already, it is estimated that fewer than 1% of Londoners are exposed to air quality above the safe level. This is attributed to earlier tightening of vehicle standards and modal shift away from cars, trends that are continuing.

Lastly, whilst it is an emotive issue – and whenever one of those poorly maintained vans drives past you with its exhaust belching sooty black smoke, a very visible and noxious one – the focus on vehicles is perhaps missing the point. Again, TfL’s own reports show that domestic and commercial gas heating is the source of almost one quarter of all NOx emissions and almost half of those in Central London. Interestingly, at the time of the consultation on expanding the ULEZ, the figures for all of London showed road transport responsible for 51% of all emissions. This suggests they have fallen by a quarter in the last seven years.

When it comes to particulate emissions the story is similar. Tightening standards have cut PM10 particulate emission from vehicles by almost 95% and PM2.5 emissions have fallen by 75%. It is also unlikely that the ULEZ will cut particulate emissions very much anyway, as the majority of particulates come from brake and tyre wear and the “re-suspension” of those particles. Switching to electric vehicles isn’t going to help with that as they still need to steer and stop.

This rather makes the very marginal benefit of extending the central London ULEZ out to the A406/A205 boundary appear to be a vindictive measure, not one driven by evidence. There is a very marginal early benefit, coming from an assumption that it will bring forward decisions to change vehicles, but by 2030, emissions are predicted to be at exactly the same level with or without the scheme. 

Sadly for some people that is not going to be an option. The high-mileage company car will get changed. But if you are an elderly couple with limited cash and a fixed pension income, changing a car you probably bought expecting it to see you out, is probably not an option. So, they will pay £12.50 to drive to their local hospital. And that just doesn’t seem fair. 

It also seems unfair that the motorist is demonised as the polluter when they have done more than anybody else in the past twenty years to improve air quality. 

The expansion of ULEZ is part of a concerted attack on motorists and driving. At the same time, Councils are pushing ahead with projects like re-building the Edmonton incinerator. This project alone will emit more than 10% of the likely emissions from all the non-exempt vehicles currently driving in London. And it will generate extra traffic on the A406 as it needs to bring waste in from a far wider area than the seven partner Boroughs which form the North London Waste Authority. It is by rethinking projects like the Edmonton incinerator and by focussing on reducing our reliance on gas for domestic and commercial heating and cooking where those gains will need to come from.

If you want to help stop the expansion of the zone, please sign the petition at www.stopulez.com , share this message with your friends, family and work colleagues and consider donating to help support more adverts around London to raise awareness.

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Park Lane, Euston Road, Lewisham Road Closures and Note to Councillors

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Transport for London (TfL) have been active in reducing road space in London by claiming an epidemic emergency. They have introduced a cycle lane on Park Lane, and with the bus lane that has reduced what used to be a three- lane road to one lane. This is one of the key North/South roads in London and the result is heavy traffic congestion extending to roads such as the Edgware Road. The new cycle lane is little used though because there is a good alternative route through Hyde Park.

Another road TfL have now damaged is Euston Road, a key east-west route. One lane has been removed and a speed limit of 20 mph imposed. TfL just seem to be kowtowing to the demands of cyclists and other anti-vehicle groups and the result is great damage to the road network. Longer journey times, more traffic congestion and more air pollution will be the result. London is becoming a “no-go” area for anyone who wishes to drive and use private transport rather than risk infection by using public transport.

Local borough councils across London have been following the lead of TfL and are not just putting in cycle lanes and widening pavements but actually closing roads. How that helps social distancing is difficult to imagine. Lewisham Council is one of the leaders of this illogical move. Make sure you sign this petition against the road closures in Lewisham: https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-lewisham-stop-road-closures-in-lewisham/

PLEASE SIGN IT!

But if you live in another part of London, or even elsewhere in the country, this is a note you could send to your local Councillors to deter them from following Lewisham’s lead:

Dear Councillor,

In the current Covid-10 Epidemic, the Government is encouraging local Councils to introduce measures to temporarily:

a)       Provide more social distancing for pedestrians – for example by widening pavements.

b)       Encourage the use of active transport modes such as cycling or walking so as to relieve the pressure on public transport where there will be limited capacity in the short term and to encourage people to use other forms of transport than cars where increased use might lead to congestion.

That includes new Statutory Guidance under the Traffic Management Act 2004. The suggestion is that Temporary Traffic Orders might be used to implement such measures, where such Orders are required.

I have no objection to ensuring that pavements are sufficiently wide to avoid close contact, the possible suspension of parking bays to enable wider pavements and some provision of cycle lanes on a temporary basis so long as road space is not permanently removed. However, there is a suggestion that road closures might also be considered.

