London Fields street-close scheme hits a barrier

Lon Fields ward forum meeting 12 Nov 2015 (supplied)

TRAFFIC PROPOSALS for London Fields have so far succeeded only in polarising views.

Hackney council might have been expected to know that changes to car, bicycle and pedestrian flows would need delicate handling and careful consultation.

Instead, it has announced that the proposal to will go straight to trial.

The result has been a fiery residents’ meeting, arguments in the street outside the venue and a letter of protest, going above councillor level and direct to Mayor Jules Pipe.

Loving Dalston here tries to summarise the long statements sent to it by the campaigners for both sides:

Campaigner Mike Hood:

* A London Fields ward meeting at the Queensbridge centre was taken over by frustrated local residents. This month a letterbox flyer announced that the council would, without prior public consultation, hold a live trial to close 16 streets/junctions around London Fields from January 2016. Few local residents or businesses knew about the plan;

* The flyer asked readers to sign a petition;

Ride on: campaigner Brenda Puech
Puech: bike campaigner pushes street safety

* The proposed experimental traffic order has been altered  several times and bears little resemblance to the one shown to the public at the July 2015 London Fields ward meeting, or the one published in the 2 November 2015 Hackney Today or in the council press release subsequently posted on the Hackney website.

* No detailed evidence of the traffic surveys carried out in relation to this proposed experimental traffic order in April have been published or even made available to the press, yet the proposals are being driven by the threat of “rat-running” – something that the council and Councillor Feryal Demirci have cited in public, yet seems to bother only a few residents in Middleton Road, Hackney officials and staff, and cyclist pressure groups.

* The reality is that the proposals would drive traffic into other roads;

* In the 1994-2010 period Hackney showed an about-2% average fall in traffic density.  We have seen no evidence that this figure is increasing;

* The proposal seems an attempt to create a kind of gated community to the benefit Middleton Road residents and cyclists. The needs of the other 11,750 residents and businesses in the ward should also be considered;

* Emergency services will be forced to identity the best route to an incident. No alternative routes exist, which would put homes and businesses at risk.

* The process of this scheme has been undemocratic. We are told that the scheme was being advised by only two residents from Middleton Road and pressure groups London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets.Supplied

Brenda Puech, Living Streets:

* Hackney council has agreed to hold a public meeting before the start of the trial,  which is now due to be on January 2016;

* The Queensbridge centre meeting marked the first time many residents had heard of the scheme. For others who had been campaigning for or against it, the discussion had begun at two ward forum meetings earlier this year, which had low attendances. Both supporters and opponents had leafletted homes in the scheme area and pro and anti petitions were competing in numbers;

* We were encouraged to hear Councillor Demirci telling objectors: “It’s my duty to keep my residents safe from pollution, and to improve the quality of life. If I don’t explore this option, then I’m failing in my duty.”

* Car ownership in Hackney stands at 35% so most motor traffic is through traffic;

* In De Beauvoir, the traffic-filtering scheme installed in the 1970s, there was initially huge opposition to the scheme. All the three current mini-Holland schemes in London at Walthamstow, Enfield and Kingston have had 60% support at the consultation stage;

* We look forward to the trial and to demonstrating to all residents that it will be “fantastic for the entire neighbourhood, reducing motor traffic noise, speeds and volumes, reducing pollution and allowing children, older people and cyclists to get around without fear of danger, noise and pollution”.

Feryal Demirci Hackney cllr London 270215 © DavidAltheer@gmail.com
Councillor: Demirci is a tireless cycling promoter

Mike Martin, London Fields User Group (Lfug) chairman:

* We seek further discussion instead of the council’s just going ahead to chop up the area;

* The publicity tells us the beneficiaries would be “some mythical pedestrians and cyclists”. The opposition, however, derives from long-term residents, who have devoted much time to improve Hackney.

* The scheme will not cut pollution which, around London Fields is mixed with the wind and comes from all over, not just from local traffic. Remember, too, that Hackney should realise that Hackney has some of the highest area of green space in central London;

* The proposal will increase traffic in Richmond Road, Lansdowne Drive and Queensbridge Road. And if you look at all the cars parked outside the many houses in the area of a night you will realise that it is not only outsiders on rat-runs who drive cars here.

* Lfug gets many complaints about the (minority of) cyclists racing through the park;

* When London Fields park is just around the corner, why is it necessary for children to play in the streets? This does not mean we should not control rat-runs. We need to discuss the problems. We need to stop heavy vehicles using our streets for through traffic. We must support better public transport and the growth of cleaner transport.

David Altheer 181115

* Choose a petition: to Demirci or to Mayor Jules Pipe

* Backstory: Hackney council takes on drivers

* Pix: kindly supplied by campaigners 

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. 

