Road Closures in Lewisham and Waltham Forest

At the recent Lee Green Assembly public meeting in Lewisham where the proposed “Healthy Neighbourhoods” scheme was discussed it was suggested that similar schemes worked well in other London boroughs. That was despite a member of the public saying that there were definitely negative impacts in Walthamstow (London Borough of Waltham Forest). See our report on the meeting here: https://tinyurl.com/vgoo5jn

I can now report more on the Waltham Forest opposition to road closures having been in touch with the campaign against the “Mini Holland” proposals as they call them which has involved the closure of as many as 70 roads in the borough. The campaign is called “Waltham Forest Streets 4 All” and they have a web site where you can obtain more information and register your interest: https://wfstreets4all.wixsite.com – please register if you live in the area.

This email is being sent our contacts on the Lewisham campaign and also those on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. The latter is what is driving these road closures with local schemes called “Healthy Neighbourhoods”, “Safer Neighbourhoods”, “Liveable Streets” or “Mini-Hollands”. There are similar proposals in Enfield, Tower Hamlets and Kingston and they may appear in other London boroughs as they are financed by Transport for London (TfL) with many millions of pounds of public money.

Their aim is typically to encourage more cycling and walking and they often have objectives to reduce road casualties and cut air pollution although there is no evidence that they have done either of the latter. Indeed in Waltham Forest it is suggested that air pollution has increased due to more traffic congestion on many roads as others have been closed.

The traffic does not disappear if roads are closed, or “evaporate” as it is euphemistically called. It just creates a lot of inconvenience and longer journey times for residents. It also creates problems for emergency services – it is alleged for example that people have died due to delays in ambulances reaching them in Waltham Forest. Police also are unable to pursue motorcycle or moped riders through the “modal filters” that are installed.

You can see the impact on traffic congestion in Waltham Forest in the photos below (courtesy of Paul Dogan):

Waltham Forest Congestion

Lewisham are copying Waltham Forest in that they propose to install the scheme in Lee Green using an Experimental Traffic Order that does not require prior public consultation which is definitely anti-democratic and a way to avoid opposition. Once installed at great expense, it is very unlikely that the road closures will ever be removed.

Lewisham Council have avoided so far answering questions put to them on the cost of the scheme, the expected benefits and a cost/benefit justification so we have submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain that and other information.

There are improvements that can be made to local roads to encourage walking and cycling, but just closing roads to stop vehicles is just plain silly in the views of the ABD and we always oppose road closures. There is no evidence that stopping people from using vehicles results in “modal shift” with more walking and cycling. The figures in London have not changed significantly in recent years.

If readers of this email live in boroughs who are developing similar schemes and want assistance to oppose them, please contact us.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Getting Rid of Cars in London

Bus Jam 208-01-17There was a good article recently in the Guardian by Gwyn Topham entitled “How London got rid of private cars – and grew more congested than ever”. It described in graphic terms how despite falling numbers of cars, congestion has got worse. Part of the problem is that the reduction in private cars, which are almost non-existent in central London now, has been offset by the increase in PHVs (Uber etc) and LGVs delivering internet parcels or doing “just-in-time” deliveries.

Cycle lanes and other reductions in road space have also made matters worse while the Congestion Charge has been totally ineffective in reducing congestion (see this page for our analysis of that costly and ineffective system: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion.htm ).

The impact of more congestion has hit bus users hard and reduced ridership. Slower buses put people off using them and congestion also means an unreliable service. Traffic speed is now down to about 8 mph.

All of these problems have been caused by poor transport policies in London with unintended consequences. Attacking private car use has been turned out to be particularly pointless and just makes matters worse, as Councillors in Lewisham with their “Healthy Neighbourhoods” scheme will no doubt soon learn if they do not reconsider their proposals.

There is a better way, but the Mayor of London and his transport bosses will not listen because they seem more interested in making money from charging road users than fixing the congestion problem.

You can read the Guardian article here: https://tinyurl.com/yxy8g5lq

Roger Lawson

 

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Lewisham Neighbourhood Meeting – Councillors Ignore Public Opposition.

Lewisham Meeting 2020-02-12

Last night (11/2/2020) there was a “Lee Green Assembly” meeting at which the main topic was the proposed Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme. It was well attended with I would guess over 100 local residents there. I tried to ask some questions but was ignored; however my points were well covered by other people.

