LTNs, traffic, parking & consultation

My earlier comment was flagged though liked so here goes with attempt number 2.

I think many of the electorate might say it was good that Leo got the chance to vote and I am impressed by the logical arguments he has put forward.

Emergency traffic legislation was used on Leo’s recommendation that imposed a permanent traffic barrier that operates 24/7 on Thorpewood Avenue rather than what people expected which was a School Street for a few hours a day. Many would say that using emergency legislation for the greater good without consultation is the correct thing to do. Others would say, it is not for our greater good so we should be consulted.

@LeoGibbons , I think it would be good if you gave the 500 or so people adversely affected by your 24/7 block of traffic upward on Thorpewood a chance to be consulted. The restrictions mean local residents have to drive an extra 1km on their journeys past three schools costing those who drive an extra £100 a year. Not to mention the extra pollution to schools and locals, especially to those kids sitting in classrooms 5 metres from the traffic or the suggestions now to put double yellow lines down one side of Kirkdale to contain the displaced parental parking.

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I liked your posts Paul and I don’t understand why you got flagged.

I agree, a consultation for those on Kirkdale would be useful too as the area has been a nightmare for traffic since the school street was implemented.

There is now challenges on the supporting roads around the school streets with regular congestion caused due to parking around Elliot Bank as the main road is reduced to a single lane - this causes angry drivers, late buses and dangerous drivers.

Additionally the council implemented more parking restrictions around Kelvin Grove which has meant more illegal and dangerous parking with pavements blocked, damaged pavements and damaged grass verges. Also the blind spots parents create is really dangerous and is an accident waiting to happen for cars and pedestrians.

Surely the council should have a traffic management plan around the area with good short stay parking options and enforcement for illegal parent parking.

This substantial change should never have been put in under the guise of “Covid” as it is a long term change that needed local consultation to weed out these issues. Not just council or councillors planning on paper with no understanding of how residents feel/have to live with these changes.

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Hi all,

I had a nice chat with @BorderPaul a couple of days ago about his concerns and hopefully, provided some context to this School Street scheme and other similar schemes in the borough.

I thought it might be useful to relay my points here.

Essentially, the Mayor of London has his Transport Strategy which, as many of you know, has a key pillar embracing a shift to more sustainable transport in the city. Sadiq Khan wants fewer people driving and more people walking, cycling and using public transport. Transport for London provides London Councils with funding to implement the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and we deliver a ‘Local Implementation Plan’ (LIP) showing how we will help deliver the strategy.

It is our LIP funding that funds our School Streets programme, our Healthy Neighbourhood programmes (sometimes known as LTNs, though Healthy Neighbourhoods were meant to be more expansive than just planters + cameras) and our cycle hangers, among other stuff…

TFL is self-funding and when coronavirus hit and people stopped using public transport - KABOOM! - TFL’s funding was destroyed and our LIP funding was pulled.

The Government and the Department for Transport share similar goals to the London Mayor when it comes to encouraging sustainable transport. It is broadly accepted that we need to get people out of old polluting cars into greener vehicles and get more people walking and cycling. With public transport not being safe during the height of Covid-19, there was an understandable fear that everyone would jump in their cars to move around (take their kids to school etc)… causing chaos and gridlock. The Gov needed to act.

The Government changed the law in late Spring 2020, allowing for the expansion of Emergency Traffic Orders (usually these are reserved for things like emergency road repairs etc) to cover social distancing and active travel measures. They also supplied local authorities with emergency funding to install these measures, but this funding was time-sensitive. Essentially, councils had to use it, or lose it. Due to the limited nature of the funding it meant, for example, the Lewisham and Lee Green Healthy Neighbourhood needed to be scaled back and also implemented very very quickly.

Under Emergency Traffic Orders, schemes can be put in place for up to 18 months, without consultation. Using these orders was the only way we could’ve implemented stuff like the pavement widening on Dartmouth Road that quickly.

This autumn, our Emergency Traffic Orders will be coming to an end. To keep our schemes in place, we will need to move them to Experimental Traffic Orders (this is how such schemes would have normally been put in place, I think). If an Experimental Traffic Order is put in place, there is a statutory period of 6 months where objections must be considered and a consultation takes place. After 18 months, a decision must be made on whether the scheme remains permanent.

Officers are acutely aware that some schemes are controversial and aware that some others have been quietly popular. However, I have urged them to ensure each scheme has a decent consultation. I know that adds additional pressure on an already extremely stretched transport team, but it is vitally important that views are encouraged on all schemes no matter how much noise there has been on them until now.

The move to Experimental Traffic Orders for Eliot Bank School Street and Kelvin Grove School Street should be happening this autumn and therefore consultation will be opening up later this year and at the start of next year.

I hope this message puts the last 18 months into context. Although I am a big proponent of active travel schemes and many of my council colleagues are too, this wasn’t councillors or councils plotting under the guise of Covid. We were essentially implementing Government policy, but it was a policy we grabbed with both hands because we knew this funding/legislation changes opened up an opportunity for us to encourage and imbed the growth in sustainable transport that we saw at the very start of the pandemic.