Closing roads (e.g. by the use of “modal filters” or “school streets” involving timed closures) provides absolutely no benefit in terms of social distancing and should therefore not be considered unless there are very good reasons to do so. Neither do they encourage cycling as roads can always be shared between cyclists and other road users.

In addition road closures delay emergency service vehicles who have to take longer routes or can get delayed by extra traffic congestion on main roads. When ambulances are delayed, seconds can count in keeping people alive.

Could you please therefore ensure that our local council does not close roads, even temporarily, in response to the Covid-19 epidemic. It is extremely important that the road network is maintained in a fit state and no artificial restraints are placed on it. Road closures can very rarely be justified even in normal times and it is particularly important at present not to create longer journey times and more traffic congestion.

It is also important to bear in mind that many disabled and elderly people rely on their motor vehicles and they will certainly not be capable or willing to cycle or walk instead. Regrettably the Government seems to have ignored a substantial section of the population in some of their advice but there is no good reason why you need to go to such extremes.

Please consider my comments above and advise your policy on this issue.

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Councillors details including contact information are usually readily available from a council’s web site.

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Petition Against Lewisham Road Closures

The road closures in the Lee Green area of Lewisham are now being installed. For example Upwood Road, a key local route to avoid the congested main roads and which provides access to many local roads has been blocked by “modal filters”. Drivers have actually been driving around the road blocks, as they have also been doing on South Row on Blackheath. This video on the BBC News web site shows what is happening: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-london-53261402/cars-mount-pavement-to-avoid-lewisham-road-barrier . It’s just symptomatic of the frustration of drivers but the Council is taking steps to block this dangerous behaviour.

We have set up a petition on Change.org to ask Lewisham to drop these closures and not install more of them. See:

https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-lewisham-stop-road-closures-in-lewisham/

PLEASE SIGN IT!

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City of London Road Closures

The City of London Corporation have issued a note about the road closures and advisory 15 mph speed limits in the square mile. This is claimed to be a response to the Covid-19 epidemic but is consistent with their long-term strategy to remove all traffic from City streets.

To quote: “The City of London Corporation has begun delivery of its transport recovery plan, designed to ensure the safety of residents, workers and visitors as people return to the Square Mile.

The scheme is primarily focused on providing the space needed to maintain social distancing on our streets and to enable safe walking, cycling and the managed use of public transport”.

Key roads such as Cannon Street, Old Broad Street and Leadenhall Street are affected.

See https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/Pages/covid-19-city-streets.aspx for more information and where you can give your comments.

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Islington Closing Roads

The London Borough of Islington is using the same tactic of closing roads using Experimental Traffic Orders as some other London boroughs. They are using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to make them “people friendly streets”. They are also using the CommonPlace system as an alternative to proper public consultation – see https://islingtonpeoplefriendlystreets.commonplace.is/

But there is already substantial opposition to the closures which will just force traffic onto other roads. A petition against the proposals has been  created on Change.org – see https://www.change.org/p/islington-residents-stop-islington-councils-closure-of-local-roads?

Please sign the petition. Closing roads is hardly ever justified and particularly so at the present time when an efficient and open road network is so essential for transport of all kinds.

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Lewisham Pushes Ahead Regardless in Lee Green

The Alliance of British Drivers issued the following national press release yesterday:

One Metre Rule Makes ‘Social Distancing’ Road Blockages Redundant

Many current and proposed road blockages are now unnecessary argue the ABD.

Spokesperson Paul Biggs explains:

Anti-car authorities all over the UK have relished the chance to obstruct motorised traffic under the guise of encouraging walking and cycling by enabling 2 metre distancing. Most of these schemes have dubious merit and many have simply resulted in making life more difficult for drivers, clogging up the roads whilst the extra space remains virtually unused. With the expected announcement that a 1 metre gap is sufficient, there is even less justification for such schemes. Existing schemes should be scrapped and no further schemes pursued. The roads must be allowed to flow freely to get the economy back on track.

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One London Council that is ignoring this in their desperation to get road closures in place is Lewisham. They previously proposed numerous road closures (modal filters and school streets) as part of their Healthy Neighbourhood proposals. This generated numerous objections from local residents which enthusiastic cyclist Councillor Sophie McGeevor proceeded to ignore.

But the Council has just circulated a letter in Lee Green which spells out that they will be implementing almost identical proposals next week using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse. See the letter here which includes the latest map of the proposals: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Lee%20Green%20Council%20Letter%202020-06-23B.pdf

The road closures will be implemented using Experimental or Temporary Traffic Orders which have not been published (we will advise the details when known). There will be no public consultation on the proposals – effectively they will be delivered as a fait accompli by Councillors ignoring the views of many residents, particularly those elderly or disabled who cannot cycle or walk far.

