The UK Government has acted dramatically in response to the predicted socially-distanced transport emergency
In the DfT analysis of how to “enable social distancing during restart” and “encourage active travel” they have issued statutory guidance: “government .. expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.”
So are these wild predictions and measures over-reactions or are we entering a C19 recovery transport emergency?
Looking forward to teaming up with Lewisham Cyclists for the relaunch of the Lee Green School Cycle Bus. Starting this week. See flyer above for more info.
Cycle bus was run last year before lockdown, providing an opportunity for parents to ride with their kids on a led ride around the area now within the Lee Green LTN. It’s designed to help families feel more confident about choosing to cycle the school run instead of driving. You can find more advice on this at on the CycleSprog website .
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Leading on from a number of discrepancies on various mapping apps routing drivers through ANPR camera filters, including Google Maps, we felt it was important to say something. So we along with Hither Green West and One Lewisham have sent the following email to Councillor Sophie McGeevor, Cabinet Member for Transport at Lewisham Council. Hoping the situation is resolved asap.
A low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) is a very simple idea: it’s protecting a group of residential streets from through motor traffic (rat runs). LTNs are usually bordered by main roads or natural lines (river, trainlines, etc…).
This is achieved with a combination of modal filters (planters, bollards, alternated one way streets, bus gates – where buses are the only motor vehicles allowed -, school streets) placed in several locations within the area. This prevents motor traffic from using residential streets to bypass the main road nearby. This ‘shortcut’ phenomenon has worsened recently because of phone apps such as Waze which identify, in real time, quieter and congestion-free areas and tell drivers to go there instead of staying on the main road.
With quieter streets, local residents are safer to walk or cycle around their neighbourhood and people living there, as well as their visitors, can still access every address by car. Access is enabled by going around, instead of through.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are currently being implemented in Southwark, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Camden, Enfield, Waltham Forest and throughout a number of major cities in the UK.
This is not a new concept – LTNs have been a standard approach in the Netherlands and in good town planning for decades. Most of London’s post-war estates were built on these principles.
Looking at the overall road network those roads that are suitable for carrying non-local traffic (the A and B roads) are identified. Within the neighbourhoods between the main roads, only local access for residents and deliveries is permitted.
Make Lee Green are a group of residents living in Lee, South East London, who want healthy, low traffic streets not dominated by through motor traffic, which enable more residents to walk, cycle and access public transport when required. We support Lewisham Council’s Transport Strategy and want to see the healthy streets approach in our neighbourhood.
Why Lee Green?
Lee Green was identified following consultation in 2018 for Lewisham Council’s Transport Strategy as an area where a significant number of residents had responded requesting measures to deal with through motor traffic on the back of another resident lead campaign. Make Lee Green wanted to build upon what this campaign aimed to achieve and also facilitate more residents on both sides of Burnt Ash Road towards working together to help improve the neighbourhood.
COVID-19 is being used as an excuse to put this in
Lewisham Council has been planning LTN-type schemes (also known as Healthy Neighbourhoods) for some time, as part of its responsibility to deliver London’s overall transport strategy. The current measures are an immediate response to the COVID crisis in line with Central Government policy, supported by Transport for London (TfL). This recognises that capacity on public transport is very likely to be limited for the foreseeable future and London’s road network simply cannot provide for the shortfall in trips people need to make if they try to make them by car.
What is more, less than half of Lewisham households have access to a car (as few as 30% in some wards in the north of the borough). Most of the trips people make in London are short – 70% of trips driven in London are under 5 miles and 42% are under 2 miles. Those are trips that, for the majority of people, could be either cycled, or at the lower end walked.
Are these schemes going to be made permanent?
Further consultation will be needed to make the schemes permanent. Funding at the moment is for emergency measures only – the ambition and strategy was for the schemes set out in Lewisham Council’s Transport Strategy to be built in high-quality materials and create new public spaces. The emergency funding does not allow for that (and all other funding from TfL has been frozen). Although the Temporary Traffic Orders enable the Council to maintain the changes for up to 18 months, it is expected that regular reviews will be carried out by the Council and an initial decision as to the success of the scheme might be reached in around 6 months.
