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

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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Lewisham Closing Roads for “Healthy Neighbourhoods”

The London Borough of Lewisham is proposing to close roads in a number of areas as part of a programme to reduce traffic and promote “healthy neighbourhoods”. There has been minimal public consultation on these proposals which would cause enormous inconvenience to local residents, visitors and delivery drivers apart from causing congestion on other roads.

The first area they plan to cover is Lewisham and Lee Green where road closures will be installed on a “trial” basis soon but other areas they propose to cover are East Sydenham, Telegraph Hill and Bellingham. See https://tinyurl.com/yy9t92gn for more background information. Such schemes are of course a part of the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy to get us all walking, cycling and using public transport and prejudicing those who wish to use motor vehicles of any kinds. We are likely to see similar proposals from other London boroughs – at least those of a similar complexion to Lewisham who are very much against all road vehicles.

More details of the proposals for Lewisham and Lee Green are present here: https://streetbuilder.io/lewishamandleegreen/site/proposals . Note the proposals to close Manor Lane, Manor Park and Upwood Road which would be particularly inconvenient. The latter would also affect residents who live in the Borough of Greenwich who have not been consulted.

Residents of these boroughs who are likely to be affected by these proposals should certainly contact their local councillors and there is a “public drop-in event” on the 6th February, 1-8pm, Good Sheppard Church Hall, Handen Road, SE12 8NR where you can tell council officers what you think about the plans. There are also email addresses you can send in objections to in the first link given above and there is a meeting in Lee Green on the 11th February – see details here:

http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgMeetingAttendance.aspx?ID=5740

The ABD will be making objections to these plans but local residents need to do so also!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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TfL Business Plan and Budget for the Next 5 Years – More of the Same

London Road

Transport for London (TfL) have published their Business Plan to cover the next 5 years and a Budget for the next year. The latter has already been approved by the London Assembly.

I shall pick out a few key points from these long documents which are certainly worth reading if you have the time – see https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/business-plan .  Bear in mind that as always, it’s money that drives the political and policy decisions – in this case the apparent desire of the Mayor to build a bigger empire and control more of our lives. So private transport will be discouraged and he wants more money from central Government and from Londoners to fix his self-inflicted budget problems caused by fare freezes, Crossrail delays and reckless expenditure on cycle infrastructure.

The delays to Crossrail and its rising cost run through the whole document like an albatross around the Mayor’s neck. Crossrail is now unlikely to open until 2021 which means £750 million in lost revenue as against that expected, hitting the TfL budget. In addition the delays and extra work means extra costs of up to £650 million and it’s not clear where that money will be coming from. There are very optimistic forecasts in the Business Plan for income from Crossrail – for example £884 million in 2023/24. Will it really be achieved?

Diesel Buses, one of the major sources of air pollution in the capital, are to be replaced to a large extent by 2,000 zero-emission buses by the end of the 5-year business plan period, but the whole fleet will not be zero-emission until 2037. However they will be at least Euro VI compliant soon. There is also a commitment to install 300 rapid Electric Chargers for other vehicles by the end of 2020.

Note that the London bus network has been reduced partly due to falling passenger numbers and income no doubt but there is also a reduction in central London offset by increases in outer London.

TfL Transport Commissioner Mike Brown reiterates the commitment to Vision Zero to reduce road casualties despite the fact that the policy has had negligible impact to date – see a previous blog post on that subject. He also commits to tripling the amount of “protected” Cycling space which will mean more underused cycle lanes. But he is also committing to make 73 junctions safer which may assist cyclists.

Despite cutting operating costs, one of the few good things reported, there will be deficits of £307m, £493m and £513m in TfL (after “capital renewals”) for this year and the two following ones and barely break-even in 2022/23. As a result the Mayor will have to substantially increase borrowing to cover that and large amounts of capital expenditure for both Crossrail and other network improvements. That includes £2.2 billion this year and next year, followed by £1.2 billion each year in subsequent years. Total borrowing will reach £12.3 billion within 2 years. None of this is being spent on the road network of course other than some maintenance.

So far as the road network is concerned, the maintenance of road surfaces including the repair of pot-holes has been reduced in the last two years which the documents concede has caused a deterioration in road assets. However there is a commitment to “gradually restore the condition of highway assets, with a focus on those that contribute more to walking, cycling and public transport” whatever that means. Does that mean they will fund repairs to bus lanes but not the rest of the road?

On Hammersmith Bridge whose closure is causing major problems in West London, the document only says that £25 million has been allocated to pay for preliminary work but no contract will be awarded to repair the bridge until Spring 2020 and it might take several years to complete the work. It is unclear where the money required will come from. The Rotherhithe Tunnel will be refurbished within the next 5 years – cost of around £140 million, and work done on the A40 Westway. Work on the Silvertown Tunnel should commence in 2020 and complete by 2025.

As regards the ULEZ, the Budget document finally discloses some financial figures. In 2018/19, the ULEZ will contribute most of the £215 million improvement in operating income in the current year, but with implementation costs of £58 million, i.e. a net £157 million which is somewhat more than previously forecast (see  https://tinyurl.com/y4w6pwuk ). As the Budget document only covers the year 2019/20 and no details are provide in the Business Plan the impact of the extension of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular is not apparent but the Mayor clearly intends to push ahead with that (assuming he gets re-elected).

The Business Plan indicates that fares income is expected to rise at around RPI which ignores the fact that Sadiq Khan has already promised to continue to freeze public transport fares if he gets re-elected, at least for 2020. So the Business Plan may be totally unrealistic.

In summary the Business Plan and Budget demonstrate an incompetent Mayor and senior management at TfL who wish to get us all cycling, walking or using public transport while the road network gets worse. This results in more traffic congestion and more air pollution which most Londoners would prefer them to fix. The persistent financial mismanagement by the Mayor will also come home to roost sooner or later.

A good example of the result of his policies is actually shown in a photograph of an east London street in the Business Plan document. A long queue of traffic in one lane with the bus lane unused and few cyclists in the cycle lane! See above.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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