‘People-friendly streets’: Richard Watts blames Waze app and coronavirus for Islington’s traffic-control measures
PUBLISHED: 18:35 20 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:57 30 July 2020
Richard Watts has blamed apps like Waze for having to introduce car restricting measures to Islington.
Next Monday the council will introduce a second people-friendly streets neighbourhood to Canonbury East, hot on the heels of the first which was introduced in St Peter’s at the start of the month. The scheme prevents through traffic by using traffic filter measures like bollards, banned turns and enforcement cameras.
Cllr Watts, the leader of Islington Council, responded to criticism the council hadn’t consulted on the changes, and concerns over access for emergency services vehicles and disabled people who rely on their cars, during a live session on Facebook.
He said the measures would be necessary to prevent gridlock and an even worse pollution problem than before the Covid-19 lockdown, as people shun public transport and turn to private car use in a bid to avoid catching coronavirus.
He said: “Air quality in Islington remains a problem and costs people their lives.
“Less than a third of households own a car and yet our streets are dominated by cars, and what is underpinning all that is big changes in technology and people are now using apps like Waze to cut through side streets, so that side streets are getting chocabloc.
“So everytime we introduce a quiet area to make it easier for walking and cycling or any other non-form of car usage, it instantly gets choc full of cars because the Waze app directs people towards those streets.”
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He explained that a consultation won’t be held until next summer, because the changes have been introduced using an experimental traffic order.
No one will be banned from driving to their own homes, and emergency services have all been consulted and are on board. “We would not have done this if we thought it would make people less safe in their homes,” he said.
“I understand these are quite big changes in the way the borough works but they have to be made. We have an air quality crisis and it is about to get far worse,” he said.
“If we don’t make changes urgently we are going to go to a position that’s far worse than last year, and that’s because we have seen a massive reduction in people using public transport, and a loss of public confidence in using buses.
“Journeys are down 85 per cent, and if all those peope buy a cheap car to get around the borough or to work our streets will be gridlocked.
“Gridlock is bad for emergency services and gridlock is where we are heading if we don’t act urgently.”
He added: “We are clearly saying we want to cut down the number of non-essential short car journeys - people nipping in the car to go around the corner for five minutes when they could easily walk or cycle.
“What happens often with these schemes is residents are sceptical and after a while they get to quite like them, and I’m confident that’s what’s going to happen this time around.”
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