LTNs Are Not Popular

The promised survey of residents that was planned to take place in December in Lewisham has been abandoned. It will now be combined with a full public consultation in March, so residents of the borough will have to put up with current road closures for many more months.

But Lewisham Council have published a lot of information recently on Commonplace about the data they have collected so far including the opinions posted on Commonplace. See https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/proposals/lewisham-lee-green-ltn-monitoring for the voluminous data.

The chart above shows that there is clearly a large majority of residents who do not wish the LTN scheme to be made permanent. So much for the claims that LTNs are popular with residents!

Roger Lawson

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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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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

Press Release: Growing Opposition to Road Closures

The ABD has 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 the ABD:  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, the ABD has 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

ABD 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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The LTN, Air Pollution and Climate Emergency in Lewisham

The justification for the Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme in Lewisham was spelled out by Mayor Damien Egan in his webinar on the 22ndOctober (see https://tinyurl.com/LTNResidentsMeeting to watch a recording).

He said that the reasons the LTN was proposed was to a) Improve Air Quality; b) Making streets safer by reducing car journeys; and c) Making it easier to walk and cycle. He also said “road traffic is the number one cause of toxic air and toxic air kills”. Unfortunately he is wrong in several respects.

Toxic air is usually judged to be based on the level of particulates (dust) in the air and the level of nitrous oxides (NOX), although there is some debate as to whether NOX (mainly NO2) is actually damaging to health. Particulates, namely PM 2.5, are the major concern and to quote from the report in Reference 1 below “Road transport accounts for around a quarter of PM2.5 in London, with a large proportion also coming from construction, wood burning and commercial cooking”.

The ABD covered the issue of the contribution of vehicles to air quality in a report we published two years ago – see Reference 2. The Conclusion in that report said this:

“In conclusion, let it be clear that the ABD is supportive of improving air quality in the UK, particularly in urban areas and on particular roads where transport is a major generator of emissions. But there is no public health crisis and measures to improve air quality should be both reasonable and moderate. According to a recent report from Defra, since 1970 NOx emissions have fallen by 72% and Particulates (PM2.5) by 79%. The hysteria about air pollution is wrongly being used to generate tax revenues to local government (e.g. the ULEZ in London and similar proposals for other UK cities) without any justification in terms of cost/benefits. The likely improvement in air quality that will result will be unlikely to be noticed by residents because it will simply be too small and it will have no significant long-term impact on health”.

Even if you consider NOX to be of concern as a lot of it does come from transport, in practice LTNs mainly affect car users while the majority of NOX comes from buses and commercial vehicles – only 33% comes from petrol or diesel cars – see Reference 3 for the data from 2013 and it’s probably considerably less now.

Does “toxic air” kill, as the Mayor said? In reality it is very unlikely that the level of air pollution in Lewisham kills anyone at all. If you live on one of the worst streets for air pollution such as on the “A” roads where there is heavy traffic (particularly HGVs and buses), it is possible that life expectancy might be shortened by a few days. But you are likely to experience more exposure to particulates from domestic cooking and heating than from road transport. The exposure of smokers is also many times worse. Your life expectancy is most dependent on your lifestyle, domestic and work environments, not on background air pollution.

The Mayor also suggested that the streets would be safer if car journeys were reduced but diverting the journeys to main roads as the LTN is doing is not going to help. The accidents will move also to roads where higher speeds may be present. There is no evidence that overall road casualties will reduce by such an approach. In practice LTNs do not reduce car journeys significantly if a wider area is considered – they just divert journeys to longer routes.

As regards the comment that the LTN will make it easier to walk and cycle, there is no obvious problem in using either of those modes in the LTN and reducing traffic will not assist.     

Another justification given in the webinar for the LTN was by CEO Kim Wright who said it supported the Climate Emergency Strategic Action Plan adopted by the Borough – see Reference 4. Many Lewisham Councillors clearly believe they are helping to save the world from global warming by cutting CO2 emissions. Without getting into a debate on the science of global warming, you can see how futile that is in terms of actions possible by the London Borough of Lewisham by considering this data:

Lewisham emitted 805,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2017/2018 which is 0.2% of UK emissions of 354 million tonnes in 2019. The UK proportion of world emissions is about 1%, so Lewisham’s contribution to world emissions is 0.2% of 1%, i.e. 0.002%. The UK is taking vigorous actions to reduce overall emissions while countries such as China (28% of world emissions) are still building hundreds of coal-fired power plants. Any actions by Lewisham will have negligible impact on emissions in the UK let alone the world, and actions to tackle excessive CO2 emissions should be taken at a national level where it can be most effective.

