Extremism in Southwark

The London Borough of Southwark held a cabinet committee meeting last night (20/10/2020). One of the items on the agenda (Item 8) for discussion was petitions that have been submitted about the road closures in Dulwich. There were two petitions considered – the first one which collected 2,475 signatures asked for the immediate removal of the road closures while the second one which supported the closures received 29 signatures. One would have thought that was a pretty conclusive view of public opinion in Dulwich.

Councillor Catherine Rose who is responsible for “Leisure, Environment and Roads” spoke in support of the closures. Her speech was full of platitudes about the need to tackle climate change and reduce air pollution.

The problem that the closures of roads such as Burbage will prevent east-west travel in Dulwich and divert traffic onto the South Circular is being ignored. Businesses in Dulwich village are clearly being adversely affected. It seems unlikely that the closures will be removed soon, if ever.

Item 22 on the agenda was consideration of a report on Air Quality and the recommendations therein. These include:

A – The roll-out of a School Streets programme (i.e. timed road closures near schools).

B – To “drive down” total private vehicle usage by 2030 so that only a few electric vehicles remain.

C – To lobby for expansion of the ULEZ not just to the South Circular but wider – as far as the M25.

D – To increase the cost of car parking, and reduce parking provision by 50%.

E – To implement Low Traffic Neighbourhoods borough wide.

F – To lobby for the introduction of road user charging by the GLA.

These measures, if adopted, will mean the death of the use of motor vehicles in Southwark. Southwark is of course a large borough which stretches from central London to Dulwich in the south. Some parts are much better covered by public transport than others. The needs of those who rely on motor vehicles, or the preferences of those who live in the wealthier parts of the borough are simply being ignored. Those people too old to cycle or walk far are advised to leave the borough, sooner or later.

It is in summary a good example of the extremism that is now pervading the councils of some London boroughs.

You can watch the Cabinet Meeting on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/user/southwarkcouncil

Or read the agenda and supporting documents here: http://moderngov.southwark.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=302&MId=6663

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Redbridge Removes Road Closures

The London Borough of Redbridge has abandoned its “Quiet Streets” scheme (a Low Traffic Neighbourhood enforced by “planters” that block the roads). It is to open up the roads. This is after numerous complaints from residents.

This is what Council Leader Jas Athwal had to say: “Many local people have reached out to me directly about the recent Quiet Streets pilots in Barkingside South and Cranbrook West. It is clear that residents have genuine concerns about the schemes. Although we have received some positive comments and significant support for the scheme’s principles, including reducing air pollution and making our roads safer, the overwhelming response has been to ask us to reverse the changes, and we are listening”.  See more here: https://www.redbridge.gov.uk/news/october-2020/redbridge-council-statement-quiet-streets/

Comment: Councillor Jas Athwal and his colleagues are to be commended for their quick and decisive action on this matter. It is very unfortunate that the Government encouraged such schemes and that the anti-car factions have taken such a hold of many local councils, particularly in London.

The use of the Covid-19 epidemic to rush in such schemes without prior public consultation is an absolute disgrace and should not have been permitted in a democratic society. It is very clear that the residents of most London boroughs do not support such schemes and the implementation of such schemes is counterproductive to improving the environment.

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Crystal Palace Campaign Against Road Closures

Above is the logo of a campaign against road closures in the Crystal Palace and Norwood areas of the London Borough of Croydon. Below is a note received from the campaign:

Who are we?

Open Our Roads is a grassroots campaign of concerned citizens working to ensure the residents, traders and visitors of Crystal Palace, Upper Norwood and South Norwood have fair and equal access to all public highways in the area. We stand for inclusive design, community cohesion and accountable governance.

What do we want?

Open roads: Fair and equal access for all road users to all of the local area’s public highways. The first step is removing all road barriers, re-opening our roads and eliminating unnecessary congestion from our main roads.

Clean air: Sustained and continuous improvement to the local air quality, especially on main roads where levels have been measured to be above the legal limits allowed.

Thriving town centres: The best possible conditions for our local businesses and traders to flourish during and after the pandemic while maintaining the unique character of our neighbourhoods.

