Images above: Planters being installed in Devonshire Rd; plastic barriers being replaced by traffic wands on Turnham Green Terrace
The Cabinet Member for Transport at LB Hounslow, Hanif Khan, is due to give his report to Cabinet on Tuesday 20 October about the roll out of ‘Street Space’ schemes, or ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ which have caused such ructions in Chiswick.
He’ll be reporting on those which have been installed already across the borough (Wellesley Rd, Stile Hall Gardens, Devonshire Rd, Turham Green Terrace, Duke Rd and Fisher’s Lane in Chiswick) and those which are in the process of being installed (Grove Park and Strand on the Green).
He will also be talking about proposals for a raft of new plans to stop commuters cutting through residential areas, which includes schemes for a lot of the rest of Chiswick. The proposals are contingent on money from Transport for London, who are busy negotiating their own budget with central government at the moment, as their current budget runs out at the end of this month.
New schemes proposed
Phases one and two of Hounslow’s introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods designed traffic schemes to restrict through traffic on the roads with the heaviest traffic.
Phase three will be looking at the feasibility of ‘school streets’ around Belmont Primary School, Chiswick and Bedford Park Prepatory School, Kew House and The Falcons School for Boys.
Cllr Hanif Khan’s report on phase three says:
‘A significant proportion of residential areas experiencing through traffic have been identified through Phases 1 and 2. However a number of additional zones are also noted as requiring further investigation. These include the following, though note that not all areas will necessarily have feasible interventions possible’.
Areas in Chiswick included on his list are: Bath Rd area, Duke Rd area, Beverley Rd area, Wavendon area, Sutton Lane area, Marlborough Rd area, and Oxford Rd North.
There is no further detail in the appendices published for the Cabinet meeting explaining what the council has in mind. The money isn’t available yet from either from Transport for London or the Department of Transport to carry out new traffic schemes, but there is a map outlining the areas under consideration.
Map showing the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods forming part of phase 3 of the street space programme (in purple)
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps “not prepared to tolerate” badly designed road closures
Both Chiswick’s Conservative councillors and a group of local residents have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, one opposing the traffic restrictions which Hounslow has introduced so far, the other backing them.
The Minister has replied to the councillors saying:
“Schemes must balance the needs of cyclists and pedestrians and the needs of other users, including motorists and businesses …. we are not prepared to tolerate hastily introduced schemes which create sweeping changes to communities without consultation, and ones where the benefits to cycling and walking do not outweigh the disbenefits for [others].”
The Minister announced a £250 million Emergency Active Travel Fund in May, intended to promote walking and cycling. Councils were forced to bid for the money quickly, with no time for the normal consultation, in order to get a slice of the money.
There have been protests in many other places where Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are being introduced, often citing the lack of consultation. Among the most vociferous are the protesters in Ealing, where resident Sara Nathan is organising a Judicial Review of the council’s decisions. Protesters have overturned planters repeatedly and thrown oil across the road.
As a result of all the protests, Grant Shapps has sent out a strongly worded letter to councils saying her is “not prepared to tolerate” badly designed road closures.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday 17 October that the letter, sent the day before to local authority transport bosses and local highways authorities warned that a “notable number of councils used their funding poorly and were simply out of step with the needs of the local communities.”
Mr Shapps continued: “I saw or heard from the public and parliamentary colleagues about far too many instances where temporary cycles lanes were unused due to their location and design, while their creation left motor traffic backed up alongside them; of wide pavements causing unnecessary congestion in town centres; and other issues that many have, rightly, reacted angrily to.”
He added that the Government is not anti-car: “No one should be in doubt about our support for motorists.”
Background – how we choose to travel
The background to all of this is the concern that as people gradually went back to school and work, everyone would jump to the same conclusion, that public transport wasn’t safe to use, and decide as one to take the car, creating road chaos.
According to the report Cllr Khan will present to LB Hounslow’s Cabinet on 20 October, levels of traffic flow across London are now close to, or in some cases exceed pre-COVID levels. Rising traffic has particularly been evident in outer London, with Waze reporting that congestion on some roads in August was 153% higher than equivalent levels in 2019.
Use of public transport on the other hand has fallen dramatically, with tube and rail services falling to a low of 5% of expected patronage. By the end of August, levels of use had still not recovered and even on buses, trips remained at 50% of the levels seen in 2019.
