Albemarle Road, Beckenham Public Consultation

One of the few road traffic schemes in the London Borough of Bromley prompted by the Covid-19 epidemic and financed by funding like other schemes to encourage cycling was that in Albemarle Road, Beckenham. This road is a major route between Beckenham Junction and Bromley Town Centre via Shortlands.  It worked perfectly well but the introduction of a one-way system, with a cycle lane and other changes has created more traffic congestion. For our previous comments on this scheme, see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/11/23/covid-19-induced-madness-comes-to-bromley-in-albemarle-road/

A petition against the “temporary” scheme has collected almost 2,500 signatures on change.org and many residents of Albemarle Road and surrounding roads have objected.

Now Bromley Council have launched a public consultation on the scheme. They give a couple of options, one of which is to remove the scheme completely. But it might make sense to retain traffic lights on Westgate Road bridge to avoid vehicle conflicts.

But please give your own views by responding to the consultation here: https://www.bromley.gov.uk/info/545/traffic_management/1510/traffic_management_on_albemarle_road_and_westgate_road_bridge_-_consultation

They want answers by the 3rd of March which may be rather soon. Traffic has not returned to normal levels because of the lock-downs and recent poor weather. But it certainly does not appear to have encouraged more cycling on this route.   

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London Opposition to LTNs, Lewisham Council Meeting, Commonplace and Ealing Opposed to LTNs

There are now multiple campaigns all over London opposing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). See this web page for a list of some of them (if you know of more please let me know so we can add to the list): https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/london-road-closures.htm . They show how anger is growing against the road closures which have been counterproductive in so many ways.

Lewisham Council Meeting

There was a meeting of Lewisham Council’s Overview and Business Scrutiny Panel on the 24th November. They finally got around to discussing the Report on the “Temporary measures to support safer talking and cycling in response to the Covid 19 pandemic”, i.e. the report on the Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) introduced in Lee Green and Lewisham. But it is of course a misnomer as this was a scheme planned well before the epidemic hit and it has nothing to do with the epidemic at all.

You can actually watch a recording of the meeting (see Ref. 1 below) but you would not find it particularly revealing (Item 4 is about 58 minutes in).

The Chairman and other speakers blamed the Government for the timescale imposed to implement the measures which meant there was no time for public consultation. But it is important to note that the Council did not have to take the money or implement the schemes as they have done! It was their choice to do so.

It is clear the Council hopes that the traffic will “evaporate” over time as people get used to the road closures but that is surely a vain hope (note that traffic congestion has certainly reduced in recent weeks but that is because of the lock-down restrictions recently in place with shopping, eating out and visiting friends severely restricted).

There were however some concerns expressed about the use of the Commonplace system as a consultation method, which I cover below in more detail.

Reference 1: Council Overview and Scrutiny Panel Meeting: https://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=121&MId=6060&Ver=4

Commonplace System

The Commonplace system is used by a number of Councils and other organisations as a consultation mechanism, or a “community engagement platform” as they call it. It is a commercial operation which sells its services to councils (see https://www.commonplace.is/ ) and is funded by venture capital.

One of the first London Councils to use it was Waltham Forest and Lewisham have used it more recently to cover their Lee Green LTN scheme (see https://walthamforest.commonplace.is/ and https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/ ).

The system is not an unbiased platform in that typically it is used to promote what a Council is planning to do – and more recently that means after decisions have already been made to implement schemes.

It also has the problem that unlike a conventional public consultation only people who are internet enabled, and are even aware of the platform, can respond. This excludes a large number of people such as the elderly who are not internet connected or don’t spend much time on it. So it tends to be dominated by young activists and those active in local politics, i.e. the comments on it are unrepresentative of the wider population.

How unrepresentative is it? It’s impossible to say because little information is collected on the profile of those who add comments and not even names are shown on the published comments, i.e. people can comment anonymously which is never a good idea.

But it is very clear if you look at the comments published on Lewisham’s LTN that many comments are repetitive and the same comments are made on multiple roads. There seems to be no attempt to stop duplicate comments so the system can be exploited by organised activist groups such as cyclists.

There is no way that Lewisham Council can get a balanced view of the comments received or any statistically useful information. They can pick comments out to justify any stance they wish to take.

Wildly inaccurate comments can also be made on the platform with no “rebuttal” possible – you can only “Agree” with comments, not “Disagree” with them and you cannot comment further in response. Clearly there are many people commenting who are not directly affected, and those that are affected just give very polarised comments. The comments are not helpful in determining a sensible compromise to meet the needs of the majority.