This site welcomes fair comments, including the critical. They may be edited for grammatical, legal or taste reasons, or for shortening. In the unlikely event that anything defamatory is posted, the sender’s details may have to be divulged. (Under UK law, this applies to any comment/discussion forum, eg, Twitter.) RSS feed link is at top right. Twitter: @lovingdalston Publicists, amateur and professional, should read http://bit.ly/ZnClKc Also relevant may be the note at the end of http://bit.ly/117GXmi Photographs © David Altheer unless otherwise stated and apart from supplied pictures

17 thoughts on “London Fields street-close scheme hits a barrier

  1. The idea that filtering through-traffic in a street will inevitably cause all that traffic to use neighbouring streets is misplaced. There is a well-sourced page about this at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearing_traffic

    In studies, about 25% of motor traffic disappears (and about another 16% is displaced). This is an observed not an opinion and it is also shown by experience in places like De Beauvoir.

    Most car journeys in London are over short distances, so some people will decide not to drive but instead cycle, walk or use public transport.

    This is all well-known and is always pointed out when these kinds of schemes are suggested but, as usual, some people will look only for evidence that confirms their opinions.

    This is one of the shorter letters on this topic. Letters are more likely to be published, and certainly more likely to be fully read, if they are succinct. – Ed.

  2. The lack of consultation and the constant reminder that this idea had come from a lobby of cyclists and Middleton road residents is both undemocratic and irritating.

    De Beauvoir is a ghetto, the streets are empty, no shops in sight and many many very expensive cars parked in private drives.

    Is that what we residents want? No. Our streets are fine as they are. Make Middleton a one-way with a cycle lane if you must.

    1. A front-page article about these plans in Hackney Today, the newspaper distributed to every home in the borough said: “The three-month road traffic trial in London Fields will act as a formal consultation process during which residents can give their views.”

      The consultation process was supposed to have started with the Queensbridge meeting that was cancelled.
      This is the same kind of process by which Waltham Forest council engaged with residents on similar measures in its mini-Holland trial.

      In Walthamstow there were meetings with residents, during which input was given and changes made to the plans.

      If there were a consultation before the trial we wouldn’t know what we were commenting on.

      I am in favour of these proposals and look forward to working with the council during the live trial/consultation in order to help it to make improvements to the plans.

        1. In Waltham Forest a majority supported a similar scheme and there is no evidence of business profits’ being reduced. To the contrary, there are more successful businesses in the trial area than before.

          Rat-running has been hugely reduced and the area is now far better for walking and cycling. No access has been blocked for emergency services or residents.

  3. It’s interesting how terrified people are of changes to their local roads.

    I live in another area of Hackney, where a whole block of roads has been closed to through-traffic for some time. I’m sure if someone proposed the scheme today, people on my street would be up in arms. But we benefit from reduced noise, pollution and danger. Families from all over the area stop to chat to each other and look out for each other. We spend more time outside our houses and children can safely play on the pavements with children from other houses.

    If you tried to open up our roads to traffic today, we’d be furious.
    I can assure you that rubbish trucks, delivery lorries and fire engines seem to have no problem turning up when needed.

    It sounds as though Councillor Feryal Demirci has the vision to dream of a Hackney that is less crammed with motor traffic, and the courage to give it a try.

    You don’t need to trust me. You can see the changes for yourselves, as this is a trial.

  4. And then a fire breaks out. Fire engines are big, wide trucks that don’t fit into the cycle lobby’s gentrification plans. Still, so long as a couple of insular councillors think it’s good…

    1. I am confident that the planners have taken emergency services access into consideration. They have a duty of care that they take very seriously.

      If you have concerns about emergency services access it is definitely something to bring this up during the live trial/consultation process.

  5. The scheme has not hit a barrier. We are looking forward to the trial going ahead in January and to a positive response from the majority of residents and those who pass through the area who want quieter, fume-free streets.

  6. The fact that this is a trial will allow everyone to see the impact in real life. I hope that this opportunity will take away the heat from the discussion and allow both sides to put aside hopes and concerns they have of the plans, and see what the impact turns out to be, and that the council can then make appropriate changes.

  7. We love our area, are against pollution and for cyclists. But Hackney council’s scheme fails lamentably to deliver the solutions the area wants. It will create more pollution, not less, as cars will have to travel much further to get to the same destination. It will create huge problems, not least for the streets the council wants to push cars on to, including Richmond, Lansdowne and Queensbridge, which are, weirdly, now council-designated rat-runs.

    It is crazy that the council is apparently looking to allocate half the money that is available for the scheme on a trial when it has given so little thought — and not consulted — on what sort of scheme is desirable. The condescending comments made to residents by councillors in e-mails, in print and in person have left me staggered, particularly given the incredibly disorganised way in which things have been managed by the council so far. Endless scheme “maps” in just a few days have created an impression of total chaos even before the bizarre non-meeting meeting.

    We love our area and have plenty of ideas about how to improve it without this controversial, divisive and wasteful scheme. Councillors should be keen to hear what residents have to say rather than patronisingly ignoring us. I hope that as many people as possible will sign the [anti] petition so that the trial can be stopped, consultation — genuine consultation — can take place, and a good new path can be chosen.

