Beech Street to Reopen

Beech Street runs under the Barbican in the City of London. It was closed to all but zero emission vehicles recently using an Experimental Traffic Order. But that order will expire in September and it seems a mistake has been made by the City Corporation so it will be reopened. This closure was exceedingly inconvenient to Barbican residents and this is what a residents association had to say about this news:

There has been an unexpected development in the continuing saga of the Beech Street traffic experiment. It appears that Beech Street is to re-open to all traffic for anything up to a year when the experiment traffic order expires on 18 September 2021 because the City has bungled the introduction of a permanent traffic order which would be necessary to keep the traffic restrictions in place.

This means that on 18 September 2021, Beech Street will revert to how it was before the experiment began. All vehicles of all types will be at liberty to use Beech Street at any time without penalty, just as they were before the traffic scheme came into operation. The traffic signs will be taken down, the cameras will be de-activated, the junctions with Bridgwater Street and Golden Lane will re-open, the concrete blocks will be taken away and the new gaps in the central reservation allowing right turns into Lauderdale Place and Defoe House car park will be blocked off.

You may be wondering why the gaps in the central reservation have to be closed since they are of value with or without the experiment. The City says the gaps can only operate safely at low levels of traffic because vehicles making right turns into off-street premises leave their tail ends sticking out into the eastbound carriageway.

The reason why Beech Street is to re-open is a little convoluted. As many will know, the City’s refusal to postpone the experiment when the pandemic struck has been challenged in the High Court. The ground for the challenge was that a traffic experiment carried out in abnormal traffic conditions was not a fair test and that the start of the experiment should have been delayed until traffic conditions returned to normal.

The High Court hearing took place on 29 and 30 June. Prior to the hearing, on 15 April 2021, the High Court issued an injunction prohibiting the City from making the Beech Street scheme permanent in advance of the court’s decision on the challenge. The City wasn’t sure whether this meant it had to stop all monitoring and consultation in relation to the experiment. Instead of asking the judge for clarification, it took the decision to suspend the monitoring and consultation, which threw its timetable for making a permanent traffic order into disarray.

At the hearing, the judge said this was entirely unnecessary since she had never intended the monitoring and consultation to stop and if the City had sent her an email asking for clarification, which was what everyone else did when they wanted the meaning of a court order clarified, she would have told them there and then.

The City told the court that it would not now be possible to make a permanent traffic order until February 2022 at the earliest and possibly not until autumn 2022.

A ruling on the High Court challenge is likely to come in about a month. It is possible that the High Court will revoke the experimental traffic order which in the circumstances would be good news. It would mean that the City could start a new experiment as soon as traffic conditions returned to normal, thereby reintroducing the Beech Street traffic restrictions much earlier than would be possible if it were to make a permanent traffic order. And there would then be a proper experiment”.

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Lewisham Cancels School Streets with No Schools Idea

Lewisham Council has been introducing “School Streets” recently, i.e. timed closures around schools. This was apparently to overcome the objections to the road closures such as in the Lee Green LTN which has been causing much worse traffic congestion. As there seemed to be some public support for School Streets, the Council then decided to introduce “School Streets” into roads where there were no schools. This was probably aimed at reducing through traffic.

But they have now reconsidered. They now say: “After careful consideration, and having listened to the feedback we received, we will not go ahead with the proposals. The feedback was mixed, with some strongly in favour and some strongly opposed to the approach”.

Comment: It is good that they have back-tracked on this which was an unethical way of sneaking in road closures.

They are also promising a public consultation shortly, which they say will be widely publicised, in the Lewisham and Lee Green Low Traffic LTN. But why is it taking so long? And it’s never a very good idea to do public consultations in the middle of summer for obvious reasons.

See https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/news/ltn-consultation-june-2021? for more details.

Roger Lawson

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Telegraph Summarises Surveys Against LTNs, and John Redwood’s Blog Article

The Daily Telegraph has published an analysis of the 10 consultations on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) that local councils have reported to date. Three quarters of the people consulted over LTNs and cycle lanes opposed them.

The councils reporting their survey results include Harrow (82% opposed) and Windsor + Maidenhead (89% opposed). One exception was Bromley though with 64% supporting but their schemes are very limited in scope.

The newspaper also reported that one in three councils have axed, modified or reduced their active travel schemes. They also quote Tony Devenish, Conservative London Assembly Members as saying: “My Government is at fault to some extent, because they gave councils the power not to publicly consult for up to 18 months. You can’t just do these things to people. There has been absolute outcry from the Great British public – and that’s why so many councils have had to U-turn”.

But some Councils such as Lewisham have avoided doing public consultations despite promising to do them, or they keep moving the goalposts by changing the nature of the road closures (for example by changing them to “School Streets” or by reissuing Traffic Orders to avoid legal challenges).

