Thursday, 12 December 2013

January 2014 - Going to need your help

Those of you that regularly follow this blog will know that progress can be painfully slow at times. That said, we may be close to a breakthrough.

Early in January 2014 (exact dates to be confirmed) the consultation pack for Fishponds Road area will be delivered. This is as a result of a petition that I presented to the council back in July 2012. That petition asked the council to trial an approach that works elsewhere basically to see if we can make our streets safer.

If it goes ahead, works, and people still want to keep it, we could end up with the roads having this type of arrangement on them:

Thanks to @psimonk and @Labourstone for the picture - Somers Road, Walthamstow

The consultation has to be approved, so that we can trial, using temporary measures, barriers which will have the same effect on certain streets. The council will deliver the consultation pack to around 2200 households. The council have asked for a response rate of around 40% (higher than turnout in some local elections). 

The longer a pack is in someone's home, and they haven't looked at it, the greater the chance of it hitting the recycling bag. I'm getting a team together so that when the pack goes out, we can door knock and ask if people have responded. 

95% of the people I asked, when I originally ran the petition were happy to support it. Next big ask is getting a good response rate. Can you help? 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

More petitions formally presented to Wandsworth Council

This email just came in:

"I can confirm that your petitions relating to (i) a pilot traffic scheme in Smallwood Road / Fountain Road ; and (ii) making Mitcham Lane safer for all were presented to the Council at its meeting yesterday evening by Councillors Ben Johnson and Leonie Cooper respectively.

The Director of Environment and Community Services will look into the issues raised and report to a future meeting of the Strategic Planning and Transportation Overview and Scrutiny Committee. I will send you a copy of each report as soon as it is published."

The petitions presented last night at the full council had a combined total of over 1000 people. I'm still working on a few more petitions in Tooting. If you'd like to help out make our streets safer, drop me a line.

All those signatures don't appear by magic. 

Big thanks to you if you have signed them. Don't forget you can see some of the current petitions via the link at the top right of the page. 

Friday, 22 November 2013

'Let's make Mitcham Lane safe for all' petition handed in!

Yesterday I braved the cold, to cycle to City Hall and hand in our petition to make Mitcham Lane safe for all. Caroline Pidgeon AM, leader of the Lib Dem group at the London Assembly came out to show her support.

The specific petition ask was as follows:
We, the undersigned, call on TfL and Wandsworth Council to make changes to Mitcham Lane so that cycling can be an option for everyone, not just the fit and the brave.
It was addressed to both TfL (hence handing it in at City Hall, as our current Mayor Boris Johnson is the chair of TfL) and Wandsworth Council. Almost 550 people had signed the petition, 547 to be precise.

In terms of what can be done quickly to respond to the petition, we need look no further than Camden and Royal College Street.

How this will make the street safer for all, is as follows:

People on foot:
The main roadway will be narrowed by the provision of segregated cycle tracks/lanes. This means that people on foot will have a shorter distance to travel to cross the road which is dominated by motor traffic. A narrower road-width for motor vehicles, will encourage by design, drivers to travel at lower speeds. This in turn will give people on foot greater time to be able to safely cross the street. Also this will reduce the potential conflict between people walking and people cycling as there will be a clear space where people should cycle along.

People using bikes/trikes, mobility scooters:
They will have clear dedicated space to be able to use without needing to share what is a busy road with speeding vehicles. This will facilitate opportunities for families to be able to cycle to school, and to the local green spaces without having to compete for space on the road with motor traffic.

People driving:
The provision of cycle tracks will stop the people who currently leave cars with for sale notices along Mitcham Lane. In turn, this will also mean that sight lines for people exiting side roads which lead onto Mitcham Lane are clearer helping people to be able to judge when best to pull out. The narrower road width will as mentioned above slow down the top speed of motor traffic, resulting in drivers having more time to be able to enter the flow.

This is just one, of a series of local petitions that I'm running to improve our local area. Do check out the link on the top right of the blog to see what else you can support. It's only by campaigning together that we can make change happen.

Of late, too much blood has been spilt on our roads, we can, we must do something. We must no longer accept that avoidable death and serious injury on our roads is part and parcel of what goes with living in London. The answers exist. The only bit of the puzzle that is missing, is the political will to change.

If you'd like to help me bring about the changes we need do get in touch.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Progress on Fishponds - almost frustrated

Last night, the Fishponds Road scheme, which readers of the blog may know, went back to committee at Wandsworth Council.

Quick re-cap, I petitioned 2 years ago, to get support to do a trial where barriers to motor traffic would be placed where the dots are on the map below. Got 243 signatures on the petition, and it was over 90% of people who I'd door knocked and asked for their support.

The officers had drawn up a decent paper (13-741), recommending that the scheme go forward to consultation. I raised a few points:

  1. Great that we are closer to doing something tangible to deal with the actual problem
  2. Unfortunate that the proposed temporary barriers aren't very visually attractive
  3. Would the committee ensure that pedestrian and cycle counts are done as well as motor vehicular counts too.

I would have liked to have added that as the scheme is an experiment, perhaps not all of the proposed extra signposts are necessary, which have bumped up the cost considerably as the posts 'need' to have electrical supplies.

