By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter
Work on the Railton low traffic neighbourhood between Brixton and Herne Hill started on Saturday after a road was made access only.
Council workers put temporary barriers – modal filters – in place in Shakespeare Road over the weekend, which aim to stop rat-running and promote cycling and walking.
Only cyclists, walkers, and emergency vehicles should drive through, while a sign on one barrier warns that cameras and fines will follow.
Another modal filter was also put in place in St Matthew’s Road.
But residents in Railton Road have reacted with anger to the changes – stating they were not consulted about the disruption the changes would cause.
One, Tony Clarkson, said: “Lambeth council, with no consultation whatsoever with local residents and businesses, are citing an emergency transport response to Covid-19 as the reason for the closure.
“I’m incensed that Lambeth have decided to do this without any consultation, but I’m even more incensed they are using the pretext of the pandemic as a front to bring forward traffic management plans that have existed since at least 2008.
“Because of the Covid-19 emergency they promise consultation only once the signage and ANPR cameras have been installed.
“I’ve lived off Railton Road for more than 35 years and I received a badly written leaflet and confusing map, dated June 4, on Monday, June 8 – but the leaflet didn’t give a date for the works to start. It was followed by an email yesterday informing me that that work would start last weekend.
“To compound the crime the website the leaflet told me to visit to make comments wasn’t working.
“The complex of roads affected include Shakespeare Road, which contains a busy skip firm.
“A further upshot of the scheme is that that all the skip lorries will be diverted from the gentrified streets between Railton Road and Dulwich Road – known as Poets Corner – down Shakespeare Road past social housing towards Loughborough Junction.
“Is taking away useful local roads and diverting traffic through the already over-busy centre of Brixton and Herne Hill really all Lambeth can offer its ordinary hardworking residents?”
But Herne Hill-based national campaigning organisation Mums for Lungs is supporting this and similar changes across Lambeth and Southwark. Found Jemima Hartshorn, pictured above, said: “Air pollution has an irreversible impact on our health. As well as respiratory illnesses it has proven links to autism, diabetes, dementia, heart disease and cancer. Children and the elderly are most at risk.
“Across Dulwich the largest contributor to pollution is road transport so it is essential we enable people to use their cars less. The current proposals from Lambeth and Southwark will make it safer and easier to walk and cycle, and schemes like these are effective in reducing area-wide traffic volumes. We see them as a crucial step towards building happier, healthier, safer and more sustainable communities.
“We support schemes such as this one. Across Lambeth air pollution is very high, primarily caused by traffic despite low car ownership levels. Air pollution contributes to many illnesses from cancer, diabetes, dementia to respiratory illnesses. It is linked to more frequent and severe cases of Covid-19 too. In the midst of this respiratory pandemic, people need to be able to walk and cycle safely, so that fewer people are forced into their cars and public transport can be used by those who need to. This scheme is developed to make it safe to walk from Herne Hill to Brixton and will hopefully be complemented by other schemes that enable active travel across the borough.”
Steve Tooze, 56, from Railton Road, said: “‘I’ve lived on Railton Road for 16 years and during that time it has been a polluted, noisy, dangerous rat run where I can’t open my front windows on even the hottest summer day and where there are regular high speed crashes and fights between drivers who refuse to give way on traffic calming spots. The Low Traffic Neighbourhood plan will transform my life and the lives of my family. I’ll be able to wave my children off on their cycles without being terrified that I will never see them alive again. I can’t wait for it to come into force in full.”
Sarah Berry, 28, from Barnwell Road, said: “As a beginner, I’ve never felt safe enough to cycle in Brixton. But the day I received the letter from Lambeth Council about the new Railton LTN I went straight out and bought a bike. Lambeth Council has some of the lowest levels of car ownership in the country so it’s great to see street space being reallocated in a way that’s fairer for the whole community.”
A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “We are implementing an emergency transport programme right across Lambeth to ensure that as lockdown restrictions ease but severe public transport restrictions remain, we can keep our borough moving.
“The Railton area low traffic neighbourhood is one project from the programme and it aims to create a safe link between Herne Hill and Brixton town centres. This is so people can move between their homes to work, schools, the park and local businesses safely, as well as supporting our vital local businesses by enabling social distancing as we move out of this pandemic.
“Our plans will remove thousands of rat-running vehicles from all roads in the area, including Shakespeare Road. Whilst we appreciate that some people in the area may feel inconvenienced by having to take slightly longer or different routes on those journeys that they must take by car it is essential to enable people to walk and cycle. Every person that we are able to shift to walking and cycling is one less person on public transport or on our roads, freeing those up for people that absolutely have to use them.
“We will be monitoring all of the projects that we put in place and will seek to address issues should they arise.”
The council is also planning to make space for businesses and social distancing by extending footways into the road.
Businesses will be able to use the space for extra tables and chairs should they wish to.
The Atlantic Road bus gate will be at its junction with Coldharbour Lane and with Vining Street.
According to the proposals, properties and parking spaces in Vining Street will still be accessible from Railton Road either via Kellett Rd or Saltoun Road.
Service vehicles will be able to access local businesses from Kellett Road or Saltoune Road and will be able to load and unload in the dedicated business space created by the new temporary street furniture.
Planters and signage will enforce the traffic restrictions, while a 3.5m gap will allow pedestrians, cyclists buses, emergency service vehicles access.
The government issued statutory guidance on May 23 saying local authorities must reallocate road space to walking and cycling because public transport is going to be restricted to about 15 per cent. Lambeth is the local authority with the highest percentage of residents who take public transport trips in the country, at 67.5 per cent. Shakespeare Road has over 3,500 vehicles travelling down it every weekday.
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