Croydon Council acted prematurely in removing its Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes in Crystal Palace and South Norwood, according to the London Cycling Campaign.
The council decided to remove the planters and other measures following a ruling from a High Court Judge last month. The Croydon schemes had been subject to repeated vandalism and loud complaints from the Open Our Rat Runs campaign, which is fronted by a bankrupt businesswoman and supported by prominent motoring lobbyists.
But the LCC says that there was “no requirement to suspend or remove any Streetspace changes while [Transport for London’s] appeal is in progress”.
Croydon’s Traffic Management Advisory Committee meets tonight to rubber-stamp alternative plans that involve a one-year trial of CCTV enforcement cameras on some residential streets in Upper Norwood and South Norwood.
But according to the cycling group, such measures may be unnecessary. The LCC issued a statement which said, “Judicial Reviews look at the process of decision-making and how it is recorded and we believe, like TfL, that Streetspace is both necessary and justified.”
The Judicial Review was lodged on behalf of black cab drivers, with an argument that insufficient equalities consultation had been conducted before the LTN was introduced in Bishopsgate during the covid-19 lockdown last year.
“TfL, the Mayor and boroughs should of course consider the needs of disabled and elderly people in every scheme. However, these represent a minority of trips by taxi, and while they are important to consider, it is also imperative that we give increasing priority to public transport, cycling and walking for the sake of all Londoners,” LCC said.
With the £250million originally provided for the schemes by central government, under TfL’s Streetspace initiative low traffic neighbourhoods have appeared across the capital, using planters and traffic filters to discourage motor vehicles from using side streets and residential roads, and to encourage more people to walk or cycle shorter journeys.
In December, the Tory government released a further £175million for implementing similar traffic-reducing measures across the country, in addition to those which had been rolled out under emergency coronavirus measures during the first lockdown.
The capital’s cycling campaigners say, “There has been a particular urgency to enable more people to walk and cycle, and reallocate road space away from private motor traffic, during a respiratory pandemic and at a time when many Londoners are avoiding crowded buses and tubes.
“TfL’s Streetspace programme has been key to doing this, with the additional benefit of addressing London’s air pollution crisis and the climate emergency, tackling the negative impacts unnecessary motor traffic visits on Londoners, and particularly on the elderly, disabled and poorest among us.
“This approach was consulted on and approved in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, and in the guidance on Healthy Streets. Its urgency has been further underlined by declarations of climate emergencies by boroughs across London, and is further bolstered by every new bit of evidence on the climate crisis, and by the output of the government’s scientific advisors and panels.
“In other words, the more we learn about the climate crisis, the more clear it is that bolder, more urgent action to cut unnecessary motor traffic and boost walking and cycling is required than has been managed to date.”
Supporters of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods had their arguments further supported over the weekend with a firm rebuttal of false claims made by groups, such as the Open Our Rat-runs campaign, when it was revealed that NHS ambulance trusts in England, Scotland and Wales do not oppose to the new pop-up cycleways or LTNs installed during the covid-19 lockdowns.
Misleading reports in some newspapers, including Metro, the Daily Torygraph and Daily Mail, claimed that LTNs were leading to delayed response times from ambulance crews and were examples of a “war on the motorist.”
But FoI requests by Cycling UK covering the period from March to November 2020 sought to discover if any ambulance trust had failed to be consulted by local authorities when the measures were introduced.
Trusts were also asked whether they had raised any concerns with local authorities about schemes which might delay ambulance crews or add to emergency response times.
Of the 10 trusts which responded, none indicated a lack of support for the new schemes, while four trusts — including LAS — expressed support.
The London Ambulance Service said: “The Trust recognises that changes to road layouts, traffic management schemes and road closures all have the potential to impede our response to the most critically ill patients and could delay life-saving treatments or their conveyance to the nearest emergency department”, and added, “the Trust does not support withdrawing funding for active travel measures”.
There is even some evidence from other, longer-installed LTNs in London, that ambulance response times have improved.
The London Cycling Campaign believes that the pace of change, and the change in our habits over car-use, has to increase.
“It is clear that before Streetspace, neither London nor any individual borough was moving rapidly enough to deliver the current Mayor’s Transport Strategy core targets, let alone a zero carbon roads transport system by 2030, as Mayor Sadiq Khan has effectively pledged to deliver.
“Streetspace schemes have enabled many Londoners to exercise and carry out essential journeys safely when our transport options have been reduced. Similar schemes supporting cycling and walking must continue, not only in response to the pandemic, but the climate emergency, air pollution crisis and to ensure disabled and elderly people have access to a range of mobility options, not just taxis.”
The LCC says it “looks forward to TfL’s appeal”, because “it is in the best interests of Londoners, including the elderly and disabled, to reduce motor traffic across the capital”, as they call for the Mayor and London boroughs to “rapidly reduce motor traffic journeys that could be done by other, more sustainable modes”.
Read more: Time for a show of leadership on Croydon’s climate crisis
Read more: The next battle in the culture wars? Traffic bollards
Read more: London’s toxic air is ‘a public health emergency’ says charity
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