Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Unite the Commons - Dr Johnson Avenue

So sadly, but not too surprisingly, the proposed trial to see if Dr Johnson Avenue could be converted into a path and unite two sections of Tooting Commons has been blocked.

At this point in time, I think it's too soon to see a report on the views. What seems clear to me, is that the consultation has been morphed into a 'referendum'. This poses significant questions with regards to local governance. When listening to the views of local residents, where those views may conflict with evidence based views of engineers a balanced judgement needs to be made.

Both parties representing us at Wandsworth Council approved the paper giving the go-ahead for the trial to be consulted upon. Yet, once that was done, the local Labour group ramped up fears about traffic gridlock.

The discussion locally became one about traffic and almost completely ignored the purpose which was to see if we could unite the two sections of Tooting Common. Those opposed seemed to have the benefit of 20/20 vision of the future as to how the proposed trial would work out. Suddenly everyone seemed to be a traffic engineer and had the ability to do the work for which the council employs staff.

With the by-election now taking place in Tooting, some have suggested that the wider political climate has made this all too contentious to challenge the strongly held beliefs through a trial.

The local Labour group have stated their alleged commitment to the principle of trials. Yet, not in this place. Without them specifying where, when or how they would support a trial happening creating safer streets in and around Tooting will take a while longer yet.

If you'd like to get involved, do drop me a line, or join the Lib Dems. It's only by working together that we can really make a difference in our community. The local team is growing. If you join us, we can make a real difference, together.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Winning the ideas battle (slowly, but surely)

Progress takes time, but in time we make progress.

It can be frustrating for people who are challenging the status quo with ideas that they believe would deliver many benefits, to confront others who hold differing beliefs. That is part of the process of achieving sustainable change.

Last night I attended a public meeting convened I believe by Conservative ward councillors in Clapham to discuss where developments are on the Quietway route that is due to pass through Clapham Common.

From the people that responded to the consultation there was a clear majority in favour of the proposals. Never the less, there were strongly articulated views by a number of people present at the meeting that these proposed changes would be particularly detrimental to people driving in and around the area.

I suggested, that if there were a possibility to trial the closure of Windmill Drive using temporary measures that might be a way of ensuring that the views of those concerned about the potential impacts of a closure are properly addressed and listened to, whilst also acknowledging the response to the consultation and the evidence base which suggests that there would be minimal traffic impact on the surrounding roads from such a change. The Cabinet member from Lambeth, Cllr Brathwaite, gave the impression that such an idea may well be considered.

On the slip of paper in the room, one of the other points raised was 'Loss of green space'. The officers present told the gathering that if the proposals went ahead there would be a net gain of around 250sqm. No loss of green space to be concerned about on this front, there were some murmurs about the gain being 'de minimis' or a tiny percentage of the common etc. We also heard from some residents on Windmill Drive, who spoke of the aggression demonstrated by drivers, and how some years ago when sewage works meant that the drive had been closed to through motor traffic for 6 months it was bliss.

It is part of the process of change that strongly held beliefs are challenged, and that is really difficult to overcome.

In terms of progress in Wandsworth, there are positive signs. Cllr Brathwaite also mentioned that Wandsworth Council had requested that if the closure were to go ahead, they would like a trial to be instigated in the first instance. As we can see with the on-going consultation for Dr Johnson Avenue on Tooting Common (not dissimilar issues are raised on this), Wandsworth Council have started to adopt a trial sort of approach.

My only concern is that the consultation for Dr Johnson Avenue, and the proposed trial, has no clear parameters as to how the council would define problems which would trigger a return to the status quo.

That is a difficult political space, but if we are to really improve our streets, and indeed other policy areas, we need our public institutions to be comfortable in these challenging spaces. Not every new idea is going to work, but where there are issues, doing nothing is not going to make them go away. If we try things and learn from them, we will be able to improve many areas of our lives.

NB - I didn't stay till the end of the meeting as I felt the key points that needed to be heard had been put across.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Quietways in Wandsworth

Happy new year folks. Hope that 2016 is going to be a good one. I'm not posting nearly as regularly as in past, life pressures have forced me to reallocate a lot of my time.

As you may be aware, Transport for London are funding the Quietways programme which is being delivered in partnership with Sustrans and local councils.

Wandsworth Council recently adopted the new London Cycle Design Standards (LCDS) as part of their updated Cycling Strategy document. The LCDS includes reference to a Cycling Level of Service (CLoS) matrix that can be used to evaluate proposed changes to the street environment.

With the consultations live for the Quietway interventions in Wandsworth (TFL website), I thought that I'd ask both Wandsworth Council and TfL for the CLoS details that were used in arriving at the proposals in the consultations. Wandsworth Council consultations going live from the 8th Jan here.

To date, Wandsworth Council (the main Highways Authority for where most of the changes are due to happen) has confirmed that they haven't seen any CLoS details and that I should check with TfL.

TfL have also got back to me suggesting that Wandsworth Council as the relevant Highways Authority would have the details.

Something seems a little fishy here.

If neither TfL or Wandsworth Council have seen a CLoS evaluation, then has one actually been done?

Given that TfL are leading on this project and these interventions are supposed to meet the new LCDS might it not be useful for the evaluations to be put into the public domain?

More questions I'm afraid. Something to keep digging into as 2016 unfolds.