These road changes are clearly intended to be made permanent in due course. Residents should object to the Traffic Orders and should bear in mind the names of the local ward councillors at the next local council elections who have supported these plans – namely Octavia Holland, Jim Mallory and James Rathbone in Lee Green.

Postscript: The first road closures in Lewisham have now been put in for Scawen Road, George Lane, Kitto Road, Glenbow Road, South Row, Bishopsthorpe Road and Silverdale. These closures have been authorised using a Temporary Traffic Order – see: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Lewisham%20Temporary%20Traffic%20Order%20Phase-1%202020-06-22.pdf

We have sent the Council this letter pointing out that the road closures are unjustified and the wording of the Traffic Order does not justify the closures as it needs to do: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/ABD_Letter%202020-06-26-Web.pdf

The Council seem to be ignoring all the legal niceties including putting in the road closures even before the date authorised on the Traffic Order.

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New Parking Ticket App Combats Private & Council Tickets

Getting a parking ticket is often a cause of concern for drivers. A new App is now available to help motorists challenge such tickets.

Private companies have long issued parking charge notices use a combination of contract law and Protections of Freedoms Act 2012 (POFA 2012). Councils issue penalty charge notices which primarily are based on the Road Traffic Act 1991, Traffic Management Act 2004 and Civil Enforcement … 2007.

The first reaction for most drivers is that the parking ticket is unfair and a money-making scheme.  Whilst this is true in principle, the fact is all parking enforcement falls under some legislation which councils and private companies have to comply with.

The trouble is, most motorists do not have time to read each law and the regulations in order to understand how to fight their parking tickets. Previous apps have sorely focussed on helping drivers write letters based on mitigation. 

The New App

This has now changed with the launch of the Parking Mate UK app which provides a simple way to write appeal letters but the defences also include references to the law which makes it easier for drivers to fight their case.

The Parking Mate UK app allows drivers to:

•         Write appeal letters for private and council issued parking tickets

•         Receive a PDF of the appeal letters instantly

•         It also warns drivers if they are mentioning something that could harm their appeal chances

The company is currently reviewing a data set of ALL successful London Tribunals appeals from 2004 to May 2020 to build easy options for each contravention and allow every motorist to appeal any parking fine. For example, notices have to be issued within specific time limits and the wording of notices must be correct.  

An Example: Westminster Penalty Charge Success

There was a case of Westminster council issuing 12 tickets to 2 vans for a local business during lockdown at £130 per ticket. The law does not allow councils to issue more than 1 parking ticket to a vehicle, instead, if they believe a vehicle is a persistent offender, they should remove it. The defence for this appeal was simply that the council had issued more than 1 PCN for a continuous contravention and 10 tickets were cancelled right away saving £1,300.

Less Than 1% Of Council Tickets Are Appealed

Of the 5,952,808 tickets issued in London in 2018-19, only 36,511 were appealed, which is 0.61%. If 20% of motorists appealed, the company estimates that 90% of these appeals would win their appeal on a number of factors:

Statistics from 2018-19 in the London Tribunal for the percentage of appeals allowed says: Harrow 75%; Redbridge 73%; Ealing 68%; Lambeth 67%; and Hillingdon 63%. The lowest was Sutton with 24%.

The App producers believe that if they can make the process easy for motorists to appeal their parking tickets, we will see more appeals being successful and drivers saving their hard earned money.

About Parking Mate UK

The company was founded by Leo Musami, a former Senior Technology Project Manager who had worked with leading companies such as Accenture, C2FO, Summit Media and Centrica.

Leo has long been helping family and friends appeal tickets and after winning a number of cases for relatives, he decided to dedicate his time to helping drivers. The goal initially was to focus on helping drivers to write appeal letters, however it quickly became clear that debt recovery, court claims and bailiff enforcement were problems affecting many motorists.

Website link: https://parkingmateuk.com

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Lewisham and Westminster Road Closures

The closure of roads in Lewisham continues to generate strong opposition. South Row (near Blackheath) is a particular concern to local residents although the Council has made one change already and has another in motion. This is what one person said on the CommonPlace web site:

“Having read through all the comments I now understand what has happened. A small number of local residents have long been advocating for their own interests to get this road closed through democratic processes, but have previously failed. The council now has emergency discretionary powers due to COVID which it is arguing it is using to enable social distancing. This is clearly wrong (see comments re walking on the adjacent heath). The council has decided to assuage this small number of vocal residents by using these powers for this scheme, enabling them to side step consultation. However, roads belong to everyone, not just those whose house happens to be on them and this is clearly creating so much increased traffic, risk and confusion to legitimate road users including those accessing their own homes, schools and businesses that it should be immediately scrapped – rather than adding further barriers. This is misconceived scheme and really must be a misuse of the powers provided. This is by far the most controversial scheme of all those put forward and should be abandoned immediately”.

