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

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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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Park Lane, Euston Road, Lewisham Road Closures and Note to Councillors

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Transport for London (TfL) have been active in reducing road space in London by claiming an epidemic emergency. They have introduced a cycle lane on Park Lane, and with the bus lane that has reduced what used to be a three- lane road to one lane. This is one of the key North/South roads in London and the result is heavy traffic congestion extending to roads such as the Edgware Road. The new cycle lane is little used though because there is a good alternative route through Hyde Park.

Another road TfL have now damaged is Euston Road, a key east-west route. One lane has been removed and a speed limit of 20 mph imposed. TfL just seem to be kowtowing to the demands of cyclists and other anti-vehicle groups and the result is great damage to the road network. Longer journey times, more traffic congestion and more air pollution will be the result. London is becoming a “no-go” area for anyone who wishes to drive and use private transport rather than risk infection by using public transport.

Local borough councils across London have been following the lead of TfL and are not just putting in cycle lanes and widening pavements but actually closing roads. How that helps social distancing is difficult to imagine. Lewisham Council is one of the leaders of this illogical move. Make sure you sign this petition against the road closures in Lewisham: https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-lewisham-stop-road-closures-in-lewisham/

PLEASE SIGN IT!

But if you live in another part of London, or even elsewhere in the country, this is a note you could send to your local Councillors to deter them from following Lewisham’s lead:

Dear Councillor,

In the current Covid-10 Epidemic, the Government is encouraging local Councils to introduce measures to temporarily:

a)       Provide more social distancing for pedestrians – for example by widening pavements.

b)       Encourage the use of active transport modes such as cycling or walking so as to relieve the pressure on public transport where there will be limited capacity in the short term and to encourage people to use other forms of transport than cars where increased use might lead to congestion.

That includes new Statutory Guidance under the Traffic Management Act 2004. The suggestion is that Temporary Traffic Orders might be used to implement such measures, where such Orders are required.

I have no objection to ensuring that pavements are sufficiently wide to avoid close contact, the possible suspension of parking bays to enable wider pavements and some provision of cycle lanes on a temporary basis so long as road space is not permanently removed. However, there is a suggestion that road closures might also be considered.

Closing roads (e.g. by the use of “modal filters” or “school streets” involving timed closures) provides absolutely no benefit in terms of social distancing and should therefore not be considered unless there are very good reasons to do so. Neither do they encourage cycling as roads can always be shared between cyclists and other road users.

In addition road closures delay emergency service vehicles who have to take longer routes or can get delayed by extra traffic congestion on main roads. When ambulances are delayed, seconds can count in keeping people alive.

Could you please therefore ensure that our local council does not close roads, even temporarily, in response to the Covid-19 epidemic. It is extremely important that the road network is maintained in a fit state and no artificial restraints are placed on it. Road closures can very rarely be justified even in normal times and it is particularly important at present not to create longer journey times and more traffic congestion.

It is also important to bear in mind that many disabled and elderly people rely on their motor vehicles and they will certainly not be capable or willing to cycle or walk instead. Regrettably the Government seems to have ignored a substantial section of the population in some of their advice but there is no good reason why you need to go to such extremes.

Please consider my comments above and advise your policy on this issue.

<END>

Councillors details including contact information are usually readily available from a council’s web site.

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Petition Against Lewisham Road Closures

The road closures in the Lee Green area of Lewisham are now being installed. For example Upwood Road, a key local route to avoid the congested main roads and which provides access to many local roads has been blocked by “modal filters”. Drivers have actually been driving around the road blocks, as they have also been doing on South Row on Blackheath. This video on the BBC News web site shows what is happening: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-london-53261402/cars-mount-pavement-to-avoid-lewisham-road-barrier . It’s just symptomatic of the frustration of drivers but the Council is taking steps to block this dangerous behaviour.

We have set up a petition on Change.org to ask Lewisham to drop these closures and not install more of them. See:

https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-lewisham-stop-road-closures-in-lewisham/

PLEASE SIGN IT!