All I can see is that there seems to be a desire to completely pamper people driving in the area and treat them as if they are idiots, as if they wouldn't be able to see a barrier in front of them. Then we wonder why we end up with so much street clutter!

Following my short piece, one of the local Labour councillors, put forward their views. The councillor flagged the reality that some local residents may not view the scheme positively. That said, the councillor was happy for it to go ahead to consultation, and that if there was enough local support to conduct the trial they too would be supportive.

Cllr King who is the relevant Cabinet member then gave the impression that as previous consultations, of a different nature, to deal with the recognised problem had failed, that local residents have already had their chance. A compromise was finally reached that the consultation would go ahead, and that a target of 40% response to the consultation would be needed in order for any trial to go-ahead.

So, good news is that we are going to have a consultation.  Challenge is that 40% response rate is bloody high.

So, if you live locally, or in south west London, and think that trialling different ways to make our streets safer is a sensible way to go, I'm going to need your help.

When the consultation document goes out, a lot of people tend to ignore them. People who tend to respond all too often are those who object. I really believe that this type of scheme will work, and will deliver huge benefits to the local area. In fact the officers even state in their conclusions:

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 (motor) traffic over the larger area.

If you'd like to see real space for cycling, this is one of the measures that needs to happen. It'll only happen with local support. Local people are more likely to support it, if other local people ask them to.

Will you join me?

Drop me a line jon.irwin[at] if you are keen. When the consultation document gets sent out, we can then go door to door.

Together we can make our streets safer. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Time & Money

Today the Conservative group of the London Assembly published a report which flags up the appalling record of TfL's buses in terms of people killed and seriously injured. The irony that this record is under a Conservative Mayoralty wasn't lost on me.

Richard Tracey and I were asked to speak on Nic Ferrari's LBC morning show about the report. Richard mentioned the new road design which has been unveiled along Bow. In the past few minutes, we've sadly heard that another lady has lost her life there as a result of a collision with a lorry.

He said these things (segregated routes) take time and money, and managed to drop in a touch of victim blaming too by suggesting that jaywalking is a serious factor in bus on pedestrian collisions.

Yes redesigning our streets will take time and money.

I think enough blood money has been spent and spilt on our roads to call time on inaction and get on with separating people on bikes along main roads. The Olympics showed us how quickly we can change our streets. The only thing that is needed is political will to make it happen quickly.

Camden have introduced light segregated cycle route along Royal College Street. There are a ton of roads across London who could be treated quickly in this fashion, and make a real difference to road safety for everyone. Over 500 people have signed my petition which in essence calls for similar work to be done on Mitcham Lane. It's time for change.

Our politicians currently in the driving seat just aren't putting changes in quick enough, and this costs lives.

Question for us, is do we want to change our streets for the better, or are we happy with a level of death and injury that would have public enquiries being conducted if it was on our rail network?

TfL buses average 1 KSI per day. That doesn't even count the rest of the traffic.

Please support by adding your name to the list. Next year we'll have local elections in London, and we need to make sure that candidates of every party know that we demand safer streets, and the time for them is now.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Demand growing with local #Space4Cycling petitions

I haven't blogged in a while, and thought I should write a brief update as to how we are doing with our local #Space4Cycling or safer streets petitions. They all tie in nicely with what the London Cycling Campaign policies for the 2014 local elections, see more on those details here.

Fishponds Road - was presented to council in July 2012. I'm hoping that it'll go back to committee on the 19th November. Agenda for that should be published on the 11th or 12th November. Fingers crossed on that one as it'll be a first locally. Assuming that this one hits the ground it'll go a long way to achieving the "No through-motor-traffic zones, & Safer cycle routes to school" themes mentioned on the website.

Protected space on main roads (LCC theme)

Let's make Mitcham Lane safe for all - as I'm typing this we've got just shy of 500 people who've signed it. It's going to be presented to the council and to the Mayor of London on the 4th December.

No through-motor-traffic zones (LCC theme)

Better, safer streets for Clapham Common - Now over the 200 mark, with a target to reach of 1000. As you can see from the stuff above and below, I've been a little busy on other things so this one is ticking up albeit a little slower.

No through-motor-traffic zones, & Safer cycle routes to school (LCC themes)

Better, safer, people-friendly streets for Smallwood Road / Fountain Road residents - Currently this has just over 220 people who have signed the petition. The headmaster of Smallwood Primary School has expressed his support, and when I've been door-knocking over 80% of people asked are happy to support this petition.

A safer Elmbourne Road and Dr Johnson Avenue (Tooting Common) - Just shy of 200 on 179 at the moment. The proposal for Dr Johnson Avenue ties in very much with the Greenways that Andrew Gilligan has been talking about. So I'm optimistic that we'll at least be able to have a trial, or feasibility study of some sort.

20mph speed limits (LCC theme)

Safer, people-friendly streets for Wandsworth - 20mph is plenty - only just gone live as of a few days ago. The council is moving too slowly on this in my opinion, and that of quite a number of local civic society groups. Hence the call for a borough-wide consultation. All the evidence shows that it would be strongly supported, so if this is the first you've heard about it, please do sign!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Back to the Future - 1977 - 2013 the Balham Experiment

On Monday evening this week, I was speaking at a Wandsworth Living Streets meeting on the approach I'm advocating in terms of trialling new street layouts using temporary measures so that local residents can experience the difference. If it felt to be an improvement we can keep the changes or upgrade them as necessary.

