Thursday, 6 March 2014

Our streets are political - Part 1 - Labour perspective

Whilst for many management of our streets should be about improving them based on evidence, the reality is that any changes are very political. The consultation currently on-going for the proposed trial is really highlighting the differences in approach between the local parties.

Let's look at the Labour position.

Cllr Ben Johnson has put his views across on Streetlife:
On the proposals: when similar (but permanent) measures were proposed a couple of years ago, the response from residents was overwhelmingly against the changes. The feedback I've received so far suggests that the view on this proposed trial scheme is similarly negative.

I do think it's right that every now and again residents are consulted on proposals to mitigate frequently reported problems such as traffic on residential streets, so that councillors and officers at the Town Hall can be clear that we're acting in accordance with the will of residents. I don't live on one of the streets affected, so I won't try to tell those who do how to respond; but along with James and Sheila, I'll be absolutely clear that once the results are in, the views of residents who live in the streets affected take precedence over all else - and of course no changes should ever be forced on residents by those who don't live in the area. (Streetlife link here)
I'd like to make a few comments with regards to his position. The people who are against doing anything are very fervent in their position. Those who are more open to the possibility that it could work, aren't screaming and shouting about it.

He also says that he thinks it's right that people should be consulted every now and then on frequently reported problems. Why doesn't he think that instead of consulting to throw a bone to those concerned local residents, we actually try something different on our local streets? Frequently reported problems won't go away by consulting every now and then, unless I'm mistaken.

Our Sadiq Khan MP has had this to say:
Whilst I welcome efforts to improve safety in our area; I also understand that these plans would have a big impact on local residents. Some residents feel the trial could lead to an overall reduction in traffic and rat-running on roads such as Broadwater and Fishponds, but I also know that other residents disagree and feel the trial could prove more inconvenient for them and others, and create further traffic problems, as others have highlighted.

Therefore it is really important that all local residents affected by these proposals don’t miss out on the chance to have your say – and that no changes should be introduced without the views of the local community’s being heard. (Streetlife conversation here)
Here he recognises that there are two differing views, and therefore a possibility that the scheme could result in an overall reduction in traffic and rat-running. Yet instead of welcoming the prospect of a trial and encouraging people to support it so that we can see if it works here or not, he is not taking a position on this other than to encourage people to respond.

I've been campaigning on this well before I was campaigning as a Lib Dem candidate for council. I'd love this scheme to go ahead as a trial, so that we can test in the real world if what I've suggested works here or not. From the people I've been speaking with on the doorstep I'm quietly optimistic that we might just get enough people supporting it for the trial to take place.

From the way Labour are presenting themselves on this, I really think if you want things to happen to improve your streets locally in Tooting Labour are all talk and no action.


  1. Put it in, measure actual traffic flows, including where people are worried and look at facts. Plus, residents have some say, but these are public highways too.

  2. It does seem sensible to remove rat-run and slowing down cars on residential streets, but might this just shift the problem elsewhere in Tooting? If Fishponds Road is effectively closed to through traffic, that is likely to make Tooting High Street/Upper Tooting Road busier. This in turn might lead to more rat-running on the south side of the main road - Blakenham Road, Franciscan Road and even Church Lane. Will these wider effects of any trial be analysed too?

    1. Regarding monitoring, I hope so, if me and a Liberal Team were councillors for Tooting we would certainly have asked officers to do so.

      That said, as a result of the current political representation we have sadly no pedestrian or cycling counts have been carried out. For me, I think this means that the data whilst useful, will not be as meaningful as could be. One of the desired outcomes if the trial goes ahead, is that we'll have more people walking and cycling short trips locally. In turn this should reduce congestion from motor traffic in the local area.

      Only way to find out, I believe, is to try.

    2. If you have a trial, you need to determine (and get agreement) what would be considered a success BEFORE the trial starts - otherwise anyone can make the results fit their agenda (if you read Ben Goldacre, you'll know what we mean).

