More Comments on Hammersmith and Fulham Road Closure Scheme

Here are some more comments on the proposed road closures in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham which we covered in a previous article (see https://tinyurl.com/scxyymu ). A local resident had this to say:

LBHF plans to send workers, who should be at home, to build a new traffic scheme when there are no cars on the road!

There is a saying about good times to bury bad news – it refers to the cynical timing of announcements by people wanting to take action that will be embarrassing or unpopular and doing so when journalists and others are least likely to notice. Of course, at a time when we are all preoccupied with COVID-19 and when the roads are empty, we are not likely to notice a new traffic scheme! However, this is the moment the council chooses to introduce one, when it should be focussing all its efforts on tackling the COVID-19 crisis.

With that in mind, please have a look at this from the council: https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/transport-and-roads/share-your-views-sw6-traffic-reduction-plans . It is a proposed new traffic scheme that takes selfishness and NIMBYism to new lows. (NIMBY stands for not in my back yard.) The title of the page says “Share your views – SW6 traffic reduction plans” but I cannot see anywhere on the page giving a link to share your views! That, in itself, looks to me like a ruse not to get any public feedback but to be able to claim it asked for it! Furthermore, was there a consultation? If so, I didn’t see it and I would have thought that as a LBHF resident, I should be consulted. In my books, such practice is manipulative and deceitful.

However, I have not yet explained what the plans are. In brief, the idea is to install number plate recognition cameras and traffic measures on the roads leading between Wandsworth Bridge and the New Kings Road, and to fine road users if they use any other route than Wandsworth Bridge Road. Since Wandsworth Bridge Road is (outside COVID-19 lockdown restrictions) normally very busy this will inevitably gridlock it even more than it is usually and, no doubt, will result in increased takings in traffic fines at the notorious yellow box junctions close to where the New Kings Road and Wandsworth Bridge Road meet. And if you have a doubt about that motivation, ask yourself why the article itself says: “92 per cent of traffic fines (PCNs) issued at the Bagleys Lane/New Kings Road junction were to vehicles registered outside of the borough.”

This traffic scheme has unusual rules. In addition to allowing emergency and other public service vehicles to use the side streets; it also allows local residents to do so and it is explained as a “traffic reduction plan” based on the premise that it will reduce traffic in the side roads because much of it is from non-residents. No doubt the council thinks it is a great wheeze, as they can issue fines, fill their coffers and the residents will like it; but it is evidently ill thought through, prejudiced and likely to be massively congesting once we are allowed again to leave our houses. For example, what happens to customers for shops in Wandsworth Bridge Road who come from outside the area? How will they avoid having their number plates read and receiving penalty charge notices if they try to park in the side streets?!

Apparently, there is a scheme for visitors but how will that work and how much bureaucracy will be involved? Also, how would it be for society if every borough behaved in the same way, forcing all non-local traffic onto a few highly congested roads and issuing fines for diverting? Of course, it would bring chaos and gridlock.

What we are seeing on London’s roads is a vicious circle of increased congestion that has a clear pattern, but people don’t really notice or understand it. It works like this: TfL or the local council introduces new measures that have the effect of slowing or jamming traffic on the main arteries; examples are new traffic lights, widened pavements, new cycle tracks, etc. In response, traffic seeks alternative routes through residential streets. That is met by resident complaints and councils introducing measures to reduce through traffic in the back streets, with the effect that congestion further increases. Local residents are disproportionately inconvenienced because they are the biggest users of the back streets. Because traffic speeds are falling and congestion is worsening, road users mistakenly believe that the problem is caused by increased traffic but that is wrong. The problem is caused by these counterproductive traffic management measures.

The proof of this hypothesis is that vehicle usage on London’s roads has been falling consistently since the turn of the century and with less traffic on the roads, it should flow faster not slower! If, like me, you think LBHF’s traffic camera scheme around Wandsworth Bridge Road is cynical, anti-social and congesting, I encourage you to pass the word on to your friends and family and to email your local councillors, your MP, Greg Hands or Andy Slaughter, to object. The main councillor responsible for traffic is Wesley Harcourt and the leader of the council is Stephen Cowan. Here are their email addresses: Cllr Harcourt Wesley: H&F wesley.harcourt@lbhf.gov.uk  Cllr Cowan Stephen: H&F’ stephen.cowan@lbhf.gov.uk  Greg Hands mail@greghands.com  Andy Slaughter MP andy@andyslaughter.com

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Lewisham Spending £0.5 Million With No Justification

The ABD has been running a campaign to oppose the road closures proposed as part of Lewisham Council’s “Healthy Neighbourhoods” scheme for Lee Green. We submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain information to justify the scheme to which we now have most, if not all, of the answers.

