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:

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.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Grim reminder of violence on our roads

Last night, cycling home from work, I passed the emergency services looking after a moped rider who was on the ground under a red blanket.

They were by the traffic light closest to us in the streetview image above.

Moments earlier, I'd been passed at speed (too close for my comfort), coming up Westwood Hill. I caught up with the driver at the lights (junction with Crystal Palace Park Road), and politely tapped on the passenger window to speak with him.

He put down his mobile phone, pressed the button to lower the window, I asked him to give me a bit more space. His response was I should have been wearing hi-viz.

Riding in this morning, I reflected on the fact that earlier this summer I had helped another cyclist who had been involved with a collision just 50m from the junction in the streetview image above.

The ripped up road surface, potholes, broken glass, smashed street furniture or debris from 'minor collisions' is all around us.

It's 'Road Safety Week' this week. Another reminder that our road system is so broken, that instead of designing in safety, and reducing the risk of collision by design, we ask road users to 'Look out for each other'.

We are starting to see the green shoots of change emerge. The proposed new Cycle Superhighways in London, the wider TfL Roads development programme, the Oxford Road scheme in Manchester, and a number of schemes in Bristol (amongst others). These schemes wouldn't be happening without the dedication of campaigners across the UK many of whom have worked tirelessly for years with little thanks, I for one am immensely grateful for all of their work.

My hope is that I won't be another statistic of a road collision, and that I, along with my family and my local community will be able to safely travel in and through our local area by bike in the near future thanks to changes to our street design.

This requires political leadership at a local level, as many of the changes that need to happen will be on council controlled roads.

In hope.

PS A little later after having written the above I saw my letter to the Wandsworth Guardian has been published today.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Wandsworth Town Centre - Gyratory removal consultation

Right, this is more of a local post than recent ones about the proposed new Cycle Superhighways, but not quite Tooting (yet)!

TfL are now consulting on proposed new traffic flows in Wandsworth Town Centre, with removal of the gyratory system that local groups have been calling to be taken out for decades. In fact, probably from as soon as it went in, but that is speculation.

The proposed traffic flows look good to me, and I would urge you to respond to support TfL in this phase of the consultation.

I have, however, flagged concerns that the artists impressions omit high quality cycle routes.

This is all the more galling given the great proposals that we've now seen that TfL are capable of with the North South, East West Cycle Superhighway proposals.

The detailed design work will be done following the hopefully positive outcome of this consultation, in a secondary consultation phase.

I think this is a significant step forward in TfL evolving how they engage with local stakeholders, rather than, as has been done in the past presenting a fait-a-complis which for all intensive purposes can't be amended however valid the comments and critiques may be from the consultation process.

Please add your views here.

If we don't engage with the bodies that are re-designing our streets, then we can't be surprised when our views aren't taken into account.

Deadline for responses is the 5th December.

PS If you live in/around Tooting, consultations are in the pipeline for us too (Balham High Road, Tooting High Street/A24).

Monday, 17 November 2014

Inspector reports following public enquiry

In the summer of 2013 Wandsworth Council consulted on removing the white lines along the cycle routes through Wandsworth and Tooting Commons. I blogged about it here.

It is fair to say that there were some strong views on both sides of the debate (excuse the pun). As a result we have had a public enquiry. Today, the inspector has published his findings, where he has recommended that the orders be confirmed without modification.

I'm delighted with the outcome. That said I don't think that the valid fears and concerns raised by the objectors should be dismissed out of hand as a result of this enquiry.

I believe that it is in the interests of all that once the works have been completed there should be on-going monitoring of the routes for at least 6 months to evaluate how the changes have impacted on the user experience.

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

You can view the full report from the inspector here.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Safer, enabling, empowering streets

Often in talking about 'cyclists' there is quite a narrow image of the sort of person that people conjure up in their mind. Isabelle Clements director of Wheels for Wellbeing as part of 1000 Londoners, 1 story project (has been interviewed in this video).