In fact LTNs are unlikely to have any impact on CO2 emissions for another reason. Over 50% of CO2 emissions arise in housing – mainly domestic heating, and only 14.7% arise from cars.

In summary the main reason for the introduction of LTNs in Lewisham given by the Mayor of Lewisham simply do not stand up to scrutiny. The dogma about the need to reduce vehicles on our roads is not only unjustifiable on any cost/benefit analysis, it is simply unjustifiable full stop.

This virtue signalling by Lewisham councillors is imposing enormous inconvenience and costs on Lewisham residents that cannot be justified. Journey times have increased enormously, while air pollution on roads that already had high levels has clearly worsened.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods do not solve anything and are based on irrational opposition to the use of vehicles which the world has come to rely on.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1: Air Pollution Monitoring Data in London: https://tinyurl.com/y57nucz9

Reference 2: Air Quality and Vehicles: The Truth: https://tinyurl.com/yx9bk9kg

Reference 3: Lewisham Air Quality Action Plan (2016-2021): https://tinyurl.com/y2n684bz

Reference 4; Lewisham Climate Emergency Strategic Action Plan: https://tinyurl.com/y34bwcnj

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Demo Against LTN, LibDem Opinion Poll and Tranche 2 Funding

On Saturday the 3rd October there was a public demonstration against the road closures in Lewisham (photo above). This is a typical Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme funded by the Government and TfL under the pretence of a response to the Covid-19 epidemic. But was originally planned as a “Healthy Neighbourhood” scheme aimed at stopping us from using vehicles, or encouraging “active travel” such as walking and cycling, depending on your point of view. It has proved to be an abject failure with traffic congestion worsening, more air pollution and massive inconvenience to residents who rely on motor transport. Even buses have been slowed down.

There were over a 100 people turned up for the demonstration according to a report received despite the fact that it was legally questionable in the current restrictions on gatherings. But some social separation was maintained and the demonstration went off peacefully. Several police vehicles turned up but the police took no action to stop the event.

Motorists and bus drivers tooted their horns in support. One contact said he did chat to 4 bus drivers who all said the same thing “things have only got worse for them since the road closures were put in place, and what the hell did it have to do with Covid and social distancing?”.

I understand that similar demonstrations may take place on subsequent Saturdays. This writer would attend but as someone with a suppressed immune system and vulnerable to Covid-19 for other reasons, I am avoiding all public meetings. No doubt other supporters were deterred from attending for similar reasons but it shows the strength of feeling about this issue. People want the road closures removed without delay.

LibDem Opinion Poll

The strong opposition is also very evident in the results of a survey of Lewisham residents undertaken by the Liberal Democrats, which has just been reported. See https://www.lewishamlibdems.org.uk/residents_unite_against_lewisham_council_s_traffic_scheme for the details. They got almost 1,000 responses, mainly from Lee Green and Hither Green. What follows is a summary.

The LibDems are usually strongly in favour of environmental measures and the survey questions were not seen as totally unbiased by many. But the answers they got were very clear.

To quote from the report: “The majority of residents felt that the scheme failed in its main objective – to tackle the climate emergency. The scheme, which closes many Lee Green roads to through traffic, has created gridlock in neighbouring streets and the increased congestion has added to air pollution, in areas where air pollution already needed to be reduced.

Residents cite many frustrations over delays, confusing signage and missed appointments but the biggest complaint is over the failure of Lewisham Councillors to engage with local residents to discuss concerns. For many residents there have been unexpected and severe consequences on their lives”; and:

“We expected those against any traffic management to be most vocal but critically this scheme is also being condemned by people who want some form of traffic reduction in the area. There is huge frustration about the appalling consultation and the lack of response from the Council and councillors. The majority of residents have concluded it is not fit for purpose.”

The LibDems recommend that the scheme be suspended.

Question 1c in the survey shows the level of opposition. The question was “Are you happy with the Council’s changes?”. The answers were 771 said NO, 159 said YES and 10 omitted a response. That is very clear cut for these kinds of surveys.

There was some support for camera systems to limit use to local residents (a totally impractical and very expensive solution in our view) but time-limited restrictions were clearly not popular.

Many respondents had contacted councillors, MPs or Council officers but 84% of those who did considered they did not receive an adequate response.