The cost of the proposed “trial” will be just less than £500,000! Will the trial ever be abandoned if there are too many objections? That is very, very unlikely because Councils never want to admit they have wasted money. So the suggestion that it is a “trial scheme” is a fiction.

We also asked for what cost/benefit analysis had been done to justify the scheme. Apparently NONE!

We also asked for information on what traffic modelling had been done to see the impact of likely increases in traffic volumes on the major roads. It seems that it is still being carried out. In other words, the scheme proposals have been put forward without any study of the impact.

We asked for details of the consultations with the emergency services (fire, police, ambulance services). No formal consultations to date – only informal meetings. So clearly the proposal was to put in the trial scheme without doing any proper consultation with them first.

We asked for details of the road accident statistics. Some data has been provided. There were no fatal accidents in the Lee Green/Lewisham area covered by the scheme between 31/1/2013 and 31/12/2017 although there were a few serious and a large number of slight casualties. Drivers and vehicle passengers were the majority of casualties. The figures are typical for inner London boroughs.

We asked for information on air pollution in the area. The answer was that “baseline monitoring” is currently being carried out. So it seems that the scheme was proposed without key data on the historic air pollution and the proposed benefits from the scheme.

Bearing in mind the claims for “rat-running” on the area’s roads we asked for what proportion of the claimed vehicles were non-resident delivery or service vehicles. No data on that is available apparently.

In summary it seems the trial scheme proposals have been put forward without any proper investigation of the need for it. In addition, as no baselines have been established it will not be possible to say later whether the scheme has provided any benefits or not.

It is rather as the ABD suspected. The scheme has been proposed simply by councillors and council staff who have a prejudice against private vehicles and would like everyone to cycle, walk or use public transport.

There is no evidence that it will provide any health benefits as is claimed and it will simply be a waste of public funds. But with Transport for London providing the funds and the Mayor of London encouraging such schemes, this is the kind of perverse result that we are seeing.

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Another Way to Cut Traffic, and Undermine the Road Network

Schemes where local roads are closed to vehicles to reduce traffic have been strongly opposed in boroughs such as Lewisham and Waltham Forest. They create enormous inconvenience to local residents and worse traffic congestion even though the objective is primarily to stop “rat-running” (otherwise known “as drivers taking the most direct and least congested route to their destination” if one wishes to avoid such emotive language).

Residential roads in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (H&F) have come under extra pressure due to the closure of Hammersmith Bridge. The council tried an experimental scheme of closing Harwood Terrace but at a full council meeting on the 25th February it was decided to halt the closure after over 2,000 complaints were received.

But they are now proposing an alternative approach which is to use number plate recognition technology to prevent all “out of borough” drivers from using streets to the east of Wandsworth Bridge Road. In effect they are putting residents first but buses, taxis and delivery drivers plus electric vehicles will be able to obtain a permit to use the roads. More details are available here: https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/transport-and-roads/share-your-views-sw6-traffic-reduction-plans

H+F Road ClosuresComment: the ABD opposes all road closure schemes as they destroy the road network. We also do not see why local residents should have any special rights over using a road network that is public property. It will also be an enormously bureaucratic scheme and like many other camera enforced schemes, lead to enormous numbers of fines on people who accidentally infringe the regulations.

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Turning Liveable Neighbourhoods into Unliveable Ones

Road Closed Sign

A number of London boroughs are introducing schemes that include road closures – for example the Mini-Holland schemes in Waltham Forest and the Healthy Neighbourhood schemes in Lewisham. These are being financed by Transport for London (TfL) so it’s worthwhile looking at where the ideas behind these schemes come from, apart from the general attacks on cars and private transport from the environmental fringe.