It is a powerful, beautiful reminder that in creating safer streets we enable and empower more members of our community to more fully participate, explore and engage with the world around us. 

Do take a few moments to watch.

PS for those watching #24HrsAE last night, if you know someone who for one reason or another has a physical mobility issue do check out Wheels for Wellbeing. As Isabelle says, her wheels give her wings. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Reasons why Labour are failing Tooting residents

Nothing is possible without total control

When I'm being critical of Labour whose councillors have been elected in Tooting (Graveney and Tooting wards since 2010), some people object and suggest that in order for the Labour team to effect change they need total control of the council.

The underlying premise is that without total control nothing can happen.

It's an absolutist approach, and one that resonates with the Tory/Labour members that hark back to a time (which never really existed) when there were only two parties in town. It fails to acknowledge that coalition has worked nationally, and that coalitions have been working for years in town halls up and down the country. To be clear by 'coalition working', from a Lib Dem perspective, the party has delivered a lot of our 2010 manifesto pledges. Granted not all, but we are the smaller party in the coalition, and there is an illiberal coalition of sorts between many in Labour and the Tories who would prefer to go back to the days when it was just a fight between the Red & Blue teams. Interesting to hear today that Labour are now claiming to support reform for the House of Lords whilst they abstained or voted against a bill that would have delivered substantial reform when they had the opportunity only a couple of years ago.

Back to Tooting

Flytipping, abandoned bikes, the pedestrian crossing next to Fircroft School (safer streets), and preventing 'shop stall creep' on Upper Tooting Road are the examples of why I think that Labour are failing local residents that I'll use in this post. I'm pretty sure that similar examples could be used against parties of other political colours, but in Tooting, of late we have Labour politicians.


Back in 2008 our Graveney ward councillor and our MP were 'campaigning' on the issue. To give credit where credit is due, the approach covered in the story by the Wandsworth Guardian is laudable.

Fast forward to 2014, and thanks to local resident Tom Quaye badgering our council the Wandsworth Guardian has run a new story flagging the issue again. Labour use the fact that they don't run the whole council as a reason for why this is still a problem.

As Tomma (maybe Tom Quaye) from the article highlights in the tweet above, where can the local Labour team point to proposals they have put forward to improve things? We have the same council officers managing the street cleaning contract for us in Tooting as in Putney. Officers will prioritise their efforts where issues have been flagged. If our councillors don't raise it then it is less of a priority.

Abandoned bikes:

Around Tooting Bec and Tooting Broadway tube there are a bunch of bikes that are locked to the stands that have been vandalised and parts stolen from them. For whatever reason their owners have left the rest of their bike attached to the stands.

Concerted action by local councillors could ensure that these are dealt with.

Can you imagine an abandoned, burnt out car being left in the town centre?

On an aside, cars/vans are being left to rust away on our residential streets as you can see in this post.

Pedestrian crossing next to Fircroft School:

Labour's failure to understand the process is the underlying reason why this call for action was rejected at the committee. You can view the decision on the committee papers (14 - 492) here.

If Labour were running the council they would need to change all the policies in place in order for their approach to be adopted. Instead of engaging with officers at the outset, or having a good understanding of process from their years of having elected councillors, the petition was drawn up, they gathered support and end result no action.

Compare and contrast what I did for the Fishponds campaign.

I checked in advance with officers what number of signatures would be needed, then went and gathered them all, and finally the consultation happened. Leaving aside the detailed points of the Fishponds scheme, if I, without being elected, can campaign and get a consultation to happen for street change it begs the question why are the Labour team unable to do so?

However, what is clear from Fishponds, is that neither Labour or the Conservatives are even prepared to try to fix an acknowledged problem. Little wonder problems last for years in Tooting as the consensus between the Red & Blue teams is to do nothing.