Cycling, both for leisure and as a replacement for car journeys or using public transport increased to a peak at the end of May of 150% more than it was in 2019. That had dropped back considerably by August, but is still well above what it was the previous year.
Walking has also increased significantly as a leisure activity, but fell sharply as a means of travel for shopping or getting to work. Levels of high street activity remained 50% lower than expected at the end of August.
Strategy for active travel
The briefing documents accompanying his report say that uncertainty about how the pandemic will develop and about our economic recovery make it difficult to plan. We know that in Hounslow over a quarter of all trips are usually made by public transport. We know also that public transport will continue to run at only around 25% of capacity while there remains a need for social distancing.
Travelling by car as an alternative will lead to more congestion and delayed journey times directly affecting commuting and deliveries, as well as having an adverse impact on the environment. The encouragement of active travel on the other hand has positive health benefits.
Transport for London warn that if all car-owning households switched their public transport journeys to the car, boroughs such as Hounslow would see large increases in the number of private transport journeys, causing severe congestion issues. There are already many junctions in the borough ‘close to capacity’.
Hence the need to promote a strategy which encourages us all to either walk or cycle where possible.
New cycle routes
As well as the new areas where the council would like to introduce Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, Cllr Khan will give the Cabinet a list of additional cycle routes which he would like to create to complement the existing routes. Those in Chiswick are listed here along with the transport department’s notes as to which would result in a ‘Quick win’.
Route 13: Chiswick – Richmond
Sutton Court Road: Feasibility design due to start in 2020-21 (costs TBC)
Grove Park Bridge + Bolton Road + Cavendish Road: Traffic flows expected to reduce significantly following introduction of South Chiswick Low Traffic Neighbourhood. Quietway treatment and wayfinding – Quick win (£10k)
Hartington Road: Existing on-street cycle lanes provided.
Route 14: Chiswick – Acton
Fisher’s Lane: Traffic volumes will be significantly reduced following LB Ealing’s closure of the rail tunnel to vehicular traffic, complementary Quietway treatment and wayfinding – Quick win (£10k).
Route 15: Chiswick – Thames Path – Richmond
Chiswick Lane: Consideration of cycle facilities and parking rationalisation. Medium term (£100k).
Chiswick Lane South + Chiswick Mall + Pumping Station Road + Edensor Gardens: No through route for traffic. Quietway treatment and wayfinding – Quick win (£15k)
Thames Path: Shared off-street facility, some maintenance and wayfinding improvements may be needed – Quick win (£25k)
The Promenade: No through route for traffic. Quietway treatment and wayfinding – Quick win (£10k)
Dan Mason Drive: No through route for traffic. Quietway treatment and wayfinding – Quick win (£10k)
More new projects ‘premature’ says Cllr Sam Hearn
Transport spokesman for Chiswick’s Conservative councillors. Cllr Sam Hearn told The Chsiwick Calendar he thought it was “extremely premature” to be thinking about another tranche of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
“It is extremely premature to be seeking agreement in principle to the development of a further raft of LTN projects across Chiswick, and indeed the Borough. There has been no public consultation worthy of the name on the schemes already up and running and any evidence gathered pre-COVID-19 must surely now be of historical interest only
“Across London councils are already decommissioning poorly designed and hastily installed schemes. Chiswick residents have not asked for the phase 1 and phase 2 schemes let alone a completely new set of phase 3 projects. It would be sensible to first review the impact of the schemes that have been implemented or that are currently in the work programme before giving the green light on any further schemes.
“A responsible and wise council would reflect on the anger and frustration that many of the initial schemes have generated before proceeding. Unfortunately, Hounslow Council shows every sign of allowing itself to be overly influenced by the ideology of the vocal but tiny cycle lobby rather than seeking the considered views of all the Borough’s residents’ views via a genuine public consultation.”
Watch the Cabinet meeting
Cabinet meetings are taking place virtually at the moment. You can watch the proceedings by logging on here.
Comment on how you think Chiswick should be developed
LB Hounslow has launched a consultation on the town centres within the borough. You can have your say on how you think Chsiwick should be developed here. The consultation will remain open until Sunday 8 November.
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