Road Closures Culture War

The Daily Telegraph covered the alleged “culture war” caused by road closures in Islington today. The article said: “The leader of Islington council, Richard Watts, hit back at suggestions that the road closure plans were ‘anti-working class’, writing on Twitter: ‘Car ownership in inner-London is linked to income. The richer you are, the more likely you are to own a car. The truth is we’re stopping affluent people polluting working class communities’.

Eliska Finlay, who lives in Crystal Palace, where further demonstrations have been taking place, claimed that the changes have led to a ‘culture war. People are being singled out and targeted for having cars’, the 45-year-old mother of two said”.

It’s certainly true that most of the local councils that are closing roads, as opposed to just putting in over Covid-19 measures such as widening pavements and installing cycle lanes, are left-wing, Labour dominated councils.

Are Labour councillors attacking wealthy car owners indirectly by closing roads?  Perhaps but in reality they are often attacking their own electorate because it’s not just the wealthy who drive vehicles. In Lewisham for instance it’s about 50% of households who own a car and if you walk the streets of Lewisham as I have done, you won’t find many expensive vehicles. Road closures attack workers such as plumbers plus other service occupations, and social service workers who need vehicles to quickly get around the people they help. They also attack delivery drivers who deliver the goods we need, often to people undertaking self-isolation at present.

Richard Watts is surely just rationalising a view that all vehicles should be banned and turning Islington into a ghetto of poor people and the healthy young who can cycle because even the middle classes won’t want to live there as vehicles are so essential for so many purposes. That’s unless you want to be restricted to short walking and cycling distances or using public transport and have no incapacities.

If you actually look at air quality in Islington, the minor roads only contribute 6% of NOX emissions, whereas 20% comes from gas boilers. Buses and coaches also contribute 38% whereas cars only contribute 28% (source: Islington Air Quality Strategy 2019-2023). One could argue that it is the public transport users who are polluting the most!

We surely need to have less divisive politics which can cope with the needs and preferences of more than just one segment of the population.

Roger Lawson

The Telegraph article is here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/08/11/coronavirus-road-closurescreating-culture-war-residents-warn/

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Lewisham and Islington Road Closures

The ABD has received a large number of complaints about the road closures in Lewisham. They are overwhelmingly opposed to them. You can see some of them in this document: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Lewisham-Comments-Received.pdf   (click on to access).

We also now have over 3,300 signatures to our petition against the closures including many comments which you can see here: http://chng.it/ft4KcrVM  

We will be sending all the comments and signatures to Lewisham Councillors and staff in the next few days.

Do make sure you add your own comments to the Lewisham Commonplace web site here: https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/  and “like” the comments of others you support. Click on the top right to see the list of roads on which you can add comments. Note that posts on this web site may be used by the council to claim support for their road closures when unfortunately it is clear that repetitive posts by the same people are being added to try and crowd out opposition. It is therefore very important that you record your opposition to the road closures there and give your reasons why.

Note that our campaign web page is here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm  

We are delivering the leaflet you may have seen to wider areas of Lewisham in the next few days – it has received the highest response rate of any campaign leaflet we have delivered in the last ten years. Meanwhile opposition grows to road closures in the rest of London. But you do need to tell your own councillors what you think about what is happening. It would also help to tell your London Assembly Member and your local Member of Parliament.

Opposition to closures in Islington is particularly active and there have been several public demonstrations against them in Islington. A group is raising funds to pay for campaign literature – see https://www.gofundme.com/f/ludicrous-road-closures

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London 

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using this Contact page: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/contact.htm  to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

More London Road Closures and Another TfL Bailout

Lewisham: The opposition to road closures in Lewisham grows daily with more people responding to our leaflet drop and more people signing the petition against them. We now have 2,700 signatures to this petition: http://chng.it/ft4KcrVM . Please sign it if you have not done so already.

We sent out an update to our Lewisham campaign contacts today and this is some of what it said (you can register to follow the campaign on this page: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm ):

We have received numerous complaints about much longer journey times (sometimes over an hour added to a local trip). Residents are the biggest source of complaints by far, not people from outside travelling through the area. We will publish some of them soon.