Comment: Such public surveys show that the general public (even those who don’t own a car but rely on public transport such as buses), are opposed to the obstruction of our roads. Roads are essential for the movement of people and goods.

In Praise of the Car

John Redwood, M.P., has spelled out the advantages of cars in a good article on his blog (see Reference 2 below). He says: “Acquiring your first vehicle is a major advance in your personal freedom. Yet today government, Councils and better off greens from the security of their homes in major cities lecture the rest of us on the wickedness of the car. The better off Green city dweller can rely more on the tube or mass transit and has the money for taxis when needed. The aim is to get people out of car ownership or to reduce their use of the car, and in the meantime to cow people into keeping quiet about their reliance on this flexible and most popular form of transport”.

He explains at length why cars are more practical and economic for most of the journeys which he takes. A number of good comments have been added. I hope Grant Shapps reads the article.

Reference 1: Telegraph Article: https://tinyurl.com/2d44vbcn

Reference 2: Redwood Article: https://tinyurl.com/cchhcurc

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More Changes at Bank

The City of London Corporation have been working assiduously to remove all traffic from London’s streets in the last couple of years regardless of the impact on residents, businesses and visitors. Bank Junction has already been subjected to severe restrictions on all vehicles except buses and cycles, thus effectively closing this key junction in the centre of the City. Even taxis have been excluded much to the annoyance of taxi drivers. The Corporation are now proposing to go a step further and close more of the roads, even to buses.

The latest changes include the following:

  • The closure of Threadneedle Street to motor vehicles that runs along the south of the Bank of England.
  • The closure of Queen Victoria Street between Bucklersbury and Bank Junction for motor vehicles, except those vehicles exiting Walbrook in a westbound direction.
  • Closing Princes Street except for buses and cycles northbound; and except as a route for servicing to Cornhill in a southbound direction.

It includes proposals for widening pavements around the junction which the road closures will enable (artist’s impression above). Bus routes will also have to be changed.

For more details and to respond to a public consultation go here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/streets/all-change-at-bank-project

Comment: It was certainly the case that Bank Junction was a problem on two grounds: 1) the volume of pedestrians using the junction with the station being enlarged when pavements are very narrow (at least until the recent epidemic); and 2) as regards road safety with frequent casualties including fatalities. The complex nature of the junction with many buses passing through it and high pedestrian traffic were partly to blame.

It therefore was not unreasonable to look at simplifying the junction to enable more pedestrian space and improve the environment. However, the removal of all traffic was very damaging to the road network in the City of London, and has caused traffic to simply move to other roads with additional congestion.  

The latest changes do not improve matters but will make things worse. For example if Threadneedle Street is to be closed it should also be closed to cyclists to avoid conflicts with pedestrians.

Please respond to the public consultation if you have an interest in these roads.

Roger Lawson

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Have Lewisham’s Road Closures Made Our Streets a Predators’ Paradise?

There has been much debate of late about the safety of women when walking the streets of London. The following article is written by a resident of Lewisham and gives her views on the subject and the impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods:

Over the course of my 40 years spent living on Burnt Ash Hill, I have walked home from the train station or the bus stop after a night out many, many times.   Advice to women who are walking home alone recommends that they should try to stick to well lit, busy streets.  In this regard, I count myself lucky to live where I do because there is always traffic.  This may well give a false sense of security because not every driver will stop if they see an incident happening in the street but there is always the hope that the approach of a car will deter or at least disturb a potential attacker and may lead to someone intervening to prevent something bad happening.  But what is it like to walk at night on the roads that have been closed by Lewisham Council on the pretext of the Covid pandemic?  Their justification is that it will improve the ability to socially distance.   But does it really make the streets safer?

To answer that question, I decided to walk along two streets that have been closed.   Admittedly, when I left home at 6.45pm it was not completely dark, but it was close enough as I didn’t want to be out much later.  Walking down Burnt Ash Hill it was reassuringly busy and crossing over the South Circular and down to the shops where the lights from the shop fronts allowed me to make out the colour of the jacket worn by the man in front of me allowed me a measure of confidence.   This changed when I turned left into Holme Lacey Road.  At the road closed sign, I turned into Dallinger Road.   The further I walked along this road the quieter it became as the traffic noise decreased almost to nothing.   From the start of this road to the end just one car passed me and the family travelling in it parked up and went into their house.   Further along, a woman was collecting her child from the minder.  She got into her car but had to turn around in the road so would not be driving past me.   Just one cyclist rode by.  I emerged and turned right onto Manor Lane and then right onto Holme Lacey Road.  By now, the light had faded, and it was fully dark.  No vehicles passed me there.  I was happy to get back to the bright lights of Burnt Ash Road. 