The TfL Liveable Neighbourhood Guidance document published by the Mayor of London and TfL in 2019 tells you a lot – see Reference 1 below: This is what it defines as a “liveable neighbourhood”: “A Liveable Neighbourhoods project will deliver attractive, healthy, accessible and safe neighbourhoods for people. Typically, this may involve changes to town centres and their surrounding residential areas to improve conditions for walking and cycling and reduce traffic dominance. This may include new pedestrian crossings, a network of good cycle routes, reduced parking provision, redesigned junctions, restrictions on motor traffic in town centres, high streets and residential streets, and wider improvements against each of the ten Healthy Streets Indicators” (page 5).

It also says on page 8: “Reducing the need to use cars is the cornerstone of the Mayor’s vision and will provide huge benefits for all Londoners. More walking and cycling can make everyone healthier. Older people and the very young, disabled people and those living on lower incomes are most likely to be affected by the problems associated with a car-dependent city, such as poor air quality and road danger. Therefore, reduced car use will make London fairer”.

Forcing people to walk or cycle more may make them healthier but it simply ignores the problems of the disabled and elderly, or the practicality of making some trips by public transport. It makes London unfairer not fairer.

These concepts are based on the policies in Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy of which the ABD has been very critical as it ignores the wishes of the general public in London. They wish to choose how they travel, not have it dictated to them by bureaucrats in City Hall.

These same ideas have been reflected in the Transport Strategy and Local Implementation Plan (LIP) adopted by Lewisham Council in 2019 – see Reference 2 below:  This is what that document says on page 6: “Healthy Neighbourhoods: this programme will adopt the principles of the Liveable Neighbourhoods schemes, and apply them at smaller-scale local levels. It will incorporate ‘Healthy Schools’ principles and provide measures to encourage more active travel and traffic reduction through point closures, identifying and addressing issues of rat-running”. But road closures do not just stop “rat-running” which could otherwise be described as people using the least congested routes, but they inconvenience local residents from using the shortest routes also.

That document spells out that the Equality Act requires councils not to discriminate on the basis of age or ability, but when you look at the Equalities Impact Assessment done by Project Centre on the Lewisham LIP – see Reference 3 below – it simply suggests that older people can use public transport. As regards disabled people (representing 14.5% of Lewisham’s population) it suggests that they can be assisted to walk through “intelligent engineering” of streets. This is a gross trivialisation of the problems of the elderly and disabled and was clearly written by someone with no understanding of their problems. It concludes by saying that “The draft LIP does not adversely impact on any particular group and can reduce the barriers for all groups to accessing the transport system”. It is in reality a complete whitewash of the problems that will be created by the Lewisham LIP, the Healthy Neighbourhoods proposals and the street closures.

What public consultation has been done on these important issues? Certainly the LIP was put out to public consultation and a report subsequently produced in 2018. But it shows only 228 responses were received, and a lot of them were from cyclists, i.e. as is now common the results were probably distorted by cyclist pressure groups. The report covers a lot of issues and public responses but it summarises by saying “Few respondents oppose the LIP programmes”.

But the consultation did not spell out what the implications were and few people actually look at LIPs – the ABD were certainly not consulted for example even though we are clearly a stakeholder, and the vast majority of the public would not have been aware of it and its implications.

So the Lewisham Healthy Neighbourhood proposals have been developed based on policies that have been put forward by TfL and subsequently approved by Councillors in the LIP but with minimal input from the public.

That’s how democracy works in the modern world, or does not work. Turning a liveable neighbourhood into an unliveable one for many people.

How do you stop such schemes from being proposed and supported by councillors? The simplest way is not to re-elect those councillors who believe that only the young and fit should be permitted to live in an area, and that cars should be banned. If they support the “Liveable Neighbourhood” concepts and Sadiq Khan’s ideas for the future of London then VOTE AGAINST THEM.

Note that the ABD does not back any one political party but when we see perverse and irrational policies advocated by the Mayor of London or local Councillors, we will oppose them. We suggest you do the same.

The ABD supports democracy but that is not what has been happening in Lewisham or Waltham Forest where anti-car groups have dictated the agenda and ignored the wishes of the public.

Note that local borough Councillors do not have to kowtow to the Mayor of London’s policies. They can oppose the irrational elements such as road closures that will create more congestion. Don’t let your local Councillors tell you it is all ordained – it is not.