In summary, Commonplace is a system that can be used by Councils to claim they are “listening” to residents when in reality it is not a fair and honest way to collect the views of all residents. It is not an alternative to a proper public consultation and is more designed to promote the views of scheme promoters than collect unbiased information.

DO NOT ACCEPT COMMONPLACE AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO PROPER PUBLIC CONSULTATIONS!

Surveys Give the Truth – Ealing Opposes LTNs

Surveys of residents are more likely to give an unbiased and honest view of LTN schemes. Those undertaken by the LibDems and the ABD in Lewisham show a very large percentage opposed to road closures. The latest such survey is one done by the Conservative Party in Ealing – see https://www.ealingconservatives.org.uk/news/LTNSurveyResults . As their headline says: “95% of people living in Ealing’s LTN zones want them removed”. The Ealing Commonplace site just shows again how the platform just provides a way for extremists of all kinds to vent their anger rather than provide constructive criticism.

Funds for Legal Action

It is clear that Councils such as Ealing and Lewisham are going to persist with schemes that are opposed by the majority of local residents. As it will be two years before local councillors come up for re-election, and they are unlikely to change their minds in the meantime, the only short-term way to stop the proliferation of road closures under the name of “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” is to mount a legal challenge.

We believe there are good grounds for a legal challenge to these measures and have looked at the legal issues in some detail and have taken legal advice already. But we do need to raise substantial funds to launch a challenge (thanks to those who have already donated but we need many more people to do so).

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN AGAINST ROAD CLOSURES BY GOING HERE TO DONATE: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/legal-fund.htm

Croydon Streetspace Consultation

The London Borough of Croydon has launched a public consultation on their “Streetspace” proposals. Namely the road closures that have hit residents in the Crystal Palace and South Norwood areas under the guise of a “Low Traffic Neighbourhood” when it has been anything but that. Traffic congestion has been horrendous and has even impacted roads in the adjacent borough of Bromley.

They are also consulting on Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes in Broad Green and Albert Road with the former including a permit scheme for residents. There are also proposals for the Town Centre.

See https://new.croydon.gov.uk/croydon-streetspace for details – see bottom right for an open on-line consultation on the Crystal Palace and South Norwood scheme. This is the opportunity to have your say so please complete it!

These measures are claimed to be temporary but if the Council gets enough support they will undoubtedly make them permanent in due course. There is an active campaign against the closures under the name “Open Our Roads” who have already filed for a judicial review of the Council’s actions.

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More Road Closures in London

I mentioned in previous blog posts the road closures in Lewisham and Hackney using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse. There are also road closures being installed in:

Tower Hamlets. This borough proposes to close numerous roads. See this Traffic Order for details of some of them and where to send your objections: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/notice/3571436

Waltham Forest: This borough proposed a number of “Mini-Holland” schemes that involved road closures before the epidemic hit. Some have been delayed or cut back due to financial limitations, but there are still promoting walking and cycling via “low traffic streets” in the Coppermill and Hilltop areas. See https://enjoywalthamforest.co.uk/enjoy-waltham-forest/walking-and-cycling/ . As in Lewisham, they are using a CommonPlace web site as a consultation method but in this case there is no detailed information yet available. In this and many other London boroughs, there is minimal information on the plans that have been made public and decisions are effectively being taken in secret. Searching the Council’s web site for details of Committee Meetings and Decisions reveals no information. This is a good example of a “bad” borough in terms of democracy.

City of London: The City of London Corporation have issued a note that says the following:

What are the changes? On-street measures will include: Timed closures to motor vehicles, mostly 7am – 7pm, allowing limited access to premises for people with access needs, deliveries and servicing; Reallocation of carriageway to space for walking, queueing and cycling and priority for buses; Closing streets to through traffic or other changes in operation, e.g. switching to one-way.

Where will the changes be? Change is required across the Square Mile and will be delivered in phases. The following streets have been selected for Phase 1 based on pedestrian numbers, pavement widths, cycling demand and connections to destinations, retail and transport hubs: Cannon Street (between Queen Victoria Street and Monument junction); Cheapside and Poultry; Old Jewry and Coleman Street; Lombard Street; Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe; Threadneedle Street and Old Broad Street.

There are a lot of pedestrians that cross Cannon Street from Cannon Street Station but closing the road when the Bank Junction is already closed is going to be very damaging to traffic flows.

All of these measures are claimed to be justified by the Covid-19 epidemic but they are unlikely to be temporary and are just a continuation of the City Corporation’s attack on all vehicle users. That includes the disabled or infirm to whom few concessions are made.

MAKE SURE YOU OBJECT AND STOP THE CLOSURES SPREADING!