'Shop stall creep' on Upper Tooting Road:

In the local elections this was flagged as an issue, and I checked with the Town Centre Manager to see what had been done. She told me that a few years ago the issue had been raised. As the road is a TfL managed road the council had come to an agreement with TfL to pass over responsibility for a trial period to the council. Monitoring and enforcement was then carried out by the council contracted enforcement officers that work in the rest of the town centre.

Lo and behold this approach worked, result you may think. However, as our councillors didn't keep on top of it, when the trial period lapsed it wasn't renewed.

Fast forward a few years on and the same problem has returned. Another opportunity for another politician to be seeing to do something. Dan Watkins the conservative PPC to his credit has been out with officers. Again, if either the Red/Blue political representatives in Wandsworth were keen on really fixing problems then this one should have been in the bag years ago when the trial solution worked!

Empowerment & plurality of views

Being a Lib Dem my approach is one of empowerment, looking to fix problems so that where possible we don't need to re-visit the same ground time and time again.

I welcome plurality of views, and recognise that often in complex issues there is more than one solution and that within my party we don't always have the solution. But, as a party we are open to listening to experts, looking at the evidence, and want to fix issues so that we can move onto the next ones. We want to genuinely engage with people from across the community, not just 'our supporters'.

Engaging with people 'whatever your politics' is a hollow claim from our Labour councillors.

Regular followers of my blog will know that I petitioned for changes to Mitcham Lane last year. This has gone before the committee and officers are now working on proposals which is a real result that I'm immensely proud of.

At around the same time that I was petitioning, local Labour councillor Mark Thomas did a survey with businesses on the parade at the Thrale Road end of Mitcham Lane. At the notes from the last committee meeting Cllr Cooper passed comments from the people that her team had been in touch with to the committee. None of the councillors contacted me in advance of the committee meeting to seek my views, or represent me and the 550 people that had supported my petition.

The first time the paper went before the committee, the Labour councillors, whilst having invited a deputation from the people they had surveyed, instead of welcoming my views voted for me not to speak. Cllr Jones has informed me that it was because I didn't turn up with 3-4 other people and it was because of process.

Fortunately the Conservative majority on the committee didn't take that view.

I celebrate diversity in all guises, and try to understand differing points of view whilst not always agreeing with them. I think we should support people holding varying political affiliations working to better the community. It is sad that the local Labour team seem so partisan in their approach.

Any party unchallenged is at risk of complacency and 'listening to their own'. Labour dominate in terms of elected representatives in Tooting, and in my view our community is the poorer for it.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Tooting Air Pollution over twice 'safe' EU limit

Work done over the summer has highlighted the horrendous air pollution that Tooting residents are currently living with.

The Furzedown Low Carbon Zone (FLCZ), supported by the trades unions, Transition Town Tooting and the London Sustainability Exchange collected samples from the 21st July to the 1st August. Download the pdf of the image above here.

This builds on work that the London Sustainability Exchange has been doing with other community groups across the borough.

Putney High Street is infamous for it's high levels of air pollution. The respite offered with the works on Putney Bridge over the summer (see this chart for the run up, and this chart for when it re-opened) clearly highlights that it is the volume of motor traffic that is the principle cause of the problem. In Battersea, around Clapham Junction train station there are black spots too. 

The Battersea Society with their ‘citizen science’ surveys have produced some alarming results. At Clapham junction they found that particulate matter, the most dangerous type of urban pollution , was five times above the European Union Limit and nitrogen dioxide levels were double the European limit.

We need real political leadership to drive change on this. We can't afford to ignore the evidence. Something that me and my Lib Dem colleagues have been fighting for locally. Creating safer streets where walking and cycling short trips are the norm is a key part of the solution.

What can you do?

If you haven't signed the following petitions please do:

Time for 20 - NB not just Tooting specific

Let's make Tooting High Street safe for all

Better, Safer people friendly streets for Smallwood Road/Fountain Road area

Also on the 22nd October, FLCZ are hosting a film night to discuss & fund raise for further local actions to be taken. You can register here.

