By Sian Bayley, Local Democracy Reporter
New road blocks have been lifted because they were holding up emergency vehicles – and because they sparked an unprecedented number of complaints.
Concerns from emergency services, huge traffic delays and even vandalism are just some of the reasons why Wandsworth council decided to ditch its Lower Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes.
After only being introduced in August, using funding from Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport worth £350,000, all seven of the borough’s LTNs were suspended on September 11, with physical planters removed within days.
A report presented to the council’s Strategic Planning and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday said “significant concerns had been raised by the NHS, the Metropolitan Police and the fire brigade related to extended response times as well access more generally to the hospitals within the LTN areas.”
It added that there were “serious and continuing traffic problems” around most of the LTN sites, with Tooting seeing estimated traffic journey times at least 25 per higher than before the pandemic.
The report also highlighted an “unprecedented” number of concerns and petitions, as well as anecdotal evidence from traffic engineers that cars had been driving on pavements and there had been cases of vandalism and damage.
Officers will still be monitoring the network around the suspended LTN areas and will continue to gather data.
This is particularly significant considering the new measures brought in by TfL as part of Cycle Superhighway 7, particularly along the A24 Balham High Road to Tooting High Street.
This has included moving bus stops, installing cycle lane segregation, banning turns at a number of junctions and removing parking.
Some residents believe these measures are also causing more traffic.
Lorna Blane, from the campaign group One Wandsworth, said: “The LTNs pushed every vehicle on to the main road, but at the same time the Cycle Superhighway meant that what was three lanes of traffic became one lane.”
She said the ‘wands’ used to separate the cycle lane have made it difficult for cars to pull over for emergency vehicles, and that changes to bus stops mean people sometimes have to walk across the cycle lane to get to the pavement.
“It was literally a case that if you had to go out in a car you had to get a map out and try and work out how to get there and how to get home because there were so many ‘no lefts’, ‘no rights’, ‘can’t go here’, and ‘can’t go there.’
“It absolutely divided communities and split areas into two.”
But many residents liked the LTN schemes and want to see more bike lanes, especially in Tooting and Balham, which have seen a number of cyclists fatally injured in recent years.
The CS7 cycle route has seen 405 collisions in the 36 months to December 2019, according to a document produced by TfL.
Resident Ellie Pyemont presented a deputation to the council, explaining how her nearest LTN in South Graveney encouraged her and her family not to use the car for journeys within a 10km radius of home.
She said: “They weren’t perfect; they needed amending. People needed support, information and incentives not to drive so they could leave space for those who needed to. But then overnight they were gone, our kids were gutted. They had begun to see the streets about them in a different way.”
She said that losing the LTNs “has already made going car-free in Wandsworth much more of a battle.”
She said: “Riding with the kids now is a constant trade-off between wanting to help them get more experienced and therefore safer, and being hyper-alert for all potential adverse driver behaviour, which happens frequently.”
She said the segregated cycle lanes on the A24 brought in by Tfl “means that getting out and about with kids on bikes remains an option” and “not feel like we are dicing with death.”
The committee voted unanimously to work with TfL on the A24 trial “to end road deaths and injuries on one of the most dangerous and polluted roads in Wandsworth.”
Residents are encouraged to provide feedback to TfL on the scheme here.
Pictured top: Some of the road blocks in Wandsworth, which have now been removed
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.