Meaningful engagement: Proper consultation with all residents, businesses, road users, stakeholders and any person or organisation who will be impacted by significant changes to our local road network.

Evidenced-based policy: Data and evidence that leads to the most effective solutions and best practice policy addressing the community’s most pressing challenges.

Inclusive design: Ensuring our most vulnerable neighbours have access to the services and activities necessary for active participation in our community.

How can you help?

Donate: Help us fight Croydon Council’s badly-planned and ineffective Low Traffic Neighbourhood. With your funds we will continue to apply pressure both publically and legally on the decision makers of this scheme. 

www.crowdfunder.co.uk/open-our-roads   

<END>

Note that the adjoining Borough of Bromley has objected to the Croydon closures because of the impact of the closures on their residents. They have been threatening legal action because of the lack of consultation. See this article for more explanation: https://newsfromcrystalpalace.wordpress.com/2020/08/17/bromley-council-threaten-legal-action-against-croydon-over-roadblocks-leader-says-they-will-have-the-barriers-removed-by-order-if-common-sense-isnt-deployed-and-their-street-paraphernalia-removed/

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Grant Shapps Changes Stance

I have been spending a lot of time on the ABD’s campaign against road closures in Lewisham and other London boroughs over the last few months. It has just achieved some success as Lewisham Council announced a reopening of some roads on Friday. But not enough to appease the complainants, and not enough I think to stop the traffic congestion on many roads.

Part of the problem has been the encouragement by Central Government for road closures and cycle lanes, and funding to assist, as promulgated by Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary.

A Parliamentary e-petition on the subject has already collected near 20,000 signatures in a few days, with some help from the ABD. See https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552306 . Please sign it and get your friends and relations to do so. And write to your member of Parliament on the Subject.

But it seems the worm is turning as the Daily Telegraph reported the following: “A letter, sent on Friday to local authority transport bosses and local highways authorities and seen by The Telegraph, warns how a ‘notable number of councils used their funding poorly and were simply out of step with the needs of the local communities’. Mr Shapps also said: ‘I saw or heard from the public and parliamentary colleagues about far too many instances where temporary cycles lanes were unused due to their location and design, while their creation left motor traffic backed up alongside them; of wide pavements causing unnecessary congestion in town centres; and other issues that many have, rightly, reacted angrily to.’

He explains how he had ordered his staff to “engage” with those councils where he had ‘concerns’, because badly thought out road closures and cycle lanes had been introduced.

‘Since then, numerous schemes have been scaled back and revised,’ he wrote. ‘I am pleased with this, but the work will continue where local residents continue to have concerns.’

He warns the second round of funding in the scheme could see some town halls receiving ‘considerably less’ money if they fail to ‘embrace good design’ or ‘consult their local communities’.”

Let us hope there is real change but I suspect Lewisham and some other dogma driven London Councils will continue to pursue irrational policies so the fight for sensible measures with democratic input will have to continue.

Photo above is of the demonstration on Saturday against the road closures in Lewisham – no doubt more would have attended if it had not been an illegal event. Video present here: https://youtu.be/cqW2hBfK7k0

Roger Lawson

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Lewisham Backtracking on Road Closures

Lewisham Council have made an announcement concerning their Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Lee Green which has caused so much anger among residents. They have not conceded defeat but instead come up with a half-baked compromise that will only pacify a few people. Some roads are re-opened or made one-way but roads such as Upwood Road will remain closed. It also mentions plans for more “School Streets” (i.e. timed road closures) and longer-term changes for the Hither Green and Catford areas in 2021. The exclusion of HGVs from some of the roads may undoubtedly be welcomed by many people however.

You can read the details here: https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/news/2020/10/16/changes-to-lewisham-and-lee-green-low-traffic-neighbourhood-announced? See Map below also.

It’s actually very difficult to understand the logic behind these changes as some local residents will find their journey’s improved while others will not. It is also not at all clear that it will substantially relieve the extra traffic loads on the main roads such as the South Circular.

They claim these changes are the result of “what the local community has told us” but as there has been no formal consultation process or surveys performed they are likely to have only listened to a very selective audience.