**Update re: Other events**
On the 23rd October, The Putney Society are running the following event: What is happening in the battle against poor air quality? 7.30pm, at St Mary's Chuch, Putney. £3 for non Putney Society members to attend, free for members. Includes speakers from Kings College as well as Cabinet member Cllr Jonathan Cook.

Then on Tuesday 11th November, The Battersea Society are running their event 'Is the air in Battersea killing you?' 7.30pm at All Saints Church, Prince of Wales Drive SW11 (Near the Queenstown Road Roundabout) Speakers include Samantha Heath LSX (London Sustainability Exchange) Chief Executive, Susie Morrow chair of Wandsworth Living Streets & Houda Al Sharifi, Wandsworth Director of Public Health.

**Update x2 - Transition Town Tooting event**
Date: Wed, November 26, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Venue: Tooting United Reform Church, Rookstone Road, SW17 (junction with Mitcham Road) (map)
Did you know that if you live in London you lose approx 2 years of life expectancy from air pollution? Tthere are parts of Tooting where Nitrogen Dioxide levels are 2 to 3 times the European safe exposure limit? Tests carried out on Tooting High Street show dangerous levels of air pollution. The Mayor of London’s ’ultra-low emission zone’ does not include Tooting. Much more needs to be done to ensure Tooting has a clear bill of health! This event will look at the issues in depth.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Autumn has arrived

With an incredibly dry September, the colours of the leaves in the trees and the arrival of the wind and rain has clearly announced the arrival of autumn.

As well as some beautiful scenery (in between the showers) for everyone using the roads, we all need to adjust to the new conditions. Riding my regular route to work, I'm acutely aware of the defects in the road. Our fellow road users in their cars/vans seem blissfully unaware.

The reason I, and others, cycle out in the middle of the lane on some busy roads is not to hold up others who are driving on the same road. It is to avoid being thrown off my bike by a cracked up road surface which will end up being a significant pothole.

When it is wet I'm also aware that my braking ability is diminished and change my speed accordingly. I'd be incredibly grateful if other road users (in cars, vans, buses, lorries) could do the same. Being tail gated whilst riding on a wet road surface is far from pleasant. If I were to fall I could be killed by the simple virtue of the person behind not having given me enough distance to stop.

Too often I do have little chats with drivers on my way home. They overtake in an aggressive manner, I catch them up 1-1.5km further ahead as they are stuck in traffic at lights. Some are nice, others aren't, but the fact remains that they didn't gain any time by driving aggressively. I've reported drivers to the police, nothing really comes of it.

I'd love to not give drivers the impression that I'm holding them up. It's why I've shown my support for TfL's proposed new cycle superhighways in the centre of town.

You can too via London Cycling Campaigns easy to use tool here.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Fircroft Primary school parents let down by Tooting Labour

Quite rightly there has been a lot of discussion recently about road safety. In the run up to the local elections alongside the discussions for Fishponds Road, the parents of children going to Fircroft Primary school voiced their concerns via a petition (organised by Tooting Labour) for a zebra crossing.

You can see the paper going to committee next week here with the council's response to the petition.

In my view, there are two ways to look at Labour's support for this petition - cynical or inept.

Why could it be seen as inept?

The local Labour team should be well aware of the policies that are in place to get change to happen. If they aren't, little wonder that problems have dragged on in Tooting for years. Instead of engaging with officers, and the petitioners to confirm the number of signatures needed and then forcing the council to act in light of their campaigning the result is frustrated local residents.

Why could it be seen as cynical? 

The local Labour team are likely to have been fully briefed as to what was needed to effect change. They were more interested in being seen to support change than actually deliver it. Politics at it's worst and part of the reason why in my view there is a distrust of politics.

