Friday, 29 August 2014

Back to school - the school run - a little plea

Francis Hirzel cycles to school daily (Gabriel Szabo/Guzelian)
from Independent article linked below

As the start of the school year is only just around the corner, a little plea. 

A growing number of children would like to cycle to school and indeed are. For some it will be their first time cycling regularly on our roads. Please give our young people who are starting to cycle some space, and be considerate if they wobble or make what may seem to be an erratic decision. 

We all make mistakes, particularly when doing something new for the first time. It makes it even more important for those who have to drive their children to school that you take extra care over the next couple of weeks. 

The same goes incidentally for taking care around adults on bikes too. 

Thanks for reading, and hope that it's a good start to the new school year for everyone!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Fishponds - a different take on the consultation responses

The whole Fishponds saga for me is a microcosm of the political challenges that we face as a community if we genuinely wish to see progress. Taken at face value the responses from the consultation seemed to give an overwhelming rejection of the trial approach which my Lib Dem colleagues and I were advocating.

There is cross party consensus that there is a problem, the challenge is doing anything to actually fix it. The pie chart shown above is from the data provided from the consultation (I put in an FOI request to get the breakdown - view pdf here) . I've added an extra layer, which broadly categorises the comments into people who agree there is a problem, those who think there isn't one, those who are undecided, and people using the consultation to flag other issues.

It is worth, in my view, re-visiting part of the conclusion made by the highway engineers/officers who wrote report 13-741:

There is a possibility that there will be a increase in traffic flows in some residential roads due to transfer of traffic on account of the point closures, but this will be offset by the forecasted reduction in traffic over the larger area.
In my view, the officers are stating that resident concerns of an increase in traffic are unlikely to be realised because of the forecasted reduction in traffic over the larger area.

Labour and Conservative councillors on the committee were unanimous in their view that nothing more should be done here in supporting the recommendations in paper 14-371. I should also add, that in my view officers made exactly the right recommendation. Officers work in a political environment where they need to respond to the councillors who are elected to represent us.

It does beg the question, can local people really be too surprised if long standing problems aren't fixed when neither of the two elected parties are prepared to call for any real action? This was the 4th consultation for the same problem in 12 years. No action has been suggested to date (that I'm aware of) by either of the elected parties to resolve this.

With my Lib Dem colleagues we will continue to work hard to get action to fix long standing local problems. That frustration was what led me to stand in the local elections. Officers frequently know how to fix local issues, but all too often our politicians get in the way.

If you are tired and frustrated by the lack of any real action do get in touch. There is a group of people locally who really do want to make a difference. I hope that in future elections people will be able to scrutinise the record of action, or lack thereof, to sort out local problems by those political groups who currently represent us. Maybe in the future we'll have a few more people supporting the Lib Dems locally, and we can really start to fix some of these issues.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Decaying van rusting to bits in the street

It's coming up for two years since I first came to view the property that is now my home in Furzedown. Fairly confident betting that it's been a little longer that this van has been parked on my street.

Thanks to the pro-active nature of the Labour team in Tooting & Furzedown that represent us locally I'm left wondering if they are waiting for the van to naturally decay and then claim that it's as a result of their work!

Another issue on Mitcham Lane is the cars that are regularly parked there for sale, clearly not private re-sellers. If local people keep on voting Labour, we can't be surprised if we keep the same problems.

A Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) would probably help. Even though the lead councillor locally, Cllr Leonie Cooper, is co-chair of SERA (Labour's environmental group), you would have thought that a CPZ might have already been put in place given how long she has been a councillor. Doesn't really say much for her local action/credentials on the environment.

Given the lack of action shown by Labour, with my Lib Dem colleagues we are working to tackle issues such as this. If you'd like to get involved and help out do get in touch.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Welham Road - Dead space, or very much alive?

This morning I was heading off to a meeting, and cycled along Welham Road. I was running a bit late, so wasn't able to take the pictures on the way without cars parked on the street.

Last year there was a public meeting discussing the schools plans to 'make better use' of Welham road and turn 'dead space' into a 'more positive community asset'. The proposals as were circulated would result in limiting access for people on foot, bike or using mobility aids to travel along the road.

Do you think this could happen in a 'dead space'? Do you see this very often on residential streets that have don't have controlled motorised access, or restrict through access for motor vehicles?

