Traffic schemes to support cycling must “be allowed to bed in” says Grant Shapps

Image above: C9, Chiswick High Rd; photograph James Willcocks

The Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has said traffic schemes to support cycling must “be allowed to bed in” and not removed by local councils before they’ve had a chance to be tested against more normal traffic conditions than we’ve seen over the past year.

Updating the statuary guidance from Government on supporting recovery from Covid 19, he wrote:

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has had a terrible impact on the lives and health of many UK citizens. But it has also resulted in cleaner air, quieter streets – and an extraordinary rise in walking and cycling.

‘Cycling increased by 46% last year, the biggest rise in postwar history. Many more people have discovered the joys of cycling. In many places, the delivery bike has now become as common a sight as the delivery van.

‘An important part in the rise has been played by the hundreds of schemes to promote cycling and walking installed under this network management duty guidance since the beginning of the pandemic. We want to secure those schemes, and the gains they have helped achieve, and to go further.

‘As we emerge from the pandemic, local authorities should continue to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians and to maintain the changes they have already made.

‘Remarkable work has been done by many authorities, achieving significant change in a short period. A few, however, have removed or watered down schemes, sometimes within a few weeks or days, or without notice, or both. Of course, not every scheme is perfect, and a minority will not stand the test of time. But we are clear that schemes must be given that time. They must be allowed to bed in, must be tested against more normal traffic conditions and must be in place long enough for their benefits and disbenefits to be properly evaluated and understood’.

LB Hounslow has introduced and then removed two traffic schemes in Chiswick – one in Turnham Green Terrace and one in Devonshire Rd – after consultation with the public. It has rubber stamped TfL’s amendments to C9 and has said it has no intention of removing it from Chiswick High Rd, despite the threat of Judicial Review. Other Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes which have been introduced over the past year are under review.

In the guidance, published on 30 July, the government has made it clear it expects local authorities to continue to take measures to reallocate road space to people walking and cycling.

“Trying to squeeze more cars and vans on the same roads is not going to work” says Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“I support councils, of all parties, which are trying to promote cycling and bus use. And if you are going to oppose these schemes, you must tell us what your alternative is, because trying to squeeze more cars and vans on the same roads…is not going to work.”

Hanif Khan “proud”

Cllr Hanif Khan, Cabinet Member for Transport at Hounslow Council commented:

“Not for the first time we find Prime Minister Boris Johnson supporting Hounslow Council’s position on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and cycle lanes. In November last year, I welcomed his support for increased walking and cycling, cleaner air, nicer neighbourhoods, fewer accidents and safer roads for pedestrians, cyclists, and our children, all of which our Streetspace programme delivers.

“Cycleway 9 represents an important part of the collective effort across London to improve cycle facilities between town centres and central London, and I’m proud of our efforts to transform safety for cyclists and pedestrians and put in place the foundations for thousands more people to make everyday journeys on foot or by bike.”

Councils which abandon walking and cycling schemes to lose Government funding

Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris followed up the publication of the new guidance on Friday with a letter to the leaders of all English local authorities with transport responsibilities, warning that if schemes installed using money from central government provided to boost walking and cycling during Covid, were hastily abandoned, this could affect future grants.

“Premature removal of schemes carries implications for the management of the public money used in these schemes and for the government’s future funding relationship with the authorities responsible,” wrote Heaton-Harris.

“The department will continue to assess authorities’ performance in delivering schemes and, following the precedent we have already set, those which have prematurely removed or weakened such schemes should expect to receive a reduced level of funding.”

Image above: Ealing protest

Ealing has funding stopped

Andrew Gilligan, Boris Johnson’s special adviser who is now a government appointee to the board of Transport for London, confirmed that councils which had “prematurely” removed their traffic-reductions schemes are having their grants taken away.

‘We have halted funding, pending discussions, to councils which have prematurely removed schemes. These include Brighton, Liverpool, West Sussex. London councils have had similar letters from TfL’.

He confirmed on Friday that Ealing and Harrow were among the councils where funding has been stopped, pending further discussion. In April more than 2,000 people marched on Ealing’s town hall in protest at the traffic restrictions. Council Leader Cllr Julian Bell was deposed by his own party, unhappy with the way in which the Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes had been handled.

New leader Peter Mason confirmed in May that the Council was taking out the Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme 21 at West Ealing, South, claiming that roadworks by LB Hounslow made it impossible to continue with it, but also saying:’the implementation of low traffic neighbourhoods has caused significant division within local communities’.

Shortly after Ealing Council announced its decision, a local school posted a warning on its website urging children and parents to take ‘extra care’ while travelling. Mark Ecclestone posted this tweet, in which he said ‘It is truly embarrassing to live in Ealing right now’.

Pedestrians to get priority in new Highway Code

The Department of Transport also annoucned on Friday that pedestrians would get priority in a new “road user hierarchy” being introduced in changes to the Highway Code. The proposed changes, which are due to receive parliamentary approval in the autumn, will give pedestrians priority at junctions as well as raising further awareness about the dangers of speeding.

The planned changes to the Highway Code include:

  • A hierarchy of road users that ensures road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others
  • Strengthened pedestrian priority on pavements and at zebra crossings
  • Guidance on safe passing distances and speeds and ensuring that cyclists have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead.

Under the current rules, drivers only have to give way if the pedestrian has started to cross.

The new Code, which may be introduced next year, say cyclists should ‘ride in the centre of your lane to make yourself as clearly visible as possible’ when on quiet roads or streets – but if a faster vehicle comes up behind, move in to let them overtake.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Ealing scraps LTN as trial ends

See also: Devonshire Rd reopened to vehicular traffic

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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