Further illustration of Labour's desire to campaign on issues which have already been decided is their 'campaign' for cycle parking on the Heritage Estate. Over a year ago with the Wandsworth Cycling Campaign I successfully campaigned to get Bikehangars to Wandsworth. We are pending formal announcement, but the decision has already gone through committee. Now that the council is very close to announcing a trial, lo and behold Tooting Labour are 'campaigning' on this issue.

On a positive note, it does seem from the other papers going to committee next week that there is a huge amount of progress being made as a result of the work of civic society campaigners across the borough. Indeed it does seem that work is in the pipeline for major improvements to Tooting Broadway, something that I've been keen on for a number of years now.

If you would like to join me and the local Lib Dems really campaigning to improve Tooting (whether we win or lose elections) drop a line to info[at]

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Inactivity is killing us (Political & Physical)

Public Health England is currently consulting on 'Everybody Active, Every Day':

An extract from the first document (An evidence based approach to physical activity) on the link above:

Inactivity is killing us 
Physical inactivity is responsible for 1 in 6 (17%) of deaths in the UK. This makes it as dangerous as smoking. Yet over a quarter of us are still inactive, failing to achieve a minimum of 30 minutes of activity a week, and in some minority communities this falls to only one in ten adults. Whilst measurement differences limit direct comparisons, international studies using a single methodology consistently demonstrate that we lag behind most other similar countries in reducing physical inactivity.

In Tooting as you can read from my previous post about Fishponds, and the unanimous decision to do nothing by Labour and Conservative councillors on a recognised problem. The pie chart above highlights that there is a consensus that there is a problem, just a difference of opinion on how to fix it. 

The second document (Implementation & Evidence Guide) in the consultation on 'Everybody Active, Every Day' has the following extract (pg 9):

Road transport contributes to a number of health hazards and health inequalities, causing air pollution, noise and injuries, particularly in urban areas. More disadvantaged areas tend to have a higher density of roads and traffic. Pedestrians, cyclists, and users of other modes of transport that involve physical activity need the highest priority when developing or maintaining streets and roads. This can mean re-allocation of road space to support walking and cycling; restricting motor vehicle access; introducing road-user charging and traffic-calming schemes; and creating create safe routes to schools. Such policy changes have prompted substantial shifts from car transport to walking and cycling. 

Other boroughs of the same political colours representing Wandsworth today are cracking on with making these necessary changes happen. Why is it that both parties, Labour and Conservatives, locally seem so reticent to engage with the evidence base for the benefit of all? 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A chat with Dan from Putney Social

Last weekend I popped down to Putney and caught up with Dan who runs Putney Social.

Since then London Cycling Campaign have posted this, a quick way for you to show your support for their latest proposals for new Cycle Superhighways in the centre of town.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Why Tooting should support TfL's proposals for new Cycle Superhighways

You may have heard the news this week that Transport for London have launched two new consultations for a North-South and East-West cycle superhighways that will run through the centre of London.

Blackfriars Road visualisation - North-South

Victoria Embankment visualisation - East-West
You can, and should respond supporting these consultations on these links:

For sure there are some details which could be improved as with any major project, but the core thrust of what could be will be a game changer.

Local impact?

You may be thinking if you live in and around Tooting / Balham, this is all quite nice, but actually I don't really go into the centre of town so this doesn't really affect me.

It does for the following reasons. A few years ago I proposed radical changes to Balham High Road. The Mayor announced funding for TfL to work on it this spring. Looking at some of the details in the Blackfriars Road visualisation gives me a lot of hope that the consultation for Balham High Road next year will be of similar quality.

Tooting High Street and Upper Tooting Road are gridlocked almost every weekend. Earlier this year, with the local Lib Dem team as part of the local elections, we got over 700 signatures on a petition (including paper signatures) calling on the Mayor to make Tooting High Street safe for all.

The proposals for the centre of town show everyone that not only is TfL is capable of doing high quality street design. It also shows that campaigning does work. These proposals wouldn't exist without the efforts of campaigners across London and the London Cycling Campaign.