Implementing LIP funding for schemes is a much slower and more formalised process. But this emergency funding was 1. All we had (because we knew TFL wouldn’t recover quickly) and 2. It needed to be used quickly, on the Government’s orders.

Personally, I share many people’s frustrations with how some of this money was spent. I and Sophie torpedoed a potential scheme in Honor Oak which we felt was incredibly ill-thought through. But I also appreciate the immense pressure and strain that our transport team has been under over the past 18 months.

The long-term future of the Lewisham and Lee Green LTN is still up in the air but I hope it stays and is built upon. But I do believe many of School Streets have been very popular and I expect most of them to remain. I think our transport team (many of whom have now left) can be very proud of the work they’ve achieved and the legacy they’ve left behind.

I would also like to thanks residents in Forest Hill for their patience with these schemes. Consultations on them will be commencing soon.

Additional notes

Thorpewood Avenue School Street was a particularly complicated scheme. Unfortunately, we could not close off the entire street because funding could not stretch to three cameras (1 on both ends of TA, and 1 on Derby Hill) and the cost of officer time in processing and distributing permits for that many households across TA, Derby Hill Crescent and Radlet Avenue.

As many of you know, I think the scheme, on paper, works out well. The one-way system is likely to cut through traffic past Eliot Bank school and Holy Trinity school by roughly a half. However, I and Sophie are pushing very hard on the fact that we want traffic monitoring and air quality monitoring outside both schools. We want a final decision on the scheme to be based on feedback from local residents, the schools and on quantifiable evidence as well.

TFL’s finances remain in a dire state. While the Government share many of the transport goals that Sadiq Khan does and a healthy and productive London funds the rest of the nation - the Government is using Covid-19 as an opportunity to punish a powerful Labour Mayor. I think the Government’s treatment of TFL during this pandemic has been a complete disgrace. If there is not a long-term sustainable funding settlement for TFL agreed between the Mayor and the Government. we can say goodbye to any major improvements to London’s transport infrastructure from neighbourhood bike hangers to the Bakerloo line.

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The simple answer to this is as you point out drivers need to stop acting recklessly. New traffic schemes are not excuses to drive dangerously or park illegally.

The real solution, as people will eventually figure out, is that driving your kids around the block to school is not a sensible or sustainable idea. As Leo pointed out, top down from the national government through London Mayor through to Lewisham borough, active travel is being encouraged. This means people need to accept some personal responsibility and stop driving cars all the time. I’m not saying don’t drive if you live 3+ miles from school, or you can’t walk/cycle for whatever reason, this is NOT a war on cars it’s a very very simple concept. If a few people stop driving then it’s easier for people who need to, there’s less traffic and less pollution for everyone.

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Thanks @leogibbons for another informative post.

Out of interest, what was the scheme in Honor Oak?

Indeed Clausy. People seem very unwilling to accept that a lot of the issues that bother drivers are caused … by drivers. As the saying goes " you are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic."

There are simply too many cars on the roads these days.

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Thanks @LeoGibbons , it was good to catch up and get confirmation that those of us adversely affected by this emergency measure were going to be consulted.

@LeoGibbons has the best of intentions and he had a very difficult job trying to deliver a scheme to use up the money rather than lose it in a short space of time without quantifiable evidence. There wasn’t sufficient funding to do a proper school street so instead we have a permanent one way scheme that some say halves traffic past Eliot Bank and Holy Trinity. Most locals would say it doubles traffic past Holy Trinity because traffic has to turn around and leave by that junction so you have kids in classrooms 5 metres from the road getting double the pollution while kids in classrooms 50 metres from the road get half the pollution. There are loads of other reasons locals disagree with this scheme which are well publicised, decreased safety, extra pollution for three schools while residents have to drive 1km extra to get to the same places. It is great that they will now get to have their opinion heard.

@clausy, I think the residents of this area know more than most the adverse affects of pollution, they breathe it in every day and realise that driving your kids round to school or the swimming pool is damaging your kids future as well as the residents’ present. I agree this scheme is not an excuse to drive dangerously or park illegally but it represents a failure to deal with the issue which existed before and just move it on.

Most of us know that one of the main reasons for the current school street was the number of complaints Leo got from the residents opposite the school who had parents constantly parking over their driveways. This has now been solved by this scheme but many wonder like @Casey why can’t the council just do the basics of controlling short-term parking properly rather than just moving the problem on.

If you look at the Thorpewood, Dartmouth, Kirkdale triangle, we have 4 schools, a swimming pool and a library and all the emphasis is on how to reduce car usage on a 200 metre stretch of road. We should be asking how we can make this a better scheme for active travel for the whole area.

So, in each of these schools kids are breathing pollution, and even if the scheme got reset they’d still be breathing pollution.

100% agree.

Exactly Paul, that is my main feedback. The council only seem to be pushing the issue around so that they seem to be doing something around schools but in reality they are ignoring the basics of street safety and legal parking, and should be actively penalising school parents who are using cars for such short journeys.

In Kirkdale we are served by 6 bus routes (7 if you include the bus at the top of Sydenham Hill) and yet we have more cars than ever before for school pick ups.

