New Low Traffic Neighbourhoods
and school streets in Tooting
It’s good news that four new Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes will be put in place in Tooting very soon by Wandsworth Council, together with ‘school streets’ for several local schools, following government funding recently awarded. This follows the campaign by local groups in May.
Elmbourne Road/ Hillbury Street
To date, the Council have given almost no information about what the schemes will consist of. It is understood however that they are temporary arrangements designed to make walking and cycling safer, help people avoid public transport and promote social distancing as we emerge from Covid.
They are likely to be put in place very quickly, probably by end September, limiting advance consultation opportunities, though it’s understood that the Council are committed to seeking residents’ views on the schemes once they are up and running on a trial basis.
If you would like to work with other residents in support of these schemes, contact Tooting Healthy Streets, who are coordinating groups of supportive residents email@example.com
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods for the long term
Advocates of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods point to their many benefits – see the email from Tooting Healthy Streets below, which describes their potential to improve the quality of life.The prospect of permanent Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Tooting will depend on the success of the schemes above and the strength of public support for them. Tooting Healthy Streets are seeking to rally support and would welcome hearing from anyone interested.
School streets and safe cycleways
See update in the email from Tooting Healthy Streets below.
Safe cycle lanes, low traffic neighbourhoods and school streets for Tooting
We last wrote to announce the success of our campaign for changes to our streets to enable social distancing and the easing of lockdown. Four weeks later and we are now starting to get details of the first schemes to be funded and installed.
In Tooting this means that by October we should have, as a minimum:
-‘Low traffic neighbourhoods’ for Graveney, Fishponds Road, Beechcroft Road and Elmbourne Road/Hillbury Street (or not – see below)
-‘School streets’ for several local schools
In addition, the council has bid directly to the Department for Transport for a further £110,000, and announced today it received its full allocation. We are not yet sure what this will go towards.
TfL has announced a long-needed upgrade to its cycle route on the A24 through Tooting and Balham and we hear that this is coming sooner rather than later. This will make a huge difference, if the measures offer protection from motor traffic.
The council has not yet won funding for its cycleway along Garratt Lane, which is a big loss for Tooting, as it would create a safe link to Earlsfield and on to Wandsworth Town. Wandsworth does have capital in the bank from the many major developments in the borough. It may be time to unlock some of this from other potential projects and fast track schemes like Garratt Lane so that many more people to consider it safe and pleasant to cycle their local journeys.
What is a low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) and why do we need it?
This is a question the council needs to answer very quickly (see Elmbourne Rd below) as it will be a new concept to many residents. Here’s what Living Streets and London Cycling Campaign say:
‘Low traffic neighbourhoods’ are groups of residential streets, bordered by main roads (the places where buses, lorries, non-local traffic should be), where ‘through’ motor vehicle traffic is discouraged or removed. There’s lots of ways you can make a low traffic neighbourhood, but the main principle is that every resident can drive onto their street, get deliveries etc., but it’s harder or impossible to drive straight through from one main road to the next.
With through traffic gone, the streets in a low traffic neighbourhood see dramatic reductions in motor traffic levels and often speeds too. And it’s not just the passing traffic that tends to go down. While residents in a low traffic neighbourhood can still do all their journeys by car if they want or need to, some trips will be a bit more circuitous. This, combined with far quieter, safer-feeling streets, enables residents to switch to more healthy ways of getting around, particularly for short journeys.
We are working with groups of residents in Graveney and around Fishponds and Beechcroft to build understanding and support for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods ahead of proposals being unveiled. If you would like to get involved with this, please drop us an email.
A cautionary tale: Elmbourne Road and Hillbury Street LTN
Last Friday residents of the Heaver estate were surprised to learn that from 1 July (today) Elmbourne Road and Dr Johnson Avenue would be closed to motor traffic. The only communication about this was a letter to residents and, understandably, it kicked off somewhat over the weekend. By Monday morning the council was tweeting the proposal had been dropped. £50k of funding will presumably be returned to TfL. More importantly a significant scheme to create calm, quiet streets for residents and enable safe walking and cycling journeys has been lost in 36 hours.
Elmbourne and Dr Johnson would always have been a controversial scheme as there is a recent history of a similar proposal being rejected. It should not have been introduced as the first major scheme for Wandsworth’s covid transport action plan and the communication was severely lacking. This must be fixed ahead of the other schemes being unveiled.
The council needs to show leadership and explain to residents not just what it is doing, but how this relates to the Covid-19 crisis, how it fits with wider plans across the borough, and how it supports the long term commitment to tackle the climate emergency. It also must make clear that using a fast-tracked process for implementation does not mean there is no consultation. There will be consultation for six months during live trials of the measures before any decisions are taken about making the schemes permanent. Residents will have many questions and some legitimate concerns with any changes to how our streets function. We need the council to bring people along with its plans before more schemes fail in this way.
School streets are another innovation in Wandsworth but have been widely used in some local authorities. The basic premise is that motor traffic is barred from outside the school gates at drop-off and pick-up times with limited exceptions (e.g. residents, blue badge holders). It’s easy to see how this could apply to many of the Tooting schools located on side streets.
The first five Wandsworth school streets are technically in place, with three in and around Tooting (Hillbrook, Furzedown and Penwortham). However while the signs are up and traffic orders have been made, there have been teething problems and we are not sure that any are yet working properly, apart from in Earlsfield where parents have collaborated to staff a concertina barrier and physically block the traffic. These problems will need to be ironed out quickly if the next 16 schools are to be a success. Hillbrook is looking to get its scheme up and running properly in the next few days and needs volunteers to help. Please get in touch if you can sign up for some shifts.