Reference 1: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/tfl-liveable-neighbourhood-guidance.pdf

Reference 2: Lewisham LIP: https://tinyurl.com/sp563yq

Reference 3: LIP Equalities Impact Assessment: https://tinyurl.com/usjlw5n

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Air Pollution in Islington, Finsbury Square Car Park, Rotherhithe Bridge and Hammersmith Bridge

This article contains a summary of some recent news on transport issues of interest to Londoners.

Islington Air Pollution

First London air quality is a hot topic of late and it’s interesting to look at an “Air Pollution Update” published by Islington Council (see https://tinyurl.com/qljusdl for the full report but a few key points follow).

On PM2.5 particulates it reports steady falls from 2010 to 2016 so that road transport now only supplies 28% of the total. Commercial cooking is a larger proportion and has not declined at all while there are lots of other contributors. As regards NO2 which is the other emission that people are concerned with even though the proof that it is dangerous is quite limited, this has been falling sharply since 2005-2007. It might now be half what it was on the latest figures – see chart below from the report.

Islington NO2 Emissions

These declines are probably similar in other London boroughs and air pollution will continue to decline from road transport including cars due to tougher vehicle standards. The Mayor of London’s imposition of a wider area ULEZ is simply not justified.

Finsbury Square Car Park

Those who have worked in the City might be aware that there is an underground car park operated by NCP under Finsbury Square. It has a bowling green and an area of grass on top which is used by City workers in the summer, but it is generally a bit run down with abandoned petrol stations still there. But now there are plans to redevelop it. What the redevelopment might contain is not clear as the plans have not been made public. It would certainly be a pity if one of the few car parks in the City is lost.

Rotherhithe Bridge or Ferry

We have previously covered the proposals for a bridge (cyclists/pedestrians only) across the Thames at Rotherhithe. This was an enormously expensive project for little benefit and received many local objections. TfL have now announced they are progressing the design of a ferry crossing instead. See https://tinyurl.com/tx5zutf for more information, but it’s still only for cyclists and pedestrians, and the economics are not yet disclosed.

Hammersmith Bridge

The closure of Hammersmith Bridge is creating lots of difficulties for residents of West London. It has been suggested that a temporary road bridge be put in place while the listed bridge is being repaired, at a possible cost of £5 million, but it seems there is little support for that idea. Instead TfL is proposing a temporary walking and cycling bridge. This would be a seven-metre wide, prefabricated steel structure. See https://tinyurl.com/st8s7m4 for more information and to give your views. But it will hardly solve the traffic congestion problems that are otherwise going to last for some years.

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Comments on Heathrow Airport Decision

Heathrow plane

The big news last week was the Appeal Court Decision to uphold the challenge by environmental groups to the approval of a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport by the Government.

The basis for the Court’s decision was that the Government had ignored their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce carbon emissions. The Government denies that they had but have decided not to appeal the decision. However Heathrow Airport itself is to appeal to the Supreme Court as they believe they can meet the objections. The Appeal Court did not overturn previous High Court rejection of other challenges over air and noise pollution, traffic, and the cost of the runway so it’s not exactly a clear-cut victory.

However Boris Johnson has previously opposed the third runway perhaps because his Parliamentary constituency is Uxbridge which is badly affected by aircraft noise so it may be a convenient decision for him. It will avoid him having to lie down in front of bulldozers to stop it as he previously promised. One commentator described him as acting like Pontius Pilate, i.e. looking the other way and washing his hands of the matter.

So far as drivers are concerned this is surely good news. This is what I said in a previous blog post after the Government said it was pushing ahead in 2016: “It will bring major challenges to the road network because the new runway will have to run over the M25. So that will likely have to be moved into a tunnel. In addition the western side of the M25 is one of the most congested parts of the UK road network already and the extra traffic generated by Heathrow expansion will make that even worse. So widening of both the M25 and M4 is probably required. The costs of those improvements could be over £3 billion and it could take over 6 years to implement with no doubt a lot of traffic disruption while it is being built.

In addition the extra aircraft movements and more traffic will have negative environmental impacts in both air pollution and noise.

Comment: this was surely one of the worst decisions ever made by a UK Government. There were a number of better alternatives for airport expansion, including the encouragement of the use of other regional airports. Why does the whole country find it necessary to travel through Heathrow when smaller airports are altogether easier to use?”

Residents of West London will no doubt be overjoyed by this decision as they are badly affected by aircraft noise which certainly would be made worse by the extra flights a third runway would mean. Aircraft noise from Heathrow even affects distant parts of London such as the South-East to which this writer can personally testify.