You can read many of the detailed responses in the report where it is clear that they are similar to the ones the ABD has received – see this https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm where you can obtain a file of some of them. The anger stimulated by the road changes is very apparent, with local councillors coming in for a lot of criticism for not listening.

Tranche 2 Funding

The Lewisham scheme, and many others around the country, was funded partly by Tranche 1 of the “Emergency Active Travel Funding” from central Government. Tranche 1 consisted of £45 million of which only £5 million was given to London. But TfL also received £55 million for spending on active travel measures on TfL and borough roads.

But Tranche 2 to be supplied before the end of the year consists of another £180 million of which £25 million will go to London. The second tranche is aimed at enabling “authorities to install, further, more permanent measures to cement cycling and walking habits” to quote from a letter received from the Department of Transport by one of our supporters.

It was very clear that the intention all along was that the “temporary” measures such as those installed in Lewisham would subsequently be made permanent and that is how it is going to be achieved. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

But local boroughs do not have to spend this money on damaging schemes. Councillors can reject schemes that residents oppose. They just need some common sense and some guts to do so.

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Who Is Right About Traffic in London?

Lewisham Councillor James Rathbone is a strong supporter of the newly introduced Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme in Lee Green ward. He recently issued a Tweet which said: “People are right to be angry that there is so much congestion on their streets but it’s been a growing problem for the last decade”. He also suggested that “Without traffic reduction the number of vehicle miles will only rise”, i.e. that the alleged problem would get worse. He backed it up with some graphs without giving the source or what they actually represented.

My response was that from my experience of living and driving in London for many years, I believed he was exaggerating. I have taken the time to actually locate the relevant data and here it is:

London and Lewisham Traffic Data

Traffic volumes in London, and even more so in Lewisham, have been falling for the last 10 years. If there is any increase in traffic congestion it is the result of new traffic management measures, road narrowing, road closures, new bus lanes, imposition of cycle superhighways and other attempts to impose modal shift on drivers. In other words, poor traffic management is the cause, not increases in traffic volumes. 

I hope Mr Rathbone will apologise for misleading people.

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Does Closing Roads Reduce Air Pollution and Improve Health?

The Alliance of British Drivers has long argued that there is way too much scaremongering about the impact on people’s health of air pollution. We published a paper two years ago (see Reference 1 below) that in summary said that we believe it is not a major health crisis but simply a major health scare fed to a gullible public by a few politicians and by journalists wanting a story. We also criticised the relative contribution of vehicles to existing air pollution. Most air pollution arises from home and office heating, building and industrial activities and from home activities such as cooking and smoking.

Is there actually a public health crisis? The simple answer is NO. The evidence does not support such claims. In reality air quality has been steadily improving and will continue to do so from technical improvements to heating and vehicles. Meanwhile life expectancy has been increasing. There is no public health crisis!

The Covid-19 epidemic has given a great opportunity to see the likely impact of removing cars and other vehicles from the roads as businesses closed down and home working spread like wildfire.

The Daily Mail (see Reference 2) has reported on a study by Stirling University with the headlines: “Decline in vehicle use in lockdown had no impact on reducing toxic particle emissions and suggests traffic is ‘not a key contributor to air pollution” and “It found no significant fall in harmful toxic particulate matter – known as PM2.5” based on roadside measurements. That was despite a 65% fall in traffic.

Particulates are more dangerous than NOX and as people spent more time at home, they may have increased their exposure to them. But it is clear that removing vehicles from the roads does not cut particulate emissions.  Although NO2 levels fell, which mainly come from transport, the Mail article suggests that might cut attributable deaths but in reality there is no certainty about the impact of NOX emissions on life expectancy and it may be a totally spurious claim.

The ABD also recently debunked the alleged claim linking asthma to NOX emissions. There are a number of possible causes for asthma and very poor air conditions (worse than generally experienced) can trigger or exacerbate attacks, but one has to be very careful about a specific linkage – see Reference 3.

Life expectancy data tells us that there is no air pollution health crisis – see another article published by the ABD in Reference 4. But London boroughs such as Lewisham argue we have to remove vehicles from our streets as a matter of urgency – see Reference 5 for Lewisham air quality data.

A lot of published data on air quality and sources of air pollution are out of date as road transport has rapidly changed as vehicles are replaced. Less than 50% of air pollution in London now comes from vehicles and stopping private cars will have minimal impact as most vehicle emissions come from buses and goods vehicles.

Another problem is that much of London’s air pollution blows in from outside the metropolis. According to London Councils (see the report in Reference 6), 75% of particulates actually originate from elsewhere.