A few people support the road closures, but most do not. The Council has done a great job of setting one group of residents against another instead of trying to resolve past complaints about traffic congestion, speeding traffic and air pollution. The road closures have made traffic congestion worse and air pollution probably worse also as people spend longer in queues of traffic on the major roads.

Legal Action

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been consulting solicitors on whether a legal challenge can be mounted against the use of Temporary Traffic Orders to close roads. We believe this is a misuse of the relevant legislation and associated regulations. The needs of the elderly and disabled have also been ignored which is probably a breach of the Equalities Act. The lack of proper and full public consultation before the closures were implemented may also be illegal and is certainly obnoxious.

Note that if we proceed with legal action then we will probably need to raise funds to cover the legal costs. Such actions would almost certainly need to be taken in the High Court and hence are expensive. We will advise further on that at a later date. In the meantime it’s worth pointing out that we have already incurred considerable costs on the Lewisham campaign which have been paid for by the ABD or its Members. If you wish to support us then please make a donation here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/donate.htm

Note that we are extending the area in Lewisham that we covered with our leaflet drop. This will incur considerable extra cost.

Why the ABD is Fighting The Lewisham Campaign

Some respondents to our Lewisham leaflet questioned our motives in undertaking this campaign in Lewisham and suggested we are solely supporting those who drive through the area rather than local residents. This is false.

The ABD is a national organisation that promotes and defends the interests of motorists everywhere they may be. We are not against helping people to cycle or walk, or opposed to improving the environment or reducing air pollution. But we do believe in a rational approach to such issues that does not unreasonably prejudice those who need to use vehicles.

We support local residents against unreasonable impositions by Councils but we also wish to see the road network maintained as a functioning system, and improved where possible, for the good of everyone. Not all people can use public transport for all journeys, or can walk or cycle everywhere. A functioning road system is essential also for goods deliveries, for buses and for emergency service vehicle access.

The ABD got extensive press coverage on our campaign in Lewisham and if we can obtain a legal judgement on the issues this would set a wider precedent. We will continue to fight this campaign until councillors see reason and withdraw the road closures.

Islington: There was a large public demonstration by Islington residents against the road closures in the borough last week. This was outside Islington Town Hall and another is planned for this week. It’s good to see such opposition. A photograph posted on Twitter by AutomaticDog is shown below.

Hammersmith & Fulham: Complaints about the road closures in South Fulham have caused the Council to drop them. But they are replaced by a scheme whereby cameras are used to stop vehicles other than those registered in the area from entering. See https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/articles/news/2020/07/pioneering-new-sw6-traffic-reduction-scheme-launch-20-july . The ABD is opposed to such schemes because it causes problems for visitors and for delivery drivers. It is also administratively complex and undermines the general principle that all roads should be open to everyone as everyone pays for them.

This is what local M.P. Greg Hands had to say about it: “This scheme is clearly designed to be a revenue raiser by Labour run Hammersmith and Fulham Council. On top of the existing million-pound moneybox junction, this scheme will hammer residents, visitors and essential deliveries hard, in addition to increasing traffic on the already congested Wandsworth Bridge Road.

There has been minimal consultation with residents, and Fulham has not reacted well to this money grab by greedy Labour councillors. The Council need to shelve its hastily conceived scheme and consult and involve residents. Traffic in Fulham is a problem, but this is not the solution.”

TfL Needs Billions of Pounds

Transport for London (TfL) is seeking another bail-out in addition to the £1.6 billion already supplied by the Government due to the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on revenues. They are now seeking another £3.5 billion.

Apart from the epidemic impact, an additional problem has been the further delay in the completion of Crossrail. It was supposed to open next summer but any new date is unknown. This was budgeted to add significantly to TfL’s revenue.

The Government is undertaking a review of TfL’s financing but Sadiq Khan responded by appointing his own “independent” panel to examine long-term funding.

