Disabled woman to take her town hall to court over LTN road blocks that delay her hospital journeys

By Toby Porter

A disabled woman will next month take her town hall traffic chiefs to court over road blocks which she says quadruples her journey time to vital hospital appointments.

Sofia Sheakh, 47, a long-term chronic pain sufferer and Covid survivor, is fighting Lambeth council over their use of the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) scheme.

The road closures, introduced as part of lockdown emergency measures, are designed to coax residents into cycling and walking more – enforced by planters and cameras, costing almost £1million in Lambeth last year.

But residents say they increase jams and delay fire engines and ambulances.

Sofia says they have made essential trips, like to shopping and medical appointments in Brixton, even more painful than usual – they take 22 minutes rather than six; or a £130 fine.

With her best friend Ben Chijioke, also known as rapper Ty

Her court action on June 10, backed by pressure group One Lambeth, accuses the council of breaching the Equality Act.

Pressure group OneLambeth is fundraising for the legal case, which has so far raised over £24,000 of a £30,000 target.

Since 2016 Sofia has suffered from sarcoidosis, which causes non-malignant tumours to form in her lungs.

She spent nearly six weeks in a coma with Covid last year, before finally leaving hospital only to find her best friend Ben Chijioke, also known as rapper Ty, had been admitted around the same time as her but had died on May 7.

Sofia, who lives off Shakespeare Road, said: “I am still grieving for Ben. He was the best of men.

“We were meant to quarantine together because he wanted to support me and my daughter.

“Since the LTN was imposed, if I turn left out of my road towards Brixton I will be fined.

“What was once a six minute journey is now 22 minutes. And I am sitting in pollution in jams.

“The first time I went out in my car in August it took me 40 minutes to get to Dulwich Park. I was trembling with pain.

“It would be great if we were all born equal and could all cycle and walk but I don’t have that option.

“Not everyone has a juggernaut driving around residential streets.

“LTNs were imposed without any consultation.

“Anti-LTN people have been painted as against climate control measures – but we just want an inclusive solution.

“You can’t be in a capital city and want a quiet life.

“Launching legal action is not something I take lightly because I have had a humdinger of a year.”

One Lambeth say the council did not conduct an equalities evaluation ahead of introducing the LTN in June 2020.

Extension Rebellion member Steve Toose, who lives in the Railton Road LTN, said: “‘I’m sad for Sofia that she feels that her travel has been made more difficult by the LTN

Sofia and her daughter Tahirah

“I completely get how annoying it must be for her that some of her car journeys are a bit longer and a bit less convenient.

“But she can still reach anywhere that she wants to by car. So, it’s a shame that she’s decided to go to court to try to take away all the safety and health benefits of the LTN for thousands of her neighbours like me and my family.

“I’m not sure that all disabled people who live in this neighbourhood would agree with her that the LTN has made travel more of a problem for them.

“Most days I watch an elderly man on a disability scooter drive up the middle of Railton Road looking very relaxed. He would have been taking his life in his hands to do that when 6,500 rat runners were using my road as a high-speed short-cut every day.

“One of my elderly neighbours is almost blind and can now cross the road much more safely because there are so few cars around.

“Another elderly neighbour with a serious lung disorder has told me that her breathing has really improved now that there is so much less pollution around here.

“LTNs that have been in place for a few years in other parts of London have seen a drop in traffic because local people feel safe to make short journeys on foot or by bike instead of by car.

“That means that people like Sofia who really do need to drive to get around face less congestion and can get places by car more easily.

“Without measures like LTNs to persuade people to get out of their cars, traffic levels in London will just keep increasing and Sofia will find her journeys getting longer and longer and more stressful because she’ll be stuck in all that extra traffic.”

A Lambeth council spokesperson said: “Last summer the council produced an emergency transport plan in response to the significant challenges the coronavirus pandemic posed to the borough’s transport system.

‘This plan included pavement widening, temporary walking and cycling infrastructure and low traffic neighbourhoods.

‘The start of the Covid-19 pandemic saw capacity on public transport reduced by up to 80 per cent to accommodate social distancing.

Anti-LTN protest in Windrush Square

“With 60 per cent of households in Lambeth not having access to a car, and with access typically lower for women, Black and disabled residents in particular, we needed to make our streets safer to enable them to walk, cycle, scoot or wheel safely in their local area and access local facilities during the pandemic.

“It’s simply not acceptable to us that if you are a disabled pedestrian, you are four times more likely to be injured by a motor vehicle than a non-disabled pedestrian.

‘To not make changes to our streets to protect the most at-risk residents is an abdication of responsibility.

“All homes and businesses in our borough are accessible by car and taxis.

“It is widely accepted that the only way to reduce congestion on main roads running through Lambeth is to reduce the amount of trips taken by motor vehicles.

“This will only be achieved by the council working in partnership with Transport for London and others to prioritise efficient and sustainable modes of transport.

“By supporting safe, affordable and accessible ways of getting round for everyone, we will reduce congestion and free up our roads for those that need to use a car to get around.

“It’s simply not acceptable to us that if you are a disabled pedestrian, you are four times more likely to be injured by a motor vehicle than a non-disabled pedestrian.

‘To not make changes to our streets to protect the most at-risk residents is an abdication of responsibility.

“All homes and businesses in our borough are accessible by car and taxis.

“It is widely accepted that the only way to reduce congestion on main roads running through Lambeth is to reduce the amount of trips taken by motor vehicles.

‘This will only be achieved by the council working in partnership with Transport for London and others to prioritise efficient and sustainable modes of transport.

“By supporting safe, affordable and accessible ways of getting round for everyone, we will reduce congestion and free up our roads for those that need to use a car to get around.

“The council is committed to regular, detailed, open and transparent monitoring of the programme including taking onboard feedback from local people and making improvements where necessary.

“This is ongoing and the first monitoring reviews have been published already.

“As part of our commitment, there will be a public consultation prior to any decision on the future of the projects.”

Traffic has risen in London more than any other area of the UK, since January 2020.

A study by Huq found the top five boroughs for increased road delays in the capital are currently Lambeth with a 34.7 per cent rise, Wandsworth at 33.9 per cent, Islington with 33.6 per cent, Southwark at 33.3 per cent and Hackney at 32.2 per cent.

The fundraiser is here: https://uk.gofundme.com/f/OneLambeth?utm_campaign=p_cp_url&utm_medium=os&utm_source=customer

 


 

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.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *