Using the Covid-19 Epidemic as an Excuse for Road Closures

Lewisham Covid-19 image

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has issued a press release that spells out how the Covid-19 epidemic is going to be used to enable a “Transformation of London’s roads” via a “Streetspace” plan. It will mean giving space to new cycle lanes for example and more space for walking, effectively taking away road space for other users. See the press release below for more details.

This will include new temporary cycle lanes on Euston Road and on Park Lane, two of the main thoroughfares for traffic in London. TfL claims these changes are need to cope with a ten-fold increase in cycling and a five-fold increase in cycling as people avoid using public transport, but these estimates are surely simply incredible. In addition it says these changes may be made permanent.

Another example of using the epidemic as an excuse for measures that discriminate against vehicle users and which will cause even more traffic congestion is that from Lewisham Council. They have previously proposed a “Healthy Neighhourhoods” scheme which included many road closures. It has been strongly opposed by residents in Lee Green and other wards.

Now the Council has published on their web site a Covid-19 Transport Plan  (see https://lewishamcovidtransport.commonplace.is/about ). It explains how they plan to prioritise walking and cycling in the borough during the epidemic. But it just looks like the Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme under a different name. See image above for how “Modal Filters” will be used to stop traffic, i.e. close roads.

They plan to implement these proposals via the use of Temporary Traffic Orders (TTOs) rather than Experimental Traffic Orders (ETOs). But this is a misuse of the legislation that permits road closures by councils. TTOs should only be used for such things as emergency road repairs and should be temporary as the name implies. But the Council proposes turning them into ETOs without consultation in due course, and subsequently making them permanent.

The ABD has written to the Council pointing out this misuse of the legislation (see reference 2 below).

Readers who live in London should write to their local Member of Parliament asking them to stop such measures. I would suggest writing to the Mayor of London or the Mayor of Lewisham, but both are very unaccountable to the public and Sadiq Khan can simply ignore any objections.

Note that there is a lot of discussion on social media of these proposals. It would help to counter the activities of cyclist and other pressure groups if you get involved in those media.

Below is the Twitter account of the London ABD which you can follow to pick up the latest news, and there is a national ABD Twitter account also. There are also Facebook pages.

Join us in spreading the word about the opposition to irrational transport policies that favour pampered cyclists and prejudice vehicle users.

Reference 1: Mayor’s Press Release: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayors-bold-plan-will-overhaul-capitals-streets

Reference 2: Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 Section 14: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/27/section/14

ABD London Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

ABD National Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheABD

We also have a national Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/allianceofbritishdrivers/

And a Facebook page dedicated to opposition to Sadiq Khan’s transport strategy here: https://www.facebook.com/AgainstMTS/

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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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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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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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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

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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