A local lady, who has been a resident in the area for quite a bit longer than me, passed to me a document "The Balham Experiment". I hadn't looked at it in detail until a short moment ago. It was printed in January 1977 (so the document is a few years older than I am).

On the back is a section titled: The Flexible Approach

It goes on:

"The solution to the conflict between traffic and the environment is not simple. New methods must be tried and tested, developed or rejected. Our aim is not just to stop the decline in environmental conditions but to improve them."

So I'm puzzled as to why over 30 years later this isn't in place. This document was unbeknown to me, and I've set up this petition for Dr Johnson Avenue, which could have been lifted from the picture above.

"The Flexible Approach" is exactly what I'm asking our council to adopt. What is worrying is that some 30 years ago, officers clearly were advocating the same thing, but it didn't happen.

Let's not make that mistake again.

Friday, 27 September 2013

If you don't like it, you can always move

On a local Streetlife thread which I started about Elmbourne Road a comment someone made, I thought worthwhile sharing to a wider audience.

The broad thrust of the comment made, was that if you don't like how the streets are in your area all you need to do is move somewhere else. The issue is that for many parts of the UK, our streets are dire from a pedestrian or cycling perspective.

As the commenter alluded to moving home, I continued with the analogy. When people move into a new home, often changes are made quite early on as a fresh perspective has been given to the property in question. Things are changed because:

Why did the previous owners have that?
Why did choose that colour?
Why did they put that wall there?

I think once we have changed our streets for the better, we too will look back at how our streets are today, and ask similar questions.

Why did they do that?
Why didn't they just have safe cycle routes?
Why did they just let people drive and park their cars almost anywhere they want?

Below is the actual comment made, and my response.

James commented:
when people moved to this area they knew what the traffic situation was like and after a period of time you dont like it and  wish to change it for your needs i'm sorry its not going to happen. It draws a comparison to someone who moves to a village with the loverly village church where the bell's ring when ever and it starts to get on your nerves. I'm sorry but you best start thinking again where you might want to live my friend.

This was my response:
Dear James,

That's a very good point that people when they move to an area know what it is like, if they don't like certain things they can move elsewhere.

To continue using a house or home as an analogy. When you move into a new home, or purchase a property, you know what it's like, and what's it's issues may be. 

Many people look to do home improvements just after they move in to a new place, because they have a different perspective, or have a fresh view on things. They see problems where the previous owners didn't, and generally look to fix or improve their new home.

I see the local area as my home. I see problems in terms of how our streets are managed, and from the growing numbers of people signing the different petitions that I'm running, I'm not alone in that view. I think we can make 'home improvements' to our local area to the benefit of all. 

Where those 'improvements' can be run as pilots, to ensure that they genuinely deliver the benefits that are claimed (and repealed if they don't work) I find it hard to understand why some people are so dead set against any change at any cost. 

Thanks for your comment, and hope you have a good weekend.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Elmbourne Road - roadworks, or trial road closure?

This afternoon coming back from Balham, I noticed these roadworks taking place at the north end of Elmbourne Road. Thames Water are doing some emergency works which has meant that the road has been closed at this point, but you can still walk or cycle past, and indeed park your car in front of, or nearby the properties adjacent to the works.

Approximate location of the works
Roadworks, or trial road closures are happening all the time, and we just adapt to them. That is why I don't believe that the fears of chaos caused by piloting low-traffic zones or home-zones will actually happen.

I'm looking for more support for the petition in the link below, which happens to be calling for a pilot in the very same area. If you live locally, I do hope you can support it.

Sign the petition here.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Back to School & the school-run nightmare!

Summer has clearly ended as lots of pupils went back to school today. I don't have any children of my own at the moment, but the conditions on local streets this morning was dire. Making it very understandable why people who own cars, choose to drive their children to school.

It also rams home part of the reason why 50% of car trips are 2 miles or less. Combine that with the main reason that parents are afraid of cycling, and understandably might not want their children cycling on the roads, fear of motor traffic and we have the perfect storm.

Download the full report here:

At this point, most people shrug their shoulders, and say well that's just how it is. Fortunately a growing number of us are no longer accepting the status quo as good enough. Frankly it's been horrendous for far too long.

I don't want people to not have a choice to drive locally. However, I don't see why the choice to drive should inhibit or drive everyone else away from being able to choose to cycle locally.

Again, I can hear the siren voices, "You still can choose to cycle, you do don't you?". Yes, I do cycle, but most people don't, and I along with everyone else have to put up with dangerous drivers who frankly shouldn't still be allowed to drive. Those are just the ones that have been caught!

So, what can we do? What can be done? 

Good news is that we can change things for the better. We are changing things for the better. However, the process is taking time and far too long in my opinion.

  • Join London Cycling Campaign

The London Cycling Campaign is doing a fantastic job in lobbying and presenting the massive benefits of creating a people friendly city. They need our support, so if you aren't already a member please do join.

