Residents' questions answered

Canonbury councillors answer residents' questions about the traffic changes

By Cllr Nick Wayne

Preliminary note: Rather than answering each point in turn, I have extracted themes from the Chat and tried to answer them below. Clare, John and I try to work as a team (hence the use of we at various times) but any personal views expressed are solely mine.

Shepperton Road

A letter should have been distributed to every household in the area bounded by the New North Road, Southgate Road, Ockendon Road and Essex Road explaining the changes to the Shepperton Road junction.

The key passage in the letter was

We have listened to local people’s responses and will put in place a trial measure to provide an extra entry and exit point to provide a valuable access point for residents during the operational hours of the School Street.

To create an appropriate exit by motor vehicle it is proposed to allow motor vehicles to turn right from Rotherfield Street into Shepperton Road thereby creating access to New North Road.

The new arrangement as part of the wider people-friendly streets area will not create an overall increase in traffic on Shepperton Road because through-traffic in the area will be eliminated, and the current cut-through from Southgate Road to New North Road will be stopped by the new bollards at the east end of Shepperton Road. Only residential traffic originating from within the Canonbury East area will use Shepperton Road. The new arrangement will be operational 24/7 but it is expected that it will be used very little outside the operational times of the school street as there are more direct routes to New North Road.

Work to install the new measures will begin on 12 August 2020.

We have asked the council to investigate the points raised about Chaplin House (technically this falls outside of Canonbury Ward for now – Chaplin House is in St Peter’s, but we try not to act in siloes!)

Data and Sources of Data.

Some links for those who are interested

Air Quality

https://www.islington.gov.uk/environment-and-energy/pollution/air-quality/what-we-are-doing/monitoring#:~:text=Monitoring%20air%20quality%20at%20every,secondary%20schools%20in%20the%20borough.&text=Monitoring%20data%20at%20schools%20in,legal%20objective%20of%2040%C2%B5g%2Fm3. – how Islington monitors air quality

https://www.londonair.org.uk/LondonAir/Default.aspx - London Air quality monitoring.

Traffic Volumes

https://roadtraffic.dft.gov.uk/local-authorities/96 - DFT stats on Islington traffic. Focuses on major roads – no comparative date year on year.

https://www.islington.gov.uk/planning/plan_brief_major/highburycorner - Highbury Corner data

General Policy – Local and TFL

https://www.islington.gov.uk/~/media/sharepoint-lists/public-records/transportandinfrastructure/publicity/publicconsultation/20192020/20190726draftfullislingtontransportstrategyforconsultation29july19.pdf - Islington draft transport strategy with data.

http://content.tfl.gov.uk/travel-in-london-report-11.pdf - Overarching TFL review

https://data.london.gov.uk/ - London datastore of TFL data

https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/coronavirus-covid-19-mobility-report - Impact of Covid 19 on transport

https://democracy.islington.gov.uk/documents/s14911/Air%20Quality%20Scrutiny%20-%20Recommendations%20of%20the%20Health%20and%20Care%20Scrutiny%20Committee.pdf -Islington health and care scrutiny committee report recommendations March 2018 including a recommendation for the introduction of a borough-wide cellular low traffic neighbourhood scheme.

General Policy national

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reallocating-road-space-in-response-to-covid-19-statutory-guidance-for-local-authorities/traffic-management-act-2004-network-management-in-response-to-covid-19 - Statutory guidance to local authorities (referenced in my opening remarks).

https://twitter.com/Tsrognitram/status/1294324105953648640 - Infographic referenced

More generally on data, I work on the basis that data collated from Central and Local Government statisticians is prime facie accurate – evidence based policy making can only work on that basis. Data is only a snapshot. It is only as good as the systems in place for recording it. Recording road traffic movements 365 days a year at all hours on every street is simply prohibitively expensive.

I strongly believe in a culture of open data. We have to be careful with year on year comparisons – this year has been wholly exceptional – we won’t know for several years whether COVID has changed everything. What we have to do as policy makers is use the evidence we have to try and predict what will happen in the next 12-18 months and take steps to make the transport network as safe and efficient for all users as possible.

Resident Exemption Schemes

Part of the rationale of the scheme is to encourage active transport use – walking, cycling and scooting etc… Equally part of the rationale (policies can have more than one rationale) is to reduce the overall volume of motorised traffic in Islington. One way of doing that is by reducing the number of marginal journeys by car. Marginal journeys are journeys that could be made on foot, by bike or by some other mode of non-motorised transport. If roads are safer and more pleasant for walkers and cyclists residents are more likely to use non-motorised transport, for example for short trips to the shops, local services, to visit friends as opposed to getting in the car. Some journey times will be slightly longer. For a short journey, that might make all the difference as to how that journey is made.

If there was a comprehensive resident exemption scheme then there would be a no impact on marginal journeys. This would reduce the public health benefits of the scheme. Most journeys by car involve using a main road. There would therefore be no impact on main road volumes of traffic.