When I was doing the walk, catching the virus was the last thing on my mind.  I was more concerned with getting out of the closed roads in one piece.  I would not want to do this walk, alone, after catching the last train home. 

Of course, the flip side of living on Burnt Ash Hill is that when lockdown finishes these road closures will once again lead to queues of traffic outside my front door for three to four hours a day.  It is not the virus that will kill me now that I have had the jab.  It is the toxic air that is created by the traffic jams.  In the meantime, potential predators seem to have been given a helping hand for which I am sure they are extremely grateful.

Christine Warwicker

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Make Lee Green and Croydon Committee Review of LTN

It has come to my attention that a leaflet has been circulated in Lewisham by an organisation (or one person) called “Make Lee Green”. It argues that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are a big part of the solution to make “A safer, healthier, more sustainable Lewisham”. It then quotes some very selective and misleading statistics.

For example it says “80% of journeys in London will be made by foot, bike or public transport by 2041”. That may be the Mayor of London’s objectives as published in his Mayor’s Transport Strategy a couple of year’s ago but the chance of this happening is very low. The recent trends tell us that the Mayor is nowhere near on target to achieve that. For outer London boroughs it is very unlikely to be met. For example, for the whole of London, before the pandemic hit, the figure was just over 60% but with lockdown measures continuing, the overall “active, efficient and sustainable” mode share – public transport, walking and cycling – could in fact be “the lowest seen in London since the early 2000’s, and not be back at 2019 levels until well into 2021″, the latest report concludes (see links below).

A lot of the journeys are by bus and how are buses more sustainable than cars? They are not, and bus users are not participating in active travel and neither are they necessarily “efficient” if people have to go on round about routes to reach their destinations.

Overall traffic volumes have actually been falling in London in recent years, particularly car trips, but LGV and PHV trips have increased as more people use internet shopping and more people use services such as Uber. These both tend to be trips on minor roads to access local premises and homes, but LTNs do not remove those trips.

So who is publishing and circulating these misleading Make Lee Green leaflets? There is no name and address on the leaflet and neither is there any on their associated web site, where they are even using a proxy service to conceal the identity of the web site owners. In summary the leaflets are simply a piece of distorted propaganda from someone who prefers to remain anonymous. Is it more than one person? We should be told.

OnLondon Travel Report: https://www.onlondon.co.uk/latest-travel-in-london-report-details-extent-of-covids-impact-on-capitals-transport/

Travel in London Survey: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2019/12/27/travel-in-london-survey-how-its-being-made-more-difficult/

Croydon Committee Review of LTN

I mentioned previously the report on the LTN in the Crystal Palace and South Norwood area of Croydon. It was discussed by the Traffic Management Advisory Committee last night (12/1/2021). Ian Plowright, Head of Transport, gave a very misleading summary of the report and the new proposals to convert the LTN to an “experimental” scheme using ANPR cameras to enforce. Eliska Finlay, representing “Open our roads” gave a good speech in support of scrapping the LTN altogether (see https://webcasting.croydon.gov.uk/meetings/11439 for a recording of the meeting).

The views of committee members were 2 in support of the ANPR scheme but 3 were against. It will now depend on decisions by the Chair of the Committee and others. But there is a good chance the whole scheme will be abandoned. That is particularly bearing in mind that the funding of an ANPR scheme will require approval of funding by both TfL and the DfT which may not be forthcoming.

In summary this was an ill-conceived scheme which has had very negative consequences for residents of that part of Croydon but also in neighbouring boroughs, particularly Bromley. It should be scrapped as soon as possible.

The public survey responses were quite clear. The LTN scheme in Croydon is not wanted. No doubt Lewisham residents would say the same thing if they were asked about their LTN, as would residents in other London boroughs who have been suffering the consequences of these ill-thought out schemes.

Roger Lawson

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How Many Objections has Lewisham Council Received to the LTNs? They Claim Not to Know.

How many objections has the London Borough of Lewisham received to the road closures and other aspects of the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in the borough? Nobody knows apparently.

We submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request in early November in which we asked for the numbers and have finally received a response. That’s way past the legal limit for responses for which they have apologised. But they now claim they have no information on the subject.

I consider their response to be disgraceful.

I specifically worded my request so that they could give estimates of the number of objections if exact figures were not available.

But it is clearly a nonsense when the Council invites people to send comments to traffic@lewisham.gov.uk about the LTNs but does not record how many of the comments received are objections. Even if not recorded at the time there is nothing stopping them from reviewing past comments received by council officers and councillors. The number of objections received is clearly vital information when the Council is considering the impact of the Temporary Traffic Orders used to implement the LTNs and I simply do not believe that the Council has no information on this subject.

I believe they are deliberately trying to avoid responding to my FOI request. Just like Mayor Damien Egan did in reply to a similar question in a Council Meeting.