These changes are due to be implemented in the week commencing the 9th November when there will no doubt be another bout of confusion on which routes are permitted.

The group of local residents who oppose the road closures, which is supported by the ABD and which now has support from over 10,000 people, will wait to hear your comments before commenting further. Please let us have them.

Note that there is a webinar meeting hosted by Mayor Damien Egan for local residents on the 22ndOctober at 7.00 pm which you can register for here: https://consultation.lewisham.gov.uk/highways-and-transport/lewisham-and-lee-green-ltn/

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New Parliamentary Petition: Remove Guidance and Funding for Temporary Traffic Measures That Cause Congestion

A new parliamentary petition has been registered calling for the removal of recent temporary traffic measures that are creating congestion such as on Hammersmith Road above and all over London (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552306 ). The full text of the petition adds:

“Road closures, ‘school streets’ and new cycle lanes are creating severe congestion, long traffic delays and severe frustration across the country. Although well intentioned, the experiment has failed. Government guidance supporting such measures, and funds for them, should be withdrawn immediately.

Many councils have introduced schemes touted as encouraging walking and cycling, but their real impact is gridlock. They’ve been built without proper consultation, illegitimately justified by the Covid crisis and backed by central government direction and finance.

Congestion and pollution have increased, people are inconvenienced, local businesses have lost trade and lives jeopardised with emergency vehicles stuck in traffic. Cycle tracks are often empty, while the roads alongside are jammed.”

The promoters of the petition acknowledge that the experiment was well-intentioned; but it is now clear that the temporary traffic measures are doing much more harm than good; and they need to be removed immediately to improve the travelling experience for the vast majority of road users.

Counterproductive schemes include: road closure and narrowing in Lewisham, Islington and other London boroughs, an epidemic of temporary cycle tracks and various schemes in Bradford-on-Avon, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Chester, Colchester, Derby, Edinburgh, Harleston, Manchester, Oxford and York, with others being planned.

David Tarsh, who posted the petition, said: “Where I live, the temporary cycle lanes around Hammersmith are a source of huge frustration. The traffic is frequently gridlocked whilst the cycle lanes alongside are often empty. They are dangerous; several people have complained about near misses at junctions and many experienced cyclists won’t use them as they feel the road is safer. Ambulances on emergency calls have been badly delayed and they are causing unnecessary pollution because crawling traffic is more polluting than flowing traffic. Worst of all, despite clear evidence now that they do more harm than good, our council wants to make them permanent!”

Roger Lawson, Campaign Director for the Alliance of British Drivers, had this to say: “We welcome this petition. It has been most unfortunate that central Government has supported these irrational measures and permitted some local councils who have an anti-car stance to introduce schemes without public consultation that have increased traffic congestion, increased air pollution, blocked emergency services and increased journey times for all. The sooner these schemes are abandoned, and we can return to normal, the better. The opposition to such schemes, particularly to road closures, as we saw in Lewisham where we are supporting a campaign by local residents against them, is enormous while local councillors just ignore the complaints”.

PLEASE SIGN THIS VERY IMPORTANT PETITION

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552306

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Demo Against LTN, LibDem Opinion Poll and Tranche 2 Funding

On Saturday the 3rd October there was a public demonstration against the road closures in Lewisham (photo above). This is a typical Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme funded by the Government and TfL under the pretence of a response to the Covid-19 epidemic. But was originally planned as a “Healthy Neighbourhood” scheme aimed at stopping us from using vehicles, or encouraging “active travel” such as walking and cycling, depending on your point of view. It has proved to be an abject failure with traffic congestion worsening, more air pollution and massive inconvenience to residents who rely on motor transport. Even buses have been slowed down.

There were over a 100 people turned up for the demonstration according to a report received despite the fact that it was legally questionable in the current restrictions on gatherings. But some social separation was maintained and the demonstration went off peacefully. Several police vehicles turned up but the police took no action to stop the event.

Motorists and bus drivers tooted their horns in support. One contact said he did chat to 4 bus drivers who all said the same thing “things have only got worse for them since the road closures were put in place, and what the hell did it have to do with Covid and social distancing?”.