What about more nuanced exemption schemes? My view is that the consultation process is the proper forum to explore these options. Any system must be capable of being administered fairly and efficiently and at a proportionate cost. Who is to be exempt? – are the exemptions on a street by street basis, a zone by zone basis or a borough by borough basis? A resident exemption scheme would not address concerns about deliveries and taxi’s/ minicabs/ Uber’s being able to access zones.

There may be strong arguments for specific exemptions. Electric Public Service vehicles (i.e. cabs, mini cabs and Uber’s that use exclusively electric/ low emission vehicles)? Blue badge holders? A discretionary scheme? Arguments against may include cost, the need for data retention, the need for all filters to be camera operated with the attendant increased infrastructure cost and loss of parking spaces. I have an open mind – let’s see how the scheme works over the next few months before ruling in or out any of these ideas.

As I understand matters Hammersmith and Fulham operate schemes which allow resident access but bar non-resident access totally – is that desirable at a time when residents may be dependant on deliveries?

One of the reasons why I believe proceeding by an ETO (Experimental Traffic Order) is the way to go is that we can see over a period of time how these changes impact upon residents.

Driving Schools

We can’t stop driving schools using Islington Streets. Learners must learn somewhere. The filters may have a deterrent effect.

Aggressive Cycling

I understand the frustrations here. There are a small minority of cyclists who have no regard for traffic signs and the rules of the road. Then there are those cyclists who seem to think the pavement is for them. One of the reasons why we are improving the safety of roads for cyclists is to take away any argument that pavements are places for cyclists. As a cyclist, other cyclists behaving in a reckless and unpredictable fashion causes me danger. What can be done? – I’m open to suggestions. Police enforcement would be lovely, but where are the police to do it?

Please bear in mind that it is only a small minority of cyclists that cycle in a reckless fashion. And don’t lose sight of the fact that motorists also from time to time speed, drive recklessly and aggressively and disregard the rules of the road.

As an aside, I have noticed over the past few years a shift in the type of vehicle on local residential roads away from cars and towards small vans, which take up more road space than a car and who often are driven in a more aggressive fashion. My every instinct is that these are non-local vehicles.

Finance

Since 2010 Islington Council has had to make almost £250 million in savings – a direct consequences of a 70% reduction in a core funding. Year on year our income has fallen at a time where there are ever increasing demands on council services. Our income from charges for parking, and leisure services has fallen off a cliff in the past 6 months. There have been some additional funding from central government but it has not come close to addressing the increase in costs and reduction in income that the council has faced over the past 6 months.

Islington has received some funding from central government specifically to introduce Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. There is a budget for improvements for walking and cycling and there are also sources of funding from the GLA. The infrastructure to provide the filtering has been deliberately low cost – bollards are cheap and can be taken out cheaply, and we have largely repurposed existing cameras. I have been assured that there is funding for modifications – that can be demonstrated by the changes made to the Shepperton Road gyratory. Any scheme of this nature has a budget for contingencies.

Crime

The Met Police Crime Stats for Canonbury Ward are available here https://www.ukcrimestats.com/Neighbourhood/Metropolitan_Police_Service/Canonbury

The obvious rider for these stats are

  1. – They are reported crime only

  2. They depend on the police categorising crime accurately

  3. One incident can generate a number of offences and can skew the figures.

The local neighbourhood police team can be found at https://www.met.police.uk/a/your-area/met/islington/canonbury/?tab=Overview

Historically the crime hotspot for the ward has been Essex Road – in particular phone snatches. That is notwithstanding the volume of traffic on Essex Road. The police have raised no objections to the scheme and I genuinely do not believe that the scheme will have any adverse impact on crime. A properly resourced Met Police would go a long way to tackling crime.

Politics and Fair Process

This is a trial scheme. Any scheme of this nature will anger some residents. Opponents of these schemes often use language such as “Save our Streets”. The reality is that streets are for all residents – they are not the sole province of car drivers. Equally there are many journeys that residents can only take by car, and some deliveries that at present can only be made by car. It’s about striking the right balance. Everyone will have a different view as to how to strike that balance.

We have had many meetings, and have exchanged countless emails with those who have designed the scheme, to try and get the balance right, with the challenges we are likely to face in September in the forefront of our minds. We will endeavour to work with officers to improve the scheme and will continue to present resident concerns to officers.

As you can probably imagine there have been many emails on this topic, on top of our usual workload as councillors. We try and respond to all emails, but our responses sometimes take the form of speaking to officers to raise concerns, rather than entering into lengthy email discussions. Sometimes delays in responding are because we are trying to resolve the issues!

We are contactable by email nicholas.wayne@islington.gov.uk, john.woolf@islington.gov.uk and Clare.Jeapes@islington.gov.uk

Please let us know about specific problems, and please let us know your thoughts about potential improvements. We can’t dictate what happens – we are backbench councillors. But we can influence and we will influence and shape what happens next.