  8. It is indisputable that there is rat-running, and it has increased in recent years. I asked Hackney council about this specifically. I guess its teams are re-measuring at the moment because black counters are running across the roads. The level of traffic (and pollution) in some streets is well above that specified in European Union guidelines, and, in principle, allows the council to act.

    The money for the scheme is not coming from Hackney budgets but from the London mayor’s office. Middleton Road is the designated cycle route for London’s Quietway 2. This has support across the political spectrum. What a shame not to use money given to our (still largely) poor borough from the Mayor’ Boris Johnson’s office.

    The trial followed by a written consultation is, in this situation, the most effective form of consultation. It will allow residents to see exactly what impact it has on traffic and whether they want their streets involved. Without a trial, any proposals are academic.

    I agree that Lansdowne Road should also be part of the filtering system, the Lenthall Road filter should not have been removed and Albion Square residents may not want an extra block. But wouldn’t objectors then be crying out with different opposition? For example, one already used at ward meetings re increase in crime? The De Beauvoir and Albion Square closures don’t seem to support this argument.

    I do not think the plans are perfect. I do think it is worth having a trial. I also think it would be beneficial if opponents could come up with other solutions to the rat-running problem rather than denying it exists in a not-in-my-backyard way.

    I have been accused on Twitter of wanting lovely boulevards where we can walk dogs (I think he who tweeted should have added children) in peace without pollution. Isn’t that a natural desire? Walk around Madrid or Amsterdam or Oxford . Pollution in London is now above World Health Organisation recommendations. Surely it is worth trying to cut it?

    If/when the Silvertown Tunnel opens, yet more traffic will be dumped on Hackney. Let’s think ahead.

    1. Why is it so difficult to get anyone in favour of this scheme to answer these questions:

      * The problems with rat-running traffic are non-existent on the roads to be closed so why are they being “filtered”?

      * The quietway does not require road closures so why are road closures being proposed?

      * Though there are only 35% car owners in Hackney a greater proportion comprises car owners within the roadblock area so how is the scheme helping with pollution?

      * When someone living with the hideous motor traffic problems in Richmond Road reacts with incredulity on being told they must support quiet roads being shut, why is anyone surprised?

      How about we shut Richmond Road and Lansdowne Drive? That would improve safety and health for the majority of children who have to cross those roads every day to get to school or the park. That would help the many cyclists and pedestrians who use these roads, too.

      But maybe that’s just pushing problems on to others, and perhaps a more holistic proposal based on real traffic problems in the area would be welcomed. We all want cleaner greener streets.

    2. And, by the way, it’s Lansdowne DRIVE.

      And this site has always referred to it thus, so I suppose you are making a point. – Ed.

  9. It is sad to see such hostility to a plan which will only make London Fields a much pleasanter area to live.

    People sometimes oppose measures to improve an area as they think it will drive gentrification. But in Hackney, that horse has long bolted. Are the only residents of Hackney now millionaires? No. Due to the extensive social housing in the area.

    The area around Middleton Road has extensive social housing.

    The idea to filter traffic out of residential roads is not new. It was pioneered, just a few hundred metres away from Middleton Road, in the de Beauvoir estate in the 1970s. The scheme there has been recognised as a huge success. Streets are safer and more liveable. Why should residents on the other side of Kingsland Road not benefit in the same way?

    The scheme is a trial, an experiment. We need to change how our cities operate. We cannot rely on the car for ever.

    What options are there? This scheme is one idea and a trial is an opportunity to try something bold. If it works, the benefits will be clear.

    If it fails, or if there are design flaws, they can be changed or reversed.

    Come on, Hackney, give the trial a chance.

  10. I walk, cycle and occasionally drive through the areas Hackney council intends to improve by drastically reducing the amount of motor vehicles that rat-run through my neighbourhood.

    This number stands at 6,000 motor vehicles a day according to a recent count by the council.

    As a driver I really don’t mind the additional 400m or so I will have to drive to complete my journeys.

    But I cycle and walk through the area more often than I drive and I experience bullying from rat-running drivers every day. Whenever I cycle through the area I am harassed and sometimes shouted at by a motorist. I get tailgated or overtaken way too close by an impatient rat-runner

    Just the other day I was cut off by a white van speeding past, then turning in front of me. I asked him why and he just shouted at me. While walking across junctions I am often forced to yield to a turning vehicle that should be yielding to pedestrians.

    I want this anti-social behaviour to stop. Filtering through-traffic can’t come soon enough.

    I applaud Hackney council for laying out the foundation for implementing these plans by proposing and consulting on its 10-year transport plan.

    1. In reply to Brian Jones:

      I live in the heart of Queensbridge Road. The roads that come off it are not rat-runs and, yes, the traffic in Queensbridge Road can sometimes get blocked. But Brian Jones tells people he gets shouted at all the time and that he has to shield himself when crossing the road. Well, that’s why we have crossings. Try using them.

      I have never witnessed any of this so I don’t know what roads he talks about.

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