Boris Johnson fights back for Islington drivers

EMBATTLED Islington motorists could win a rare victory if Mayor of London Boris Johnson succeeds in his campaign to remove traffic lights from junctions across the borough.

EMBATTLED Islington motorists could win a rare victory if Mayor of London Boris Johnson succeeds in his campaign to remove traffic lights from junctions across the borough.

The Conservative maverick wants to remove three sets of lights in order to “smooth traffic flow” in Islington.

The move would come as welcome relief for motorists more used to the introduction of road humps, no-entry signs and CCTV cameras.

But Mr Johnson will have a fight on his hands – because Labour-run Islington Council has pledged to block his scheme.

Under the proposals, traffic lights at the junctions of Liverpool Road and Islington Park Street in Islington, Roman Way and Mackenzie Road in Holloway, and St John Street and Owen Street in Finsbury would be removed along with 142 other sets of lights across London.

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s transport advisor, said: “There are few things more annoying than sitting at a traffic light on red for no apparent reason and we’ve now identified 145 sites where we think the signals may no longer be doing a useful job.”

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The proposals have divided Islington’s motorists,

cyclists and pedestrians.

Roger Lawson, the Islington representative for the

Association of British Drivers, said: “In general, we support the removal of some traffic lights. They have obviously contributed to the traffic congestion in London for the past few years. Islington has historically been very anti-motorist. If these traffic lights are removed, it will be a minor victory.”

Cabbie Joe Cartwright, 41, of Conistone Way, Holloway, added: “I think drivers will actually be more alert if they are removed. If it works, it will prove the point that we don’t need traffic lights everywhere.”

But cyclists and pedestrians are determined to keep the lights – claiming it would be too dangerous to remove them.

They claim the borough is still too car-centric despite recent victories such as making all residential roads 20mph.

And they are even trying to persuade Transport for London to make Holloway Road and Upper Street subject to a 20mph limit when the A1 becomes part of the new Hornsey-to-City cycle superhighway.

John Ackers, secretary of the Islington Cyclists’ Action Group, said: “From a cycling point of view, traffic lights are in the right places now and we don’t want to see them removed.

“The problem at the moment is that motorists still have the upper hand in Islington. We can’t get things through because councillors don’t like things that are unpopular with drivers.”

Pedestrian campaigner Caroline Russell, chairwoman of Islington Living Streets, added: “I don’t think Islington is against motorists. It just has a lot of good policies to try to make sure that the limited space that we have is shared. Removing these particular lights will actually make it more difficult for motorists as well as for pedestrians and cyclists because it will be pretty chaotic.”

While Transport for London (TFL), which is run by the Mayor, operates all traffic lights in the borough, it needs Islington Council’s approval to install or remove them – and the council has pledged to protect the traffic lights, receiving the backing of the Green Party’s assembly member Jenny Jones.

Councillor Paul Smith, the Labour council’s executive member for environment, said: “They are removing traffic lights to allow cars to go through faster. This will cause more deaths because it will make roads more dangerous.

“There is no way that the council will allow these traffic lights to be removed. Islington Council is on the side of people who want to be able to cross the road safely.”

A TFL spokesman said: “We continue to discuss with Islington Council the potential removal of these three traffic signals.”