Will it slow down traffic?

Experience from New York suggests that it won't.

Next steps

Please support the consultations. There are organisations and individuals who don't think that what has been proposed will work, or that it is needed or that people deserve it.

I'd like my children to be able to grow up in a London where as a family we can all ride into the centre of town and the only worries we might have would be if it's going to rain.

PS - I'd also add that the proposals to deal with rat-running on/around the Fishponds Road area, in my view are part of the wider solution to improving our streets. Current views from our elected representatives is that doing nothing is acceptable.

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.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Prince and his toothache

Having read the last edition of the Transition Free Press, it reminded me of the importance of story telling in the context of Transitioning, and how we discuss change.

With this in mind, and my recent safer streets campaigns in Tooting the following story came to mind.

As with many fairy tales, it starts in a familiar fashion:

Once upon a time in a magical kingdom lived a prince who reigned over all he saw. He was blessed with a kingdom of abundant food, the people lived in peace, and life was full of happiness for his subjects.

However, the prince had one weakness, he had a very sweet tooth. Living in this land of plenty and such a wonderful choice of food always on offer, including pastries, cakes, tarts and sweet drinks.

Before long the prince's sweet tooth was causing him problems. Fortunately he had access to wonderful dentists, and along he went for a visit.

The dentist welcomed the prince into his practise, and went about inspecting the prince's teeth.

"Oh dear," exclaimed the dentist, "this really doesn't look too good!"

The dentist went on to treat the prince's teeth as best he could. However, knowing that the real cause of the problems was the sweet tooth that the prince has, he recommended that the prince reduce the amount of sweet foods and drinks he was consuming.

The Prince having had his teeth seen to and 'fixed' for the time-being, soon forgot about his toothache and the advice given to him by the dentist.

Before long the toothache returned, and another visit to the dentist followed. This cycle repeated, until the prince grew tired of listening to the dentist. The toothache had become permanent, and the prince could no longer remember what life was like beforehand.

The toothache made for a grumpy prince who could no longer see the beauty in and around him. However, the prince did have a council of wise men who all had teeth. So, as the advice of the dentist wasn't to the prince's liking, he asked his wise men what would they recommend. The wise men knew that the real solution was that proposed by the dentist, they also knew that the prince didn't want to hear that solution.

Years passed with different ideas being tried. The wise men, after all, had a lot of teeth between them, surely they would know an answer. There was trouble now brewing in the kingdom. As people looked up to the prince, they too had chosen to ignore the advice of the dentist, and many more people were suffering with toothache.

One day a traveller was visiting from a similar kingdom, and saw the terrible suffering that these people were living with. The traveller was puzzled, as in almost every respect this kingdom was identical to the one he had come from. The difference was that his prince had listened to the dentist. The traveller had heard the tales of how all the different ideas had been tried (except that recommended by the dentist), and he came up with an idea.

He sought an audience with the Prince, claiming to be able to solve the toothache once and for all. To do so, the Prince would need to trust him, and do something that had never been done before.

The Prince after years of having suffered, and having seen his people suffered, acquiesced to the traveller's demands. The traveller asked the Prince to give the Dentist's solution a chance, to try it for a short period of time. After all, every other 'solution' had already been tried, so what did the Prince have to lose?

The trial was a fantastic success, and the Prince and his subjects were able to rejoice and enjoy the fruits of their kingdom once more and they lived happily ever after.


The Prince represents us, our communities, his toothache the problems that motor traffic dominance presents us, the Dentist our highways engineers with evidence based solutions, and the wise men our politicians listening to the demands of the Prince whilst often ignoring the advice of the Dentist.

Hope you enjoyed the story. If anyone fancies doing a little picture to go along with it do drop me a line.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Thank you & don't forget to vote

What a journey this local election campaign has been.

It has been a massive learning curve for me and my team, but I'm really proud of everything that we have achieved.