Why not just deal with the problem roads and leave the rest open?
Problem traffic is often concentrated on a few roads within a neighbourhood but simply blocking these just shifts the problem. As many as 80% of London drivers now use Satnavs so will immediately be rerouted around a single closure.
I live in the next neighbourhood – this is just going to make my area worse
Many rat runs run through a number of neighbourhoods – cutting them off in one nearly always reduces rat running in the surrounding area and keeps more traffic on the main roads. It’s simply not possible to change the entire borough at once but Lewisham’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood plan has identified neighbourhoods across the whole borough.
It’s only going to benefit people who already cycle
Measures are also focused on making walking more convenient with lower traffic volumes, making it easier to cross roads. LTNs also benefit the high proportion of residents in the borough who say they would like to cycle, but don’t because the roads are too dangerous. Those already cycling are in many cases doing so in higher traffic volumes. Enabling people who currently choose not to walk or cycle, to switch their shorter journeys from cars to walk and cycle could also have wider benefits in reducing congestion, as detailed here .
It’s just for the benefit of a few rich residents. What about the majority of ordinary people who have to drive.
Car ownership (households with access to a car) varies substantially across London:
At a borough level it ranges from 26% of households in Islington to 75% in Richmond Upon Thames. London wide 46% of households are car free, while for inner London 60%.
In Lewisham, 54% of households have no access to a car. Car ownership correlates very strongly with higher income – people on low-incomes tend to not own or travel by car, and also tend to live in the areas with the worst pollution.
It’s hard to overstate the benefits low-income households can gain if people feel able to safely walk or cycle around their town or city. A Zone 3 Travelcard now costs nearly £160 per month so even a high quality bike rapidly pays for itself.
Cycling is elitist – it’s dominated by the white middle class males
In places like Denmark and the Netherlands, the bike lanes are filled with people of both genders, all ages, most ethnic backgrounds and every social class, from members of the royal family downward. A TfL study in early 2016, following the advent of higher quality bike routes in London, found black and minority ethnic Londoners were now just as likely to be regular cyclists as white people in the city.
What about people who ‘need’ to drive?
Firstly, it’s important to remember that this scheme does not stop anyone from driving. All roads are still accessible if there is no alternative to driving. In fact, over time as more people opt for alternative transport, the roads should be more clear for those people who need to drive.
And if a car is the best option – a better transport system serves essential car use too, because it gives people who don’t need a car more appealing options. This means reduced traffic and parking demand, leaving more space for those who really do need it.
All of the plans were signed off by all of the emergency services before implementation.
In Waltham Forest the average response times of fire appliances actually fell after the Mini-Holland schemes were implemented. The Borough Commander states “It is my view that this data does not show an increase in response times and therefore that the road closures in Waltham Forest have not had a significant impact on our services”.
Lockable bollards can be used to enable emergency services to temporarily open areas during extended incidents. And in a fast-unfolding emergency service vehicles are designed to be robust enough to smash through bollards (although this is actually necessary incredibly rarely).
Bin lorries won’t be able to turn around
There are already numerous dead-end streets around the borough which are serviced by bin lorries. Depending on the layout of your street, they will either be able to unlock a bollard to exit, reverse down the street (as they already do in many places), or turn around.
Road closures should only be for rush hour and certain times of the day
One of the key aims of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is to remove rat running traffic from an area to enable residents and businesses to enjoy low traffic environments. While areas may be most affected by through traffic during rush hour there is still a need to reduce traffic at other parts of the day.
There are also issues around the effectiveness of modal filters that only operate during certain times of the day. Firstly these filters would need to be designed in an ‘open state’ and would require drivers to obey signs in not passing through them. Evidence shows that compliance with these types of modal filters is low and having camera enforcement on every single filter in this way is not financially viable and lead to a lower benefit : cost ratio.