I understand that similar demonstrations may take place on subsequent Saturdays. This writer would attend but as someone with a suppressed immune system and vulnerable to Covid-19 for other reasons, I am avoiding all public meetings. No doubt other supporters were deterred from attending for similar reasons but it shows the strength of feeling about this issue. People want the road closures removed without delay.

LibDem Opinion Poll

The strong opposition is also very evident in the results of a survey of Lewisham residents undertaken by the Liberal Democrats, which has just been reported. See https://www.lewishamlibdems.org.uk/residents_unite_against_lewisham_council_s_traffic_scheme for the details. They got almost 1,000 responses, mainly from Lee Green and Hither Green. What follows is a summary.

The LibDems are usually strongly in favour of environmental measures and the survey questions were not seen as totally unbiased by many. But the answers they got were very clear.

To quote from the report: “The majority of residents felt that the scheme failed in its main objective – to tackle the climate emergency. The scheme, which closes many Lee Green roads to through traffic, has created gridlock in neighbouring streets and the increased congestion has added to air pollution, in areas where air pollution already needed to be reduced.

Residents cite many frustrations over delays, confusing signage and missed appointments but the biggest complaint is over the failure of Lewisham Councillors to engage with local residents to discuss concerns. For many residents there have been unexpected and severe consequences on their lives”; and:

“We expected those against any traffic management to be most vocal but critically this scheme is also being condemned by people who want some form of traffic reduction in the area. There is huge frustration about the appalling consultation and the lack of response from the Council and councillors. The majority of residents have concluded it is not fit for purpose.”

The LibDems recommend that the scheme be suspended.

Question 1c in the survey shows the level of opposition. The question was “Are you happy with the Council’s changes?”. The answers were 771 said NO, 159 said YES and 10 omitted a response. That is very clear cut for these kinds of surveys.

There was some support for camera systems to limit use to local residents (a totally impractical and very expensive solution in our view) but time-limited restrictions were clearly not popular.

Many respondents had contacted councillors, MPs or Council officers but 84% of those who did considered they did not receive an adequate response.

You can read many of the detailed responses in the report where it is clear that they are similar to the ones the ABD has received – see this https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm where you can obtain a file of some of them. The anger stimulated by the road changes is very apparent, with local councillors coming in for a lot of criticism for not listening.

Tranche 2 Funding

The Lewisham scheme, and many others around the country, was funded partly by Tranche 1 of the “Emergency Active Travel Funding” from central Government. Tranche 1 consisted of £45 million of which only £5 million was given to London. But TfL also received £55 million for spending on active travel measures on TfL and borough roads.

But Tranche 2 to be supplied before the end of the year consists of another £180 million of which £25 million will go to London. The second tranche is aimed at enabling “authorities to install, further, more permanent measures to cement cycling and walking habits” to quote from a letter received from the Department of Transport by one of our supporters.

It was very clear that the intention all along was that the “temporary” measures such as those installed in Lewisham would subsequently be made permanent and that is how it is going to be achieved. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

But local boroughs do not have to spend this money on damaging schemes. Councillors can reject schemes that residents oppose. They just need some common sense and some guts to do so.

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Locals Revolting Against LTNs and Acoustic Cameras Installed

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are proving to be one of the most divisive political policies in recent years. Brought in without any public consultation, they are creating massive opposition as the road network grinds to a halt. This is happening all over the country as local residents form grass-roots organisations to oppose them, but particularly so in London where there are more such schemes than elsewhere.

With public demonstrations now restricted by the epidemic, and Councillors not listening, people are resorting to other ways to show their anger. That includes death threats to councillors, and vandalism of modal filters and camera systems (for example in Hackney and Lewisham). Modal filters (planters) have been moved aside and “road closed” signs sprayed over.

All this vandalism is to be deplored but when democratic ways of stopping the road closures is thwarted (in London local borough elections are not until 2022) and there are not even any public consultations or other ways of persuading councillors to change their minds, then people resort to other means. This has happened all the way through history. Grievances that are ignored lead to violent revolutions, and that is the way it is headed in London unless policies are reconsidered.

