Friday, 22 May 2015

Response from Wandsworth Borough Commander

The other week I wrote to our Borough Commander, and the head of the Met Sir Hogan-Howe regarding my concerns about road safety.

There were two specific asks in that letter:

  • I would like your officers to place road danger reduction and enforcement of the rules of the road as a much higher priority than it is at present. (For instance: Many drivers continue to seem unaware of Highway Code rules such as 163 and 170, both of which directly affect the safety and perceived safety of cyclists and pedestrians across our borough).
  • I would like Wandsworth Police to be supportive of consultations regarding street design and management that the professionals involved (notably highway engineers and public health officers) believe will reduce road danger and help 'rebalance' our streets towards benign modes of transport.


It appears that the Borough Commander views road safety concerns as different to crime as he would like to see 'road safety concerns discussed alongside crime priorities'. Semantics I know, but I feel that breaking the law whilst driving not only is illegal or criminal, but it places other people in a huge amount of danger. Not entirely sure why they can't be included as a key priority in terms of saving life.

Nonetheless good to see that he has flagged this with the relevant councillors. Well worth raising road safety as a concern at your local SNT meeting, and with your local councillors.

I'd have to dig a bit further to see what the statistics are on victims of violent crime in Wandsworth, when compared to victims of violence on our roads. It would be really surprising to me if what is currently recorded as victims of 'violent crime' even come up to 10% of victims of road violence/collisions.

Now for the good news, the council has been working on a new cycling strategy, and at the next committee meeting (16th June - agenda should be out the week before) we'll see how ambitious it is. From what I've heard it should be a strong proposition.

Also the council is currently consulting on a new air quality strategy. Local air quality is massively impacted by the volume of motor traffic on our streets. There are some interesting proposals in this strategy which if taken forward, and hopefully improved from the consultation process, will allow the council to take stronger action on improving air quality. Part of the actions that are needed are creating safer streets which enable more trips to be walked and cycled than at present.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Another victim of our broken roads - we will not forget

In the early hours of Saturday morning this bank holiday weekend, a 33 year old person was killed. All we know is that it occurred somewhere around the junction of Dr Johnson Avenue and Tooting Bec Road. The police are appealing for witnesses and anyone who recognises the vehicle to contact them.


I took the picture last night. There are no visible marks that highlight the violence which occurred so recently.

What is so sad, is that this is the logical outcome of the approach taken by our council endorsed by both Labour and the Conservatives with regards to road safety. Our highway engineers are only empowered to look into road safety improvements if the following conditions have been met:

3 people killed or seriously injured in 3 years at the same location
or
25% of local residents sign a petition

The personnel working for our emergency services, literally have to pick up the pieces of broken bodies that result from this policy. The engineers are blocked by our local politicians from being able to put forward proposals to make the roads safer by the current policy position.

With the general elections fast approaching it is worthwhile reflecting on this, and the parties that support it. Locally my party, the Liberal Democrats are campaigning to change this position. I hope, if you live locally and are active with one of the two parties that do represent us at the council, you can ask your party if perhaps it is time to review the position.

If you choose to vote for Labour or the Conservatives locally, in part you are endorsing this policy position. Sometimes voting can seem futile, and that things won't change. I disagree.

Our votes do count. 

Policies do matter. 

Lives of people who live in our communities depend upon them.

Sadly, one member of our community is no longer with us this week. Let us make sure that their life wasn't lost in vain.

You can also lend your support to this petition which I'm running specifically for Tooting Bec Road. It is tragic that before substantive action will be taken to make this road safer, it is very likely that more people will be hurt.




Thursday, 23 April 2015

A letter to the Borough Commander - engaging with the police

The growing number of police that are actively using social media (Twitter) in particular, is a really good way to engage on issues that might otherwise drop by the wayside.

As a result of the exchange below:


It prompted me to write to Wandsworth Borough commander. Given that the issues raised aren't unique to Wandsworth, I've sent a copy through to Sir Hogan-Howe as well as Living Streets and London Cycling Campaign.

I also dropped along to my local Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) meeting to raise the issue there. You can find details about your local team here. If you are interested in getting involved, some details about what you can do here.

And here's the letter, dropped it in to the Police Station on the 21st April 2015.

-----------------------------------------

Dear Borough Commander,

I am writing to ask you how we can more effectively tackle anti-social and dangerous behaviour by people driving on our streets.

The SNT meetings are a great forum to allow very local concerns to be flagged. However, whilst I live in a particular street in a particular ward (Furzedown), political boundaries do not apply in terms of the streets that I need to use to travel around the borough. Indeed, Wandsworth Council recognises this when, for example, it designs formal cycle routes that link different destinations across the borough. As a family we rarely use our car, most of the time we walk, cycle or use public transport.

Council policy (not under your remit) is to wait for 3 KSI's to occur in a given location in 3 consecutive years before the highway engineers at the council will investigate options to provide safer streets. Alternatively, 25% of households in the street/locality need to prepare and gather a petition. I’m not too keen on anyone having to be one of those KSI's to effect change. I don't think the current approach is an acceptable approach for a public authority - especially one that has recently taken charge of public health in Wandsworth.