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Labour tried to silence me!

This week has been a busy one. I hope that what took place on Tuesday evening won't prevent progress on what I believe to be a widely shared aspiration to create safer streets.

The local Labour party (their representatives on the committee) voted to silence me, and by extension the hundreds of people who have supported my petitions. They singled me out, as they didn't choose to try to stop the other deputations who wanted to speak.

You can view the decisions made by the committee here.

I went along to speak on papers 14-371 and 14-379. The local elections have come and gone. However, it seems clear from the actions of the Labour team, that I will really need more help from local people to get further progress on our streets.

The Fishponds scheme was discussed, and whilst I fully accept that local people responded negatively to the consultation (not too surprising given the wording of it), the recommendations from the council is to do nothing. Neither Labour, nor the Conservatives (as far as I'm aware) have been prepared to put forward any proposals to try to fix what is a widely acknowledged problem with traffic in the local area.

I live in hope that the wide spread goal of creating safer streets will mean that people of differing political persuasions can work together. However, if the Labour team are not prepared to listen to differing points of view, it is difficult to see exactly how positive consensual progress can be made.

Sticking our heads in the sand and hoping that long standing problems will go away doesn't work. It isn't easy to put solutions in place, but the longer we leave them, the greater the cost to our community.

If you would like to join me and help campaign do get in touch.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Frustration, dismay, but more motivated than ever

Yesterday saw the publication of paper 14-371 which refers to the outcome of the consultation for the proposed trial on the Fishponds road area. Download the paper here

The headlines are:
399 responses were received (17% of households canvassed) with 29% supporting (115) and 64% opposed (257)
Officers recommend that no further action be taken.

Looking into the details what can we learn?

Executive asked for a 40% minimum response rate to deem the consultation effective.
Only Tooting and Furzedown wards had a turnout in the recent local elections which were the same day as the European elections of over 40%. Does this mean that the local elections weren't effective in most of the borough? Is it realistic for the executive to set a target response rate for a consultation higher than the average turnout for local elections? See ward by ward turnout here

Concerns from local residents, 91 people thought that they would increase congestion and delays, 38 people thought that there must be a better way, 9 people suggested a one-way system for Broadwater road, and 6 flagged a 20mph limit.
If we total these comments up as people who opposed the scheme, but agree that there is a problem, we have 144 people. If we can view those people as wanting the problem fixed the numbers would look like this: 259 wanting problem fixed - 113 wanting nothing to be done.

If the committee chooses to take no action, then this doesn't bode well for progress in Wandsworth for the next four years. This consultation was the fourth in 12 years as a result of other groups, and me petitioning calling on our council to act. Our council has monitored traffic levels in the area and found them to be over and above levels which are fit for residential streets.

I'm quite happy for a different approach to be advocated by the council to fix what is a recognised problem.

The important questions in terms of putting in place solutions are:

Who do we ask to come up with solutions?
If the local community doesn't like the look of the solutions, (because they don't believe they will work, even if they are evidence-based), do we just shrug our shoulders and do nothing?

The other week I wrote a fairy tale about this - The Prince and his toothache - well worth a gander if you haven't looked at it already.

I'm due be a father in September. I want my child to be able to grow up in a community where they are able to safely cycle to school. Where as a family we don't need to share horror stories about how someone's 'need' to not 'wait' behind me or my wife on our bikes has resulted in them almost killing us.

Other parts of London have successfully made huge changes to their street environment to the wider benefit of all members of their local communities. I'm more determined than ever to ensure that our community can benefit too, but I really will need your help.

Do get in touch if you live locally, and share my desire to see a better neighbourhood.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Bikehangars coming to Wandsworth for Xmas!

Soon to be up on Wandsworth's Council website (link to follow). The Bikehangars which are becoming more and more common in neighbouring Lambeth are due to make a start on Wandsworth's streets hopefully before Christmas!

An initial 10 will be placed around the borough in locations where there is greatest demand. Over 200 people have already registered their interest via, and their details have been passed to the council for consideration.

If you really, really would like to have one on your street then ask any of your cycling neighbours to register via the link above, but also to email with your address, and a brief explanation why this would be so useful.

Would also do no harm to copy in your newly elected/re-elected councillors, so that they are aware of this need/demand from their residents. Not sure who your councillors are, then follow this link and you can get their email addresses.