Bollards for cycle lanes, extra parking restrictions and road closures – new measures to get us on our bikes after lockdown have hit motorists hard. NIGEL GORDON looks at the impact and the reaction.
Almost 500 new traffic reduction measures will be brought into operation around schools in London by September.
A number of School Streets – designed to make journeys to school safer by closing roads to traffic at school gates during drop-off and pick-up times – will run across Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Wandsworth.
Since the lockdown, £30million of a £250million budget was made available to councils for emergency interventions to fund urgent congestion-tackling and social-distancing initiatives from the Transport for London (TfL) Streetspace for London programme.
Pop-up bike lanes are being used as well as wider pavements and low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), designed to minimise traffic with bollards and planters.
Residents have questioned the speed and implementation of these new LTNs, which have been imposed with little consultation. People in Lambeth recently saw the introduction of the Oval Triangle.
The restrictions are aimed at stopping rat-running while at the same time improving air quality.
A Change.org petition calling for an immediate end to the Oval Triangle has more than 1,500 signatures from people angry the LTN was implemented without proper consultation and argue it has added to gridlock of surrounding roads.
Clean air campaigner Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter Ella died of an asthma attack, thought to be linked to dangerously high levels of air pollution, recently labelled LTNs as “an example of environmental racism.”
Ms Kissi-Debrah argues such measures, although well-intentioned, push traffic from affluent side roads on to roads commonly inhabited by poorer people.
Lewisham council, Ms Kissi- Debrah’s local authority, was allocated £639,750 from TfL’s Streetspace funding scheme.
Of this, £384,294 will go to 35 schools across the borough to enable them to implement School Streets.
The School Streets and LTNs initiatives form part of the Government’s once-in-a-generation plan to put cycling and walking at the heart of its transport policy following the Coronavirus pandemic.
School Streets founder Sylvia Gauthereau said: “Before Covid there were about 85 schemes in London at various stages of progress, some were permanent, others were going through the pilot phase.
“Since local authorities have been mandated to implement them as part of Streetspace, plenty more have gone ahead. Some were already selected as part of a permanent programme, others will be offered as emergency measure and may be made permanent later on after the consultation period.
“Unless schools have requested one, the council would generally have offered the opportunity to have one in locations where distancing can be an issue. But schools can say no. Given their emergency nature, most will be implemented with physical barriers which staff will have to put out every morning and afternoon, so some schools may have declined the offer due to staff availability.
“Almost every London borough will have some. Although some have a ‘lite version’ which isn’t really a School Street but merely an improved parking management plan, whereby a couple of parking spaces outside the school gate have been removed.
“It remains to be seen whether or not those boroughs will be able to keep the funding they received from the Emergency Active Travel pot.
“At least 483 more school streets should be implemented in London by the end of September. It’s hard to tell exactly how many are in place right now.”
According to a recent YouGov poll, with transport think-tank Transport & Environment, nearly nine in 10 Londoners (86 per cent) are in favour of measures to cut car use.
Jemima Hartshorn, founder of Mums for Lungs said: “Air pollution kills about 10,000 people in London prematurely every year and the single strongest contributor to air pollution is road transport.
“We are currently in a respiratory pandemic and the public health emergency of air pollution continues, a terrible combination.
“Public transport capacity has significantly reduced but we must ensure that air pollution stays below pre-corona levels too and the only way is to create safe and less polluted routes where people can cycle and walk safely, instead of driving or using public transport.
“LTNs provide exactly this, they encourage active travel and reduce the need to drive. So that is a great start.
“But we urge Government to fund and push the implementation of other schemes too – to ensure that traffic and car use reduces on big and small roads.
“ULEZ expansion, diesel scrappage scheme, phasing out combustion engines as soon as possible – and many more are more important than ever to ensure that all Londoners can breathe safely again.” I
n May, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pledged to make £2billion available to facilitate the Government’s plan to get people actively travelling.
Pictured: Manor Lane Terrace
A grocer says his outlet has lost up to 30 per cent of his custom since bollards were erected on the road outside his shop.
A protected cycle lane was installed last month on the A24 between Balham and Colliers Wood.
One 50-year-old shop, Patel Brothers, on Upper Tooting Road said it has lost almost a third of its customers.
Owner Bhavesh Patel said: “Emergency Services are finding it hard to get through, where the roads have become narrower.
“Before, vehicles could move into the blue cycle lanes, to let emergency services through. “Ambulances – we get three or four every hour down the A24 – will get stuck, especially at peak times, because other drivers can’t go into the cycleway anymore. This will result in deaths if you ask my personal opinion. A couple of minutes can make a huge difference to someone’s life.
“Businesses have lost loading bays and disabled parking slots. This has had an impact on all of them from Balham to Tooting. Most are just shocked and appalled at what they are seeing especially after what they have gone through with lockdown.
“Some don’t know how they will survive. “I’ve had a loading bay outside my shop for 50 years, which has been taken away. I’m not talking about a few bags of groceries, I’m taking one tonne of stock for my business.
“Also, The cycle lane is becoming dangerous – cyclists now overtake by zig-zagging through the new bollards and their speeds are increasing. They go at extreme speeds and never stop at traffic lights.
“Residents are also complaining, as more traffic is going down side streets. Some long vehicles are also obstructed by the new bollards from turning into any side streets to delivery points.
And what about our elderly customers who use disabled bays along these routes at the moment?
“I just find it very odd that Transport for London (TFL) and the Mayor’s office have not consulted the public or businesses adequately about this new project.”
A spokeman for TFL said: “As people return to work and leisure across London, it’s absolutely vital that streets can cope with increased demand for walking and cycling to avoid a damaging car-led recovery from coronavirus, which would increase congestion, reduce air quality and impact businesses.
“Our Streetspace programme is adding temporary walking and cycling improvements to allow people to go about their business without increasing congestion or reducing air quality to help make London a safer, greener and better place to live.
“We are supporting London’s businesses recover from the pandemic, and are working closely with residents, emergency services and local retailers to ensure their feedback is taken on board and make changes to schemes where required.”
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