The event was managed to avoid debate – for example by dealing with questions in threes which avoids follow-up responses. It was clear that some people supported the scheme but it was also obvious that more people opposed the scheme than supported it. Councillors present simply brushed off the objections. One speaker suggested it was appropriate that the event was held in a school because they were being treated as schoolchildren.

I will cover some of the speeches and the questions/answers in detail but this is not a verbatim report:

  1. Councillor James Rathbone (for contact info see below) opened the meeting but Councillor Octavia Holland then spoke. She said the key objective was to reduce traffic. The drivers of the policy are air quality and pedestrian safety. She apologised for people not hearing about the proposals. She mentioned there had been more than one petition on the subject (Note: one of these is still open – see https://tinyurl.com/wpbx57u – you may care to sign it). She also said that 60% of traffic in the area is not starting or stopping within it and admitted that the scheme was going to be inconvenient for some people – that is particularly so as 65% of households in the area own a car. It will need significant change in how people organise their lives.
  1. The scheme is based on the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy and there will be a consultation during the trial period. The scheme also depends on approval by Transport for London (TfL) as it might impact on bus journey times. There will also be multiple “drop-in” sessions, and it was said later that will be another “letter drop” (Comments: so why can’t they simply ask residents whether they support the proposal or not?).
  1. It is also proposed to extend the current CPZs across the area and there will be a public consultation on those proposals.
  1. Questions were then taken by Octavia and Josh Learner who is the Cycling and Walking Programme Manager at Lewisham Council.
  1. The first Question/Comment was from a police constable who said the modal filters will impact emergency response times. It will apparently require the police to get out to unlock and remove the “bollard” to gain access and replace afterwards. She said that you would be “buggered” if it was a single person call-out. The response was that it works OK in other similar schemes.
  1. Another issue raised was the increased traffic on Hall Park Lane coming off the A205 to avoid the road closures. Answer: This is being discussed with Greenwich Council who are responsible for that area – more closures might be imposed.
  1. A cyclist who lives on Burnt Ash Hill supported the scheme but raised the issue of monitoring of air pollution before and after the trial (there may be more traffic on that road, increasing air pollution). The answer was that it will be monitored.
  1. The next speaker who lives on Manor Lane near the blockages was concerned about increased traffic and difficulty getting onto the South Circular which is already a problem. Answer: this will be looked at.
  1. The next speaker complained about the consultation. Why not a simple vote on the scheme, with a letter sent to everyone? (Comment: this is a very good point).  The answer from a councillor was simply waffle at which point they were shouted down. But it was said that the scheme would not be stopped regardless of the public views [in other words, the “consultation” is a farce as the public will be ignored anyway).
  1. A resident of Burnt Ash Hill said that they were going to be poisoned but you are ignoring us, and why can’t we have proper consultation. Councillor Rathbone said that Councils often went ahead without consultation and mentioned a similar scheme in the London Borough of Bromley at Shortlands (Note: the Shortlands scheme is very different and does not involve road closures. There is no public opposition and Bromley Council is very good at doing wide public consultations when necessary).
  1. The next speaker spelled out the impact of low traffic speeds on air pollution and mentioned the negative impact of a scheme in Walthamstow. The answer given was that it will be monitored in the trial.
  1. Another person raised the possible conflict of interest of having a TfL employee on the board of Sustrans who were developing the scheme.
  1. Another speaker raised concerns about the delay to emergency services and access to the South Circular. The answer was that the emergency services had been contacted but had no objections.
  1. One speaker suggested “timed” closures instead of 24-hour coverage to stop rat running during commuting hours. Answer: it could not be done as part of the trial.
  1. A speaker asked whether there were targets for reduction of air pollution and traffic. Answer: There was none because the final design was not settled and there were “too many moving parts”. Comment: this is a major omission and makes it clear that with no targets being set the “trial” will be considered a success regardless of the facts.
  1. The next question was “had they consulted local businesses”? For example Brewers on Chiltonian Estate? Answer: businesses had been overlooked and they are looking into that. Note: the ABD sent a few letters to such businesses but we could not cover all of them and they will be very badly affected.
  1. A resident of Dallinger Road queried the closures and asked how vehicles were expected to turn around when they ran into one. Answer was that perhaps we should move the closures to the other end of those roads. Comment: I don’t see how that solves the problem.
  1. The next speaker complained about the problem of quick access to Lewisham Hospital as all the fast routes would be cut off (the speaker’s husband had often had to be taken to A&E). Answer: there will be some people who take longer to get to hospital. (Comment: delays to emergency services are already a major problem in London where they consistently fail to meet response time targets. Don’t have a heart attack in London as you are likely to die as a result! The road closures in Lewisham will make matters worse).

