Friday, 7 March 2014

Our streets are political - Part 2 - Tory 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.

I looked at the Labour position yesterday. Let's now look at the Tory position. They've sent out a letter to local residents which you can see at the bottom. Let me highlight a few points that they have raised.
The proposals to pilot a series of road closures in this area has been put forward by Liberal Democrat activist Jon Irwin, who presented a petition to the Council.
So far so good. Almost 3 years ago I collected 243 signatures from local residents to support trying to make the streets safer. They go on.
Rather than simply imposing a series of road closures on residents the Council is quite rightly consulting residents that would be affected, asking for at least a 40% response rate before taking any action.
I did originally think if I got so much support to conduct a trial, then we could go ahead with it as a trial to see if it improved the streets. That said, I understand the need to consult. Still the implication from their wording is that it's Lib Dems trying to impose unwanted changes on the area. Guess all those signatures from local people don't really count for the Tories.
From knocking on doors and speaking to residents in the area the general feeling is that residents are overwhelmingly against the proposed series of road closures.
They must be speaking with different people to the ones I speak with, and got to sign the petition originally.
We firmly believe that our streets should be safe for all their users - pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. We do not believe in the imposition of policies to favour one group above another.
This made me laugh. On Fishponds Road, people are allowed to park their cars half on the pavement, whilst at the same time there are signs up asking people not to cycle on the pavement. So space to walk reduced so that people can park cars. Allowed to drive on the pavement (pedestrian area), not allowed to cycle. As a result of the Tory policies, the traffic counts that have been done for the Fishponds area (to have baseline data in the event of the trial happening) are only for motor traffic. No pedestrian or cyclist counts have been done.

The Tories claim to not favour one group above another, the implementation of their policies shows that claim is totally false. If it was equal, wouldn't there have been counts for pedestrians and people on bicycles? Clearly cars come first for the Tories, not people. They have a track record of failing to deliver balanced policies, for all their claims, the evidence on the ground speaks much louder.

Final point from this letter, they continue:
We also believe that any proposals for transport in our area should be resident led.
Perhaps they think if we are ill we should just self medicate and not visit the doctor. Why do we employ highway engineers at the council, if instead of asking their views as professionals it's up to local residents to solve the problems on our streets? Shouldn't councillors also be looking for the greater good too, and actively seeking to improve our streets? They are a public resource, and should be managed for the good of everyone.

Not only are they choosing to ignore evidence, here they are actively encouraging not even gathering evidence locally to see if this potential solution can work.

No wonder we've got so many issues with street management in the borough. If the Tories won't listen to evidence and don't want to make decisions based on evidence, what chance is there of making real progress unless local people vote them out?


  1. What exactly are they scared of. If the consultation shows that people want it, what is the issue?

    The problem is that these consultations have been skewed.

    The basic reason for consultation from a traffic management point of view and in pure legislative terms is for a highway authority to give notice that intends to do something - that is why only objections are invited.

    The trouble is, we have gotten very bad at giving weight to the objections to a point where they dominate the debate.

  2. A couple of observations:

    As Ranty Highwayman alludes - and he is certainly more expert in this than I - a road closure, even a temporary one, implies a traffic management order which requires a statutory consultation over a period of 28 days or so. By the nature of such notices they only invite objections to the proposal in the advertised notice, but that doesn't mean you can't write in with support - presumably you are encouraging people to do that - and the responses are all counted and included in the response summary. I might add that I have learnt from similar proposals around here that they are obliged to consider all responses, whether they come from locals or indeed from Hobart, Tasmania, although it is not a vote so they can prioritise responses.

    The other thing is - do you suppose your party political allegiance has coloured the view of the other man parties here? Personally, I wouldn't choose to vote for any of you - if I vote it is for Green or FOE candidate, perhaps NHA if we have one, and only for a main party candidate as a least-worst option. I think you all behave like schoolboys in the schoolyard and it is embarrassing and irritating to behold.

    That is of course a criticism of your opponents here - not of you, as I haven't seen evidence that you would have responded in similar fashion to a "not invented here" proposal.

    Highway management issues really shouldn't be political in the party sense. I know they often are, but at the micro-local level people are more likely to respond according to their personal perceptions of the issue - rational or irrational - rather than allowing their response to be coloured by a political allegiance. Tories will support restrictions on cars in front of their own homes even if they believe generally in the great car economy, and socialists will oppose them if they fear they will create inconvenience for them as drivers.

    Surely the key selling point here is that you won't know if you don't try, and you are only proposing a sort trial. That will either confirm or confound the prejudices respondents start out with. Apparently support for 20 mph zones, while fairly high before they are implemented, approaches unanimity once they are in place and can be observed by residents. I might be entirely wrong, but I would expect residents to conclude after six months that a couple of hundred metres of detour in the drive out or home is a small price to pay for the tranquillity gained by eliminating a rat-run outside their door.