Traffic changes – What the Traders think in Devonshire Rd

The traffic restrictions recently implemented on Devonshire Road by LB Hounslow have provoked some strong reactions from traders since they were announced. We spoke to them when the plans were first mooted and went back to see how they felt a week on, (Monday 22 June) now the signs have gone up (Friday 19 June) and it’s become clearer what the new traffic scheme actually involves.

Their initial outrage has softened a bit once it became clear there would be access for customers to drive into the street to load and unload for 20 minutes at a time, but still, many have said that the plans are not working properly in their current form, the signs are unclear and the potential benefits are overshadowed by the problems they will cause.

Hazel Gardner – Frivoli

Images above: Owner Hazel Gardner; and Frivoli’s storefront on Devonshire Road

Hazel Gardner has had the Frivoli gallery in Devonshire Rd since 1991, and next year will be her thirtieth anniversary. Her gallery showcases original works of art by artists of many disciplines and exhibits many famous names whilst always seeking out new talent. The gallery is home to many beautiful paintings, items of jewellery, silk scarves, woven hangings, ceramics and sculptures.

Hazel says the traffic restrictions (introduced on Friday 19 June 2020) are already stifling her business and may force her to close up shop.

“It’s just absolutely outrageous, the council is supposed to is supposed to work for the local community not against it.”

“I’m 100% pro-cycling but I can’t get to work without a car, there is no means that I can do it, to get there means a good ten minute walk to the bus stop, then waiting for the one bus that goes anywhere near Chiswick. At the moment with a bus with about seven people on it, so it would be full up in any case [due to social distancing].

Particularly frustrated with the lack of consultation by the council, she says there’s no meaningful way to respond:

“There was no requirement for public consultation with any of these measures from any council, this is a government directive, so they just go ahead and do it, and they were all given very large cash grants in order to make these changes to the infrastructure, but they had to be in place by the end of June which is why it’s happening at a rate of knots.

“But people were not informed until the day that the streets were being blocked off, while it was happening. We received letters telling most of us, not all of us, what is taking place, so there was no prior notice whatsoever.

“On the  website there was this lovely thing that said that they were prioritising cyclists and pedestrians without any clarity about what it is, not any real information, there were these four emojis which you could pick the one that applies to how you feel: A big smile, smaller smile, ambivalent and sad, so nowhere where you could say actually ‘what are you doing?’ or ‘no I think this is appalling’ or ‘why are you doing it here?’… nothing.”

“I’ve sent a number of emails over to Hanif Khan (Cabinet Member for Transport) and to Mark Frost (chief transport officer) and the council which simply, they’ve just blocked them, some came back undelivered and just bounce back.”

“My business is not going to survive, even on Sunday, this Sunday, which is normally a busy day, not a soul. Nobody came by.”

Cecilie Brinckmann – Wild Swans

Images above: Inside Wild Swans on Devonshire Road; an example from their website of clothes currently available in store

Wild Swans is a Scandinavian boutique which offers individual, personal styling with an ever evolving selection of labels. Their owner mixes up-and-coming designers with the more established ones and is constantly adding new designers who are not usually represented in the UK.

They are all about about creating a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere in which to shop. Champagne is always served at the weekend and toys are provided for children.

Cecilie Brinckmann, the manager of the Chiswick branch of Wild Swans, is one of the few traders who is happy about the traffic restrictions being put in place but admits that there are problems that have yet to be addressed.

“There’s still cars driving down the road just normally, I feel. There’s lots of traffic still, you can’t walk on the road, you’ll be run over. Cyclists are even going both ways and I’m not sure they’re that they’re allowed to do that.”

“I cycle here, and I don’t know I might be too obedient to the law, but I do respect the one way system and it’s really annoying when other cyclists don’t, and these are grown up people too not like children or teenage boys, it’s like normal grown-ups but I think that’s because… cycling in London they aren’t brought up with cycling rules, cause I’m from a country where we’re taught in school how to cycle and the law and the rules and anyways we cycle everywhere. That’s why I’m so excited about the pedestrianised street because I’m not super fond of cars unless you’re travelling far.”

wild swans fb page     
Images above: A model taken from Wild Swans’ Facebook page; a cycle rack on Devonshire Road

“I know that people here, that’s one of their pet peeves, that cyclists are going the wrong way. So when it is pedestrianised you have to really look out for where you’re going because traffic can come from both ends.”

Cecilie thinks that these problems can be solved with appropriate signage and with the introduction of fines.

“Yeah so I’ve seen the signs that were put up last week which are a bit confusing. Even the people putting them up agreed it was quite confusing as to what it meant.”

“There is still traffic, but I feel like, depending on fines, habits might change.”

​Mike Moran – Top Hat Dry Cleaners

Images above: Owner Mike Moran; Top Hat’s storefront on Devonshire Road

Mike Moran is the owner of Top Hat, which was founded in 1967 when Mike’s parents opened their first shop in Kingsley Road, Hounslow. Mike had started in dry cleaning while still at school, starting at ‘Welcome Laundry’ in Isleworth and moving on to ‘Reliable Cleaners’ in Feltham.

By the time he left school, Mike was already an old hand at dry cleaning and was soon ready to open his own business. Top Hat offers a range of services across its Chiswick and Hammersmith branches, including dry cleaning, laundry, repairs and alterations.

Images above: Behind the scenes in Top Hat Cleaners

Mike has criticised the council for being misleading about the plans that were initially proposed and also with the signage that has been introduced.