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Islington Closing Roads

The London Borough of Islington is using the same tactic of closing roads using Experimental Traffic Orders as some other London boroughs. They are using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to make them “people friendly streets”. They are also using the CommonPlace system as an alternative to proper public consultation – see https://islingtonpeoplefriendlystreets.commonplace.is/

But there is already substantial opposition to the closures which will just force traffic onto other roads. A petition against the proposals has been  created on Change.org – see https://www.change.org/p/islington-residents-stop-islington-councils-closure-of-local-roads?

Please sign the petition. Closing roads is hardly ever justified and particularly so at the present time when an efficient and open road network is so essential for transport of all kinds.

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Lewisham and Westminster Road Closures

The closure of roads in Lewisham continues to generate strong opposition. South Row (near Blackheath) is a particular concern to local residents although the Council has made one change already and has another in motion. This is what one person said on the CommonPlace web site:

“Having read through all the comments I now understand what has happened. A small number of local residents have long been advocating for their own interests to get this road closed through democratic processes, but have previously failed. The council now has emergency discretionary powers due to COVID which it is arguing it is using to enable social distancing. This is clearly wrong (see comments re walking on the adjacent heath). The council has decided to assuage this small number of vocal residents by using these powers for this scheme, enabling them to side step consultation. However, roads belong to everyone, not just those whose house happens to be on them and this is clearly creating so much increased traffic, risk and confusion to legitimate road users including those accessing their own homes, schools and businesses that it should be immediately scrapped – rather than adding further barriers. This is misconceived scheme and really must be a misuse of the powers provided. This is by far the most controversial scheme of all those put forward and should be abandoned immediately”.

That’s typical of the over 400 comments posted to date. The Council is also having to replace the “temporary” planters that closed the roads, and which people have been moving, by “rising bollards” which will increase the cost very substantially. This reinforces our belief that these changes are intended to be made permanent.

You can see all the comments about the closures, and add your own, here: https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/overview

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADD SOME NEGATIVE COMMENTS AND “LIKE” THOSE WHO OPPOSE THESE CLOSURES ON COMMONPLACE!

Westminster Road Closures

Another borough who are introducing road closures using the Covid-19 epidemic as a justification is Westminster – more specifically in this case as a way to re-open the hospitality sector in some parts of the borough. To quote from their report: “In order for hospitality businesses to continue to trade whilst social distancing measures remain in place, we want to support them to serve as many customers outside as they possibly can in a safe and responsible manner. To allow this to happen, we will close some roads to traffic at certain times of the day. We will also widen pavements in appropriate areas of the city. This will create the space needed for restaurants, cafes and similar businesses to put tables and chairs outside. Roads will be closed using ‘soft’ measures which can be installed and removed at the beginning and end of each timed period such as barriers and cones”.

The map below shows the areas that will be affected – such as Soho, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, etc. Many of the road closures only apply after 5.00 pm. They may mainly affect taxis, delivery vehicles and local residents.

Comment: These do not seem unreasonable measures to enable more social distancing and allow for more open-air activity by such measures as widening pavements. However the closures in Soho might be considered excessive. But you can send your own comments to: movementstrategy@westminster.gov.uk

See https://tinyurl.com/y84v6dnb for more details.

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Lewisham Residents Remove Road Closures

Residents opposed to the road closures put in by Lewisham Council on South Row and other roads have been moving the temporary “planters” and been driving through the “Road Closed” signs. The Council will be installing droppable bollards (for emergency service access) from next week to address this “problem” to ensure no motor vehicular traffic can pass through. See link below for details.

Surely this is a good sign of the strength of opposition to these measures that the Council should heed. They are going to remove one of the barriers on South Row but we doubt this will overcome all the objections to this scheme. The council have received hundreds of comments on South Row and the other road closures which they have ignored when they should have done a proper consultation of both local residents and the road users in advance of implementation.

There is no real democracy in Lewisham so some people have decided to take the law into their own hands – it’s hardly surprising.

