Another London Borough Scraps LTNs

The London Borough of Harrow is to remove cycle lanes and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) after a formal review and public consultation.

LTNs in the Headstone South, Francis Road and Vaughan Road schemes were opposed by between 65% and 80% of respondents to public consultation. The Council also claimed they increased congestion, increased air pollution and delayed emergency services.

The decision to remove the schemes was taken at a Cabinet Meeting on the 29th April. This is what the Leader of Harrow Council Graham Henson said:

“It is clear from the statutory consultation undertaken over the past six months that there is little support for the cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods implemented as part of the national initiative.

And so, the decision to remove these experimental schemes is the right one for Harrow – we will keep residents informed about when this will take place.

We have listened to and understand residents’ concerns about how the schemes were implemented. Going forward the council will do things differently – engaging with our residents to shape projects before they are implemented.

We have some difficult decisions ahead of us to make our streets safer for all road users and reach our Climate Emergency pledge to lower emissions in the borough and be carbon neutral by 2030 but we will approach this challenge together in partnership with our residents.”

The Council is still persisting with their plans for School Streets.

Harrow Council Announcement: https://www.harrow.gov.uk/news/article/10913/council-to-remove-cycle-lanes-and-low-traffic-neighbourhood-schemes

A good report by the Daily Telegraph on events in Harrow is here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/04/17/green-road-schemes-ripped-council-landmark-decision-following/

Comment: Harrow Council is Labour controlled but by a slim majority over the Conservatives. It is remarkable how quickly the above decision was taken and it seems clear that the public opposition to the schemes had a big impact on the views of Councillors. It is good that Councillors did pay attention to the views of their electorate unlike in other London boroughs where dogma has overridden common sense.

Roger Lawson

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High Court Hearing on JRs and Camden Road Closures

An initial hearing of the legal challenge by several groups over road closures in London took place in the High Court on the 12th of February as part of the judicial review process. According to a report on social media, the hearing by Justice Tim Kerr gave permission for the Lambeth, Hounslow and one of the two Hackney cases to proceed. The other Hackney case was dismissed as out of time (there are strict limits on the time allowed for filing judicial reviews). A case filed by the group OneEaling was withdrawn because the council filed new Experimental Traffic Orders to replace older ones. This is what that group had to say about this:

“Ealing Council shamefully side steps High Court hearing but contributes towards our legal costs.

The decision has been reached NOT to attend court today. We were left with little choice as Ealing Council sought to side step the proceedings by replacing the old ETOs with new ETOs. On Wednesday, Ealing wrote to our judge advising that the hearing should not go ahead because they had made new ETOs that day, meaning the old ETOs that we challenged would cease to be in operation as of 17th February. This would mean us battling in court over ETOs due to expire in 5 days after the preliminary hearing.

This was truly a blatant attempt to sidestep the court case and being held to account for the clear deficiencies in the original ETOs. They claimed that new ETOs were needed because there were ‘substantial changes’ to the original ETOs, specifically, adding of ANPR cameras and allowing Blue Badge holders access to their own LTNs. These changes clearly did not need new ETOs, as they had already swapped out bollards for cameras in some of the LTNs with no amendments to the existing ETOs.

We took legal advice and it was clear that going to court today faced with this new situation was pointless.

Ealing continued their disgraceful shirking of responsibilities right up until yesterday by telling the court that we needed to request a hearing for our costs and they would respond at a later date. In the end, having pushed Ealing, we demanded that our legal costs were met and they agreed to cover a substantial amount in the region of our legal costs incurred to date.

To be clear, whilst not the day in court we wanted we see, this as an acknowledgement they got the ETOs wrong. One only had to look at the new ETOs to see all the changes they have made (whilst not enough) stem from issues we have raised.

The decision to vacate the hearing today was not taken lightly. We are as disappointed as you are to be denied the chance to have the evidence heard and Ealing held to account. However, just so we are clear, this is NOT the end of the road for the legal process.