It was mentioned in the meeting that another draft of the scheme will be proposed. The last one published was Version 11 so there will be a Version 12, or 13, 14, etc as someone suggested.

It was very clear from the comments of people at the meeting that there is widespread opposition to the scheme as proposed, particularly against the road closures. These might make air pollution slightly better for some, but a lot worse for others. Journey times will be substantially increased.

But councillors and council staff seem to want to push ahead regardless. Anyone who has had dealings with councils will know that they hate to admit mistakes and reconsider proposals or abandon them despite public opposition. That is what is happening in Lewisham.

It is also clear that Lewisham Council is pushing ahead with a “trial” of the road closures before doing a proper public consultation. This is an “arse about face” approach to put it politely. They will never to be taken out later.

I urge all residents of the Lee Green area to contact their councillors below.

Contact information:

Councillors:

James Rathbone: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2990

Octavia Holland: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2989

Jim Mallory: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=167

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

Book Review – Demotorized – A Witty Look at the Use and Taxation of Motor Cars 

Demotorized Cover

“Demotorized” is a new book by experienced motoring journalist James Ruppert. As he describes it himself, it “is partly a giant whinge on behalf of the average motorist” whereas he believes motor cars are a “force for good that outweighs any downsides”. That is certainly what the Alliance of British Drivers believes.

The book is a witty look at the history of the automobile and how politicians have taxed them, often using excuses for doing so that have created unintended consequences. Or they have simply misunderstood the technology and the underlying science so that money has been wasted and negative results obtained – such as the push for diesel usage that has now been reversed.

The author takes a close look at the global warming paranoia that is being used to attack personal vehicle use – he clearly does not believe in it at all. He also takes a look at the revenue raising from the pursuit of speeding offences, but unfortunately fails to mention the false statistics on which it was based and how money is being generated by “speed awareness” courses. Indeed he suggests that the latter is a “local authority revenue raiser” when in fact few local authorities currently run such courses – It’s mainly commercial organisations and it’s them and the police who are the main financial beneficiaries. At least that is the current position although there are moves to enable local authorities to get on this gravy train.

There is a good section on the history and future prospects for electric vehicles. The author makes it plain that their economics have yet to be proven.

It’s quite a long book at over 300 pages and a mine of useful information so at £9.99 for the paperback edition it’s good value. But it’s still an easy and amusing read – indeed sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether the author is being serious or not.

In summary a useful book for anyone who wishes to learn more about the motor industry and how the motorist has suffered from perverse government policies.

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Electric Vehicle Charging, Beech Street Closure and CAZ Checking

There are many concerns about the practicality of electric vehicles. One major issue in London and other major UK cities will be how those people who park on the street will be able to charge them after all petrol/diesel car sales are banned in 2035, as the Government is proposing. The above photograph shows a typical outer London suburban street (Upwood Road in Lee, part of the proposed Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme in Lewisham). Cars are parked nose to tail during all of the day. Although some houses have off-street parking, the owners frequently have multiple vehicles some of which are parked on the road. In inner London there is typically no off-street parking at all with closely packed terraced houses

There are suggestions that charging points could be located in lampposts and be operated on a commercial basis, or by installing new charging points along the pavement border. Creating such infrastructure would be very expensive though.

Some local authorities such as the London Borough of Hounslow are suggesting that an alternative is to allow residents to trail a cable from their homes over the pavement (this writer has seen one example of this already). But that creates a trip hazard and is only practical if the car is able to be parked within a few feet of the home. As finding a parking space anywhere near can be exceedingly difficult on many roads, that does not seem likely to be a realistic proposition on most roads. Those people who live in blocks of flats would also have problems.

Even if a cable cover is used, or a channel dug in the pavement as has been trialled in Oxford, it still seems to have limited application with significant risks to the public and the cost might be £1,500 per cable for a channel according to a report in LTT.