In Wandsworth, people talking on their phones while driving, or driving at speeds which are inappropriate for their surroundings - to take two examples of commonly seen behaviour - rarely place the individuals driving at serious risk of injury. For those of us who are walking or cycling, however, a moment's carelessness or inattention by drivers can have serious or fatal consequences for us or our loved ones. The asymmetry of risk borne by people on foot or bicycle as compared with those within a motor vehicle is, as you will be aware, clearly shown by the road traffic casualty statistics for our borough. And, equally importantly, the perception of danger from motor traffic understandably discourages many people in Wandsworth from walking or cycling - to the detriment of everyone's health and the long-term strain on the NHS.


Moving onto specific asks, I would be grateful if you would consider the following suggestions:

1. I would like your officers to place road danger reduction and enforcement of the rules of the road as a much higher priority than it is at present. (For instance: Many drivers continue to seem unaware of Highway Code rules such as 163 and 170, both of which directly affect the safety and perceived safety of cyclists and pedestrians across our borough).

2. I would like Wandsworth Police to be supportive of consultations regarding street design and management that the professionals involved (notably highway engineers and public health officers) believe will reduce road danger and help 'rebalance' our streets towards benign modes of transport.


I make these requests in the light of supportive comments by the Mayor in response to Mayoral Questions at the London Assembly about the important role of the Metropolitan Police in supporting walking and cycling. I hope you will also agree that, at this time of pressure on public budgets, it is particularly important for us to have evidence-based policing, in order to help ensure that policing is as cost-effective as possible.


By way of background, you may be interested in the findings and recommendations of the Transport Safety Commission, which has recently made available a well argued report 'UK Transport Safety: Who is Responsible?'. You can download the prepublication version and see further details via www.pacts.org.uk/transport-safety-commission/


Happy to meet to discuss. I look forward to hearing back from you.

------------------------------------------

Will be interesting to see what response I get. If the letter resonates with you, and you don't live in Wandsworth, then feel free to adapt/tweak and contact your Borough Commander. Issues are only issues if we raise them. 

At a council level, if you'd like to see Wandsworth Council adopt a pro-active approach to reducing road danger, then do lend your support to this petition.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Easter: 'he will rise again'

Whilst I don't hold a religious faith, the story associated with Easter and Christ rising from the dead is one that I've grown up with.

I think it's also worth remembering the many that don't rise again, the fallen on our roads.



This image is from the constituency dashboard. Tooting has 55% higher level of pedestrian casualties than the national average. Worth noting that the data source for the figures are STATS19 (reported road collisions). With minor injuries the National Office for Statistics estimates that these could be under reported by a factor of 4.

At the same time that PACTS went live with the dashboard, they also released this report with a lot of very practical ideas that will hopefully be implemented by the next government (whatever form it takes - minority/coalition or unlikely but possible majority government).

We have become numb to the regular reporting of carnage on our streets. This 21 year old lady in Kingston crossing the road on foot next to her university was killed this week. The occupants of the car have survived with minor injuries.

The PACTS report linked above highlights the different approaches taken to reducing danger using different transport modes (road/rail/air) in the UK. Without serious change, more people and families will continue to lose loved ones needlessly.

At present, in Wandsworth, 3 people need to be killed or seriously injured on council managed roads, or a major petition has to be presented to allow our highway engineers to look into road safety improvements.

I don't think that's right. If you live, work or study in the borough, from Tooting in the south to Battersea in the north or Putney in the west, and agree with me, please lend your support to this petition calling for change borough-wide.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Priorities, priorities ...

It's been a little while since I last wrote. Being a new dad for the first time has re-jigged priorities a bit, and at the same time given me more reason (as if I needed more) to see the need for a radical re-think of our streets.

Regular readers will recall I ran a petition in the autumn of 2013 called, 'Let's make Mitcham Lane safe for all'. I've updated the visual to the one below:


If you haven't already supported it, you can add your name via this link.

A little time has passed, local elections have come and gone. So to re-cap what happened after the petition was handed in.

July 2014:
My petition for Mitcham Lane was noted along with another petition from the local Labour councillors also calling for improvements on safety to Mitcham Lane and to help local businesses.

You can read the paper here. Worth noting that the Labour team voted against me speaking, decisions details for point 11 on this link. So much for Labour councillors speaking up for all the community, bit difficult to do that if they aren't prepared to listen.

Fast forward to March 2015, where we now have sight of these proposals on how to spend the Community Infrastructure Levy in Wandsworth, termed the Wandsworth Local Fund.

Turns out that Mitcham Lane is going to benefit from £424,000 worth of investment (see the paper here point 25).

Sadly, from my perspective, our local Labour councillors have decided that these funds should go towards:

Streetscape, business and environmental improvements (from Blegborough Road to Eardley Road including parts of Thrale and Westcote Roads).