When life become intolerable because people cannot move around, cannot do their jobs, their income is threatened, they cannot visit their relatives or care for the elderly and their health is threatened by more air pollution, then anger rises to boiling point. Councillors and those who are encouraging these defective policies such as the Mayor of London, TfL and central Government need to reconsider before the divisive atmosphere gets worse.

Peaceful Ways of Opposing

There are of course peaceful ways of opposing the road closures and other damaging road redesign schemes. We have listed a number of petitions against them on this web page: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2020/07/12/opposition-to-road-closures-in-london-grows-sign-the-petitions/ and we will update that page as we learn about more. Please sign them if you have not already done so.

Hammersmith & Fulham

Local M.P. Greg Hands in Hammersmith & Fulham has created a petition calling on LBHF to cancel its SW6 traffic scheme and it has received 4,000 signatures to date. But he could do with more – go here to sign it:  https://www.greghands.com/campaigns/SW6petition  

Photo above shows one result of the current scheme in Fulham Palace Road.

Acoustic Camera Pilot to Curb Noisy Supercars

One move to curb anti-social behaviour in Hammersmith and Fulham is the use of new acoustic cameras. Supercar drivers using iconic Sloane Street and the surrounding area as a racetrack could face new punishments, after the Council takes action to curb noisy engine revving in the area.

Chelsea street is a magnet for Lamborghinis and Ferraris, with drivers showing off their cars by cruising the local area, often in convoy. Now Kensington and Chelsea is becoming the first Council to pilot its own noise camera technology to catch drivers who are revving too loudly and disturbing residents and businesses. Persistent offenders will be fined and in extreme cases, on conviction the Council can apply to the Magistrates Court to seize the vehicle.

Lead Member for Transport Cllr Johnny Thalassites said:

“Residents have had enough of drivers using our streets as a racetrack. We have had fines in place for a while now, but this new noise camera technology will make sure we are catching more of the worst offenders. Supercars look good and most drivers are considerate but when they they’re not, it is disruptive and irritating for people living and working in the area”. It has become the first authority to set up noise cameras and run them directly.

Comment: This is surely a sensible initiative to halt this anti-social behaviour that has kept residents awake at night.

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Who Is Right About Traffic in London?

Lewisham Councillor James Rathbone is a strong supporter of the newly introduced Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme in Lee Green ward. He recently issued a Tweet which said: “People are right to be angry that there is so much congestion on their streets but it’s been a growing problem for the last decade”. He also suggested that “Without traffic reduction the number of vehicle miles will only rise”, i.e. that the alleged problem would get worse. He backed it up with some graphs without giving the source or what they actually represented.

My response was that from my experience of living and driving in London for many years, I believed he was exaggerating. I have taken the time to actually locate the relevant data and here it is:

London and Lewisham Traffic Data

Traffic volumes in London, and even more so in Lewisham, have been falling for the last 10 years. If there is any increase in traffic congestion it is the result of new traffic management measures, road narrowing, road closures, new bus lanes, imposition of cycle superhighways and other attempts to impose modal shift on drivers. In other words, poor traffic management is the cause, not increases in traffic volumes. 

I hope Mr Rathbone will apologise for misleading people.

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More Cycling During the Epidemic? Actually No.

The reason for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and emergency road closures during the epidemic has been given as encouraging people to walk and cycle more. But are they?  Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, recently said on Twitter that “we’re seeing a huge increase in cycling”.But is there more cycling? In reality there is no change in the numbers cycling and it remains a minority pastime of young males primarily.

The chart above shows the trend since the start of the pandemic (covering the last 19 weeks) from surveys taken by Transport Focus. It shows that both walking and cycling have not changed in the numbers using those modes with the former stuck at about 7% of all people surveyed.

The use of public transport such as buses and trains has been recovering but car/van and taxi use has been rising. Clearly people prefer to use private transport rather than public transport during the epidemic and they are not converting to cycling.  

So in summary, the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are not creating modal shift as expected, even before the harsh winter weather sets in.

You can read the full Transport Focus report here:  https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/research-publications/publications/travel-during-covid-19-survey-week-19/  

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