Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Winning the ideas battle (slowly, but surely)

Progress takes time, but in time we make progress.

It can be frustrating for people who are challenging the status quo with ideas that they believe would deliver many benefits, to confront others who hold differing beliefs. That is part of the process of achieving sustainable change.

Last night I attended a public meeting convened I believe by Conservative ward councillors in Clapham to discuss where developments are on the Quietway route that is due to pass through Clapham Common.



From the people that responded to the consultation there was a clear majority in favour of the proposals. Never the less, there were strongly articulated views by a number of people present at the meeting that these proposed changes would be particularly detrimental to people driving in and around the area.

I suggested, that if there were a possibility to trial the closure of Windmill Drive using temporary measures that might be a way of ensuring that the views of those concerned about the potential impacts of a closure are properly addressed and listened to, whilst also acknowledging the response to the consultation and the evidence base which suggests that there would be minimal traffic impact on the surrounding roads from such a change. The Cabinet member from Lambeth, Cllr Brathwaite, gave the impression that such an idea may well be considered.

On the slip of paper in the room, one of the other points raised was 'Loss of green space'. The officers present told the gathering that if the proposals went ahead there would be a net gain of around 250sqm. No loss of green space to be concerned about on this front, there were some murmurs about the gain being 'de minimis' or a tiny percentage of the common etc. We also heard from some residents on Windmill Drive, who spoke of the aggression demonstrated by drivers, and how some years ago when sewage works meant that the drive had been closed to through motor traffic for 6 months it was bliss.

It is part of the process of change that strongly held beliefs are challenged, and that is really difficult to overcome.

In terms of progress in Wandsworth, there are positive signs. Cllr Brathwaite also mentioned that Wandsworth Council had requested that if the closure were to go ahead, they would like a trial to be instigated in the first instance. As we can see with the on-going consultation for Dr Johnson Avenue on Tooting Common (not dissimilar issues are raised on this), Wandsworth Council have started to adopt a trial sort of approach.

My only concern is that the consultation for Dr Johnson Avenue, and the proposed trial, has no clear parameters as to how the council would define problems which would trigger a return to the status quo.

That is a difficult political space, but if we are to really improve our streets, and indeed other policy areas, we need our public institutions to be comfortable in these challenging spaces. Not every new idea is going to work, but where there are issues, doing nothing is not going to make them go away. If we try things and learn from them, we will be able to improve many areas of our lives.

NB - I didn't stay till the end of the meeting as I felt the key points that needed to be heard had been put across.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Quietways in Wandsworth

Happy new year folks. Hope that 2016 is going to be a good one. I'm not posting nearly as regularly as in past, life pressures have forced me to reallocate a lot of my time.

As you may be aware, Transport for London are funding the Quietways programme which is being delivered in partnership with Sustrans and local councils.

Wandsworth Council recently adopted the new London Cycle Design Standards (LCDS) as part of their updated Cycling Strategy document. The LCDS includes reference to a Cycling Level of Service (CLoS) matrix that can be used to evaluate proposed changes to the street environment.

With the consultations live for the Quietway interventions in Wandsworth (TFL website), I thought that I'd ask both Wandsworth Council and TfL for the CLoS details that were used in arriving at the proposals in the consultations. Wandsworth Council consultations going live from the 8th Jan here.

To date, Wandsworth Council (the main Highways Authority for where most of the changes are due to happen) has confirmed that they haven't seen any CLoS details and that I should check with TfL.

TfL have also got back to me suggesting that Wandsworth Council as the relevant Highways Authority would have the details.

Something seems a little fishy here.

If neither TfL or Wandsworth Council have seen a CLoS evaluation, then has one actually been done?

Given that TfL are leading on this project and these interventions are supposed to meet the new LCDS might it not be useful for the evaluations to be put into the public domain?

More questions I'm afraid. Something to keep digging into as 2016 unfolds.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Tooting Labour at 6's & 7's on safer streets

To get one thing straight from the off, this isn't me 'just' having a go at the local Labour team. There are good people who support them, and campaign on their behalf, but as you'll see the lack of consistency on safer streets is glaring.



I was delighted to see that the Labour Bedford ward councillor has finally put up a post relating to the Balham High Road consultation that closes this Sunday. It's unfortunate that with only a few days to go the chance of them actually encouraging and boosting responses is limited. Still, better late than never I guess.

Yet, these views seem to contradict those of our local MP, also Labour's mayoral candidate:

With his office on that stretch of road, it's hard to think that he can't be aware of the danger.

So, which is it? 'Roads for cars' or 'streets for people'?

Little wonder that the Labour team, whilst having been successful in Tooting elections, have failed to deliver improvements on road safety on local streets for years in Tooting. The Conservatives can't be seen as being much better, they run the council and yet these proposals are the ones that have come to the fore.

Supported by the local Lib Dems, I've been able to run a series of campaigns and petitions. The delay in them being acted upon is illustrated by the two opposing points of view taken by the Labour team that represent the people of Tooting.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

10 days to tell TfL to do better on Balham High Road

We have just 10 more days to respond to this consultation on Balham High Road. I've posted about it previously here, the key points for me to raise with TfL are:


  • Where are the protected, continental style, cycle lanes? 
  • Where are the bus stop cycle lane bypasses? 

I've got a bunch of flyers printed to encourage people to respond. They won't get out there by themselves. I've got just over 2500 more to get out there. 

Interested in helping?

Here's what you can do:


  1. RESPOND to the consultation! (easy to forget to do!)
  2. Share details with your friends (email - Facebook - Twitter)
  3. Distribute some flyers (drop me a line if you'd like some - jon.irwin[at]gmail.com) I work in Balham and have them at my desk. 