Improvements to include carriageway resurfacing, footway reconstruction, de-cluttering of street furniture and removal of guardrail where it is safe to do so. Drainage will be upgraded where necessary. The existing parking layouts and times will be investigated to see what scope there is for additional facilities or changes to the hours of operation for the benefit of shoppers/businesses. The existing traffic management layout and crossing facilities will be investigated to see what improvements can be made to assist vulnerable users, pedestrians and cyclists.
(I should add, this is pending June committee approval)

The beady eyed amongst you will have noticed that these funds will go towards carriageway resurfacing. If I'm not mistaken, it's been barely a month since Mitcham Lane has been resurfaced.

I don't deny the fact that the proposed work is needed, or won't be an improvement. However, I would have preferred that we could have had cycle lanes as per my petition above. It would also be great, if each time the roads were due to be resurfaced, that our engineers were able to use their skills and knowledge to improve the roads (removing the centre white line is a simple example that comes to mind). Another petition asking the council to be more pro-active on this front is here.

However, it is the will of both the Labour and Conservative councillors who represent Wandsworth residents that for the engineers to be able to act we should wait for 3 people to be killed or seriously injured, or we should wait for a significant petition. There's a catch, which you may have noticed. I have petitioned.

In fact, I did stand as a Lib Dem candidate in the local elections. Yet our Labour councillors take a different view on road safety. They, like the conservatives, choose to ignore that Upper Tooting Road collisions are caused by people rat-running, and objected to trialling ideas that are proven to work in other places.

It wouldn't be my choice, but then, I'd really like to see safer streets. I question if the Labour team's choice of spending priority will deliver the greatest improvement to road safety.

Often people will ask me, isn't this already happening?

What they don't realise is that the people who have been elected have other priorities. The actions of our councillors speak louder than their words.

Labour's claim that they can't do anything without running the whole council is patently untrue. For local people who would really like to see serious action on road safety, I'm afraid neither of the two parties who've been elected to represent us locally are likely to deliver significantly.

On the plus side, I'm optimistic that a number of my petitions will work their way through the system in the not too distant future. With the support of local people, we will improve our streets and our area.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Reminders why our local streets need to be fixed



With my latest petition for Tooting Bec Road continuing to tick up a few more supporters, I thought it was worthwhile highlighting a few comments and recent tweets which highlight why improvements to this road and others need to be made.

I asked our local Wandsworth Guardian journalist her thoughts, and from speaking with other local residents in the local elections last year, I know she's not alone:


Here are a selection of the comments left under the petition to date:

I cycle along the road several times a week from the athletics track to the lido & feel very vulnerable and exposed so a separate cycle path would be the safest option. The piece of road at the entrance to Tooting Lido car park is also a risky spot and hard to cycle safely out of the Lido, a Keep Clear marking on the road would make that a much safer spot. - Lucinda
Please can we have cycle paths on either side of the road? Two-way tracks on one side don’t work. Also, there’s a lot of anti-social behaviour from a small number of people who currently choose to cycle on the pavement along this stretch of the road. Please make the police arrest them; at present the police aren’t interested in tackling this problem. - Will
We've got 134 signatures so far, but will need more to ensure that TfL and the council act. With the Mitcham Lane petition we've got officers looking into new proposals following a petition which gained 553 signatures.
The creation of segregated cycle routes will encourage many more people to cycle and access the open spaces of Tooting Bec, including older people and families who currently are too intimidated by the proximity of fast moving traffic. - Steve
Myself and my dog nearly run over each day we cross the lights near franciscan rd with drivers going 40 mph in a 30 and they go through the red lights – the quicker this happens the better. Have called TFL to introduce speeding cameras and told there needs to be a fatal accident before they do that! Madness - Niall

If you agree with Sophia, Lucinda, Will, Steve or Niall please add your name if you haven't signed it already

It would be great if we didn't have to do all these petitions and if our elected politicians not only recognised the problem, but were prepared to take action to deal with it. 

Our council, our Transport for London, is accountable ultimately to us through our imperfect democratic institutions. 

Petitioning is a small way in which we can illustrate the need for change. 

Add your support here:

PS: don't forget you can now register to vote online. Do that now if you aren't sure you are registered to vote.


Saturday, 27 December 2014

As year end approaches a new petition commences


It's been a while since the last petition went live, but in my defence I've been a little busy. The arrival of a first baby into the family does tend to necessitate a slight shift in normal patterns.

Tooting Bec Road has long been on my list of streets to try to fix, if you could lend your support as you may have done with other petitions in the past that would be awesome.

Please add your name via this link: Let's make Tooting Bec Road safe for all!

Thanks to Northern Ireland Greenways for the inspiration for the image (@nigreenways twitter feed). With progress being made as a result of several other local petitions to improve our streets, I'm confident that with enough support this ask is achievable.

Hoping for progress in the new year on:

  • Bikehangars for Wandsworth
  • Mitcham Lane redesign (with cycle lanes)
  • Balham Boulevard consultation
  • Contraflow cycling permitted on some one-way streets

If you haven't seen the presents Santa gave us via TfL this Xmas, and are interested, do have a gander at the following documents:


  • International Cycling Infrastructure Best Practise Study
  • International Cycling Infrastructure Best Practise Study appendix
  • London Cycle Design Standards


All available to download off this page: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/cycling