More Info:

https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/news/18/06/2020/lblcovid19responseupdate

Lewisham Road Closures Done?

The first of many road closures in Lewisham have been installed (otherwise known under the euphemism of “modal filters”).  The roads involved are: Scawen Road, George Lane, Kitto Road, Glenbow Rd, South Row, Bishopsthorpe Rd and Silverdale.

The photographs above and below show the closures on George Lane and Bishopshorpe Road, although in the latter case one can still drive through the obstruction and many people are. One of the “planters” has been moved aside – perhaps by disgruntled residents?

On George Lane numerous vehicles are having to turn round when they meet the obstruction.

You can see many negative comments about the closure of George Lane on this web site (and add your own):   https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/overview

This was one comment: “The first few days have just seemed to divert the same levels of traffic down narrower and more residential roads. I now feel less safe walking on my street (Springrice Road) and certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable getting on a bike on the same road”. It is very clear that the traffic has soon found alternative routes in nearby roads.

As with the other road closures listed on CommonPlace, the objections of residents have been ignored even before they were put in. The closure of South Row alone has already received 278 comments, mostly negative.

Note that one respondent on Twitter queried the cost of these 30 closures in Lewisham in the short term. He suggested that the cost might be about £1,000. This is totally unrealistic. The Healthy Neighbourhood scheme for Lee Green and Lewisham with some temporary road closures and “school streets” was going to cost nearly £500,000 based on a response to an FOI ACT request we submitted. (Reference FOI- 5602941). To quote from it: “The costs for the trial will be approximately 500k – (Construction 300k, consultation approx 40k, traffic data 20k, modelling 50k. plus Although some of the capital costs for, example, planters, can be reused in other cells. TOTAL 492k”.

Regrettably most members of the public have no realistic view of what the costs for highway changes done by local authorities actually are. In essence this is Lewisham Council wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers money to please a few cyclists while ignoring the inconvenience to other residents.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADD SOME NEGATIVE COMMENTS AND “LIKE” THOSE WHO OPPOSE THESE CLOSURES ON COMMONPLACE!

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Lewisham Road Closure News

Scawen Road

What’s happening you may ask about the proposed road closures in Lewisham? These were originally proposed for Lee Green and other parts of the Borough under the Healthy Neighbourhood scheme, but are now being put forward as Covid-19 epidemic emergency responses. At least that seems to be the justification as it is proving impossible to obtain any information on them from the Council. I suspect this is a deliberate obstruction of local democracy but I am submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain more information.

In the meantime, Councillor Sophie McGeevor has issued the following Tweet: “As part of our emergency roll out of measures to support walking and cycling in Lewisham 6 modal filters (of an initial phase of 30) are being implemented next week!”

The roads involved are: Scawen Road (see photo above), George Lane, Kitto Road, Glenbow Rd, South Row, Bishopsthorpe Rd and Silverdale. These are spread around the borough so why they have been selected is not obvious.

You can see more information and add some comments here:  https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/overview

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADD SOME NEGATIVE COMMENTS AND “LIKE” THOSE WHO OPPOSE THESE CLOSURES!

You could also send comments to Sophie McGeevor who is responsible for these plans – her email address is CllrSophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk

If you don’t object, these closures are likely to be made permanent! The closures are likely to be implemented via Experimental Traffic Orders but these do not yet appear to have been published. It is important to oppose them when published. You should be able to find them in The Gazette (see https://www.thegazette.co.uk/  ) where all official notices appear. To search for notices from any London Borough use the search function to search for the boroughs name, e.g. “London Borough of Lewisham”).

The ABD suggests that roads should not be closed without prior public consultations that include both local residents and road users. Such road closures do not help with social distancing so there is no justification for them as “emergency” measures. They create more traffic congestion and longer journey times. All roads should be shared by different users, not closed to vehicle traffic.

These roads are being closed using “Modal Filters” which is simply a euphemism and a deliberate misleading of the public. Only cyclists can easily get through such closures, and they will even obstruct emergency service vehicles.