“We were told initially that is was going to be a three month trial and it’s for social distancing, because the virus is there people will need a bit more space to walk around the pavements. We’ve got no problem with that at all we want people to live to then come back and shop with us again. But now, it’s changed to a six month trial which means people will change their habits, because they will go to another dry cleaners that’s easier to park near.”

“They’ve put these two big great concrete boxes in, which are really great for the environment to make those, and then they’ve put signs on them and if you look at the signs, they are completely inaccurate.”

“People aren’t driving down the road, vans are stopping at the end of the road and then trying to reverse back out onto the High Road.”

“So how would my customers know that it’s actually okay to come down and park for me for five minutes, in and out?”

Images above: The concrete planters & signs which have been installed at the top of Devonshire Road

“The signs are very very poor, the signs outside the loading bay still only says commercial vehicles only which basically excludes cars.”

“Whoever has designed this plan should not have a job. Or, they come down to the road and have a look and see what the problems are and say ‘I’ve dealt with this before we need to do it this way or the other’ but none of that has happened unfortunately, and unfortunately as much as people want to blame central government this is what Hounslow council want to do. This has been heavily led by local Chiswick people who want to cycle the wrong way down a one-way street.”

Mike is worried that the benefits, if any, of the traffic restrictions will be short lived and will negatively impact his business in the long-term. He says that he even may be forced into an early retirement, if the situation does not improve.

“Come September … a lot of the fair-weather cyclists won’t be cycling so they’re looking to close a road and it’s not going to be giving us the benefits that they want.”

“If they continue this for six months and then further on, I won’t be here, I’ll have retired, I’ll have sold my shop for a pound and I’ll have gone.”

Chris Couch – Tribe Contemporary Rugs

Images above: Rugs in-store

Tribe, which sells contemporary rugs, was started in 2001 by husband and wife team Derek Owen & Rebecca Tyndall, with Chris Couch joining the team in 2004, building on their early success. He previously worked in the London design and branding industry where he gained his eye for colour and design.

Chris says there are plenty of issues about the implemented traffic restrictions, and is worried about the repercussions if they are left in place.

“I think there’s massive challenges to be honest, because unless you change the signage… unless it’s made a little bit clearer for people then, you know, people are sort of driving up to the sign and then sort of trying to turn back onto Chiswick High Road. It will cause more congestion and it will probably cause an accident. So, I think until the signage is physically changed it’s going to continue to cause problems, for us as traders but also just generally for people trying to move around Chiswick.”

The temporary infrastructure put in place, along with signage, is Chris’s biggest worry on the matter.

“Signage is definitely the issue, I mean you’re not going to change the fact that we’re losing a lot of parking spaces, but they’re about to change the two metre rule, I mean obviously we don’t know that for definite, but it seems pretty likely.

“So the whole exercise seems to be poorly executed and doesn’t seem to be planned terribly well. Now I know the council has been under pressure about having to do something quickly, but the signs are very misleading and there’s also sort of no evidence that the parking has been suspended because the cones that are put out, which are like standard traffic cones, just get moved and there’s no camera enforcement.

“The signage is confusing people, they look at the road and the road doesn’t look any different, so sort of visually some people sort of expect to be able to drive down the road some people are stopping and turning around; it’s not really working as they want it to work.

“It has been a massive issue for traders who are coping with COVID and we’re just coming back as well. I couldn’t open properly until last Monday and we’re dealing with very low footfall and then the council does this as well so it makes it doubly difficult. They don’t seem to have put any effort into thinking how it’s going to affect traders in this current environment and they’ve not helped at all.”

Chris has made attempts to contact the council about the changes, but feels that talks won’t yield much fruit.

“I have started some sort of dialogue with Hanif Khan but I don’t see how that’s going to lead to something positive. They need to try and work with us instead of seemingly trying to work against us. There’s definitely gonna be an accident or there’s going to be some sort of road rage incident if they don’t pull their fingers out. Either do it properly or don’t do it at all.”

Penny Ledbury – Chiswick Lighting Company

Images above: Chiswick Lighting Company’s storefront; examples of lighting they sell

Penny Ledbury grew up in Chiswick as did her father and grandfather, and the Chiswick Lighting Company has been around, in some shape or form, since 1965. It sells a wide range of decorative & elegant lighting. Penny says there are a few challenges which need to be addressed in order for the plans to work as intended. She agrees that the signage is confusing.

“To the layperson it looks like you might not be able to come down at all so it’s not clear that you can come down for loading, so I think they need a bit more clarity to be honest.”

“Guy Lambert and Anif Khan both said that. They are considering changing the plans because they’ve had multiple comments on that, I do think they need to be much clearer.”

Penny was not impressed with the planters which have been installed, which she says don’t particularly make sense.

“I really don’t understand why they’ve put massive grey planters on the pavement if they’re trying to encourage social distancing either? I think they were bought to block the road and then they realised they couldn’t block the road so they’ve plonked them on the pavement.

“They’re horrible. They look like something from Chernobyl, they’re horrible. And think as well if they’re trying to encourage cycling it would have been far better to plonk on more cycle racks where there already are some, so people can park their bike, where are they meant to park their bikes when they’re shopping? You know, I don’t know where they’re meant to put them.”

Penny feels that the plans were rushed through and left local traders in the dark.

“There’s Steve Curran saying we’ve all got to work together, but to do that we need to know what’s going on. When Mark Frost walked down the road last week it was ‘Yes you can turn right into Glebe Street’ and this week you can’t. The problem is just not being communicated with really, I think.

“We’ll see, we’ve all kind of accepted that it’s happening but it seems a bit of a rush and a bit of a hash-job to be honest, those planters I don’t understand at all.”

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Transport Schemes – details

See also: Councillors admit there will be traffic chaos at first