By Michael Robinson
If you sit and have coffee outside The Coffee Traveller on Thames Rd, you quickly notice how many lorries and large vans there are bumping along the residential road with its small rank of shops, post office, primary school and riverside pubs.
Over 70% of traffic entering Hartington Road from the A316 by Chiswick Bridge is driving straight through the area. Sutton Court Road has over 8,000 vehicles per day. This is a very high level of traffic for roads designed just for traffic coming and going from people’s homes. The reason is that if you ask Google Maps for driving directions between the A316 and A4 shows the route via Grove Park is shorter than via the Hogarth Roundabout (1.1 miles compared to 1.7 miles).
South Chiswick is regarded as nothing but a big bypass for the Hogarth roundabout, but the difference in journey time is minimal (four minutes compared to five minutes). It seems a shame that so many historic Chiswick streets were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s to build the four lane A316 and six lane A4, and yet so many drivers refuse to use them.
Hartington Rd / Thames Rd has become a main road for traffic wanting to get from Chiswick Bridge to Kew Bridge.
Image above: Houses on Thames Rd, Strand on the Green; photograph by Marianne Mahaffey
Traffic Reduction through South Chiswick Area
In the traffic consultation which Hounslow Council carried out between 19 September – 17 November 2019 the key issues raised were safety, traffic speed and traffic volumes. More than 500 people responded, 57% of them women, providing over 3,000 comments. Younger age groups are quite poorly represented, as only seven people responded who gave their age as below the age of 29.
We know where you live!
The huge challenge for traffic planners is how to reduce the large volume of traffic driving through the South Chiswick area while maintaining reasonable access for services and residents who drive. Lawyers make entire careers arguing about the definition of “reasonable” however it generally doesn’t mean the easiest way possible for everyone, so some compromises are needed to achieve the objective of reducing traffic.
Hounslow is proposing Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras as part of the solution. They are using them in two different ways. In one, residents will have to register, or already be registered in the relevant controlled parking zones so the cameras will recognize their number plate and the council won’t give them grief for driving in their own neighbourhood. In the other, they are being used as glorified speed cameras. Residents can still have visitors, but they will have to take specific routes.
Image above: Map of south Chiswick
ANPR has been used by local councils on public roads to implement “bus gates” that allow access to buses only without a physical barrier and “school streets” to manage traffic around schools but there are few examples so far of councils using ANPR to manage traffic across a wider area. It appears that Hounslow will be one of the pioneers of this (which makes the residents of south Chiswick the guinea pigs).
ANPR will be used for:
● Restricting northbound access on Hartington Road at the junction with Cavendish Road (which runs alongside the University of Westminster Sports Ground). This is intended to block through traffic from the A316 to A4 while still enabling access to the leisure facilities on Hartington Road. Northbound access beyond this point will still be possible for residents within the CS and RV controlled parking zones. Vehicles with permitted access are commonly known as a “white list”.
● Restricting through traffic along Strand on the Green and Thames Road. It looks like this won’t be enforced using a “white list” but with a pair of cameras approximately 1 km apart. Vehicles driving through the area under a certain time threshold will be fined but it will be OK to access the area and stop.
Image above: New junction planned in Staveley Rd at intersection with park Rd (which runs north and south of Staveley Rd)
New junction in Staveley Rd
To preserve access from the A316 for residents north of the South West Railway line, and also address issues with traffic on Staveley Road, the proposal is to install a “diagonal closure” at the junction of Staveley Road and Park Road. My interpretation of the closure is in the attached diagram.
Right turns from Park Road onto Staveley Road will be possible in both directions and left turns from Staveley Road onto Park Road will be possible in both directions but it won’t be possible to drive straight on along Staveley Road and Park Road. The barrier is expected to be constructed so cyclists can cycle straight through.
In the consultation, Staveley Road was one of the areas with most complaints about traffic. Most drivers exceed the 20mph speed limit and approximately one in six drives at more than 30 mph along Staveley Road. The detour created by the diagonal filter is intended to discourage through traffic and speeding while still maintaining access for residents.
Improving walking and cycling
In addition to reducing through traffic, the report proposals the following measures to improve safety of walking and cycling:
● ‘School Streets’ schemes for Chiswick school, Cavendish school and Grove Park Primary. School streets involve timed closures of streets around schools at drop-off and pick-up times with exemptions for residents in those streets, to discourage parents from doing the school run by car. These schemes are being rolled out in increasing numbers across London with several already implemented or consulted in Hounslow. I understand there will be more to come.
● Investigation into temporary cycle facilities at the junction of Sutton Court Road / A4 and Hartington Road / A316. The junction of Sutton Court Road / A4 was the location which attracted the most complaints in the entire survey. The A4 and A316 are managed by Transport for London, so temporary facilities will need their agreement. I also understand there is also investigation into a longer term, permanent improvement to the Sutton Court Road / A4 junction but implementation will be dependent on funding.
● Closure of access to A4 at Harvard Hill Road. This is a mini rat-run within the much larger rat-run of the South Chiswick area, beloved by taxi and minicab drivers. There were a lot of requests asking for it to be closed, and some asking for it to be kept open. Both Liveable Neighbourhood objectives and government guidelines following Covid encourage this type of closure so improvements to walking and cycling are prioritised higher than convenience of driving. I can’t help but think that access could be closed both ways and this space reclaimed to “green” and genuinely transform the area.
● Closure of Dan Mason Drive under railway bridge at Dukes Meadows. This has already happened.
Detailed traffic surveys were carried out as part of the project, and I hope to return to the subject when I have the details of those.
Where is the money for this?
Transport for London and the Department for Transport has set aside funds for projects such as these and LB Hounslow is hoping to access these funds to cover the costs.
See also: Bedford Park residents split on car ban