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Lewisham Road Closure News

Scawen Road

What’s happening you may ask about the proposed road closures in Lewisham? These were originally proposed for Lee Green and other parts of the Borough under the Healthy Neighbourhood scheme, but are now being put forward as Covid-19 epidemic emergency responses. At least that seems to be the justification as it is proving impossible to obtain any information on them from the Council. I suspect this is a deliberate obstruction of local democracy but I am submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain more information.

In the meantime, Councillor Sophie McGeevor has issued the following Tweet: “As part of our emergency roll out of measures to support walking and cycling in Lewisham 6 modal filters (of an initial phase of 30) are being implemented next week!”

The roads involved are: Scawen Road (see photo above), George Lane, Kitto Road, Glenbow Rd, South Row, Bishopsthorpe Rd and Silverdale. These are spread around the borough so why they have been selected is not obvious.

You can see more information and add some comments here:  https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/overview

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADD SOME NEGATIVE COMMENTS AND “LIKE” THOSE WHO OPPOSE THESE CLOSURES!

You could also send comments to Sophie McGeevor who is responsible for these plans – her email address is CllrSophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk

If you don’t object, these closures are likely to be made permanent! The closures are likely to be implemented via Experimental Traffic Orders but these do not yet appear to have been published. It is important to oppose them when published. You should be able to find them in The Gazette (see https://www.thegazette.co.uk/  ) where all official notices appear. To search for notices from any London Borough use the search function to search for the boroughs name, e.g. “London Borough of Lewisham”).

The ABD suggests that roads should not be closed without prior public consultations that include both local residents and road users. Such road closures do not help with social distancing so there is no justification for them as “emergency” measures. They create more traffic congestion and longer journey times. All roads should be shared by different users, not closed to vehicle traffic.

These roads are being closed using “Modal Filters” which is simply a euphemism and a deliberate misleading of the public. Only cyclists can easily get through such closures, and they will even obstruct emergency service vehicles.

MAKE SURE YOU OBJECT AND STOP THE CLOSURES SPREADING!

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More Taxes on Car Drivers, and Londoners in General

I covered the TfL bail-out deal that Sadiq Khan agreed with the Government in a previous blog post. As usual the Mayor blames the Government. So he says today: “The Government is, in effect, making ordinary Londoners pay the cost for doing the right thing on Covid-19”. He also said: “This deal is a sticking plaster. The old model for funding public transport in London simply does not work in this new reality – fares income will not cover the cost of running services while so few people can safely use public transport. Over the next few months we will have to negotiate a new funding model with Government – which will involve either permanent funding from Government or giving London more control over key taxes so we can pay for it ourselves – or a combination of both”. Yes it looks like the Mayor wants to take more from you in taxes!

See the link to the full announcement below.

To help raise more revenue, the Congestion Charge and ULEZ taxes are being immediately reinstated and the Congestion Charge is to go up a whopping 30% from the 22nd June and the times will be extended to between 07:00 and 22:00, seven days a week. It is suggested this might be a temporary change, but don’t bet on it!

In addition there will be road closures and Heidi Alexander has said “One of the world’s largest car free zones will be created in central London as part of our response to Covid-19”.

This is what Black-cab driver and general secretary of the London Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) Steve McNamara said to the BBC: “ It’s an absolute disgrace –  no one had been consulted about plans to change the use of some roads. Usually you have to consult with the public and businesses – they are using a health emergency to get around the laws to consult people before you do these things. London will grind to a halt even with reduced people. It’s a land grab to exclude Londoners from their roads and to widen pavements for more cycling”.

The ABD certainly agrees with those comments and we have pointed out that the Covid-19 epidemic is being used to introduce an agenda that penalises private travel and reduces your freedom. See the link to the ABD’s press release below.

But it’s not just vehicle users who are going to be penalised. The BBC has said this about the Freedom Pass: “Under the new conditions, children will no longer have free travel across London and restrictions on travel passes for people with a disability or over the age of 60 will also be imposed during peak hours”, although no formal announcement has yet to be made. The Freedom Pass might have been overdue for reform but the Mayor will no doubt blame this on the Government also rather than his own financial mismanagement.