We appreciate that whilst securing our legal costs is a positive step, this does not get us to where we want to be with the removal of all LTNs. Hence we are reviewing the new ETOs with a view to what further action should be taken. We are already mobilised with a great legal team in place and believe that there are still significant issues with the schemes. They are still unsafe, discriminatory and do not achieve their objectives”.

Note that Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP were the solicitors instructed on the Lambeth and Hackney cases – see https://rookirwinsweeney.co.uk/rook-irwin-sweeney-llp-instructed-in-challenge-to-low-traffic-neighbourhoods/

Camden Schemes

A cycle lane scheme for Haverstock Hill appears to have been halted but it is unclear whether it has been abandoned or simply being reconsidered.

There is wider opposition to LTN schemes in Camden and a legal fund has been created to oppose them.

See Camden legal fund:  https://gofund.me/ba5156b1 for more details.

Please support it.

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Streetspace Plan for Bishopsgate Overturned in High Court

There has been an important judgement in the High Court after a Judicial Review was launched by taxi drivers. They challenged the blocking of Bishopsgate in the City of London (the A10) to taxi drivers by the use of a “bus gate”. Mrs Justice Lang declared the Traffic Order used was unlawful.

This is the press release issued by the High Court on the judgement:

– The Streetspace for London Plan and associated Guidance failed to recognise the distinct status of taxis as an important form of accessible public transport,

– The Streetspace Plan, associated Guidance and A10 Bishopsgate Traffic Order breached licensed taxi drivers1 legitimate expectation to be allowed to use bus lanes to ply for hire effectively across London,

– There was a failure to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty under the 2010 Equality Act and account for needs of passengers with protected characteristics,

– The Mayor and TfL took advantage of the pandemic to push through ‘‘radical changes”’.

– The “‘decisions were not a rational response to the issues which arose as a result of the COVID.

<END>

The Court has now ordered that the Streetspace Plan, Interim Guidance to Boroughs and the A10 Bishopsgate Traffic Order be quashed following the judgement. Justice Lang called the measures an “ill-considered response” to the pandemic including radical changes and it was clear that “the Mayor and TfL intended these schemes would become permanent, once the temporary orders expired”.

Comment: The Streetspace Plan was used by TfL to introduce numerous road closures including Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and such measures as cycle lanes without prior public consultation across many parts of London. It was very clear that this had nothing to do with the pandemic at all but was simply being used to bring in such measures quickly and without consultation.

Although this judgement specifically relates to the challenge by taxi drivers it could have wider implications as similar legal challenges are being mounted for several LTNs (a hearing is taking place on the 2nd of February in the High Court on those). The failure to properly recognise the needs of the disadvantaged under the Equality Act is particularly significant, and the failure to give due regard to the network management duty imposed by section 16 of the 2004 Traffic Management Act. It seems likely that Mayor Khan will appeal this judgement, using taxpayers’ money to do so of course.

It’s worth saying that the last time I walked down Bishopsgate before the pandemic hit on a hot summer day, the level of air pollution was such as to noticeably affect my lungs. But the main cause was clearly the long queue of almost stationary diesel buses on the road. To ban all vehicles except buses was totally irrational. Bishopsgate is a very important route for traffic to access parts of the City now that Bank junction has been closed.

The judicial review was submitted on behalf of the UNITED TRADE ACTION GROUP LIMITED and the LICENSED TAXI DRIVERS ASSOCIATION LIMITED, and their solicitors were Chiltern Law.

Chiltern Law Comments: https://www.chilternlaw.com/tfl-every-journey-matters-unless-you-are-a-taxi/

Full legal judgement: https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2021/72.html&query=(UTAG)+AND+(LTDA)

Roger Lawson

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More School Streets, Streetspace Consultation, MPs on TV and Travel Statistics

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, is promoting the installation of even more “School Streets” where roads are closed during rush hours to cut pollution. Such closures are typically enforced by cameras, providing another source of revenue to local councils.

Already 430 have been funded with 300 now installed. By 2019 there were actually very few schools remaining where there were illegal levels of pollution. Were these reductions down to the implementation of school streets? Probably not because air pollution blows around and it’s more likely that general improvements in vehicle technology and the ULEZ scheme made the biggest impacts. 