  • Support these local petitions

Locally in Tooting/Wandsworth, with the support of both Wandsworth Cycling Campaign and Wandsworth Living Streets I've been very active in pushing forward proposals for trials to take place which will, I believe create the safer streets, we need and deserve. I've got these petitions live, but I do need more people to sign them so that they can see the light of day. With the help of Joe Dunckley who blogs here, I now have this short video (on Smallwood Road) which tries to explain why I'd like your support.

Tooting Common - Dr Johnson Avenue

Clapham Common petition

Blackshaw Rd - Smallwood Rd - Fountain Road

All of the petitions above are 'just' asking the authorities to conduct trials. Let's give it a go! I presented a similar petition to the council last summer for Fishponds Road, and that has been approved by the committee we are currently waiting for dates as to when the scheme will go ahead. These petitions can and do work!

Let's make Mitcham Lane safe for all

This last one I'm hoping to get formally endorsed by Wandsworth Cycling Campaign. All being well that should happen too. If we don't ask, we definitely won't get. If you like what you see, spread the word. Together we can improve our streets, but we need to ask the powers that be to make it happen.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Mitcham Lane refreshed

It's been a busy month and summer!

In light of the comments received to my previous post about Mitcham Lane, I've started a new petition. I've also come across a new tool which is simply amazing!

Use Google satellite view and their measuring tool and you get a good estimation of the width of the road. If you zoom in below you'll get a good idea.

View Larger Map

Which I measured up at approximately 18m in places, and did this rough mock up of the street.

Then using the same width, I came up with these two options:

Granted neither of them are perfect, but then I'm not an engineer. It does however illustrate very simply that there is clearly the space for us to have high quality cycle tracks if we ask for them.

With that in mind, I've set up the following petition: Let's make Mitcham Lane safe for all

I'm hoping that Wandsworth Cycling Campaign will be able to endorse the petition. Thought that with already 49 people having signed it, perhaps you could help spread the word a little further.


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Turning frustration into solutions - Tooting Common

Late last year Wandsworth Council did an initial consultation to (along with other improvements) remove the white lines along the paths where cycling is permitted on both Wandsworth and Tooting Commons. The council is currently doing a second consultation on that for, I believe, statutory reasons.

There is a petition doing the rounds implying that our council is seeking to remove the cycle lanes. For those of you who are local, you may know that it took 10 years to get approval to allow cycling on the specified paths over these commons. I took some pictures this morning as I cycled over the common:

8:10 - see how busy it is

Dr Johnson Avenue - now there's a potential cycle road (I'll get to that)

Yes those posts are very dangerous particularly if avoiding wandering dogs etc

No, it's not a cycle road, but hey that's how people pass each other if no-one is walking

More suspect posts - near the play area. In the afternoon busier with families, you have to cycle carefully here when children are around.

The dis-jointed traffic lights crossing. Cars just drive through, people on foot/bikes need to go a little further to ask permission to cross the road. Most just wait for a gap and go, might explain low "usage" numbers for the crossing.

Surface really needs doing, it's really quite bumpy.
Ok didn't take this picture at the same time, but you see there is a little issue with the white lines etc.

Here you negotiate with people, as you've just had to switch sides.
For the record, I'm completely in favour of segregated cycle tracks alongside main roads, and for there being proper provision provided so that people can choose to cycle any local trip of their choice. Looking at the local data (on Tooting Common) of recorded incidents (i.e. crashes) involving bicycles, as I understand it, the white line was a contributing factor in those incidents. When wet it is a slip hazard.

Those who argue that we should keep the white line as it's a bit of "cyclist" space, are I believe wrong. The path is too narrow as it stands to really have a separation between people on or off bicycles. There would be massive opposition at present to proposals to expand the path, as it would be seen as taking space away from the common. Before I'm slated for putting this across, this is what I understand from having been involved with local groups. If you follow my blog, and twitter feed, you'll know I'm very keen on getting tangible change to improve local conditions (particularly transport/environmental ones) for everyone.

The good news, is that lots of people both use the paths as a cycle route, and are keen to see improvements locally too. I hope that you'll be able to support a number of petitions that I'm running locally.

Regarding Tooting Common, I've set up this petition, asking support to do a trial, and see if Dr Johnson Avenue could become a walking/cycling route. Check out the petition in full here, and I hope you'll support it.

UPDATE: 17th Nov 2014

A public enquiry ensued following the difference of opinion between local users and the petition calling for the white lines to remain.

You can view the letter from the inspector to the council here.

You can view the whole report here.

In short, the inspector has found in favour of the council removing the white lines.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Can we make Mitcham Lane safe for everyone?

Locals to Tooting, may have seen the #SavetheWheatsheaf petition which I set up last Saturday. Amazing the amount of support that has been gathered in less than a week. 

This has got me thinking about the possibilities of local campaigns on my more familiar territory of #saferstreets, and how I could promote this batch of petitions and others.

Thanks to Google for streetview image - I've tweaked it a bit as you can see.
I now live near Mitcham Lane, which for those of you who don't know it, it's an A road, and pretty wide as you can see (Original google streetview link). In fact so wide that you can have cars parked on both sides, a central reservation and there is still enough space for lorries, coaches etc to pass each way. 