The compulsory use of electric vehicles and banning of petrol/diesel ones has not been thought through.

Beech Street

The City of London Corporation is pushing ahead with the closure of Beech Street to all but electric vehicles from Mid-March. The Corporation is running some “Drop-in Events” nearby where you can get more information or ask questions on the 18th, 24th, 25th and 27th February.

CAZ Checking

Several major UK cities are now looking at implementing Clean Air Zones (CAZs) that will impose charges on non-compliant vehicles rather like the London ULEZ scheme. Birmingham and Leeds are two such cities which are reasonably well advanced with plans although the actual start dates have not been announced as yet.

The Government has set up a web site at https://www.gov.uk/check-clean-air-zone-charge where you will be able to check whether your vehicle is compliant but there is no central payment system and it seems auto-pay systems where you simply register your vehicle and a fee is charged to your credit card if you enter the zone will not be available as it is in London.

Basically it looks like this will be a very complicated bureaucratic nightmare to know whether you need to pay and how to pay. There is not even certainty that a vehicle that is compliant with one CAZ or the ULEZ will be compliant in another area.

As with the policy to promote electric vehicles, it appears that no consideration of the practicality of such policies has been considered. Perhaps the Government is intent on making driving so complicated that it puts people off doing so!!

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Lewisham Neighbourhood Scheme – Will Traffic Simply Evaporate?

I visited the Council’s “public drop-in event” for the Lewisham “Healthy Neighbourhoods” scheme yesterday. It was so crowded that it was difficult to get a useful conversation with any council staff (I will be sending them some written questions instead), but I did talk to a few of the other attendees who were all opposed to the road closures and the lack of proper consultation.

Display Panel 3 2020-02-06

There were a number of maps and panels on display, including one with a headline title of “Traffic Evaporation” – see above. If you read the detail of the panel it claims only 11% of traffic disappeared from such schemes, but most of it found alternative routes. In the case of Lee Green this will mean more traffic on other minor routes, effectively displacing the problem and affecting other residents. But there will be a lot more on major roads such as the A20, A205 and A2212 thus creating long traffic queues and more air pollution not less.

One amusing answer I overheard in response to a question about emergency vehicle access was that police cars should be able to just “barge through” the barriers. That sounds exceedingly unlikely. Also some emergency vehicles may be able to get through the camera-enforced “bus gate” on Manor Park but I don’t understand how they will get through the other road closures. Delays to ambulances, fire engines and other emergency service vehicles are a major risk to life – see our recent blog post here which covers that issue: https://tinyurl.com/whzxksr . It is simply wrong for Lewisham Council to put in a scheme that introduces such delays.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Press Release: Hybrid Cars To Be Banned From 2035

The Government plans to ban sales of new hybrid cars from 2035 along with all petrol and diesel cars. That has been brought forward from the previously planned date of 2040 and will now include hybrid vehicles.

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) deplores this over-reaction to the views of the extreme end of the environmental movement. This change in the regulations ignores the whole-life cost in terms of carbon emissions of building, operating and scrapping vehicles. Premature changes will mean more emissions of CO2 not less.

There is also no certainty that by 2035 there will be vehicles available that provide sufficient range, or an adequate network of electric charging points that drivers can rely upon. It will also require a major expansion of the electricity grid to cope with the increased demand. All these changes will impose enormous costs on drivers and the economy, and threaten the very existence of the motor manufacturing industry.

Hybrid vehicles are a good compromise solution to meet the concerns of drivers and ensure that they transition to lower emission vehicles in due course, but this change might actually deter people from buying them. Bringing in tougher regulations might simply ensure that vehicle owners keep their old petrol/diesel vehicles for longer rather than replacing them with new ones, with the unintended consequence that emissions will not fall.

These proposals are part of the Government’s plans to achieve a net-zero carbon target by 2050 which will impose enormous costs on the economy and have no impact on the worldwide emissions. The UK is already a very small part of worldwide emissions and unless major nations such as China and the USA cease using coal in power stations, when they are currently building more of them, there will be negligible impact.

This latest announcement is just another example of “gesture politics” that may kowtow to the whims of environmental enthusiasts in the UK but will in reality have negligible impact apart from inconveniencing the general public.