      What do you want the trial to acheive? x% reduction of vehicles on Fishponds Road with less than y% of residents complaining - and only z% of the traffic removed from Fishponds going elsewhere (ie the rest walks, cycles, or stays at home), perhaps..? What would you consider a desirable level for x, y and z?

    3. Fair points well made. If the purpose of the trial was purely about numerical outcomes, then I would be in complete agreement with you.

      I believe, the trial will result in a drop in the volume of motor traffic both in the proposed trial area, as well as in the wider area. I also believe, that the concerns about congestion won't happen. If I am correct in this, I also believe that local residents having experienced the new layout are likely to come round to it being an improvement quite quickly.

      Ultimately the decision, if the trial goes ahead, will rest with local residents as to if they feel the changes have resulted in an improvement for them.

      I don't want to mandate how people choose to travel locally. I see it as desirable for us to create an environment where the most attractive way to make short trips (2-3miles) is walking or cycling.

      Change doesn't happen overnight, and people won't either. Which is why, I'm pleased that the suggested trial period is for 6 months. I think that will be sufficient time for people to adapt to the new environment, and be able to experience the difference.

      Hope this is useful.

  3. Ok - so you are saying that the measurement of success would be a suitable level of support from residents. That seems like a fair measure. What would you say is a suitable level of support? And which residents should be included? If the Fishponds Road scheme moves a significant volume of traffic onto other back-streets causing issues there, what happens then? Or if it makes the main road more congested - and so delays emergency services or public transport, or impacts shops' trade and deliveries - will that impact the decision to continue the trial?

    Is there a holistic view for traffic management across the whole of Tooting, rather than just moving the problems round the area in a cycle of nimby-ism?

    1. I like to think, that if the trial goes ahead, and works, there will be almost total support to make the changes permanent.

      I don't believe that the trial would result in displacement of traffic, but traffic evaporation. Holding this view, I don't believe congestion would get worse on the main road, and therefore wouldn't have any negative impact on emergency service vehicles.

      The original petition was done, after 10 years, and 3 other groups of residents petitioning concerned about road safety. You can see the comments a current resident has made here

      In terms of looking at how we travel / traffic management locally yes I do hold a view. I think that we should create a street environment where for short trips (sub 2-3 miles) walking or cycling should be the most attractive option. With one in two car trips in London being people driving 2 miles or less, the potential drop in congestion as people shift to more benign modes would result in an improvement for those who do need to drive in the area.

      This isn't about cycle nimby-ism, it's about not having a purely motor centric vision as to how we use our streets.

    2. Your overall objectives do have some merit, but can you clarify what you want the trial to achieve, how you would measure the benefits and how you would measure any detrimental effects (on the Fishponds Road area AND in wider Tooting)? Otherwise how can it be decided whether the trial is made permanent or not. You state what your view is - almost as if the trial is bound to prove your case, or that just carrying out the trial will be enough and its effects (if measured at all) don't matter.

      We said "a cycle of nimby-ism" not "cycle nimby-ism". When you see the word "cycle" it doesn't always refer to bicycles! What if every road that serves at as a rat-run to avoid the high st is eventually closed to through traffic?

      With the proposed 20mph zones in Furzedown and Bedford wards, and the Fishponds trial, The rest of Tooting ward and Graveney ward may be adversely affected as traffic funnels through the gap. Blocking Fishponds Road will hopefully increase non-motor traffic to some extent, but some proportion will remain in their cars, and just move to other streets

  4. this has all got rather long-winded. The key question is how you determine whether the trial has "worked" or not - and if it "works" for Fishponds Road does it also "work" for wider Tooting?

    1. From a numbers point of view on motor traffic I would say, if there is a drop in motor traffic levels in the trial area, and motor traffic levels stay broadly constant on Upper Tooting Road, or even perhaps a minor increase or decrease it will have been a success.

      Using this metric again, it will be deemed a failure, if motor traffic levels do not decrease within the trial area, and there is increased congestion/traffic levels on Upper Tooting Road.