Our transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON, took a socially distanced stroll around South Norwood yesterday and found the council’s roads experiment delivering predictable results
Two weeks in to the council’s coronavirus road closure experiment, and the brains trust in Fisher’s Folly has managed to cut and paste the contents of a press release on to a page on the official website and devise a typically un-catchy acronym – CSIP, or “Croydon’s Streetspace Improvement Programme”.
Trouble is, it is hard to see what “improvements” the closures were supposed to provide, or identify how what they have delivered is in any way better.
It took barely a couple of hours after the barriers went up for the traffic jams to form, and residents affected are so far underwhelmed.
“The measures should make it easier for residents to maintain social distancing at busy areas such as the entrances to parks, shops and transport hubs,” the council claims on its slowly assembled CSIP web page.
When the scheme was announced at the end of April, five roads were listed for closure. Now, the council’s web page lists 10.
Yet even with most schools closed under lockdown and reduced traffic levels because of covid-19, in mid-afternoon in midweek, the traffic queues are half a mile long, from the junction of South Norwood High Street and Portland Road back towards Penge.
By 6pm, the traffic queue had almost doubled and was nearly a mile long, backed up all the way to Stembridge Road junction with Croydon Road. Several bus routes are experiencing delays of 20 to 30 minutes to get through the traffic queues.
“That rivals the jams caused by the repairs on Goat House Bridge,” one unimpressed resident said. “During a full rush-hour, the jams are likely to extend as far as Anerley Hill – and cause traffic to turn up there in search of an alternative.”
Another South Norwood local, Jane Nicholl, volunteers with a mutual aid group as a van driver making deliveries of meals to the elderly and vulnerable twice a week during the emergency, and the road closures have badly slowed her task.
“The closures are really annoying, and now they’ve added even more without warning. It’s a pain in the arse when doing the deliveries,” she said.
“Thing is, the roads they’ve chosen seem randomly picked with no rhyme nor reason. How they are supposed to help cyclists I have no idea because the closed roads are dotted around so randomly.
“The roads with cars dangerously speeding – Birchanger, Tennison and Portland – continue to have idiots pretending they’re at Silverstone. The drivers that might have used the blocked off roads as rat runs haven’t gone away, they’ve just done aggressive three-point turns and sped off down another road posing just as much of a danger to pedestrians and cyclists.”
People living in the area have endured road closures before – through long-delayed gas mains works on the High Street and road bridge closures over in Woodside. So they knew what to expect.
The traffic queue around the South Norwood Hill junction is caused by two factors. First, no short cut via Lancaster Road towards Anerley or on to South Norwood Hill. Second, just one car waiting to turn right on to South Norwood Hill means no one else can pass. The approach to Goat House Bridge and South Norwood High Street is already notorious for hold-ups.
When the closures were first announced, the planners overlooked Warminster Road, which some drivers used to bypass the barrier at Southern Avenue. The council has now spotted that and blocked off Warminster Road too, using three large concrete containers with flowers to make it look more environmentally palatable. They also suggest an air of permanence: when the lockdown is over, this road may not be re-opened to motor traffic.
Those living on Warminster Road, if they venture out by car at all in these unusual times, now face the prospect of having to turn into South Norwood Hill to join a long queue of traffic to turn left at the High Street in order to head south or east.
In terms of traffic calming and benefiting local residents, the only people benefiting might be those who live in the section of Lancaster Road up to Southern Avenue – and even they will be plagued by cars turning into the road, reaching the barrier and turning back.
Those on the other side of the barrier, and residents in Southern Avenue, will still have cars coming down Lancaster Road before being forced to turn right into Southern Avenue and on to South Norwood Hill from there.
“This makes no sense at all,” said one annoyed resident. “Among the traffic being held up on the A213 are buses on the 75 and 197 bus routes – so delaying all those attempting to use public transport by 20 minutes or more.”
Nicholl, who is well-known for her community activism, describes those implementing the closures as “the council Department of Useless Jobsworths and Timewasting”.
She says, “Why not block off a few roads in Croydon to make life even more difficult for essential service workers – our posties, refuse collectors, emergency services, food deliveries?
“All the important people we rely on during lockdown who are working against the clock and are now having to spend even more time navigating around some stupidly thought-up diversions in the name of – erm… making it easier for people going for walks and preventing roads being used as rat runs. Seriously?
“Ten out of 10 again to Croydon Council for wasting the tax-payers’ money.”
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