Roger Lawson

Mayor’s Announcement: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/statement-from-the-mayor-of-london-regarding-tfl

ABD Press Release: https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-shapps-announces-2-billion-war-on-drivers/

You can see more details of the proposals from TfL to change London here:  https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/improvements-and-projects/streetspace-for-london

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Greenwich to Woolwich Road Degradation

Transport for London (TfL) have announced proposals for changes to the A206 between Greenwich and Woolwich that will lead to slower traffic, cause more traffic congestion and raise air pollution. The A206 is the main road between Woolwich and Greenwich. The proposals, which are open to public consultation include these proposals:

  • A new two-way Cycleway which will take up some of the existing road space and run along the south side of the road and remove one of two traffic lanes.
  • Six new pedestrian crossings.
  • Extending the existing bus lanes and new ones to effectively turn a two-lane road into one for all other traffic effective from 7.00 in the morning to 19.00 in the evening (7 to 7).
  • Widening the footway at a number of locations.
  • Closure of Charlton Lane.
  • Speed tables to slow traffic on the A206.
  • Changing the Angerstein Roundabout (the one under the A102 Blackwall Tunnel Approach) to improve safety – see photo below. That includes removing the central “roundabout” and banning turns onto the A102 so as “to reduce traffic volumes”. There have been two fatal accidents there in the last two years.

The ABD’s comments which we have submitted to the consultation are:

  1. There are certainly some parts of this road that could be improved for pedestrians and cyclists and the addition of a few pedestrian crossings may be justified. However, pedestrian crossings should be justified based on the number of pedestrians crossing the road at the given point, the difficulty of doing so and the volume of traffic.
  2. The Angerstein Roundabout is certainly a poor design at present as it is even difficult for vehicles to navigate if the driver is unfamiliar with the layout and HGVs are involved. Changing it to remove the roundabout and simply making it a signalised junction does make sense. However we object to the removal of turns onto the A102 as it is not clear what the alternative routes might be for larger vehicles and it might encourage the use of narrow side streets by other vehicles.
  3. We object to the use of speed tables, or any other form of speed humps, particularly on major roads such as the A206 and those used by buses. They generate severe discomfort for vehicle users and for bus passengers.
  4. We doubt the claim that these changes will not cause significant traffic delays, and particularly object to the prioritisation of the needs of cyclists (who only make up 5% of the road users according to TfL) over other road users.

You can read more details of the proposals and respond to an on-line consultation from this web page: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/cycling/greenwich-to-woolwich/

Make sure you object!

Note as usual with TfL consultations no information on the cost of the proposals is provided, nor any cost/benefit analysis. Please complain about that also.

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TfL Consultations and How to Influence Them

It has been apparent for some time that when Transport for London (TfL) undertake a public consultation they get many responses from cyclists and public transport users, but few from other road users. The result is that the ensuing consultation report shows a very biased picture of the views of the general public.

Why is this? It’s because TfL prompt responses by sending out emails. For example they sent out over 400,000 emails about the Hackney Cycleway proposals (described here: https://tinyurl.com/y6fxezmq ).

How did people get on their email contact list for this consultation? From an FOI Act request I can give you the answer. Some 81 people were bespoke to the consultation and were selected from “TfL’s Local Communities and Partnership” team. Another 4,875 came from statutory consultees (police, fire service, etc) and others who asked to be kept informed on TfL consultations. But the vast majority (473,210 to be exact) came from their Customer Database. That means everyone no doubt who has an Oyster Card or Freedom Pass or has opted to receive TfL travel information. So you can see why the result of the public consultations is biased towards public transport users.

How can private car users, taxi users, PHV users or LGV/HGV users influence the consultations? All you need to do is register to receive consultations by signing up on this web page: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/sign-up/0f3971fe/ . In addition you can sign up here for news updates: https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/social-media-and-email-updates/email-updates .

Adding your name to both those lists should ensure that you get information on new consultations and enable you to have your say. MAKE SURE YOU SIGN UP NOW!

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Sadiq Khan’s Election Manifesto – Have Your Say

The Labour Party are inviting everyone to have their say on Sadiq Khan’s Manifesto for re-election as London Mayor in 2020. You can read about his achievements to date and submit answers to their questions via this web page: https://tinyurl.com/y29yu999 . It is of course a very biased document like all consultations that Mr Khan presides over, but anyone can respond – you don’t need to be a Labour Party member.

Perhaps the Mayor is short of ideas to ensure he gets re-elected. His last big vote winner was freezing public transport fares but after three years of holding the tide back of inflation in King Canute fashion he has managed to dig a deep hole in Transport for London’s finances which simply cannot continue. Bus services are being reduced as a result while traffic congestion increases. His policies on Congestion Charging and the ULEZ will impose higher costs on many Londoners with minimal public health benefit. He has also clearly failed to tackle rising violent crime and not solved London’s housing problem – indeed his only proposal for the latter is to introduce rent controls which would make matters worse.

But he does admit to increasing the Council Tax Precept (what you pay to the Mayor from your local council taxes) to the maximum allowed. No thanks Mr Mayor. All his other claimed achievements are quite trivial in relation to the problems Londoners perceive as key issues.