Whoever the people of Tooting choose to vote for tomorrow, or have already done so with their postal votes, I believe we have made a big contribution to debates locally about creating safer streets, standing up for local people, cleaning up Tooting and boosting local business.

With over 2200 signatures on a range of our safer streets petitions collected since September, I know it's not just me who can see the issues on our local streets. It is easy to point the finger at problems. The real challenge is how to fix them.

I don't believe that disagreements on the perfect solution should mean that we don't even try. For too many years that has been the case. Creating safer streets has many benefits, and if you haven't seen this video link before, then I'd highly recommend you watch it. Only 6 mins of your time:

If the Youtube link doesn't work you can see it via this link instead:

If you live locally, I hope that I and my team will be able to count on your vote. Come what may after the count, rest assured, we will raise the issues you've mentioned to us on the doorstep with council officers, and we will continue to champion Tooting working hard to improve it for everyone whichever political party you choose to vote for.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Will you support me, again?

Yes, this is party political, but let me explain.

If you follow this blog or my twitter feed, you'll already know that I'm standing as a candidate for the Lib Dems in Tooting. On Saturday Brian Paddick came down to join me and my team door knocking around the ward.

Leaving party politics aside, you know I really want safer streets in Tooting. I've been campaigning for it through local groups for years now. One of the main motivations for me to stand, was the frustration at the very real blocks that both local Labour councillors and Conservative ones have put in the way of real progress to make a real difference to our streets.

So, whatever your party affiliation, if you share my desire to see real change to make the streets of Tooting safer sooner, then can you lend me your vote? We've had over 2200 people sign a bunch of safer streets petitions since last September. Neither Labour or the Conservatives have backed them. No wonder that people don't believe politicians when they say they support making the streets safer, but then the ones we've had representing us haven't delivered any meaningful change for years.

I'd really appreciate it, and I promise if elected I'll deliver on making our streets safer for everyone.

Let me know via this form.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Elegant, simple & effective - Merton safe streets

Earlier today I dropped my Brompton into A W Cycles in SW19 (too lazy to change flat on rear myself) and I noticed that Merton Council are updating the older solution they had in place to stop rat-running and create a safer street environment.

This is an example of what they have had in place for a long time now, unsightly, but effective.

Here is the 2014 edition/look which achieves the same result:

The slimline bollards just behind the Mum and her child in the picture above, are a little harder to see in the picture below. However, if you look closely you can see they are set back from the main road. This allows for deliveries, and people to park cars to visit local businesses. 

In the pictures below, we have what I'm sure will be in time, raised flower beds / planters. A nice looking bottleneck to the end of a residential street.

For those who think that my ideas to trial solutions which will similarly block streets off in Tooting are fool hardy or won't work why don't you take a look just down the road. Perhaps ask some of the people who live on those streets how they find driving to the shops etc.

Thankfully, we don't need to look very far to see some high quality examples of how our streets can be improved. We only need to take 10 mins on the 57 bus from Tooting Broadway, or a walk or ride on your bike towards Abbey Mills to see what already exists.

Fingers crossed, that whoever gets elected in the coming local elections, they will recognise that a lot of people would like Wandsworth Council to trial out this type of street design.

I hope that together with my Lib Dem colleagues we might be lucky enough to represent Tooting. If so, we'll be able to speed up the roll-out of these trials and hopefully quickly make a significant improvement to the lives of everyone living in Tooting.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Local elections - Imprint

As I'm standing as a candidate to be a councillor for Tooting ward with the Liberal Democrats in the local elections on the 22nd May, I'm legally required to put this imprint on the site. For all election related posts, they are promoted & published by Adrian Smith on behalf of Jon Irwin all at 23a Kettering Street, SW16 6QA.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Tooting Safari seeking 'Space for Cycling'

Really great to see both local residents and Tooting businesses supporting

See if you can recognise where these photos were taken, some aren't the best quality, but you have to grab your chance to take the picture!