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.