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/

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

Anti-Driver Lobby Thinks There Is A “Car Owner Virus”

The ABD has issued the following press release:

Proposed temporary 20 mph urban or 50 mph national limits would obstruct and persecute key workers.

Despite the fact that the Coronavirus crisis has resulted in the use of all modes of transport being down by at least 60% (See Reference 1 below) and has also substantially reduced demand in NHS Accident and Emergency Departments for non-Covid-19 patients (2), anti-driver groups are trying to exploit the crisis by calling for lower speed limits to “reduce demand on the NHS” (3).

The call for emergency blanket 20 mph urban speed limits ignores the fact that a comprehensive 20 mph study commissioned by the DfT (4) found no tangible benefits from 20 mph limits in terms of reduced collisions or casualties. Furthermore, according to facts and figures from RoSPA, there are more than 3 times the number of accidental deaths in homes than on roads each year as well as many more injuries (5).

ABD Spokesman Paul Biggs said: “During the current crisis Police time should not be wasted enforcing yet more pointless 20 mph speed limits or other temporarily lowered limits. Indeed, the likes of Warwickshire Police are temporarily concentrating on excessive speeding offences rather than low grade offences such as those that merit a speed awareness course or fixed penalty (6). The anti-driver lobby have sunk to the same depths as the related extreme environmental lobby in trying to exploit the coronavirus for their own twisted and factually challenged agenda.”

Note: 20’s Senseless is the ABD’s website for the campaign against unnecessary 20 mph speed limits (7).

<Ends>

It has also been suggested in the Times newspaper that roads in built-up areas may be converted into car-free zones to create extra space for cyclists and joggers during the lock-down. They suggest local authorities are considering plans to close off streets to vehicles to allow local residents to exercise.

Councils in cities including London, Manchester and Brighton are among those believed to be drawing up proposals to convert roads into temporary bike lanes. The idea is being promoted by the organisation called Living Streets which promotes walking. Hackney Council in east London is in the process of creating a shortlist of streets in the borough that will be turned into car-free zones.

Comment: this is just another example of anti-car fanatics using the coronavirus epidemic to justify their agenda. It makes no sense to restrict traffic when it is already much reduced from the epidemic lock-down and the danger is that once such measures are put in place they will never be removed.

Notes for editors:

(1) Slides and datasets to accompany coronavirus press conference: 9 April 2020:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/slides-and-datasets-to-accompany-coronavirus-press-conference-9-april-2020

(2) A & E Attendances and Emergency Admissions March 2020 Statistical Commentary:

https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/04/Statistical-commentary-March-2020-jf8hj.pdf

(3) WHO must push for lower speed limits to ease pressure on virus-impacted hospitals, urge ‘experts’:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2020/03/28/who-must-push-for-lower-speed-limits-to-ease-pressure-on-virus-impacted-hospitals-urge-experts/#17635e722c7f

(4) DfT 20 mph Study: “There is not enough evidence to conclude that there has been a significant change in collisions and casualties following the introduction of 20 mph limits in residential areas.” :

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/20-mph-speed-limits-on-roads

(5) RoSPA – Facts and figures:

https://www.rospa.com/Home-Safety/Advice/General/Facts-and-Figures

(6) Patterson Law: Covid-19 – Warwickshire Police Dropping Speeding Allegations:

https://www.pattersonlaw.co.uk/covid19-warwickshire-police-dropping-speeding-allegations/?fbclid=IwAR2awuUHaFRYIW_NPiRNFFdWab__OVPuzypcd2e4Adr9WH8SnzmMrE1et60

(7) 20’s Senseless – ABD campaign against 20 mph speed limits:

https://www.20ssenseless.org/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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

 

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_Lhondon

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

 

 

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.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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

 

 

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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

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

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

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

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.