In summary, closing roads to reduce vehicles in London generally, and in boroughs such as Lewisham specifically, based on a claimed need to reduce vehicle emission makes no sense at the present time. The recent epidemic impact when vehicles were much reduced shows that there was nil or minimal impact on air quality so it would be a pointless exercise.

In reality the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods introduced in boroughs such as Lewisham has diverted traffic onto main roads and created more traffic congestion. It also means longer routes have to be driven and traffic piles up on residential roads (see photo of Horncastle Road above). Overall air quality has surely been made worse as is clear from residents’ comments on the impact. These “experiments” to cut traffic should be abandoned now!

Reference 1: Air Quality and Vehicles – The Truth: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Air-Quality-and-Vehicles-The-Truth.pdf

Reference 2: Daily Mail article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/cars/article-8710499/Decline-vehicle-journeys-lockdown-did-NOT-reduce-emissions-toxic-particles.html

Reference 3: Epidemiological Fallacy on Asthma and Nitrogen Dioxide: https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-scare-pollution-the-latest-epidemiological-fallacy-on-asthma-and-nitrogen-dioxide/

Reference 4: Life expectancy data: https://www.abd.org.uk/life-expectancy-data-no-air-pollution-health-crisis/

Refence 5: Lewisham air quality data:  https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/environment/air-pollution/read-our-air-quality-action-plan-and-other-reports

Reference 6: London Council’s Report “Demystifying Air Pollution in London”: https://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/node/33224

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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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Private Eye Covers Lewisham Road Closures

Magazine Private Eye covered the road closures in Lewisham in its latest edition, under the headline “Load of Bollards”. Here’s some of what the article said:

“Anger is growing in London over the current craze for ‘low traffic neighbourhood’ (LTN) schemes which seek to reduce the number of vehicles in residential streets through the use of bollards, planters, ‘pinch’ gates etc. But traffic is like water – block it off in one place and it will find the easiest alternative route.

In the borough of Lewisham, the Lee Green LTN displaces traffic from wealthier east Hither Green to the less affluent, more racially diverse west side. Several formerly quiet west Hither Green residential streets now endure more air pollution and congestion.

Clean-air campaigner Rosamund Kissi-Debrah describes the scheme as ‘a slap in the face’. In 2013 her nine-year-old daughter Ella died of an asthma attack thought to be linked to an air pollution “hot spot” near her west Hither Green home. Ms Kissi-Debrah told the local News Shopper. ‘It’s environmental racism… I don’t just campaign for my children, 1 campaign for all children. But some are more equal than others’”.

Lewisham Supporters News:

This is what we have sent to our campaign contacts on the latest news on Lewisham:

We have submitted the Change.org petition signatures (over 3,500) and all the comments received to date to the Mayor, other Councillors and Lewisham Council staff. So far all we have received is an acknowledgement from the Mayor’s Secretary. Clearly the views of those opposed are being ignored as has been evident from when these “Healthy Neighbourhood” proposals were first put forward in Lewisham.

But opposition is growing – keep the responses coming and get your friends and relations to register here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm  and ask them to sign the petition http://chng.it/RFgW8kFMX2  , plus put their comments on Commonplace here: https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/

Latest Council News:

The latest news from Lewisham Council is that cameras are being installed at four modal filter locations in Dermody Road, Manor Lane, Manor Park and Ennersdale Road. It will be a £130 fine for infringers of the road closures.

Coulgate Street, near Brockley Station, is now being closed to through traffic from 8am until 10pm each day allegedly “to help create safe space for social distancing and to support the economic recovery of local businesses as shops, cafes and other businesses reopen”.

The Council has complained about the amount of vandalism of the planters and bollards they installed. The ABD does not condone illegal acts but is this any different to the “direct action” of Extinction Rebellion and BLM to close roads, to vandalise statues and other illegal acts? It just shows the strength of local opposition to the road closures. Direct action is only taken by those who feel their political representatives are ignoring them.

Comments Received:

The ABD certainly has no objections to encouraging people to follow a healthy lifestyle, i.e. by getting some exercise by walking and cycling. This writer tries to do so every day. But closing roads is creating enormous inconvenience to many people. Here are a few recent comments received in the last 24 hours:

“Blocking roads will highly affect driving time, produce more congestion and make the journeys impossible but not reduce the pollution. Just wonder what would be those idiots next move. The best would be out of council”.

