All too quiet about Quietway closures on Norbury Avenue

"Filtered permeability": what many people would call a road block

“Filtered permeability”: or what many people would call a road block on Norbury Avenue

Once the school run was over yesterday morning, official-looking blokes wearing hi-viz jackets blocked off a one-mile stretch of a suburban street in Croydon.

It’s a new “Quietway” on Norbury Avenue. Which might explain the near-silence from Croydon Council about the road closure, which stretches from the end of Sandfield Avenue as far as Kensington Avenue. For years it has been a rat-run for cars driving between Norbury and Thornton Heath.

Well, it won’t be for the next three months.

The council passed the order for the trial period less than a fortnight ago. Since March, there’s been hardly any public meetings of the full council at the Town Hall, so there’s been little opportunity for public questions on this trial, and the loyal Labour councillors in the affected wards of Norbury and Thornton Heath are hardly likely to cause a fuss about something being introduced by their own Labour council…

The scheme is brought to us through the “Place” department – what most people would call “Planning” – run by Croydon’s six-figure salaried executive Jo Negrini, working under the political guidance of the cabinet member for transport, Kathy Bee, who has overseen the recent 20mph consultation with such… err… aplomb, while enthusiastically supporting a £100 million flyover and dual carriageway being built through a public park in Waddon.

In the jargon of these things, the Norbury road scheme offers “filtered permeability”, which actually means a road block for vans, lorries and cars. Within hours of it being put in place, Croydon joy-riders astride mopeds, scooters and motorbikes were demonstrating that Norbury Avenue’s “permeability” wasn’t quite as “filtered” as the agency behind it, Sustrans, might have hoped.

As with the recent change in collection days for household refuse (notice given: a couple of days), it might have helped if Negrini, Bee and the council had given the public a bit of prior notice.

But on the council website’s page showing the latest releases issued by its press office, in among the propaganda announcements of “Delivering the benefits of Croydon’s growth”, and “Handing power to the community”, or “Vegans back on track after robbery chase accident”, and “Free festival folk and fusion”, Inside Croydon‘s work experience Woodward and Bernstein were unable to find any announcement of a scheme to close a one-mile stretch of the Queen’s highway until September.

Cabinet member Kathy Bee: she enthusiastically supported the flyover through Waddon, before hearing what local residents might think

Cabinet member Kathy Bee

It’s this sort of mismanagement of the message which inevitably builds up a prejudice against such schemes, however worthy or successful they prove to be.

According to the council order which permitted the Norbury Avenue road closure, it is required “…  to reduce traffic to improve safety and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians travelling through the area. The closures form part of the proposed Quietway Route 77, which runs from Waterloo to Croydon. The closures are being implemented experimentally so that their effectiveness can be assessed before a decision is made as to whether to make them permanent”.

Once the rustic wooden planters were in place yesterday, blocking off the ends of the road, Sustrans staged a street party on the now car-free Norbury Avenue yesterday evening. “Come along and enjoy the fun!” they entreated.

There was supposed to have been a year-long consultation for residents affected, culminating in a series of four events staged in the spring.

“Nearly everybody we spoke to agreed that there is a big problem with traffic cutting through this neighbourhood, dividing it with a consistent flow of vehicles and creating fear of high speeds and lack of respect from drivers,” Sustrans said.

Among the reasons given by the borough highways department for the closure option chosen were, “High speeds at the northern end between the station and Kensington Avenue, causing multiple collisions”, an experience familiar to many residents living on Croydon streets which have excessive volumes of traffic, often speeding along them, “Cut through from Sandfield bridge to County Road is significant”, and “This option leaves reasonable access for residents via the side streets”.

Of course, the bulk of the three-month road closure trial is being staged during the long school summer holiday period, when rush hour traffic volume is much reduced. There are two schools on Kensington Avenue, so what the real value might be of any traffic data collected during the trial period will surely be open to question.

Norbury Avenue map

This is Sustrans’ map of the road closure option imposed on Norbury Avenue for three months, starting yesterday

But Sustrans say that there will be an on-going consultation process with residents, if not with the car drivers who yesterday discovered “No Entry” signs at one end or another of their regular journey.

Some of the comments on a local bulletin board reflect the lack of notice-period and what appears to be a complete absence of publicity given to the scheme.