The ABD certainly supports the encouragement of drivers on the school run to use other transport modes (such as children walking to school) but closing roads actually prejudices other road users who have legitimate reasons to be on the roads. Some roads where there are good alternative routes might be closed without too much prejudice but in other cases they are unreasonable. They have been introduced in boroughs such as Lewisham without proper consultation with local residents.

See Reference 1 below for details.

Streetspace Consultation

Numerous “Streetspace” schemes are being installed across London in boroughs such as Bromley, Camden, City of London,  Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Richmond, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster. They typically involve reallocating road space as the name suggests, with road closures, and more cycle lanes being common aspects.

Transport for London (TfL) have now launched a public consultation on these schemes that anyone can respond to. See https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/general/streetspace-for-london/consultation/

PLEASE RESPOND.

MPs Debate Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

On the 12th November ITV ran a programme called the “Late Debate” which included Janet Daby (M.P. for Lewisham East) and David Simmonds (M.P. for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner). They covered the controversy over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods but did not take a strong position against them unfortunately despite the many complaints they have generated. They both ducked the problems they create to a large extent. But you may want to watch it to see what your M.P. is saying if you live in those constituencies. See Reference 2 below.

Cycling Revolution Not Happening and the Impact on TfL

The Department for Transport (DfT) have published some statistics on travel mode usage since the Covid-19 epidemic hit – see Reference 3 below.

It shows there was a significant increase in April this year and during the summer months, but has now fallen back to more normal lower levels.

It also shows how transport on the Underground and Buses in London was decimated in the early stages of the epidemic and remains at very low levels. Hence the financial difficulties of TfL.

But the Government is about to throw another £175 million at active travel schemes (i.e. more for cycling). The only caveat is that local councils will have to do more consultation or they may lose future funding.

Reference 1: Mayor’s Statement on School Streets: https://tinyurl.com/y3eu5ck4

Reference 2: ITV London Debate:  https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=421993052295871  

Reference 3: DfT Travel Statistics: https://tinyurl.com/yd9xoqss

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Locals Revolting Against LTNs and Acoustic Cameras Installed

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are proving to be one of the most divisive political policies in recent years. Brought in without any public consultation, they are creating massive opposition as the road network grinds to a halt. This is happening all over the country as local residents form grass-roots organisations to oppose them, but particularly so in London where there are more such schemes than elsewhere.

With public demonstrations now restricted by the epidemic, and Councillors not listening, people are resorting to other ways to show their anger. That includes death threats to councillors, and vandalism of modal filters and camera systems (for example in Hackney and Lewisham). Modal filters (planters) have been moved aside and “road closed” signs sprayed over.

All this vandalism is to be deplored but when democratic ways of stopping the road closures is thwarted (in London local borough elections are not until 2022) and there are not even any public consultations or other ways of persuading councillors to change their minds, then people resort to other means. This has happened all the way through history. Grievances that are ignored lead to violent revolutions, and that is the way it is headed in London unless policies are reconsidered.

When life become intolerable because people cannot move around, cannot do their jobs, their income is threatened, they cannot visit their relatives or care for the elderly and their health is threatened by more air pollution, then anger rises to boiling point. Councillors and those who are encouraging these defective policies such as the Mayor of London, TfL and central Government need to reconsider before the divisive atmosphere gets worse.

Peaceful Ways of Opposing

There are of course peaceful ways of opposing the road closures and other damaging road redesign schemes. We have listed a number of petitions against them on this web page: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/07/12/opposition-to-road-closures-in-london-grows-sign-the-petitions/ and we will update that page as we learn about more. Please sign them if you have not already done so.

Hammersmith & Fulham

Local M.P. Greg Hands in Hammersmith & Fulham has created a petition calling on LBHF to cancel its SW6 traffic scheme and it has received 4,000 signatures to date. But he could do with more – go here to sign it:  https://www.greghands.com/campaigns/SW6petition  

Photo above shows one result of the current scheme in Fulham Palace Road.

