A council consultation on the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Crystal Palace closes tonight, with some residents who live on the streets affected producing hard data to prove how by closing residential roads to rat-running vehicles more people have been using them for walking and cycling.
The LTN schemes across London have been funded by central government, with keen cyclist Boris Johnson giving his support. Andrew Gilligan, Johnson’s close adviser when he was Mayor of London, has been appointed to the board of Transport for London, where he has been advocating the policy which is intended to change public habits and reduce the use of motor vehicles.
Now a report by resident campaign Shape Better Streets reveals a dramatic increase in walking and cycling in the Crystal Palace and South Norwood Low Traffic Neighbourhoods since Croydon Council closed some streets to through traffic in the summer.
Opponents of the scheme – who include members of the Road Haulage Association and the Bromley chapter of the Alliance of Bad Drivers – have tried to claim that the roads are too hilly for people to use bikes, but the figures collected by volunteers show that even on one of the steepest roads, Sylvan Hill, there has been around a three-fold increase in cycling and walking through the day, compared with the month before the experimental closures were introduced.
Last week, between 7 am and 7 pm, 1,250 people walked up and down the street, and nearly 150 cyclists rode up (or down) the 1 in 7 gradient.
A separate count at the crossroads of Auckland Road and Sylvan Hill found that more than 2,100 people walked through the junction between 7am and 8pm, and another 240 cycled.
The survey also shows how important local streets are for students of nearby Harris City Academy Crystal Palace, with hundreds walking each day along Sylvan Hill and across Auckland Road on their way to and from school. Their journeys are now free from the air pollution and danger caused by the thousands of vehicles a day which previously used these streets – more than half of them speeding, according to council data.
“These survey results show just how deluded are the claims of traffic campaigners that ‘no one walks or cycles’ in the LTN or that ‘it is too hilly for cycling’,” said Katie Crowe, a resident of the area.
“We are seeing hundreds of people a day cycling and thousands walking, three times more than when the streets were still choked with cars and fumes in the summer. It turns out that Sylvan Hill is not the North Face of the Eiger; getting up it, even with children in a cargo bike or trailer is… as easy as riding a bike. The problem before was that few would have been brave enough to share an uphill climb with large numbers of often impatient and aggressive drivers.”
Another resident, Colin Spencer, said, “I’ve been a resident of a street off Auckland Road for over 25 years. It was the low traffic and safe streets that persuaded me to acquire the property. I recall playing on the road with my young daughter at the time.
“Over the years, the local environment has become swamped with noisy, polluting, dangerous, motor traffic. Walking had become unpleasant and cycling only something for the brave. The last few months feel like we have got our streets back. So have the wild creatures among whom we live. I have seen more birds and squirrels able to forage by the roadside.”
A large part of the antagonism towards the schemes in Croydon has been stoked by the pro-car Bromley Council, which has refused to take any LTN money from TfL or the government. Bromley has been named as an interested party in a Judicial Review into Croydon’s LTNs, part of a campaign which has received funding from the Alliance of Bad Drivers.
But as one source living on the Bromley side of the borough boundary said this week, “It has been largely overlooked that Bromley’s own projects in and around the Crystal Palace Park dovetail with the LTN on the Croydon side of the border.
“So ask yourself, why is Bromley opposing the LTN so vigorously, and supporting residents in taking legal action against it? Surely the two boroughs should be working together with a view to optimising the whole cross-border package?”
Amy Foster, the chair of the charity Croydon Living Streets, responded to the new survey data, saying, “Experience of schemes elsewhere is that it takes time for people to change their travel choices.
“So we are really amazed that after only three months, we are seeing so many more people walking and cycling. Walking and cycling are great ways of getting the moderate exercise so important for physical and mental health.
“In winter, with parks not open from late afternoon, it is really important that streets are safe and pleasant places to get daily exercise. We must never again let hundreds of Harris students be exposed to toxic air quality and speeding drivers on their way to and from school.”
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