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.

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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.

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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


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Frustration & anger

At times I know I offend people with my views, that is not my aim.

With these recent events:

School children hit by roadside furniture as car flips onto roof (Nightingale Lane, Balham 26th Nov)

Pedestrian killed on Mitcham Lane by being hit by a bus (Streatham - Friday 28th November)

13 year old boy taken to hospital after being hit by bus (West London - 2nd December)

Cyclist (trainer) knocked off her bike (Teddington - 2nd December)

And other campaigners being bang on the money:

Or, writers in the Telegraph getting the fact that we all adapt very quickly to change:

It's hard not to get frustrated and be angry. 

I'd rather that we just got on and fixed our streets.

Better for everyone, and on a personal level I wouldn't have this frustration and anger to deal with.



Friday, 28 November 2014

Labour's 'greenwash' in Tooting

It is with no little irony that as a constituent of Sadiq Khan I can't help but feel there is quite a bit of 'green wash' from Labour going on of late.

Waste your vote on the Green party - or choose a green Labour government
Sadiq Khan writes in the Independent

We're like you: Labour pitch for Green vote in bid to quell revolt on the left
The Guardian

Sadiq Khan appointed to lead Labour unit on Green party threat
New Statesman

My view is that actions speak louder than words. Given that in Sadiq Khan's own constituency there have been quite a few Labour councillors for a while now, a little bit of scrutiny of how they've acted is warranted.

We've also recently had the local elections, again, another opportunity to see how the party positions itself when elections are approaching, and how they act after the elections.

20s Plenty

As a policy, this is something that I'd like to see the council consult borough-wide on. The Labour group in the Furzedown ward campaigned on this some 7 years ago, and recently the consultation took place and will be implemented.

From multiple perspectives this policy is a no-brainer, and particularly from a green perspective. Safer streets make walking and cycling more attractive, increase physical activity, reduce air pollution as well as wear and tear on the roads. What's not to like?

If the Labour party locally felt so passionately about this measure, why if their team in Furzedown (including a co-chair of SERA, Labour's environmental group) were campaigning for 20mph, wasn't the rest of the local party on-board?

Before the local elections, Sadiq's position, and therefore the position of the local party was that they would support requests for 20mph where people asked for it, in effect the same position as the Conservative party locally.

Fortunately (local elections now out of the way) the Labour team are now happy to petition on 20mph (in Tooting ward at least). 7 years for ward by ward progress on a no-brainer type issue isn't exactly electric.

Space for Cycling

If you are a regular reader you'll be aware of this campaign. If you aren't, it was a call from London Cycling Campaign for a specific action in every ward. Only two parties in Wandsworth were signed up borough-wide before the local election, the Green party and the Lib Dems.

As things stand of the elected councillors only 18% of Wandsworth's councillors are currently supportive. If Sadiq's local Labour party and councillors can't sign up to 'Space for Cycling', I'm afraid I have difficulty seeing how they actually plan on delivering on green issues. Let's face it, cycling is a part of the solution to congestion, obesity, air pollution, boosting the local economy etc.

Local action - talk comes cheap

Few mainstream politicians will disagree that we need to take action to deal with climate change. However, that requires politicians of all levels to listen to the evidence and act accordingly.

There are 3 Mini Holland projects taking place in London at the moment, looking to implement new ways (for the UK) of street management, and make it safer and easier for people of all ages and abilities to be able to choose to cycle in their area. Examples of this mean dealing with rat-running, Waltham Forest ran a trial recently stopping through access for motor vehicles, except public transport, through certain streets.

In Tooting several years ago, following the 3rd consultation to deal with rat-running in and around Fishponds road, I felt a different approach was needed. I campaigned to gain support to run a trial along the same lines that Waltham Forest as part of their Mini-Holland have done. The consultation took place just before the local elections.

In light of the consultation, Labour, like the Tories, both have decided to do nothing (see more on this story here). The engineers believe that the proposed trial solution would work.

I'm sorry, but if we know there is a problem, how is doing nothing going to fix it? If the engineers believe that a proposed solution will work, why aren't we listening to them? Evidence based policy/decision making needs to come from national and local politicians.

Oh, and another point that Labour activists frequently point out to me at a local level, Labour doesn't run the council, therefore they can't do anything. We've almost had 5 years of a coalition government. Can't say that I've liked everything, I'm a Liberal and my party is the smaller part of a coalition.

If after the general election next year Labour happen to be the largest party, but don't have a majority in parliament, does that mean that they won't do anything? There are some real challenges that need politicians of all colours to work together and find real solutions.

I'm afraid given what I've seen of Labour in Tooting I have little confidence that they have the ideas or principles to deliver nationally.