Using Google's measuring tape, and the satellite view it seems to me that the road is at least 10.5m wide (not including the pavements). 

Crossing this road, on foot, or by bicycle is not straightforward. 

There is clearly the space for 2m wide segregated cycle routes to be placed on the roadway in both directions ensuring that people of whatever age or ability can choose to cycle locally. 

This would help reducing the school run effect on our roads, as providing safe infrastructure such as this would make it much safer for people of all ages to cycle locally (including pupils of our local schools). 

Yes, some of the on-street car parking would need to be removed, but that wouldn't stop access to off-road car parking which several properties have along Mitcham Lane.

The good news for the motoring enthusiasts amongst you is that as the road would keep most of it's motor traffic capacity so even the engineers who think roads are all about motor traffic could be kept happy. (i.e. we don't need to get those engineers to change their views in order for them to do this type of scheme)

Would welcome your views on this before I set up another local online petition. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Our AM writes "20mph limit won’t necessarily work for Putney"

Over on the excellent website, our local London Assembly Member posted a comment earlier today.

His perspective raised a number of queries, which I've put to him and have copied below:

Why would a London-wide 20mph speed limit in your view simply be unworkable? In the past 30mph was the default speed limit with differences for other major roads, how would a 20mph speed limit be different?

I quite agree (with our AM) that the speed limit if amended to 20mph should be done with local resident support. Why can't we follow the lead of other boroughs which are consulting borough wide as to what people's views are? 

With regards to policing and enforcement, stretched local police budgets have resulted in very little enforcement taking place of the current speed limits. Perhaps we could explore community-led enforcement options? 

Given that Wandsworth Council now has direct responsibility for public health, given the positive indicators of our local trials, would it not make sense to look to roll this out across the borough, with local support via a borough wide consultation? 


I've had a prompt response and the key factor according to our Assembly member as to if 20mph can be workable depends on enforcement, be that via the police, or using cameras. This view contradicts the locally gathered evidence in Wandsworth of the two trial 20mph areas, which have seen a drop in the average speed in those areas without (to my knowledge) any further enforcement than that which is done for the roads normally. 

Our council is working on a strategy on 20mph limits for Wandsworth at the moment. If you would like to know more, Wandsworth Living Streets are organising a public meeting happening this Wednesday 17th July, at The Alma Pub. Cllr Russell King (Cabinet member for Transport) will be speaking on a range of issues, so do come along if you are free:

Wednesday 17 July, 7.30pm
The Alma Pub, Upstairs function room, 
499 Old York Road, 
SW18 1TF

Friday, 28 June 2013

Parking - so where can I park my bike?

Fortunately London Cycling Campaign have come up with this nifty little form below which can help you get bike parking near your home or workplace.

Here's the link to the LCC blog:

Coming soon to Tooting & Wandsworth I hope.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Witness dangerous/inconsiderate driving? What can you do?

This morning, like most mornings, I went for a ride around the neighbourhood before starting work. I work from home, and it's good to get out a bit, stretch the legs etc at the start of the day. Now I'm living in Furzedown, there is a dense network of residential streets through which I can cycle, avoiding busy and unpleasant main roads.

Sadly, there are also a large number of drivers who feel that this network is a good route for them to use as a short cut and drive at speeds which quite frankly I feel are dangerous, and I'm not one of the school children walking to school.

Fortunately for London based people there is now a Road Safe team where if you witness anti-social driving, dangerous driving you can report it, and this Met Police team will follow up on it. Whilst knowledge of this team is spreading through the cycling community, I think a lot of us when walking about town, and in our neighbourhoods will have seen irresponsible/dangerous driving and now you can do something about it.

A few important points:

  • This is not for reporting road collisions
  • Note down the licence plate of the vehicle as soon as possible after witnessing the incident/poor driving/speeding (our memory fades very quickly on details, so if you don't write/record the details immediately, even 30mins later the details will have become fuzzy)
  • When you have a moment visit and log the details

For too long inconsiderate drivers have been able to seemingly get away with bullying others on our roads. This Road Safe team allows us to report poor driving which hasn't resulted in someone being hurt, but poses a danger to others. We shouldn't have to wait for another person to be killed or injured for changes to be made to our streets, and the same goes for dangerous/irresponsible drivers.

I hope you'll join me in starting to report incidents. Getting a letter through the post from the police reminding you that you have responsibilities as a driver may not work for everyone, but I do think it's a positive step which will help kerb some of the excesses of those drivers that put all of us at risk.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Getting consensus on a solution to deal with rat-runs

As we hopefully approach the  first implementation of this scheme in Tooting, and having already started to share the concept with other campaigners it was about time I shared the approach more widely. With a bit of luck we should have change on the ground within 18 months of the petition being presented to the council.

Last year I ran a petition looking to make the streets I lived on safer. My petition was different from the ones which had been before it.

100% agreement on the problem

Over 10 years, 3 sets of petitions, 3 sets of public consultations had resulted in little tangible change on the ground. One lady whose house is on the corner of two residential streets, has the wall around her front garden rebuilt regularly as drivers crash into it.