Acoustic Camera Pilot to Curb Noisy Supercars

One move to curb anti-social behaviour in Hammersmith and Fulham is the use of new acoustic cameras. Supercar drivers using iconic Sloane Street and the surrounding area as a racetrack could face new punishments, after the Council takes action to curb noisy engine revving in the area.

Chelsea street is a magnet for Lamborghinis and Ferraris, with drivers showing off their cars by cruising the local area, often in convoy. Now Kensington and Chelsea is becoming the first Council to pilot its own noise camera technology to catch drivers who are revving too loudly and disturbing residents and businesses. Persistent offenders will be fined and in extreme cases, on conviction the Council can apply to the Magistrates Court to seize the vehicle.

Lead Member for Transport Cllr Johnny Thalassites said:

“Residents have had enough of drivers using our streets as a racetrack. We have had fines in place for a while now, but this new noise camera technology will make sure we are catching more of the worst offenders. Supercars look good and most drivers are considerate but when they they’re not, it is disruptive and irritating for people living and working in the area”. It has become the first authority to set up noise cameras and run them directly.

Comment: This is surely a sensible initiative to halt this anti-social behaviour that has kept residents awake at night.

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Private Eye Letter and Daily Mail Coverage of Road Closures

A very amusing letter has been published in the latest edition of satirical magazine Private Eye. It read:

“…Looking for a foreign holiday with a nostalgic twist? Then look no further than the Lee area of the London borough of Lewisham. It is East Berlin circa 1975 with road blocks, cameras and nearly motor-free. It is almost impossible to get into and out of, and impossible to go across. And if you have a business – selling ice-creams, doing deliveries, visiting the sick and elderly etc – it is almost impossible to do business.

Rotten Boroughs in Eye 1528 summed up the situation very nicely……..Gerard Pearson”

The Daily Mail ran an article on Friday 11September by Mark Edmonds headlined “The road to madness: How eco-obsessed councils – under cover of Covid – have spent millions of YOUR money to shut roads across Britain”.

It covered very well how road space is being removed resulting in increased traffic congestion. It said “The same pattern has emerged, almost overnight, all across Britain: cities and towns are facing narrowed lanes, closed roads and interminable snarl-ups and pollution”.

Marylebone Road in London was given as one example. It used to be a three lane road. It was reduced to two by the installation of a bus lane and has now been reduced to one lane. The result has been gridlock.

One interesting fact given was that “Figures released this week by the satnav company TomTom showed a 25 per cent increase in London’s traffic congestion alone on this time last year”. Howard Cox of campaign group Fairfuel UK was quoted as saying. “This is a co-ordinated attack on the world’s highest-taxed drivers: they have become cash cows” and he said that dozens of MPs support his campaign against the new measures. Drivers pay the Treasury £40billion a year in taxes — but the war on them is deepening. ABD Chairman Ian Taylor was also quoted in the article, although they got his name wrong.

See https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8724177/MARK-EDMONDS-Eco-obsessed-councils-spend-money-shut-roads-Britain.html for the full Daily Mail article.

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Mayor Sadiq Khan Obstructing London Roads

London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has embarked on a steadily intensifying witch-hunt amounting to the complete obstruction of motorised commercial and private mobility, through the misuse (potentially illegally) of Temporary Traffic Orders during the Covid-19 outbreak. These have been used to implement lowered speed limits, carriageway narrowings, superfluous cycle lane widenings, and so-called “Modal Filters” (roadblocks in plain English). This has incensed, amongst others, London cabbies: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1289098/Sadiq-khan-London-news-public-transport-tfl-taxis-disabled-vulnerable .

This policy particularly adversely affects the elderly and the infirm – who often have no alternative to private car use – but also increases congestion, unnecessarily elevates vehicle emissions and wastes precious economic time. This is time that can be ill afforded, as the whole country seeks to climb out of the deep economic well created by the Covid-19 outbreak.

ABD’s London Campaigns Manager, Roger Lawson, is spearheading the investigation of a legal challenge (https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm ) to measures implemented in the borough of Lewisham without adequate public notice or consultation.