All the way through the document, the Mayor emphasises that he has limited powers over many aspects and clearly wants more. But it would be very dangerous to give him more.

Here are some of the questions and how you may care to respond to them (I have only covered those questions that are relevant to transport):

Environment and Climate Change:

Question: How do we take the next steps to clean up London’s air and oversee a massive shift from polluting cars to walking, cycling and electric vehicles at the same time?

Answer: concentrate on fixing the vehicles over which you have control and which are major contributors to air pollution, i.e. diesel buses. You also need to tackle air pollution on the Underground. Otherwise any measures should be justified on cost/benefit grounds and scare-mongering over an imaginary public health crisis as the justification for higher taxes should be stopped. The expansion of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular should be halted and the introduction of more Cycling schemes that create more traffic congestion (and hence air pollution) should be halted.

Transport:

Question: How else can Sadiq make London’s transport system affordable and accessible to all Londoners?

Answer: Stop wasting money on schemes with very poor cost/benefits (such as the proposed Rotherhithe bridge and most of the Cycle Superhighways the finance for which has to come out of public transport fares. He needs to stop spending money and imposing taxes on road users to make the transport system more affordable for everyone. That includes halting the investment in 20 MPH speed limit schemes and cycle schemes that have poor cost/benefits. He should also cease support of road-pricing and workplace parking levies.

Question: What are the future major schemes that Sadiq could focus on delivering?

Answer: The Silvertown Tunnel is one which will be a major benefit for east London. Repairing the Hammersmith Bridge is another for West Londoners. Improving major east-west and north-south road routes such as the Embankment rather than degrading them with 20 MPH speed limits and cycle lanes should be another key objective.

Question: What more can be done to promote walking and cycling?

Answer: Some youth elixirs for the elderly and inform would help and concealing the dangers or cycling is another. That is of course just a witty response to a proposal that is unnecessary and has major disbenefits.

Question: When asking for more powers and devolution from Government on transport issues, where should Sadiq focus his energies?

Answer: Give the Mayor powers to introduce policies to reduce the population of London so as to reduce pressure on the transport, housing and public health systems. Specifically redistribution of business and people out of London and powers to reduce immigration and encourage birth control.

He should also argue for a commitment to devolve more powers to local boroughs so as to avoid TfL dictating local borough policies and more funds financed by central Government to be given to local boroughs solely to be used on improving the road network in London. In addition the Mayor should be given the power to set sensible minimum parking standards for new developments (not maximum ones) in London boroughs.

Those are just a few ideas to help Mr Khan, or indeed his opponents, to get elected.

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Consultations in Name Only and “Safer Speeds”

I covered the issue of Transport for London (TfL) doing public consultations that do not provide enough information and are already decided in a previous note (see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2019/06/24/consultations-in-name-only/#comments ).

Subsequently I used the Freedom of Information Act to ask TfL for their consultation policy documents and guidelines, plus information on the costs and any cost/benefit analysis of the “Safer Speeds for London” proposals. That’s the proposal which will slow traffic to 20 mph on many major London roads and where there was a short (now closed) public consultation which did not contain evidence for justification.

TfL has supplied the information on their consultation policies and procedures and if anyone would like a copy, please let me know. In Principle 3 of the TfL Consultation Policy it says “We must provide consultees with enough information to understand what we are proposing so that they can respond on an informed basis”. That was certainly not done on the Safer Speeds proposal.

As regards my request for costs and cost/benefit data on the Safer Speeds proposal, TfL rejected my request on the basis that it is exempt information because the information requested “is intended for future publication” – see Section 22 of the FOI Act, and that it was not justified in the public interest. What is the point in publishing that information after the public consultation has ended? It looks like a simple attempt to avoid answering, or are they saying that they have not looked at the costs and costs/benefit before putting forward the Safer Speeds proposal? Either way, it is unreasonable so I am appealing.

This is of course the typical run around one gets with TfL when they don’t wish to disclose information. TfL are a secretive organisation that likes to develop proposals and present them as a fait-accompli with only public consultation on trivia. It has been that way ever since Ken Livingstone was in charge. It surely needs to change!

But according to a report in Local Transport Today (LTT) TfL is heading in the opposite direction. The report said that TfL is changing the way it engages and consults on active travel schemes. There will be “a greater emphasis on local engagement either in advance of, or potentially instead of, formal consultation”. It is suggested that to get the 73 safety critical road junctions in London improved they need to push through with projects and the public “has a limited ability to influence our proposals” – so there is no point in statutory consultations. But It also suggests road users will have less opportunity to comment, and of course a non-statutory consultation leaves little ability to mount a legal challenge.

Roger Lawson

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