Old approach => no solution

Each of the previous public consultations had proposed solutions devised by the officers. Then they were passed by key stakeholders before finally being presented as a take it or leave it option to local residents.

This type of approach resulted in people choosing to stick with the devil they know, as whilst wanting a solution to the problem, the proposed solution didn't appeal enough for them to support it.

New approach => trial a solution

243 people signed my petition. Whilst some have concerns about the proposed solution, given the recognition of the problem, giving something a go as a solution is very low risk for local residents.

If it works, we can keep the solution. If it doesn't we can roll it back.

Concerns raised:
Where will the traffic go?
I believe that the proposed trial will result in traffic evaporation. (see links below)
Are those who support the petition fully aware of the traffic issues and how this may affect them?
Yes, getting people to sign a petition with a specific ask like this needs explaining. People don't just sign up to things by magic.
How would the emergency services be affected?
All the streets in question are residential. Other boroughs in London have significant filtered permeability schemes in place with which the emergency services work in.
How would the success of the scheme be measured?
By a drop in the volume of motor traffic, and a qualitative survey with local residents.

Technical details:
An Experimental Traffic Order is perfect for this new approach. In the paper the officers highlighted:

“Experimental orders should not be seen as a way of quickly making an order without going through the normal procedures for permanent orders of consultation, consideration of objections and, where required, the holding of a public inquiry before the order can be made. To avoid the possibility of a successful challenge in the High Court, an authority must be able to demonstrate where the element of experiment or uncertainty lies as an experimental order can only be made for the purposes of carrying out an experimental scheme of traffic control.”

The authority must provide a statement explaining why experimental powers are being used, and the Committee should scrutinise and seek approval for such a statement.

I believe that 'traffic evaporation' will take place. Officers and indeed traffic models from the Department for Transport / TfL do not show that traffic evaporation occurs. Indeed, their models show that we will experience growth in motor traffic volumes even when the evidence of the past couple of decades shows their model to be broken.

Using experimental powers are therefore totally justified as until we change our local streets, we don't know how local people will adapt. In trialling we can see and experience how people adapt and see if it results in improving the local environment or not.

In each case there may be local mitigating circumstances which may result in the proposed scheme being successful or not as the case may be.

What can you do?

Use/tweak the template provided for your local streets.
Have a chat with local friends/neighbours to see if they would be keen to try something like this. It's much easier to go out and collect signatures if there are a few of you.
Contact your local councillor and the cabinet member for transport. Check with them how many signatures you need to get. In my case I was told around 25% of local households. This may vary depending on your local council.
Go out and ask people if they'll support it.


Rat-running time for a different solution (previous blogpost)

Reclaiming city streets for people. Chaos or Quality of life?

The concept of traffic evaporation - reallocating road space and 20 mph zones

Disappearing Traffic

Traffic Evaporation (examples from the USA)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Parking in Wandsworth / Tooting

Parking, let's face it, it's a frequent issue which crops up locally (and isn't exclusively a problem limited to Wandsworth). Usually the main issue is that there seems to never be enough space, or at least there isn't right where you want it.

Given these concerns any changes to our streets which involve modifying the current parking arrangements can be fraught. Fortunately for local residents, if you are of the shrinking number who do own or purchase a car, Wandsworth council can facilitate residents' car parking permits where needed. Or, in certain parts of the borough, you can park your car without any further charges required.

See full specs here:

Sadly the same is not yet true if you would like to own a bicycle and park it on the street near your home.

Fortunately Wandsworth council is sympathetic to the needs of people who would like to have the facility shown in the picture above. I'm hopeful that soon they will be a normal part of our streetscape in Wandsworth.

But, to get just a couple of these lockers onto our streets, local residents currently need to get the support of around 25% of their street.

Seems a bit of an overkill to me, as I could buy a car and take up a car parking space without asking any of my neighbours. But to be able to park my bike on the street in either a locker like this, or indeed just having some bike stands on the carriageway requires quite a bit more effort, at present.

There is significant demand for these lockers. Lambeth who have initiated the scheme now have 40 on their streets, with lots more demand. As people see them, they are interested to know how they can have one near their homes.

I'm optimistic that soon, i.e. once the initial few petitions have gone through, Wandsworth council will be able to include the request for bike parking in the same way that residents can request a car parking permit.

Ultimately irrespective of how we travel, the ability to park our vehicles in our streets should not be purely the reserve for private motorised vehicles.

Whilst officially Wandsworth council policy is not to favour any mode of transport over another, the efforts required for parking of one vehicle when compared to others suggest otherwise.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Nightingale Lane - the start of a positive new approach?

The other week I had a very constructive meeting with some council officers regarding another local scheme.

In discussion it transpired that one of the officers had implemented the Nightingale Road scheme. The officer explained that they have seen it in action and it seems to be working as intended. The concepts underpinning the scheme have been brought in from overseas.

I've given some thought to this new approach, and I believe that there are some exciting positives which we as a local community, council and councillors can learn from.