It is that bad around Kirkdale triangle that if I am coming home with my own car between 2:30 and 4 I have to actively make myself busy to avoid the area as the traffic and parking is so bad that I cannot safely make it into my road.

I am starting to think that controlled parking zones are the way forward around schools to stop parents, and then we get the ticket attendant out every day - easy money for Lewisham Council and better parking for residents - win win!

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And we understand that Lewisham Council supports this, AND YET Forest Hill Town Centre remains designed for motor traffic, prioritising the A205 at 30 MPH next to shops, narrow pavements etc.

The crossing next to the station is not fit for purpose, and the phasing for the crossing next to Sainsbury’s is not pedestrian friendly.

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And the steps under the underpass are dangerous.
Forest Hill centre is just a horrible place for a pedestrian or cyclist. There is so little joined up thinking. By all means have the sticks of LTNs and school streets, but some improvements for pedestrians and cyclists too.

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Completely agree, that crossing by the station is actively dangerous.

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I saw the other day some motorist had smashed into the railings on one side of the island and knocked them over too. This crossing comes up as an issue all the time - it’s difficult as TfL is pretty bankrupt - they don’t seem to have people able to engage. I’m still hopeful that we can get something done here under the new Lewisham Local Plan, or ultimately even via a developer looking at the town centre redesign proposals.

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Just to clarify, there is only one bus service - the extremely unreliable 356 - on upper Kirkdale. Depending on day and time, buses are scheduled every 20 mins or half an hour … if we’re lucky and it’s not cancelled that is.

There is no bus at all from Sydenham Hill/Upper Kirkdale to Sydenham High Street.

The 356 is terrible for upper Sydenham and needs a rethink.

The route is ok from Penge onwards but then doesn’t really help anyone in SE23/SE26 due to the long routes and odd routing.

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Quite useful for getting me to my dentist (or it was when I could get an appointment) as it’s almost a door to door service for Perry Vale Dental, and to and fro the Saver Centre and Livesey Hall but useless for much else. It’s packed at school home time, which I suppose would be a good thing if it wasn’t doubling at that time as a greasy chicken shop eatery.

But that said, it’s the only bus we have and it’s better than nothing, so I hope the added congestion caused by the school street doesn’t give an excuse for the bus company to axe it.

The plan was to close the east bound section of Honor Oak Park, outside the station (between the two zebra crossings, essentially) using some planters.

Officer’s said it would be to allow for/improve social distancing at the station. I said that the only pinch-point at that station, where people cannot socially distance properly, is behind the crash barrier. It is a bit of an issue there during rush hour.*

But…our funds would not stretch to allow us to remove those crash barriers…so the scheme would’ve actually done nothing to help people socially distance!

Now, Honor Oak Park doesn’t really need to have that section in which it becomes a duel carriageway for 100 metres (if anything, it can lead to dangerous overtaking between the zebra crossings). But the issues with this scheme were twofold 1. The rational didn’t make sense because it would not fix the actual pinch point, problem area for SD and 2. What would that area of road, simply closed off, offer? Very little.

With a decent pot of funding the council might want to remove that crash barrier, close off the eastbound lane, then within that space introduce planting, seating, and invite street stalls and eateries in the location and make it a nice space. Unfortunately… two planters isn’t going to do that.

Officer’s said NCIL funding or future TFL pots of money meant that could happen… and this closure would be first step… but myself and Sophie didn’t really buy that**. Closing off the eastbound lane on the bridge, and offering nothing with that space, under the guise of social distancing without actually helping people social distance entering the station… would just get people’s backs-up locally.

If it were to happen, I said there was no way I was going to attempt to sell the scheme under guide of ‘providing space for social distancing’. I said I would only go out to sell the scheme if we said that it was the first step in major placemaking, improving the station forecourt and taking it from there. But we couldn’t get concrete guarantees on any of that.

Because of mine and Sophie’s skepticism (and likely, the response from Crofton Park councillors too) it never happened.

*I also noted that the risky area for catching covid wasn’t squeezing by someone, outdoors momentarily - it was sitting in a busy train for 15mins!

**But who knows, maybe Forest Hill Assembly and Crofton Park Assembly could’ve voted to pool their NCIL funds together to remove the crash barrier and carry out significant placemaking in that area and make it work.

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Maybe I should have wrote…

‘If there is not a long-term sustainable funding settlement for TFL agreed between the Mayor and the Government. we can say goodbye to any major improvements to London’s transport infrastructure from the Bakerloo Line to improvements to the crossing next to Forest Hill station.’

FH Councillors were told that improvements to that crossing were in the pipeline. And then Covid-19 hit…

Thanks Leo. The point about the barriers, granted, but I actually think it is a bit of a shame this didn’t happen. Have thought of something similar there. Not only would it have had place-making potential, and the community could have got involved in that, it would have helped calm the traffic which can be a bit crazy both ways sometimes. More social distancing space would be handy by the westbound bus stop so could have helped alleviate that too.

I appreciate that quick decisions were needed though and there must have been a number of tough calls like this. Perhaps when Forest Hill and Crofton Park wards are next minded to work together could be something to work on.