That’s typical of the over 400 comments posted to date. The Council is also having to replace the “temporary” planters that closed the roads, and which people have been moving, by “rising bollards” which will increase the cost very substantially. This reinforces our belief that these changes are intended to be made permanent.

You can see all the comments about the closures, and add your own, here: https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/overview

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADD SOME NEGATIVE COMMENTS AND “LIKE” THOSE WHO OPPOSE THESE CLOSURES ON COMMONPLACE!

Westminster Road Closures

Another borough who are introducing road closures using the Covid-19 epidemic as a justification is Westminster – more specifically in this case as a way to re-open the hospitality sector in some parts of the borough. To quote from their report: “In order for hospitality businesses to continue to trade whilst social distancing measures remain in place, we want to support them to serve as many customers outside as they possibly can in a safe and responsible manner. To allow this to happen, we will close some roads to traffic at certain times of the day. We will also widen pavements in appropriate areas of the city. This will create the space needed for restaurants, cafes and similar businesses to put tables and chairs outside. Roads will be closed using ‘soft’ measures which can be installed and removed at the beginning and end of each timed period such as barriers and cones”.

The map below shows the areas that will be affected – such as Soho, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, etc. Many of the road closures only apply after 5.00 pm. They may mainly affect taxis, delivery vehicles and local residents.

Comment: These do not seem unreasonable measures to enable more social distancing and allow for more open-air activity by such measures as widening pavements. However the closures in Soho might be considered excessive. But you can send your own comments to: movementstrategy@westminster.gov.uk

See https://tinyurl.com/y84v6dnb for more details.

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Lewisham Residents Remove Road Closures

Residents opposed to the road closures put in by Lewisham Council on South Row and other roads have been moving the temporary “planters” and been driving through the “Road Closed” signs. The Council will be installing droppable bollards (for emergency service access) from next week to address this “problem” to ensure no motor vehicular traffic can pass through. See link below for details.

Surely this is a good sign of the strength of opposition to these measures that the Council should heed. They are going to remove one of the barriers on South Row but we doubt this will overcome all the objections to this scheme. The council have received hundreds of comments on South Row and the other road closures which they have ignored when they should have done a proper consultation of both local residents and the road users in advance of implementation.

There is no real democracy in Lewisham so some people have decided to take the law into their own hands – it’s hardly surprising.

More Info:

https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/news/18/06/2020/lblcovid19responseupdate

Lewisham Road Closures Done?

The first of many road closures in Lewisham have been installed (otherwise known under the euphemism of “modal filters”).  The roads involved are: Scawen Road, George Lane, Kitto Road, Glenbow Rd, South Row, Bishopsthorpe Rd and Silverdale.

The photographs above and below show the closures on George Lane and Bishopshorpe Road, although in the latter case one can still drive through the obstruction and many people are. One of the “planters” has been moved aside – perhaps by disgruntled residents?

On George Lane numerous vehicles are having to turn round when they meet the obstruction.

You can see many negative comments about the closure of George Lane on this web site (and add your own):   https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/overview

This was one comment: “The first few days have just seemed to divert the same levels of traffic down narrower and more residential roads. I now feel less safe walking on my street (Springrice Road) and certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable getting on a bike on the same road”. It is very clear that the traffic has soon found alternative routes in nearby roads.

As with the other road closures listed on CommonPlace, the objections of residents have been ignored even before they were put in. The closure of South Row alone has already received 278 comments, mostly negative.

Note that one respondent on Twitter queried the cost of these 30 closures in Lewisham in the short term. He suggested that the cost might be about £1,000. This is totally unrealistic. The Healthy Neighbourhood scheme for Lee Green and Lewisham with some temporary road closures and “school streets” was going to cost nearly £500,000 based on a response to an FOI ACT request we submitted. (Reference FOI- 5602941). To quote from it: “The costs for the trial will be approximately 500k – (Construction 300k, consultation approx 40k, traffic data 20k, modelling 50k. plus Although some of the capital costs for, example, planters, can be reused in other cells. TOTAL 492k”.

Regrettably most members of the public have no realistic view of what the costs for highway changes done by local authorities actually are. In essence this is Lewisham Council wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers money to please a few cyclists while ignoring the inconvenience to other residents.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADD SOME NEGATIVE COMMENTS AND “LIKE” THOSE WHO OPPOSE THESE CLOSURES ON COMMONPLACE!

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