One commenter posted on Thursday this week, just 24 hours before the road blocks were put in place: “Lots of residents in Highbury Avenue and Buckingham Avenue have been saying today that they do not know of anyone who has had input into this scheme and feel that there was no organisation/consultation for the local residents.  Many of them did not receive leaflets through their doors and the first they knew of it was when they saw the signs!  It sounds like a petition will be organised by some to remove this road closure and they will be involving the local MP.”

The local MP is the Blairite Steve Reed OBE. So good luck with that, guys.

Another resident commented: “It’s a pity that we never received any leaflets through our door in regards to the road closure. All we received was one about a party on the green on for the weekend of May 9/10 to get people to know one another… We have been told that every house was sent leaflets about this happening. Well I would like to have the proof that one was put through our letter box because we certainly did not receive anything.

“In our opinion it would be far better to put road humps along the entire length of Norbury Avenue to keep the motorists to 20mph rather than blocking off part of the road, after all this is a residential area. This evening whilst walking along Norbury Avenue we watched a moped and motorbike weaving their way through the flower planters, so this really has not stopped the two-wheeled motor vehicles.

“Please can somebody say how long they really think these planters will remain looking good? I expect within a few days they will have been vandalised and this area will become an area for fly-tippers, encouraging vermin. This is not a nice village but an inner city area with the attitude to go with it.”

After the street party, there was another comment posted: “Lucy, the so-called person in charge of this farce, told another resident from Buckingham Gardens that she had personally put leaflets through all our doors – obviously not the case!  I expect the person that was really supposed to post the leaflets through letter boxes put them in the nearest bin!”

The overall tenor of the comments is of pissed-off local residents who have failed to be properly consulted, or even notified, of the scheme.

Thus: “Collected my car from the garage on the corner of Kensington tonight about 6pm and a chap passing on his way home to the little street out of the back of the green triangle stopped me to ask if I knew what the hell was going on with the road being shut off. He hadn’t heard anything about it either despite living yards away from where the closure has been imposed. He was absolutely incredulous when I told him what had gone on. I will give this about a week before the restriction is moved by the council, a petition is got up or the beds, signs and bollard are vandalised. Or all three.”

And with the road blocks now in place, the realities are hitting home very quickly: “Manor Farm Road was chocka at about 4pm yesterday. The worst I’ve ever seen it.”

Or: “I don’t often need to get to Norbury Station but when I do it’s from the Kensington Avenue side. Had to get to it yesterday, so, via Green Lane, I got myself to London Road and then Norbury Station! It’s just stupid! We need to all get together and put our bills to the council, re: extra mileage and also extra time.”

Even allowing for local motoring campaigners, such as the notorious Peter Morgan, attempting to astroturf the public comments, the Norbury Avenue closure has all the hallmarks of another botched consultation by Croydon Council, which risks poisoning attitudes to a trial scheme almost before it has started.

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This entry was posted in Commuting, Croydon Council, Croydon North, Cycling, Environment, Jo Negrini, Kathy Bee, Norbury, Norbury Green Residents' Association, Norbury Village Residents' Association, Parking, Planning, Steve Reed MP, Thornton Heath, Transport and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to All too quiet about Quietway closures on Norbury Avenue

  1. “Within hours of it being put in place, Croydon joy-riders astride mopeds, scooters and motorbikes were demonstrating that Norbury Avenue’s “permeability” wasn’t quite as “filtered” as the agency behind it, Sustrans, might have hoped.”

    It’s not as if these “joy riders” only turned up yesterday – they’ve long been a problem, and not just those on powered two-wheelers.

    Since the late 1990s, Norbury Avenue has been an official London Cycle Network route, linking Streatham / Norbury with West Croydon. It’s not an A-road but a residential street.

    In May 2003, the Council’s Highways department consulted Croydon Cycling Campaign and others on their plans to traffic-calm Norbury Avenue. This was because they had ranked the road 7th on their “Road Assessment List”, which used deaths and injury statistics to prioritise road safety schemes; Norbury Avenue had, between 1997 and 2001, seen 2 serious and 25 slight injuries arising from crashes there.

    When the detailed proposal went to the Council’s Traffic Management Cabinet Committee, in July 2003, I wrote to the then chair, the late Councillor Gerry Ryan in support of the scheme. I mentioned his officers had previously reported that “a recent speed survey on Norbury Avenue found that the 85%ile speeds (the speed that 85% of motorists drive at, or below) was 40mph in both the north and south-bound directions”.

    What this evidence implicitly stated was that 15% of motorists drove at over 40mph down Norbury Avenue, where the current speed limit is 30 mph. What the report didn’t say was what percentage of motorists exceeded the 30 mph speed limit.