MAKE SURE YOU OBJECT AND STOP THE CLOSURES SPREADING!

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Update on Lewisham and Other Boroughs Covid-19 Transport Responses

As in many other London boroughs, Lewisham Council have developed a Covid-19 Transport Plan which is in response to the epidemic where social distancing is required. This involves widening pavements, providing more cycle lanes and possibly road closures, much to the anger of local residents. More details are now available in a report to Councillors (see Reference 1 below). I’ll summarise some of the key points:

  1. It includes proposals to create more pedestrian space, quieter residential streets (I think they mean without traffic), safer space for pedestrians/cyclists (i.e. more and wider cycle lanes and wider pavements) and creating safer space outside schools (i.e. road closures called “School Streets”).
  2. Council officers will be given “delegated powers” to create the necessary traffic orders, parking suspensions, temporary barriers and other infrastructure with enforcement via camera technology.

In other words, council officers will be able to implement the kinds of proposals previously put forward in the “Safer Neighbourhoods” proposals without further public consultation or even input from Councillors. The Council has gained additional powers to do these things under new Statutory Guidance issued by the Secretary of State for Transport (Grant Shapps) – see Reference 2. Effectively the new Guidance drives a coach and horses through local democracy and enables Councils to do what they want without any restraint or input from local residents.

The Council’s initial proposals include restricting parking on such roads as Deptford High Street, Luxmore Gardens, Coulgate Street and Hither Green Lane (see report for full list). These proposals are not unreasonable in some of these roads.

They also propose as a second project to introduce “modal filters” to create quieter and safer roads. This is just a euphemism for closing roads to all traffic except cyclists which has been so vigorously opposed by many residents. There are also proposals for School Streets. They propose to use Temporary Traffic Regulation Notices followed by Temporary Traffic Orders. We believe this is a misuse of the regulations as we have said before and made plain in a letter to the Council.

The closure of roads using the epidemic as an excuse makes no sense. Closing roads does not help social distancing. It just favours one category of road users over another. And it is clear that there is the intention to make these closures permanent in due course. The proposals also ignore the requirement to take into account the needs of the elderly and disabled under the Equalities Act.

In regards to “public engagement” the Council has set up a web site called Commonplace – see https://lewishamcovidtransport.commonplace.is/ where more details will be provided. Some is already there, although it seems to be a work in progress at the time of writing. You can potentially add your comments, or suggest additional locations.

Will the Council have the money to implement these proposals? This is doubtful. This is what Councillor Sophie McGeevor said in a recent tweet (‪@SophieMcGeevor): “You know that £250 million investment in walking and cycling that the government have been going on about? Well London boroughs will each only get £100k of that. That would only cover about 20% of our initial COVID-19 transport proposals in Lewisham”.

Let us hope that this will stop them from doing the road closures and just stick to the sensible parking restrictions.

But make sure you send any comments to Sophie McGeevor who is responsible for these plans – her email address is CllrSophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk

Note that a number of London boroughs have already drawn up plans and submitted proposals for funding under the Covid-19 banner, and some money has already been granted. Bromley’s proposals were covered in a previous blog post.

Streetspace and School Streets Guidance

TfL has also published guidance on how boroughs should implement their “Streetspace” proposals – see Reference 3 below. And they have also published guidance for “School Streets” which are being implemented by many boroughs – see Reference 4 below.

School Street Sign

See photo above of a sign that can be used to enforce School Streets.

Reference 1: Lewisham Council Report – Implementation of Temporary Measures…. (see item 3) https://tinyurl.com/y7ojhtxw

Reference 2: Government Funding for Cycling/Walking and new Statutory Guidance: https://tinyurl.com/y9yry8wz

Reference 3: TfL Streetspace Guidance: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/lsp-interim-borough-guidance-main-doc.pdf

Reference 4: TfL School Streets Guidance: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/appendix-8-supplementary-guidance-on-school-streets.pdf

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