The council deputy leader’s cycling strategy appears to have gone down a dead-end street, as environmental report ranks the borough the 10th worst in London. By STEVEN DOWNES
A report published yesterday shows that even when Croydon Council does have a couple of pennies to rub together, its delivery in terms of cleaner air and healthy streets is one of the worst in the whole of London.
The third annual London Borough Healthy Streets Scorecard places Croydon only 23rd of 33 councils in the capital, an embarrassingly poor score for council deputy leader Stuart King, who until last autumn had been in charge of the borough’s drive to have safer roads and cleaner air.
One of the factors in which Croydon scored particularly badly was its number of low traffic neighbourhoods, with only 4 per cent of the borough’s streets being subject to LTNs even after the flurry of activity during the past, covid-affected year to introduce more social distancing, and making it easier to walk or cycle, with measures to eliminate rat runs and reduce car usage.
Croydon has fewer LTNs than any other borough in London – though that will hardly come as a surprise with senior Labour councillors such as Clive Fraser and Pat Ryan actively conspiring with anti-LTNers and Tories to undermine their own party’s policies and have traffic reduction measures removed from their wards, and doing so apparently without fear of sanction. Fraser just happens to be the Town Hall Labour group’s choice of chair for the council’s Cycle Forum.
The Healthy Streets Scorecard is compiled by a coalition of environmental and transport groups and charities, including Sustrans, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and London Living Streets.
Based on properly collated data, the London Boroughs Healthy Streets Scorecard shows to what extent boroughs are putting in place these five key measures:
Those compiling the scorecard say that these measures “will dramatically improve air quality, reduce road danger, boost active lifestyles and reduce carbon emissions – often literally overnight”.
Despite concerted campaigns by motoring lobbyists and road freight organisations, and opposition from Conservative councillors, Croydon has had some success in introducing (if not enforcing) its 20mph speed limit and school streets schemes. Had the council not managed to introduce such measures, its standing on the latest scorecard would undoubtedly been lower still.
The report’s authors say that Croydon “has taken some positive action which is great news but still has a long way to go”.
Croydon continues to have very high levels of car ownership, with 92 cars per 100 households, low use of controlled parking (only 20 per cent of the borough’s roads are controlled), and the second-lowest score for protected cycle lanes of all boroughs.
The authors say, “On the plus side, Croydon benefits from widespread 20mph speed limits which cover more than three-quarters of the borough’s roads.
And its performance in relation to schools is good with 17 per cent of Croydon schools now with a School Street, where traffic is restricted around schools at arrival and departure times (although this is some way off leaders Merton with 41 per cent).
“Croydon has lower than average rates of road casualties amongst those walking, though the rate is higher than average for cycling.
“Use of sustainable modes of transport and levels of regular walking and cycling are below London average levels and are far away from the target levels needed to support healthy streets in Croydon.”
It is three years since Croydon’s Labour administration produced its five-year cycling strategy, when Councillor King – as the then cabinet member for transport and environment – warned of the borough’s “obesity-linked health crisis”.
King said, “If cycling had just been invented, we would hail it as a wonder cure.”
In the foreword to the council’s cycling strategy report, King wrote, “Our children are growing up in a society where it has become normal to be overweight. In Croydon we rebuilt our street environment around the car, which contributed to making us less active…
“Of all London boroughs, Croydon has the greatest potential for cycling and walking. This is because we make a great many short journeys by car that could easily be walked or cycled given the right conditions…
“If we drove less, and cycled and walked more, we would reduce air pollution and carbon to universal benefit.”
Even for cash-strapped Croydon, 2020 appeared to be a golden opportunity to, belatedly, put in place some of the measures which have become commonplace in other parts of London, with the Conservative government providing millions of pounds in covid-linked grants to reduce traffic volumes.
Yet Katherine Street sources have told Inside Croydon that last year, when Transport for London announced that it had £100million of government cash to pay for the introduction of LTNs, requests to council officials and councillors, including Cycle Forum chair Fraser, asking for a meeting to work out how to get a slice of that money received no reply.
The Cycle Forum’s last two scheduled meetings, virtual or otherwise, have both been cancelled. Its next meeting is not planned until October. That means that with Fraser – who was on special responsibility allowances as Tony Newman’s chief whip – as chair, the Cycle Forum will have gone more than 12 months without meeting.
When it does eventually get together, its members will have the recommendations of the Healthy Streets Scorecard authors to consider: “Croydon must prioritise more Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and protected cycle tracks if it wishes to increase its ranking in the scorecard.
“A huge proportion of households – 37 per cent – live without a car, so there is both need and great potential to take strong action to deliver healthy streets measures in the coming year.”
Read more: Veteran councillor Ryan under investigation over ‘outburst’
Read more: Residents take to the streets to protest Parsons Mead LTN
Read more: Tribunal ruling gives green light for council’s road fines policy
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