COVID-19 was not supposed to bring with it rampant inconsiderate cycling schemes and “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods”.

Abusing emergency powers, Park Lane for example is now down to one lane Northbound. With a pre-existing cycle lane already in the park, there is now a parallel, totally redundant one on Park Lane. Mayor Khan inexplicably thinks that this is effective traffic management.

In the past, local authorities had in place a perfectly good, real consultation process that had to be completed with residents, local public transport AND all three of the emergency services, prior to any road closures, so that public safety and response times could be met. Sadly this approach no longer prevails and people’s lives are being put at risk in a mad rush to slash vehicular access.

If you know of any instances of emergency vehicles being delayed by these (or any other traffic impeding) measures in the London area (or indeed anywhere else) and that have had adverse health implications for anyone, which is a failure in a local authority’s basic duty of care, for which they may be punishable in law, then please send ABD Director a message using the ABD’s main contact page here: https://www.abd.org.uk/contact/ .

What local and national politicians actually need to do is avoid the pitfall of making excessive provision for cyclists at the expense of adequate road space for vehicles. The constraints applicable to the realistic extent of future commuter cycling – i.e., distance, terrain and weather; plus the current imperative of avoiding public transport, indicates that car use will be the primary practical mobility solution for the overwhelming majority of road users. So under current circumstances there should actually be concerted efforts to smooth and ease motorised traffic flow and increased provision for car parking; instead of the very opposite.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps’ incomprehensible call to local authorities “to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians, to help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel” is the root of all the road space reallocation problems currently taking place https://www.localgov.co.uk/Roads-to-recovery/50932 .

In the final reckoning, all politicians are fortunately electorally disposable, and their policies are reversible – as subsequent recent events are already demonstrating locally in London boroughs (see for example:  https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/news/352786/local-authorities-backtrack-closing-roads-cars ).

The ABD has a rolling campaign to oppose these fundamentally anti-mobility and anti-democratic policies which are all part of Sadiq Khan’s London Transport Strategy which he adopted a couple of years ago but is now using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to bring them in without proper public consultation. See https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm for more information and to register your support.

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Streetspace Reduction and A21 Lewisham – Catford Changes

Transport for London (TfL) have launched an initiative called “Streetspace” – see Reference 1 below. To quote they are: “creating more space for people to safely walk or cycle as our city emerges from the coronavirus lockdown. Temporary cycle lanes and wider pavements are among the changes we’re making as part of Streetspace for London”. In reality this means less space for road traffic and in addition it includes creating car-free zones and low traffic neighbourhoods by introducing road closures as we have seen in many London boroughs recently. This is a natural consequence of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (see https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ) which the ABD has consistently opposed since it was adopted. But the Covid-19 epidemic has been used as an excuse to sneak these damaging changes in without any public consultation.

TfL and the London Borough of Lewisham have just announced a scheme as part of the Streetspace progamme that covers the A21 between Catford and Lewisham. It includes:

See map above for the details. For example a right turn from Courthill Road onto the A21 is banned. These changes could make life very awkward for some people. It is suggested that they are only temporary but you can expect them to made permanent unless enough people object.

Note that although this is a TfL Programme (and financed by them even though they are supposed to be short of money), it has clearly been supported by Lewisham Council.

Go to Reference 2 below for more details and for how to object. Or simply send your comments to: streetspacelondon@tfl.gov.uk

Similar changes are happening all over London under the Streetspace programme and are likely to increase traffic congestion as we are already seeing from such schemes in Lewisham (see Ref. 3) and other boroughs. Make sure you tell your local councillors and MP what you think about them.

But the lack of any proper public consultations on these schemes is totally undemocratic and is undermining public respect for politicians (including the Mayor of London) who are pushing these schemes through.

Ref. 1 London Streetspace Programme: https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/improvements-and-projects/streetspace-for-london

Ref. 2 A21 Lewisham-Catford: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/general/034ec426/

Ref. 3 Lewisham Campaign: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm

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