Croydon among worst London boroughs for ‘healthy’ streets

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

Punctured: Stuart King’s cycling strategy has failed, according to the Healthy Streets scorecard

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.

Odd one out: every other London borough has a greater proportion of LTN streets than Croydon

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:

  • Borough-wide low traffic neighbourhoods
  • A default 20mph speed limit on all borough and Transport for London controlled roads
  • Small-area controlled parking zones borough-wide
  • Protected cycle lanes on main roads
  • Traffic-free streets around all schools and safe walking and cycling routes to school

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”.

Even after millions of pounds of government grants during the covid lockdown to make streets safer, Croydon is the London borough with the fewest LTNs

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.

Could do better: charities and environmental groups are critical of Croydon’s poor delivery

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”.

Whatever happened to the borough’s cycling strategy?

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.”

Labour’s Clive Fraser: the anti-LTN chair of the Cycle Forum

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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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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5 Responses to Croydon among worst London boroughs for ‘healthy’ streets

  1. Lewis White says:

    I was once a regular cyclist, to / at work in a flatter area of London in the 1990’s to 2000’s and for leisure, locally, but I don’t cycle at present because of the terrible, unsafe condition of the roads in Croydon and adjacent bit of Surrey (potholes, gravel on the road, and sunken areas round road drains that are wheel-breakers and accident-causers), and also, the pollution from cars and vans, plus, the very hilly landscape of Croydon (sweat and knees). Also, the roads are full of drivers who drive too fast and too close to cyclists.

    Until all the improveable aspects of the above list of hindrances to cycling are improved, I can’t see myself swapping from car or bus or walking to getting my bike back on the road. I would like to, to get fitter, but when you are on a bike, you are very vulnerable to being the victim of an accident.

    With regard to Healthy Streets, trees are key to air quality. Sadly, there are lots of treeless streets in all areas of the borough, and there are hundreds of “missing street trees” in Croydon, perhaps over a thousand spots where street trees used to be, but are no longer.

    We continue to lose them because the rate of replanting is not keeping up with the numbers lost due to damage (road salt and gas leaks are a major killer of street trees) , old age, and disease, and are lost when residents pay the council to build vehice cross-overs to allow them to convert their front garden to a car parking area. The tarmacking of the streetcape, and disappearance of street trees, sadly is an ongoing reality.

    The Council are or were planting many new trees prior to Covid, with Mayor of London funds, but I am not sure if the council has had any funds of its own for street tree replacements.

    • miapawz says:

      I used to cycle from West Croydon to Whitehall twice a week in the mid 2000s but it is now far too dangerous with too many vans and maniac drivers. Also the buses take no prisoners any more. I’m not bothered about pollution as it’s always been bad and it’s improved since cars have better emissions. However until they get cycle paths off the road and do something about improving the road layouts what can we do? it’s too scary. Trees need to be replanted when taken down. And The council need to stop the planning nightmare of destroying homes for 9 poxy flats.

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    There were 20 houses (18 single family) on my street and no trees on the road but there were 40 trees at the back in 1990. Today there are still no trees at the front and now only 6 at the back. There are now 4 single family houses left the rest have been developed or in development to flats/HMOs.

    There used to be a public free parking area, but that was sold off to developers and so is now an additional lot of flats.

    Now we have a serious problem with illegal parking, resulting in violence and aggression daily. The Police say it’s a parking issue and we should contact the Council. The Council, having taken a few grand for the dropped kerb and over £12,000+ contributions to parking from each development, will not now enforce dropped kerb violations, totally ignoring that they are also traffic passing points.

    Mexican standoffs, road blockages are many times daily as is the violence and anti-social behaviour.

    Consider the last time it snowed and stuck – all the children were out on the road having snowball fights and building snowmen.

    Today the only snow around here is that which goes up the noses of those illegally parking after purchasing in the local trap houses. No one cycles on this road, it is all on the pavement (including motorbikes and local delivery bikes), as is the e-scooters and multiple daily injuries to those hit by them. The Met’s response, ”We have no interest in this vehicle”.

    Cars mount the pavements during school runs, fly-tippers dump rubbish and rats are prevalent on the same street children walk to school.

    Perhaps the mini riot on the road from the local HMO and crack den that engendered an actual small response from the police would have actually been prevented if the Council did not act inconsiderately and selfishly with all those planning decisions, or charged more and invested in enforcement and a better Licensing scheme, and the Police stopped passing the buck, as they are short of resources and so stretched that they can only attend when requested by Brick by Brick to intimidate hard-done-to tenants at New Addington.

    Am I being a bit harsh? No: they still have not answered why they were there!

    Everything has an impact and local planning is a long-term issue.

    This lot are still chasing their backsides and have not got a clue what they are doing nor the impacts it has. Or they just do not care – Your choice as to which.

    Plant a tree – save a life – Get better local enforcement and administration and save thousands!

  3. Lewis White says:

    Ian plots a very sad litany of things wrong in this fairly well-off area of one of the richest countries in the world. The question is, where are all the fruits of the riches? Clearly not in Ian’s potholed, tree-deprived, a.s.b. afflicted area of Croydon.

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Cycling is extremely important to the Borough and will have major benefits. But most of the traffic is school runs and through traffic leading to congestion. The poorly designed side streets lend to blockages and more gridlock – motor and pedal cyclists are safer on the pavement with the speedy stop start and no look movement of vehicles. Safe Cycling lanes will also have the benefit of safer pavements and less minor injury unit visits. Properly planned implementation of strategic and tactical measures like LTNs one way streets along with better road markings and signage can assist this also. It may be time for measures like a road Tunnel that takes through traffic of the central area and HGVs restricted from the roads for up to 20 hours. Dare we say it – bring back municipal school buses and ban cars from parking on roads around schools with enforcement until people stop.or build a car park with every school and charge parking fees

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