Given that a lot of people have been critical of the scheme I was interested to learn more. I'm a strong believer that we should allow our local representatives and officers the opportunity to trial good ideas from elsewhere. Indeed, this principle is one that I would like to see encouraged. It would allow us to borrow from best practise examples of street design from other parts of the world, so that we don't have to re-invent the wheel.

If you aren't familiar with the area, I took these pictures the other evening. Apologies for the quality of the photos, but you get the idea.

I would highlight the following. The road surface has been smoothed which is great. The width of the carriageway is quite wide. The build outs create a number of "pinch-points". Arguably for significant stretches of the road there is enough space for cycle tracks, particularly if we could reallocate the limited number of car parking bays which exist along this road.

From what I understood, the principle of the new layout is to increase the sense of danger that people have when using the road, thus making road users act in a more responsible manner. The evaluation of the scheme will involve an analysis of RTCs (Road Traffic Collisions), road traffic speeds and volumes and comparisons to pre-scheme collected data. As well as correspondence/comments received from the local community and ward councillors.

Sadly, if we are looking to create streets where people aged from 8 to 80 can view walking or cycling as safe and attractive options I don't believe this type of street design is going to deliver.

From comments received from people who do currently cycle many have commented that they don't feel safer. This is likely to result in fewer people cycling along this route, which statistically is going to drop the number of people on bikes involved in RTCs. I don't think that this type of design presents cycling as an attractive option to travel short trips when compared against other transport options.

We need to adopt new approaches locally to our street design, and be prepared for the council to make mistakes. We also need to ensure that we learn the right lessons, and measure the results of new schemes properly. I hope that the views I'm expressing here can be included in the mix when this scheme is reviewed.

The meeting for which I was principally with the officers for was to discuss a new approach to dealing with rat-running. I'm hopeful that it will work. In the event that it doesn't I'm also hopeful that we will all have learnt from the experience, and can apply the lessons to other streets in our borough.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Folly of 'half-price' car parking in Tooting

Whilst an understandable response to local businesses petition, unfortunately this is likely to be £35,000 of public money which could have been much better spent.

See this article:

Back in the Autumn a petition went forward from local businesses regarding car parking charges. A significant number of them are of the opinion that low cost car parking provision is essential for the well-being of the high street, and that empty car parking bays on neighbouring streets is a sign that the pricing is too high, thus deterring shoppers from their stores.

In spite of the evidence of a local report* commissioned on their behalf only a few years ago which shows over 80% of their customers, walk, use public transport and walk, or cycle and then walk into their businesses.

Less than 1 in 5 shoppers drives a car, or is a passenger in a car or van to Tooting to shop, and then, yes they walk into local businesses.

*See the report on the link below 'Tooting Town Centre Gap Analysis study 2009'

Granted not everyone walks, some people are not able to, and use mobility scooters, but the principle remains. 

I fully understand that the council needs to listen to the demands of it's residents and businesses. However I also believe, that they have a duty to evaluate the evidence, and make decisions which reflect that evidence base.

The only outcome which will be clearly measurable by the drop in car parking charges will be the number of bays which are available. Given that a minority of shoppers choose to visit Tooting in this way the difference to businesses will be negligible at best.

One result may well be an increase in the numbers of people encouraged to drive to Tooting, instead of using the excellent public transport links, and indeed walking or cycling. This will result in a less pleasant shopping experience for all as the roads become more congested, noisy and more polluted.

I want our town centre to thrive, and really want to support local businesses, as I believe the council does too. However, I do think when beliefs fly in the face of the evidence that we have a duty to challenge them and if we go ahead with trials have robust ways of measuring the outcomes. I don't know how this trial will be measured, and I'm not convinced there is a way that it can be effectively measured.

If you know how it could be, do post a comment below.

Also if you have 30mins it's well worth listening to this podcast on Freakonomics Radio 'Parking is Hell':

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Safer Lorries - open letter to Wandsworth Council

Cllr Russell King, Jon Irwin (Co-chair WEF), Robert Molteno (Secretary Wandsworth Living Streets)

Yesterday evening I went to Wandsworth Town Hall, and presented an open letter to the council.

As some of you may already know, lorries and HGVs are disproportionately involved in fatal collisions on our streets. In part due to their design, where many of the drivers have no visibility up to 4m in front of their cab.

In Wandsworth there have been 3 elderly people who have been killed by lorries in the past year, two incidents happening very close to me in Tooting.

Feb 17 2012 - Man decapitated after being run over by lorry

May 18 2012 - Elderly man dies after being crushed under truck

Sept 28 2012 - Pensioner killed by lorry in Putney High Street

Aside from lorries being involved in all 3 fatalities, each of the men involved were of advanced age. Unfortunately these deaths, in part due to the age of the victims, in part to the ubiquity of death and injuries on our streets, can too often become 'invisible'.

London Cycling Campaign (LCC) launched a 'Safer Lorries' campaign earlier this year, however, as we know from our local recent history not only cyclists are at risk from lorries on our streets.  With this in mind, together with other local groups, the letter below was drafted.

I hope that the widespread support shown including; Age UK Wandsworth, Friends of the Earth Wandsworth, the Putney Society, Transition Town Tooting, Wandsworth Cycling Campaign, Wandsworth Living Streets, the Wandsworth Society, and Wandsworth Environment Forum, will help illustrate the strong desire from the local community for our council to take action which will deliver safer streets for residents, visitors and people who work in the borough alike in the long term.