    Back then, the Council’s Road Safety publicity stated that if hit by a vehicle at 40mph, 9 out of 10 pedestrians would be killed, at 30 mph 5 out of 10 would be killed but at 20mph, 9 out of 10 pedestrians would survive.

    My recollection of the outcome is somewhat hazy, but I think the plans to cut traffic speeds were thrown out, because of the lame excuse that Norbury Avenue was used as a rat run by the emergency services (probably ferrying victims of road collisions elsewhere in the borough).

    In 2006, local parents drew up plans similar to those currently being trialled, with the aim of making it safe, easy and attractive for parents and their children to cycle to St. James the Great primary school. As far as I know, their plans fell on deaf ears in Taberner House.

    In essence, Croydon has no shortage of data supporting schemes like this, and it’s not as if things haven’t been planned or demanded here before. That some people don’t agree now is inevitable, but that shouldn’t overshadow something that will benefit local people, young and old, and enable people who want to ride bicycles to do so in much greater comfort and safety.

  2. KristianCyc says:

    Apologies to Inside Croydon and readers, I should have written an article on this a long time ago.

    However, what with Peter Morgan making a Yes campaign necessary for 20mph, all my time has gone into that and highlighting Norbury Ave felt like it would give him another target, and thus require us to fend off more of his misinformation, lies and nonsense again, and frankly, it’s really draining.

    I can’t make any promises but I’ll try to find some time to pen an article explaining the rationale behind this scheme this week to give a little context. It’s a really exciting concept and it’s being used widely across the rest of the UK and the word on the street is that once residents have tried it, they quickly come to love it.

    • With all due respect, Kristian, it is not your responsibility, nor ours, to do the job of Croydon Council, Sustrans or Transport for London and publicise their new road schemes. But we could probably do a better job of it than appears to be the case around Norbury Avenue.

      We have no idea of the merits, or otherwise, of the scheme. But then, it seems, neither do many residents in the area. The council, Sustrans and TfL have not just failed to make the argument. It appears that they have failed to even inform the residents of the scheme.

      We’re looking at another Croydon consultation cock-up.

      • KristianCyc says:

        Traditionally the digital campaign is where Croydon Cycling Campaign is most active, so I have to admit I had told sustrans we would have the digital side of things covered. We knew they were working to tight timelines due to funding rules for quietways and were desperate to get it in before the summer holidays (to avoid the accusations that it was being trialled while the roads were naturally quieter anyway). Sadly the 20mph campaign has meant we have been out on the street instead of sat behind computers so I’ve not fulfilled that promise.

        I know a lot of leaflets were delivered and several events held, but with the amount of crap that gets pushed through our doors these days I wouldn’t be surprised nor blame the residents for not noticing it. It can be hard to grab people’s attention long enough for the significance of the scheme to register. The upside here is that the closure is temporary ( and I believe the road was due to be closed for water works this summer anyway? ) so its almost a part of the consultation itself. Try it out for a bit, if you don’t like it, it can go, or be reworked. I hope people will give it a chance and see if they can work around it without too much hassle while enjoying the benefits that comes with cul-de-sac living.

      • Easy to blame the council. Perhaps not so easy to blame people with busy lives for not paying attention to what’s going on – especially in places where community ties are not as strong as they once were, and people don’t talk to the neighbours.

        Truth is, it’s difficult, time consuming and, unless you rely on volunteers, expensive to get the majority of people to engage. Heck, it’s hard enough to get them to even vote in an election! Perhaps the lesson to learn is that they need to spend four, five times as much on getting street engagement teams out there.. only to face the inevitable backlash about throwing Hard Working Tax Payers’ money down the drain on street engagement teams.

        We saw pretty much the same thing on 20mph. Precious little engagement with or from posters, leaflets, adverts in school newsletters, social media, internet forum posts and Inside Croydon articles (no offence). Only actually talking to people on the street made them aware that it was a consultation process at all.

  3. Interesting that some of the most vehement detractors posting on the Streetlife bulletin board about this Thornton Heath / Norbury initiative in live in Upper Tooting (Sarah B), Park Langley (Maria S) and Streatham Vale (“Mark B”).

    • Won’t comment on how other sites operate, but as you will know, we do not allow anonymous commenters on this site – all comments are made by registered accounts.

      Oddly, the swivel-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth lot seem to find this a difficult concept to grasp.

  4. Pingback: Trying it out | As Easy As Riding A Bike

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