More Road Closures in London

I mentioned in previous blog posts the road closures in Lewisham and Hackney using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse. There are also road closures being installed in:

Tower Hamlets. This borough proposes to close numerous roads. See this Traffic Order for details of some of them and where to send your objections: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/notice/3571436

Waltham Forest: This borough proposed a number of “Mini-Holland” schemes that involved road closures before the epidemic hit. Some have been delayed or cut back due to financial limitations, but there are still promoting walking and cycling via “low traffic streets” in the Coppermill and Hilltop areas. See https://enjoywalthamforest.co.uk/enjoy-waltham-forest/walking-and-cycling/ . As in Lewisham, they are using a CommonPlace web site as a consultation method but in this case there is no detailed information yet available. In this and many other London boroughs, there is minimal information on the plans that have been made public and decisions are effectively being taken in secret. Searching the Council’s web site for details of Committee Meetings and Decisions reveals no information. This is a good example of a “bad” borough in terms of democracy.

City of London: The City of London Corporation have issued a note that says the following:

What are the changes? On-street measures will include: Timed closures to motor vehicles, mostly 7am – 7pm, allowing limited access to premises for people with access needs, deliveries and servicing; Reallocation of carriageway to space for walking, queueing and cycling and priority for buses; Closing streets to through traffic or other changes in operation, e.g. switching to one-way.

Where will the changes be? Change is required across the Square Mile and will be delivered in phases. The following streets have been selected for Phase 1 based on pedestrian numbers, pavement widths, cycling demand and connections to destinations, retail and transport hubs: Cannon Street (between Queen Victoria Street and Monument junction); Cheapside and Poultry; Old Jewry and Coleman Street; Lombard Street; Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe; Threadneedle Street and Old Broad Street.

There are a lot of pedestrians that cross Cannon Street from Cannon Street Station but closing the road when the Bank Junction is already closed is going to be very damaging to traffic flows.

More information is available here: https://tinyurl.com/y76jk363 including where to send objections.

All of these measures are claimed to be justified by the Covid-19 epidemic but they are unlikely to be temporary and are just a continuation of the City Corporation’s attack on all vehicle users. That includes the disabled or infirm to whom few concessions are made.

MAKE SURE YOU OBJECT AND STOP THE CLOSURES SPREADING!

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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

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