It would seem that Councillors and Council staff are deliberately trying to conceal vital information from the public on this issue, when we know that there have clearly been a very large number of objections – for example we have collected over 12,000 signatures on a petition requesting removal of the road closures.

Councillors are turning a deaf ear to complaints in the hope that people will come to accept the LTNs. But they will not.

Our complaint about the failure to respond to the FOI Act request will be pursued further.

Roger Lawson

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Croydon LTN Supported by Council Despite Overwhelming Public Opposition

Croydon Council introduced a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) in the Crystal Palace and South Norwood areas using Temporary Traffic Orders a few months ago. In included road closures on such roads as Auckland Road (see photo above). The closures generated a very large number of complaints about increased traffic congestion and generally making life more difficult for residents including opposition from the neighbouring borough of Bromley into which traffic was diverted. A campaign group called “Open Our Roads” was formed to oppose the closures (see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/10/18/crystal-palace-campaign-against-road-closures/ ).

Croydon Council have undertaken a public consultation on the LTN and produced a report on the survey results. This will now be considered by a Traffic Management Advisory Committee on the 12th January. See link before for the report. It’s 370 pages long so here are some key points to note from it:

  1. They propose to remove the measures implementing the LTN but propose to replace them with a scheme based on an Experimental Traffic Order. This will include a number of road closures enforced by ANPR cameras from which they will no doubt generate considerable revenue, although there will be some exemptions for local residents. Note that in December Croydon effectively declared bankruptcy by issuing a Section 114 notice due to financial mismanagement over several years by the ruling Labour administration. They are desperate to raise income it seems.
  • These proposals are being made despite 75% of residents within the LTN area opposing the retention of the scheme and 62% opposing the introduction of an ANPR scheme. Some 61% want the scheme removed altogether with only 23% opposing – these are very decisive numbers for any public survey and do not even include responses from those living outside the LTN who responded.
  • There was very decisive opposition from areas such as SE19, SE20, SE25 and within Bromley.
  • Journey times in areas such as the Crystal Palace Triangle showed “moderate to significant” increases in peak periods, with a “serious” increase in the PM peak.

The proposal to retain any part of the LTN scheme is clearly totally undemocratic. They argue that the survey done was not a “truly representative picture of local views” which is surely nonsense. It is certainly no justification for continuing with the LTN and imposing an Experimental Traffic Order.

Will Councillors do what their residents want or ignore them in the name of pursuing a response to the “Climate Emergency” they have declared? We will soon see. But they should bear in mind that there is no evidence that LTNs create any overall benefits in terms of air pollution because it often just means drivers have to drive further to get to their chosen destinations and sit in traffic jams for longer.

Unfortunately Croydon is one those London Councils where Councillors decisions are apparently driven by dogma and not by logic.

Report to Traffic Management Committee: https://tinyurl.com/y57nbcse

Daily Telegraph Report: https://tinyurl.com/y53xcf4t

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Press Release: Growing Opposition to Road Closures

We have issued the following press release:

Opposition to road closures, particularly in London, has been growing. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) have proved to be anything but and have worsened traffic congestion in the City.

A number of grass-roots campaign groups have sprung into existence to oppose these measures in boroughs such as Lewisham, Lambeth, Islington, Croydon, Ealing, Waltham Forest and several others – see this web page for a list of those known to us:  https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/london-road-closures.htm

They typically have collected thousands of signatures opposing the road closures, and two of them (Croydon and Ealing) have already filed for Judicial Reviews in the High Court.

They have also run public street demonstrations despite the current Covid-19 restrictions which shows the strength of feeling against these schemes.

For example, we have been actively supporting a campaign by local residents in Lewisham where nearly 12,000 people have signed a petition asking for removal of the road closures and proper public consultation on them. The lack of public consultation using the Covid-19 as a spurious excuse has what has particularly angered residents.

You can read more about the Lewisham campaign here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm and the many irate comments we have received from residents here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Lewisham-Comments-Received.pdf

Campaign Director has commented: “The road closures have been justified on environmental grounds but in reality the closures have meant people have simply driven around them on main roads this emitting more air pollution and damaging the health of people who live on those roads. There has been no modal shift as few people are willing to take up cycling and they have been avoiding public transport during the epidemic. The advocates of these schemes might have had the best of intentions but they have been shown to be abject failures. The dogma that promoted these schemes is still being actively promoted with claims such that traffic will evaporate if roads are closed. But it does not.

Democracy has been thrown out of the window as local councils impose these schemes on the electorate without consultation. Some have backed down and withdrawn the closures but most boroughs are persisting while the Government and TfL support them with new “guidance” and funding. I suggest London boroughs need to listen to their electorate a lot more if they don’t wish to see a political revolution”.

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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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