Councillors admit there will be traffic chaos at first

I phoned Cllr Hanif Khan, LB Hounslow Cabinet Member for Transport, and Cllr Guy Lambert, Cabinet Member for Highways, to try and clear up a few things about the traffic changes in central Chiswick which I was still unsure about (Monday 22 June). I’m not sure whether I should be outraged or reassured at their refreshing honesty. The truth is they weren’t sure either.

My first question was:

The new signs were installed at Devonshire Rd and Turnham Green Terrace on Friday (19 June). When do (or did) the new restrictions come into force?

Cllr Khan, to be fair, was on a roof at the time, struggling with Japanese knotweed. He opted to phone a friend. Cllr Lambert (who answered the phone ‘Public Enemy Number Two’) decided to wing it.

“We haven’t actually got the cameras yet” said Guy. “We work on the basis that most people try and obey the law. We’re very unlikely to be fining anyone for quite a while because it will take time for people to get used to it. People are still trying to drive down Wellesley Rd (closed to through traffic on 4 June) ignoring all the signs and having to turn round and drive back. They’re even still trying to drive down Church St in Isleworth” (closed in 2015).

After consulting with his traffic officers, Cllr Khan told The Chiswick Calendar:

“The scheme is currently in force, however the council is reviewing the signage and continues to work to improve compliance with the suspensions. Enforcement can commence when all works are complete.”

Ah yes, the signage.

“What does ‘except for access’ mean and how will people know what it means?

They are both unhappy about the lack of clarity in the signage and the way in which the changes have been communicated to residents. The delivery of an explanatory letter detailing the proposed traffic changes in Chiswick (which you can find here) was somewhat patchy. It went to some households but not others. The sign itself, taken as read, without further elucidation, would leave you none the wiser.

The fact is you can access the road to get to the shops and restaurants, but only if you are disabled, and a blue badge holder, or if you are loading or unloading, in which case you can stop for 20 minutes. You can drive in to Devonshire Rd to access Prince of Wales Terrace, so you can get to the garage there – Capital Motors, but you can’t turn right from Devonshire Rd into Glebe St. You can drive in to Turnham Green Terrace to access Turnham Green Terrace Mews. What you can’t do is just drive through without stopping.

They weren’t prepared to be too specific on the issue of better signage, but they were clear that there will be further refinements to the signage in due course (meaning, I think, as soon as they can order it and get it printed). The pressure from the Government on councils to introduce measures to dissuade people from using their cars means there’s a similar frenzy for buying traffic signs and planters now as there has been for PPE in recent weeks.

Images above: Cllr Guy Lambert; Cllr Hanif Khan

What if you drive in, with the intention of stopping to load or unload but there isn’t a space, so you have no choice but to drive straight through?

Or you mean to go to the garage in Devonshire Rd, or to Chief coffee shop in Turnham Green Terrace Mews, but you accidentally overshoot, as both have narrow entrances which are easy to miss?

TBC.

Hanif said: Good points both, which they will take away and consider.

Guy said: Assessment of violations will be judged with the opportunity to make your case as to why you have apparently transgressed. It won’t be enforced rigidly.

Is the one-way system for cyclists on Devonshire Rd still in force?

They both confirmed it was. In practice there is very little enforcement of traffic rules for cyclists.

Guy lived in Chiswick for 20 years before moving to Brentford, so knows the area well and also cycles here. He would like to see Devonshire Rd become two-way for cyclists.

Hanif told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Devonshire Road is currently one way southbound from the High Road to Ingress Road and that applies to cyclists too. The council is actively looking at where we can make one way streets two way for cyclists and Devonshire Rd may be a location we will consider for this programme in time.”

Why has this been introduced with such haste, without being completely thought through?

Guy:

“We were instructed by the Department of Transport to introduce schemes which would encourage walking and cycling. It’s a large borough, with a lot of schemes and we’ve had very little time. Some of the details will be modified undoubtedly”.

“We believe it will not harm business. It will be good for the environment in Chiswick and in other parts of the borough”.

Hanif:

“The network is behaving differently at the moment and government requires us to take steps to reallocate road space away from private cars as ‘swiftly as possible’. These changes will then be monitored and any impacts reported at the point where we determine whether or not we should make them permanent.

“There are over 1300 parking spaces in Chiswick town centre. We have suspended less than 50 and also put on 9 extra disabled parking bays so those with mobility impairments have more chance securing parking”.

Both promised to listen and make adjustments once the initial confusion over the changes has settled down. Both stressed that the council planned to err on the side of leniency until people have had a chance to get used to the changes.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Transport Schemes – details

See also: Hounslow gets funding for traffic schemes