Road closures will just push all the traffic onto the main roads, causing longer journeys, traffic jams and more pollution
The creation of a low traffic neighbourhood, or filtering of a road, will result in the adjustment of motor vehicle traveller behaviour to compensate … some people will stop making particular trips, combine multiple trips into one, travel at a less congested time, or switch to public transport, walking or cycling. Main roads have been designed to take large volumes of traffic, local residential streets don’t have this capability and non-local drivers seeking to avoid sections of trunk road by cutting through local streets usually have to rejoin the main carriageway at some point so ultimately there will be only a limited impact on traffic congestion on main routes. As a proportion of local journeys shift to walking and cycling, this will reduce even further. Once public transport returns to being an options for large numbers of people, it is possible traffic on main roads will be lower than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Initial figures from the Walthamstow Village area show traffic levels on main roads have increased by between 3% and 11%, but the number of vehicles in filtered roads has decreased by 56%. This means that across the overall area, there are around 10,000 fewer vehicles every day, an overall reduction in traffic of 16%. This is called “traffic evaporation”. Since the schemes went in, traffic levels have started to fall on main roads back to previous levels too.
Meanwhile, looking at Hackney, which has historically put in low traffic neighbourhoods and filtered roads over decades, the average speed of motor vehicles on roads in the borough are broadly similar to similar boroughs nearby and in inner London, as is the average percentage decline of overall motor traffic volumes per street over those decades, but the average volume per road is lower as so many roads carry little traffic.
To summarise, over the long term overall motor traffic capacity and volume has been reduced by filtering, but the increased congestion that can be seen in the first year of their operation is a temporary effect.
Traffic isn’t just going to disappear – to reduce congestion we need more space for motor vehicles, not less
Though it can seem hard to believe, reducing road capacity does actually reduce traffic. A major study from 1998, which used 150 sources for evidence, found that roads that had their capacity reduced saw an average 41% reduction in traffic. Less than half of the displaced traffic found other routes, while 25% disappeared entirely (. Source Wikipedia on “Disappearing Traffic”. It has also been reviewed again more recently.
Don’t the council have a duty to manage the network and ensure resilience?
One of the statutory duties of local authorities under the traffic management act is to manage the network effectively and ensure resilience. This can be done through managing traffic on the main road network and a number of key junctions or gateways into an area. It can’t be done if people are able to drive wherever they like in residential areas, rat running to avoid these key control points. When this happens you lose control of everything – the network no longer exists except on paper. Many of the main routes are controlled by Transport for London (TfL) and the Boroughs are working closely with TfL to ensure these measures are coordinated with wider strategies.
Introducing low traffic neighbourhoods and restricting through traffic to main roads means traffic can actually be managed. By design traffic levels on main roads will increase immediately after implementation but that just demonstrates the scale of the problem. Longer term, you need measures on the main roads so as to ensure motor traffic doesn’t exceed the space now allocated for it.
I won’t be able to access my house/how are deliveries going to get to me?
All homes will still be accessible by motor vehicles, though some motor vehicle trips may take longer.
When I drive my trip will be longer, causing more pollution?
Even the worst case is usually far less of a detour than drivers think it is and as part of a longer journey a few minutes are not significant. More to the point, many people often stop driving those very short trips so that overall traffic in an area falls and this means overall pollution levels fall, far outweighing any increase from the small number of trips that are truly essential. There is plenty of evidence of this from places like Waltham Forest, Enfield and Hackney.
Electric Cars are the answer- we don’t need to do anything
A shift from oil-powered to electric cars should help to improve air quality in urban areas but as much as 50% of particulate pollution comes from tyres, brakes and dust thrown up from the road. Until the electricity supply is renewable it still leads to carbon emissions and pollution elsewhere.
Electric cars don’t solve many of the other problems involved with motor vehicle use – congestion, danger, public health, land use required for parking, and roads and streets that are blighted by motor traffic. There may also not be enough materials like Lithium to replace current internal combustion engines like for like, so in future years there will need to be fewer vehicles on the roads in total. Remember, inactivity and being overweight are one of our biggest health crises – and one that is strongly correlated to unnecessary car use.