The only reason that we can't have the sort of streets that are being built in central London at the moment, is if we don't ask. We don't have to wait 20 more years to get serious improvements to Balham High Road. 


NB - Also with a Crossrail 2 station going to be either in Balham or Tooting, there is even more reason to ensure that people are given safe space to cycle without needing to share local streets with construction vehicles. Over to you folks.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Streatham Road - missed opportunity

Cycling home last night, I spotted this sign at the end of my street:

From a glance this morning, Streatham Road has been re-instated to the original plans.

Every time that a road is re-surfaced like this, it is an opportunity to use latest best practise to improve safety. That requires that our local authorities have joined up thinking and are constantly learning and looking for ways to improve.

It was a suggestion that I made as part of this petition for Mitcham Lane which adjoins Streatham Road. At the last check, there is funding in the pipeline for Mitcham Lane to make the changes.

Would it not have made more sense to do improvements at the same time as the road was resurfaced last year?

I'm fed up with the council and councillors either complaining that they don't have the money, or they don't run the whole council to be able to make things happen. Clearly funds are tight. All the more reason to genuinely look holistically at how they want the area to be improved so that these limited funds can be targeted to get the best outcomes. No council can be all things to all people. The least we deserve is to be given clarity as to the real direction that our elected representatives want to head in.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Failing to deliver for Balham Boulevard

Having seen this consultation go live (technically the bit adjacent to where the Balham Boulevard project is due to happen) it doesn't bode well.



Here are some thoughts/comments below. I'd welcome your comments before submitting my response to TfL.

Balham Boulevard:
- it isn't as it is the stretch basically from Ritherdon Road south.
- however, it doesn't bode well for Balham Boulevard as this would adjoin it, so if this isn't significantly improved then Balham Boulevard will just be the name of the current road with perhaps some more paint on it.

*It is not possible to provide a segregated cycle lane at this location due to access to residential properties being required
- Utter rubbish. The LCDS illustrate how this can be done, and Old Shoreham Road in Brighton is a UK example where this is in place. A road for motor vehicles doesn't pose a problem for access to residential properties, neither does a pavement. Consultations for the Mini-Holland projects in London also show that TfL can do this.

Floating Bus stops or lack thereof
- Again in Brighton, Lewes Road, has a series of floating bus stops that from all reports work very well.

Affecting traffic capacity:
28% drop in motor traffic volumes (2005-2013) along the A24 Clapham South to Tooting Bec (http://bettertransportmaps.org.uk/map-traffic-2005-2013.html)
Providing a real alternative to travelling short trips by building proper cycle lanes along a road this wide would not only give people real choice as to how they travel, but also make it easier for those who need to drive to get around too.

Space:
- The central reservation hasn't been touched. This is wasted space currently helping no-one.
- From Tooting Bec heading south there is effectively only a single lane for motor traffic in each direction, and the same goes northbound once you start going through Balham. Smoothing out the narrow points for motor traffic would provide a more consistent travel time for motor traffic and free up significant amount of space to improve the public realm for walking and cycling, as well as the local environment for businesses and residents.

These are some initial thoughts. Please feel free to chip in.

In case you are wondering how this can be put forward given the high quality of other schemes which have gone to consultation recently, the answer is the politics. It is self evident that TfL has the engineering capability &/or sourcing capability to brief consultants to come up with high quality schemes that will deliver significant improvements to all road users. 

In the absence of a strong political steer as to what is wanted, the engineers are being asked to please everyone which isn't possible. This is a huge opportunity to genuinely improve the local area for generations to come. What is currently on the table frankly just isn't good enough. 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Lessons from elsewhere

It's been a while since my last post, but that's probably for the best.

There has been a lot going on over the summer in terms of real progress to humanise our streets, with the work on Embankment and around Oval being front of mind. As the naysayers are keen to point out, there isn't the space to implement these kind of solutions on every street.

That is true, one size doesn't fit all, but fortunately there are other options.

The Loughborough Junction experimental scheme started the other week, and whilst in Lambeth, should provide interesting lessons for other urban areas in the UK. It is interesting to see how the engineers/officers at the council have been able to already rapidly respond to the situation on the ground. It is also worth noting that local politicians have been open minded enough to allow the scheme to go ahead.

It is no secret that this approach is one that I feel has considerable merit, and that Wandsworth Council should be able to adopt. The barriers to that are political, no more, no less. At present both Labour and the Conservatives in Wandsworth have been resolute in their opposition.

A little further south, we have seen the Norbury Avenue scheme take place. Another trial, which has been contentious to say the least. It is sad that some of those opposed to the scheme have seen fit to vandalise the temporary measures inhibiting the ability to gather robust data. There was a lively discussion at Croydon Council regarding Norbury Avenue last Monday. Again, the outcome here will be an interesting one to watch out for.

Back in Wandsworth, the council has done a survey looking at the possibility of reincorporating Dr Johnson Avenue back into Tooting Common. Again, it will be very interesting to see how the council responds to this. My party has suggested that adopting a trial approach would be a good way to proceed to take into account the views which will have been expressed in the survey.

The approach taken to street management raises the important issue as to how councils reconcile their public health responsibilities against listening to local residents. Particularly when local residents may not believe the public health case, even when the evidence base is very strong.

For all those who believe that removing car access one one road will definitely cause further congestion, this post on the mathematics behind how that isn't always true is well worth a read.

Food for thought. As to if our local politicians are listening, well, we live in hope.