“I live in the area and recently tried to get from Blackheath Hill through Lewisham, all the diversions caused me to have to go back on myself detouring through New Cross, Through Brockley and Forest hill to get to Downham. It was a complete disgrace, we couldn’t understand why every single road was blocked or closed. It took us nearly 2 hours to get from Blackheath Hill to Downham that day as traffic was everywhere. What fantastic planning and a complete farce!!! Please help me to raise my objections. I see no reason to pay my council Tax, if Lewisham Council won’t do anything to help me. We are going to move away from Lewisham now anyway, I will be giving them nothing from now on, useless bunch of Twats!!”

“As you acknowledged, there was insufficient local consultation and a questionable use of the new Coronavirus legislation to push through these road closures. In addition, as a resident outside the road closure streets and very close to the South Circular, this has proven to be extremely disadvantageous. We have increased journey times, increased air pollution but also no longer have the option to enjoy the local benefits on the other side of the train tracks without a fourty minute round trip walking which, especially with a child under two and two full time jobs to manage, is not always an option. I would also add that Lewisham Council should have taken a more holistic approach to greening the community and improving sustainability in the long-term. The lack of traffic impact modelling of the road closures, the lack of analysis of effective behavioural change, and also the lack of implementing other measures which would better support social distancing (which I agree is spurious) or greening Lewisham compared to road closures; this could have been included”

“I would like to object to all these road closures that Lewisham are doing. It is total stupidity. Would they like to drive their car in all this carnage.”

“I 100% object to this, I am disabled and unable to walk or cycle. I don’t want to spend hours in traffic”.

“For us it means we are now completely cut off, by car, from the area in which we live.  Our only exit out is on to the Lee High Road.  We are also cut off from the borough in which we live, unless we drive round to central Lewisham or drive through Lee Green, the south circular and Catford.  And come back the same way.  We will not be doing these journeys by cycle or walking”.

“Very interested in objecting to this. I am disabled, rely on my car and can’t use public transport because of anxiety and panic attacks”.

“Yes these closures are an outrage. A separate East Berlin – style mini-state has been created. The Covid reason is utter BS. They are in fact spreading Covid since people are stuck in buses and works vans for longer as they held up by increased traffic on surrounding roads. As for the closed off roads being described as “residential” – the A205 is residential, the A20 is residential and so on. Are their residents of a lower order and thus more “pollutable” maybe? I have actually accused the Council of being racist in this respect”.

“We have been affected enormously. A 1 minute drive now takes over 40mins to get home. When schools start in Sept our child will also be heavily affected”.

“Road closures and ULEZ extension charges are punitive let alone in the middle of a pandemic – this will affect small business owners and tradesmen, people who can’t cycle or who are not fit enough to cycle huge distances, we already have a terrible bus service and I don’t want to catch COVID 19 on it and how do we get our shopping home? Typical left-wing council why would I be surprised? Anti business and free movement and pro indoctrination is their agenda. Appalling, as a tax payer and business owner I am disgusted by the arbitrary and arrogant attitude of this council who can’t even manage to take up the weeds from our streets, who replace paving stones with poorly laid tarmac, who cannot deal with rodent infestations which abound in our filthy streets, now this – they are pathetic!!!!!!”

Legal Action:

We have consulted solicitors over possible legal action, at considerable expense, but it is not an easy or straightforward case to pursue. It will require a judicial review which is a costly and lengthy legal process. More information will follow on this and possible fund raising to finance it.

What the Council Should Have Done:

Everyone would like less traffic and it is certainly the case that in areas of Lewisham and in particular roads there are problems because the roads were not designed for the volume of traffic that now uses them.

A typical example is the South Circular, a major road that has not been significantly improved for many years. This is basically a historic failure by Transport for London, the Mayor London and local boroughs to develop a sensible plan to improve the road network in South London. Road closures in Lewisham are actually pushing more traffic onto the South Circular, worsening the already bad air pollution. This is not wise when this is actually a residential road.

But even local roads such as Upwood Road in Lee Green have suffered from increased traffic and excessive parking effectively making it a one lane road and hence conflicts between drivers are common and cycling on the road may be discouraged. This problem could be solved quite easily rather than imposing a road closure which fails to recognise the needs of residents and by those attending the adjacent Colfe’s school.

Installing modal filters is a cheap and nasty solution that should not have been considered, even on a temporary basis. Using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse makes no sense either. The Council should have looked at the local issues and developed appropriate measures that would not inconvenience a large proportion of the population.

There are better solutions available! But will the Council listen?

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