Subsidies to encourage electric vehicle purchase (cheap/free parking, exemption from congestion charge etc) and very low fuel costs mean they can even encourage more journeys. In Norway car ownership per household, and distance driven, grew: 15-20% of Norway’s EV’s wouldn’t have been bought without subsidy.
Crime will go up/the streets won’t be safe if there is no through traffic
There is no evidence of this effect in areas where Low Traffic neighbourhoods have been implemented. Crime is deterred by people on foot, not by passing motorists. The police are supportive of the programme, partly because by improving the number of people walking in an area and making an area feel nicer, with a more cohesive community, anti-social crime is reduced.
Residential side streets act as an “escape valve”
When a main road is disrupted, such as by a collision, the restricted capacity of side streets means that they very quickly become clogged. Moreover, the extra turning movements created by drivers seeking to avoid the main road, can even generate extra congestion.
20mph traffic causes more pollution than 30mph
A recent study by Imperial College found that diesel vehicles with engines of between 1.4 litres and 2.0 litres produce fewer harmful emissions at 20mph than at 30mph while smaller petrol and diesel engine vehicles both generate fewer particulates when driven at this lower speed. Download the report here.
Pollution will increase due to more idling motor vehicles
Nearly all modern cars have ‘auto stop-start’ so that the engines don’t run when stationary at traffic lights or in a queue. The introduction of the ULEZ charge means most vehicles in London will have this technology. Councils and TfL are also working together on encouraging ‘no-idling’ behaviour at junctions and congestion points. In some cases (such as Westminster) this can become mandatory and be enforced through traffic legislation.
Shops depend on deliveries and customers coming by car
Space for deliveries, and for people collecting heavy loads, can be relocated to streets adjoining a retail parade where a cycleway removes main road loading bays. Furthermore, pedestrianised areas still manage to maintain vibrant shops and businesses. Generally they are able to do so by coordinating delivery times, sharing delivery vehicles, making deliveries using smaller vehicles (or even cargo bikes) or making deliveries out of hours.
TfL reports that where such schemes have gone in, retail vacancy rates drop significantly and footfall rises. Making nicer shopping areas and streets where people feel able to linger is proving far more resilient to the rise of internet shopping than traditional, car-dominated high streets whose drivers are increasingly turning to out-of-town “experience” shopping at malls.
The roads will never be safe enough for children to ride bikes to school
The school run accounts for at least one in every five cars on London’s roads, and is a major cause of congestion, pollution & frustration for road users. Fear of road traffic injury is the key reason people give for not cycling and that parents give for limiting their children’s independence. Many people say they drive their children to school because the roads are too unattractive and dangerous to walk or cycle. But in doing so they add to the problem. Every hour you spend in a car makes you 6 percent more likely to be obese. Every kilometre you walk (about 0.6 of a mile) reduces it by almost 5 percent. So making active travel safer and easier means better physical health for children.
All we need is cycle lanes on main roads; road closures are unnecessary.
Traffic speeds and volumes are currently too high in residential areas for most people to feel safe enough to cycle, or to let their children cycle. Drivers traveling through their own neighbourhood usually travel more slowly and are more careful than when cutting through other residential areas.
We need to encourage people to consider alternative means of transport by making walking and cycling a quicker and more attractive option than jumping in the car. More than 40% of outer London car journeys are less than two kilometres and the school run accounts for at least one in five cars on London roads. On its own, improving cycle lanes is not enough to encourage the level of behaviour change we need to address congestion and dangerous levels of pollution.
The Netherlands makes their bike (and mobility scooter) lanes the most direct and prioritise them ahead of motorised traffic. The UK often does the opposite, making pedestrians and cyclists go the longer way round, often via footbridges and unpleasant underpasses, while prioritising shorter distances for cars. The unsurprising consequence of this is that people prefer to drive.
Not everyone wants to walk or cycle
With quieter, safer, road conditions many more people feel able to travel by means other than car. Many disabled people can cycle and the facilities that are good for cycling are perfect for mobility scooters. Children experience greater freedom to travel independently. These schemes are not about forcing everyone to walk or cycle – they’re about giving people the choice.
In countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark, where cycling is catered for as a serious mode of transport, people choose to cycle because it’s safe, convenient and pleasant – and journey times are reliable, as they won’t get stuck in congestion. People in those countries can drive if and when they want to, but because driving isn’t the only choice for travel, as it is in many other countries, they choose to do so less often.
Everybody benefits from this increased level of cycling – even those who do need to drive, as it means that they’re not sat waiting in traffic which is made up of people using a car for short local journeys.
Older people can’t cycle – they have to drive
The elderly and mobility-impaired may face slightly longer car journeys, as will others, but will also benefit from quieter, less car-dominated streets to cross and use.
In countries where there is widespread provision for cycling separate from other modes of transport, people of all age groups and abilities cycle, and do so at a pace they’re happy with. For example, nearly a quarter of all trips made by Dutch over-65s are cycled.
Removing interactions with heavy vehicles makes almost any journey a possibility by cycle – be it a standard bicycle or something specifically for those with mobility needs, such as a hand-powered trike – and may often make trips easier than walking for those who have difficulty doing so. In addition, the increasing use of electrically-assisted “e-bikes” means that physical strength is even less of a barrier.
So in fact the truth is the opposite of the myth – cycling actually gives less-able people more transport options and independence.
This scheme discriminates against the sick and disabled – they have to drive
The mobility-impaired may face slightly longer car journeys, as will others, but will also benefit from quieter, less car-dominated streets to cross and use.
Most people with disabilities don’t have a mobility disability, most people with a mobility disability can’t afford to drive. Many people who can’t walk can cycle. Cycle tracks & accessible public transport benefits most people of all abilities.
For some disabilities or medical conditions, non-motorised wheeled transport is the easiest way to get around, door-to-door. There are people for whom an e-assist bike, recumbent bike, hand cycle, or trike is an ideal mobility option.
This applies to many people with chronic fatigue, back injuries, ankylosing spondylitis, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy for example. But these people need a safe place to ride – they need proper infrastructure for non-motorised, wheeled transport.
For people who *do* need motorised transport, there are options beyond the car. Electric wheelchairs are one. Birò – tiny electric cars – are another. Both use cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands – a safe place to travel, away from cars.
And if a car is the best option – a better transport system serves essential car use too, because it gives people who don’t need a car more appealing options. This means reduced traffic and parking demand, leaving more space for those who really do need it.
There should be an exclusion for the elderly, sick, disabled, carers, parents transporting kids
Concern about trips being a few minutes longer for those who have mobility issues ignores the fact that the majority of people already have to do all this stuff without a car. And this is *more* true for the people in the most disadvantaged circumstances. Access to private vehicles correlates strongly with wealth, and if you have health problems or disabilities you are much less likely to have access. If we are considering the needs of elderly people, or wheelchair users, (or healthy kids) we should *not* be focusing on the ones who already have the best access to mobility solutions (ie those that have access to a car) who are going to be slightly inconvenienced. Surely the focus should be on those who do without that privilege or who are unable to drive even if they wanted to? Lower traffic levels, better crossings and walking routes and safe cycling directly all benefit the majority of mobility impaired people without a car, letting them make more trips independently. (and many people who can’t drive can cycle with the right type of bike – as Wheels for Wellbeing demonstrate)
Cycling isn’t a practical option when you have children
This is a problem of public infrastructure, as children generally don’t have a problem cycling! Most children are attracted to cycling, rightly seeing it as providing freedom.
The reason many people believe it is too difficult to ride somewhere with children is because there is insufficient provision of safe places to cycle. Areas with high volumes of cycling invariably have safe places to do so – off-road paths, protected cycleways, separation from motor traffic, quiet residential streets, etc.
As the Dutch and Danish experience shows, children are able to cycle significant distances from a young age, and cycling with children can be a great way for families to get around, and also for children to travel independently. Data shows that in the Netherlands almost half of all trips made by under-17s are cycled, and over three-quarters of high school pupils cycle to school.