Will this legal decision impact other transport projects such as HS2 (an environmental disaster on several grounds) or road building schemes? Not necessarily because the Government always has ultimate authority and can override any commitment to the Paris Agreement if they wished by an Act of Parliament and the Appeal Court legal decision is about the decision process used, i.e. it’s a technical issue in essence. However the Government has made the unwise decision to commit to zero carbon by 2050 which is both irrational and unaffordable in this writer’s view. UK policies will have very little impact on global CO2 emissions even if you accept that CO2 levels affect climate change (as opposed to vice versa) which many people do not.

However the environmental lobby is having a major impact on national and local policies. This is what ABD Environment Spokesman Paul Biggs recently said in a press release: “People don’t realise the costs in terms of money, jobs and freedom of travel that they will start to face in the near future from eco-austerity policies unashamedly aimed at the totalitarian control of every aspect of our lives without having any positive effect on weather, climate, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or life expectancy. The computer model-dependent climate death cult is a gift to a cross-party political class elite that are financially and socially insulated from a net zero agenda waved through Parliament without debate or an estimate of the real costs involved. Voters will eventually vent their anger outside of selective, anti-democratic, brainwashing ‘Climate Assemblies.’ We have a Democracy Emergency, not a Climate Emergency.”

Roger Lawson

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Mini-Hollands and Why Road Closures May Be Illegal

HollandBoris Johnson has announced a £5 billion fund to “overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London”. This, he said, would result in cyclists “enjoying hundreds of miles of brand-new separated lanes, with ‘mini-Hollands’ blooming like so many tulips in towns and cities right across the country”. Mini-Hollands were first promoted by Mr Johnson when he was Mayor of London and are being implemented in several London Boroughs. Exactly what are Mini-Hollands?

In reality there is no clear definition but they typically involve the promotion of cycling with more cycle lanes, junction improvements to improve safety and road closures to reduce traffic. This web page gives details of the schemes in the London Boroughs of Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest but there are several other boroughs planning similar schemes: https://tinyurl.com/wemwlba . Sometimes they are called something different so in Lewisham their plans are named “Healthy Neighbourhoods”.  But they have one thing in common – they are all prejudicial to the interests of car users. They are even damaging to the interests of bus users as additional traffic congestion delays buses and causes some routes to be cut as bus lanes are “repurposed” as cycle lanes.

Most of these schemes include road closures that aim to reduce traffic by simply blocking it. In reality people don’t stop using cars they simply find alternative longer routes that typically add to congestion on main roads and increase air pollution.

There are also major concerns about delays to emergency service vehicles (ambulances, fire engines and police) as delays to those can cost lives. This problem is being ignored by proponents of such schemes. They also ignore the fact that the disabled and elderly can use cars when they cannot walk far or cycle, and that some journeys are simply impractical via public transport.

The schemes are often put in without proper public consultation and there is enormous opposition to road closures. But are such closures actually legal?

Legal Considerations

Can a local Council legally close roads? Roads can be closed by the use of Traffic Orders but there needs to be reasonable justification for such closures and time given for objections. There are also several Acts of Parliament that might be relevant. For example:

–         The Road Traffic Act 1984 which contains this sentence (in Section 122): “It shall be the duty of the Greater London Council and of every other local authority upon whom functions are conferred by or under this Act, so to exercise the functions conferred on them by this Act …. to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic….”. Road closures aimed simply at reducing traffic appear to be ignoring that duty.

–         The Traffic Management Act 2004 which puts a duty on local traffic authorities to manage their road network to make sure that traffic can move freely. Again this duty is being ignored.

–         The Equalities Act 2010 which restricts discrimination against people with disabilities or based on age when road closure proposals negatively impact those sections of the community.

These pieces of legislation might enable a challenge to any such proposals.

Make Sure You Oppose Them

Readers should make sure they oppose such schemes. Mini-Hollands are not a way to improve the health of the population and as cycling is an inherently more dangerous way of travelling, encouraging it actually makes road casualty statistics worse (as is apparent in the figures from Holland).

Mini-Hollands are a euphemistic name for damaging road closures which create enormous inconvenience for road users. It’s all double Dutch to anyone who knows much about road safety, traffic and environmental issues.

Roger Lawson

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