Update on Lewisham and Other Boroughs Covid-19 Transport Responses

As in many other London boroughs, Lewisham Council have developed a Covid-19 Transport Plan which is in response to the epidemic where social distancing is required. This involves widening pavements, providing more cycle lanes and possibly road closures, much to the anger of local residents. More details are now available in a report to Councillors (see Reference 1 below). I’ll summarise some of the key points:

  1. It includes proposals to create more pedestrian space, quieter residential streets (I think they mean without traffic), safer space for pedestrians/cyclists (i.e. more and wider cycle lanes and wider pavements) and creating safer space outside schools (i.e. road closures called “School Streets”).
  2. Council officers will be given “delegated powers” to create the necessary traffic orders, parking suspensions, temporary barriers and other infrastructure with enforcement via camera technology.

In other words, council officers will be able to implement the kinds of proposals previously put forward in the “Safer Neighbourhoods” proposals without further public consultation or even input from Councillors. The Council has gained additional powers to do these things under new Statutory Guidance issued by the Secretary of State for Transport (Grant Shapps) – see Reference 2. Effectively the new Guidance drives a coach and horses through local democracy and enables Councils to do what they want without any restraint or input from local residents.

The Council’s initial proposals include restricting parking on such roads as Deptford High Street, Luxmore Gardens, Coulgate Street and Hither Green Lane (see report for full list). These proposals are not unreasonable in some of these roads.

They also propose as a second project to introduce “modal filters” to create quieter and safer roads. This is just a euphemism to closing roads to all traffic except cyclists which has been so vigorously opposed by many residents. There are also proposals for School Streets. They propose to use Temporary Traffic Regulation Notices followed by Temporary Traffic Orders. We believe this is a misuse of the regulations as we have said before and made plain in a letter to the Council.

The closure of roads using the epidemic as an excuse makes no sense. Closing roads does not help social distancing. It just favours one category of road users over another. And it is clear that there is the intention to make these closures permanent in due course. The proposals also ignore the requirement to take into account the needs of the elderly and disabled under the Equalities Act.

In regards to “public engagement” the Council has set up a web site called Commonplace – see https://lewishamcovidtransport.commonplace.is/ where more details will be provided. Some is already there, although it seems to be a work in progress at the time of writing. You can potentially add your comments, or suggest additional locations.

Will the Council have the money to implement these proposals? This is doubtful. This is what Councillor Sophie McGeevor said in a recent tweet (‪@SophieMcGeevor): “You know that £250 million investment in walking and cycling that the government have been going on about? Well London boroughs will each only get £100k of that. That would only cover about 20% of our initial COVID-19 transport proposals in Lewisham”.

Let us hope that this will stop them from doing the road closures and just stick to the sensible parking restrictions.

But make sure you send any comments to Sophie McGeevor who is responsible for these plans – her email address is CllrSophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk

Note that a number of London boroughs have already drawn up plans and submitted proposals for funding under the Covid-19 banner, and some money has already been granted. Bromley’s proposals were covered in a previous blog post.

Streetspace and School Streets Guidance

TfL has also published guidance on how boroughs should implement their “Streetspace” proposals – see Reference 3 below. And they have also published guidance for “School Streets” which are being implemented by many boroughs – see Reference 4 below.

School Street Sign

See photo above of a sign that can be used to enforce School Streets.

Reference 1: Lewisham Council Report – Implementation of Temporary Measures…. (see item 3) https://tinyurl.com/y7ojhtxw

Reference 2: Government Funding for Cycling/Walking and new Statutory Guidance: https://tinyurl.com/y9yry8wz

Reference 3: TfL Streetspace Guidance: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/lsp-interim-borough-guidance-main-doc.pdf

Reference 4: TfL School Streets Guidance: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/appendix-8-supplementary-guidance-on-school-streets.pdf

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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