We can't bring people back to life, but we can learn how to reduce road danger, in doing so help change our streets to make them safer for all. Yesterday also saw London Cycling Campaign publish the following proposals of how safer lorries could be designed. This is how LCC suggest they could look like based on existing technology and design principles:

Graphic produced by for LCC

You can view an animation of the lorry here.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

From Balham High Road to Balham Boulevard

A vision who's time has come. Incredibly excited about this project, which I put forward in the autumn to Wandsworth Council.

This afternoon I saw this tweet:

In case you are wondering what I'm excited about, don't worry hopefully the following pictures will explain. If you aren't familiar with this part of London, here is a streetview picture to give you an idea.

View Larger Map

 I visited Paris last year, and took a picture of this, as I thought that this kind of idea could be replicated here in London.

So I took to my spreadsheet and google satellite view. Measured up the street, and then did this roughly to scale map. On the left is the crossing where Balham Tube station is, so under the bridge for those who know it.

Then, having a plan of what space is available, I played around, and came up with the plans in the pictures below.

The light blue is what I'm terming a 'service road'. It will be essentially segregated cycle route most of the time, but does allow people in cars/vans to use it when doing deliveries, or dropping into the shops/cafes/restaurants.

The parking bays are set away from the pavement. The black dots along the service road, are to illustrate that if you are in a car/van, you will need to exit once you've been to the shop, and re-join the main road. Doing the scheme in this way results in a very small reduction in road capacity (technical term for how many motor vehicles the road can hold).

I checked with Wandsworth Cycling Campaign @Wandscyclist and Wandsworth Living Streets @WandsLS first to iron out any potential issues. Now it seems that Balham Town Centre Partnership (@Balhamtcp), and Balham Town Centre Manager  (@Balhamtcm) are now on-board.

Update 21st April 2013

I was sent an email earlier from someone who lives in Balham. They received a Wandsworth Conservatives Borough newsletter today which includes the following text: 

"Your views on Balham Boulevard plans

Wandsworth Council is pulling together plans to create a Paris-style boulevard on the wide stretch of Balham High Road between Balham Station and Ritherdon Road.

The plans, which will be submitted to Transport for London, will separate cyclists from other traffic and enable a more continental-style 'cafe culture'. We'd like to hear what you think of the plans - please get in touch using the form below or the details above."

The email that they have asked for feedback to is:

If you are supportive of the proposals, please do let them know. Worthwhile also copying in your local councillor and our London Assembly Member Richard Tracey as TfL will need to give the go-ahead for this project.

Good to see that campaigning can deliver results.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Rat-running time for a different solution

Seeing the news published by the council today that "Public say no to Earlsfield traffic changes" has spurred me on to write this.

The problem faced by the residents of Earlsfield is one which people face across the UK, and no doubt in other countries too. As main roads become congested with more and more (motor) traffic, those drivers seek alternative routes to travel along. In the case of Earlsfield, those alternative routes are clearly residential streets.

My understanding of the current scenario is as follows:

  1. Resident speaks to local Councillor (Cllr)
  2. Cllr tells resident to do a petition to show support
  3. Resident collects signatures for their petition
  4. Resident returns petition to Cllr
  5. Cllr presents petition at full council
  6. Next transport committee meeting, petition noted, officers asked to work on it.
  7. Depending on officer workload, several committee meetings later, report presented recommending a public consultation.
  8. Data gathered if needs be, proposed solution worked up by highways officers.
  9. Consultation goes out to key stakeholders first, then shared with wider public. 
  10. Local residents are given a take it or leave it option, which proposes change to stop the problem. 

End result = Residents reject proposed changes, problem remains, time and money wasted.

My main issues with this process is that the public consultation totally fails to consult with the public in question. There is no exchange of views, both from the officers with the residents or vis-a-versa. Also the process takes so long, that the impetus from the original petition may have been forgotten by the time these changes are proposed. The changes are also usually proposed as permanent, which can be very unsettling if you feel that they may not work.

A different approach - A possible Solution

In light of a similar outcome on my residential streets, I conducted a petition which asks the council to trial a solution. In excess of 90% of the people asked were happy to sign. They can see that there is a problem, we don't all agree that my proposed solution will work, but we all recognise that if we don't change anything then nothing will change.

Here is my petition form

I'm waiting for the officers locally to report back. I'm confident that the changes will work, but to really be sure, we need to see how people react with them on the ground.

I'd really like to help others in Wandsworth improve their streets. On my patch, 3 consultations have been done in 10 years. That is a lot of time wasted as well as money, with all the problems still with us.

The right solutions could have been proposed before, but we are naturally hesitant/concerned about change, and whilst change could be good people often think 'better the devil I know'.

If the proposed change is temporary, to allow people the opportunity to experience something different without the fear presented by permanent change and it works, they will want to keep it.

If you'd like some help putting together something like this for your streets, let me know. If several different people could work on similar petitions for their local streets, we could change the streets quite quickly with a lot of local support.

Drop me a line if you are interested.