Cyclists ride on the pavement, jump red lights, cause danger to pedestrians
Cycling on the pavement is almost always a symptom of poor conditions for cycling. The best and most permanent way to tackle this problem is to create attractive places for cycling away from the footway, either in the form of cycleways separated from motor traffic, or by making the road itself a pleasant place to cycle by reducing the speed and volume of motor traffic to a low level.
And while cycling on the footway can be genuinely annoying, scary and inconvenient for those walking, the danger it causes should not be overstated either – the vast majority of deaths and injuries on the footway are due to motor vehicles. People in the UK are over 50 times more likely to be killed by someone driving a motor vehicle on the verge or footway, than by someone cycling, let alone someone cycling on the pavement.
This website has a comprehensive set of responses to the common myths about cycling.
How can I campaign for an LTN in my area?
More recently, we have seen residents just outside the LTN area to the West of Hither Green Station begin to campaign for additional measures in the immediate adjacent area.
You can find out more on their Facebook page here , or on Twitter here
Today, thousands of residents in Lee Green will have received a letter explaining Lewisham Council’s updated plan for the healthy neighbourhood scheme. You can find a copy of the letter here .
The letter explains how the situation has changed during lockdown and the scheme has now been fast tracked, with a view to implementing the scheme on 29th June, using a temporary traffic order. It allows the council to implement measures after providing 7 days notice from the letter date.
The letter also includes the following map. The council have one further change since the last draft version, including further camera enforced modal filters at Manor Lane, Ennersdale Road, Dermody Road as well as indicating the location of recently installed temporary measures for social distancing on Staplehurst Road outside Sainsbury’s. The council also explain the additional features such as seating space, tree planting and cycle parking won’t be provided at this stage due to conditions of funding from Transport for London.
We tweeted the below picture when barriers on Staplehurst Road were installed last week.
We look forward to the planters, bollards and cameras being finally installed. We haven’t yet back from Lewisham council about the camera enforcement and hope they will use a similar approach to Lambeth council (as described by Lambeth Cyclists here). We will report more back once they’re in.
For those who don’t know what the Lewisham Local Plan is, here’s how the council describes it.
“The Local Plan sets out a shared vision for the future of Lewisham along with the planning and delivery framework to achieve this vision.
The Local Plan helps to ensure that planning decisions are made in the best interests of our neighbourhoods and communities. It provides:
A strategy for the Council and its partners to direct investment across Lewisham, recognising it is an integral part of London.
Policies and guidelines used to determine planning applications.”
With this in mind, MLG felt it was important to submit a response developed by residents involved in our campaign to communicate their views on what we feel is needed in Lee Green in relation to the plan. The council use this to shape their planning and development policies throughout the borough for decades to come.
We can see that these new rat runs will return traffic to the schools that the LTN was built to protect, and in the case of Brindishe Manor and Trinity Primary Schools they will likely see even more traffic than ever before :
Additionally Lysth Nursery will see even more traffic than it used to with the new rat run on Pascoe Road likely feeding cars straight over to Wisteria Road
If you agree with us that this is a step in the wrong direction and want your voice to be heard please see our Show Support page
Leading on from a number of discrepancies on various mapping apps routing drivers through ANPR camera filters, including Google Maps, we felt it was important to say something. So we along with Hither Green West and One Lewisham have sent the following email earlier this week to Councillor Sophie McGeevor, Cabinet Member for Transport at Lewisham Council.
We think that part of the issue is down to unauthorised drivers still driving through ANPR camera controlled filters, leading to the generation of GPS data showing Google that vehicles are driving through, so the road can’t be closed. Hoping the situation is resolved asap.
In order to help people navigate into and out of the new Lee Green Low traffic neighbourhood, we thought a colour coded map would help.
Each set of roads are coloured in a particular colour to show how they are accessible by car, from either A21 Lewisham High Street, Burnt Ash Road, A205 South Circular or A20 Lee High Road to get into the area or out of it (in a motor vehicle).
It also shows the route of the 273 bus (pink), the proposed temporary cycle lane along Burnt Ash Road (blue line), the proposed locations for school streets and the locations of all of the modal filters (bollard filters in blue, camera filters in pink).