These were my comments on Twitter: “What’s another few billion pounds to keep Sadiq Khan in power? But it would be cheaper to sack him and most of TfL”. Tory Mayoral Candidate Shaun Bailey said this: “Sadiq Khan wants another TfL bailout. He’s blaming coronavirus again. But the virus didn’t cause 4 years of negligence. £5bn lost on Crossrail delays, £640m on subsidising tourist travel, £56m a year on TfL staff earning £100k+ and Record levels of debt”. That’s a good summary. You can read what we said about the ludicrous finances of TfL in January (i.e. before the epidemic) here: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/tfl-business-plan-and-budget-for-the-next-5-years-more-of-the-same/

But TfL still have the funds to finance road closures in boroughs all over London!

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Islington 20mph Everywhere

The London Borough of Islington is proposing to introduce a 20mph speed limit on all roads in the borough. At present their wide-area scheme does not cover a few main roads such as those roads controlled by Transport for London (typically “Red routes”), but Islington are introducing this change by simply introducing a “Consolidation Order” to extend coverage.

Transport for London now seem to be supporting the extension of 20mph speed limits to other major roads in places such as Tower Hamlets, Camden and the City of London. They will of course be enforced by the police as has already been taking place in Islington.

There has been no wider public consultation on these proposals but you can object to the Islington change by sending an email to public.realm@islington.gov.uk quoting Reference TMO/4296 before the 3rd July 2015.

The ABD has already objected to this change on the following grounds:

  1. It is simply unreasonable to impose a 20mph restriction on main routes and will result in a considerable slowing of traffic and hence an increase in journey times.
  2. There will be no road safety benefit as a result of this change as it has been clearly demonstrated in other parts of London, and in the rest of the country, that introducing such limits does not reduce casualties. Indeed in some cases they have increased.
  3. This change pre-empts the results of a Government study which has been commissioned by the Department of Transport which is investigating the benefits (or otherwise) or wide-area signed-only 20 mph schemes.
  4. There has been no proper public consultation on this matter as there should be.

Roger Lawson

London Boroughs to Target Diesel Cars and Political Awareness

Not only will diesel car drivers be targeted by the planned Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London, they will also find they are paying more to park on their local streets. The boroughs of Islington and Hackney are proposing higher permit parking charges for diesel vehicles – an extra £50 in Hackney and an extra £96 in Islington where they already have an emission based scale of charges. Islington is of course notoriously anti-car in all of its policies and this will impact 9,000 users of diesel vehicles in the borough.

Those who are unhappy should perhaps bear in mind that the Labour Party is currently in control of the Council but that has not always been so, with a long period of no overall control or other parties being dominant. Indeed Islington Council have a very useful web page that tells you how you can stand for election which is usually a good way to get the attention of existing councillors – it is here: http://www.islington.gov.uk/involved/involvedvoting/electionhow/Pages/default.aspx

Those who live in other boroughs should perhaps start to examine the stance of their local councillors on such matters so you know how to vote at election time. Democracy does have an impact if you take the time to use it.

Roger Lawson

20 Mph Enforcement in Islington

Islington now has a 20 m.p.h. limit on all roads under its control.  This now includes all main roads (formerly it was just residential ones) but excluding Tfl controlled ones like the A1 Holloway Road.  This is perceived by most residents to be nothing more than anti-car gesture politics on the part of Islington council.

This borough-wide restriction has now been in force for about a year or so.  The police have said it is an unnaturally slow speed on main roads and they have not got the time or resources to enforce it.  According to one local resident, on the main roads it is widely disregarded, not just by private motorists, but by buses, police cars not on response calls, council vehicles etc.  However, the police have recently been pushed into giving this Islington council policy some teeth, namely by the one Green councillor.

They are now setting up the odd speed trap with hand-held radar guns. One person was caught doing 27 m.p.h. on her way into work, incurring a £100 fine and three points on her licence.  This was on a bus route, and it’s worth noting that the speed trap was set up near a bus stop, so speeding buses would be slowing down on its approach and the police would therefore not have to pull them in.

Comment: It is often claimed by the advocates of wide-area 20 mph schemes that it will have little practical impact on residents and the police would be unlikely to enforce an unreasonable limit, partly because the technology has not been certified to do so and partly because they do not have the resources. The experience in Islington just shows that this is not the case. If a 20-mph limit is introduced you will in due course be forced to adhere to it, whether it is reasonable for the road conditions or not.

Roger Lawson