Letters: Environment and tenants' manifesto

A cycle lane in central London.

Cycle lanes have proved beneficial in lockdown - Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Images

Benefit of People Friendly Streets

Tash H, Islington, full name and address supplied, writes:

As Lockdown 3.0 was announced, one of the first things I noticed was the number of people outdoors going for walks and cycle rides. With gyms shut and lockdown restrictions in place, getting outdoors is the main way many people are getting their exercise. For some people, it is currently their only way of having social contact, by meeting one other person to exercise with. 

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), part of the council’s People Friendly Streets programme, make this so much easier, with quiet streets allowing more space for walking, cycling and playing, while being socially distanced. It’s never been so important to have access to public space, and getting out and about is much more enjoyable in our Low Traffic Neighbourhoods like Canonbury compared with areas like Barnsbury that have high levels of traffic. LTNs aim to reduce traffic on residential streets and to encourage people to walk and cycle more for local journeys.

While people have expressed concerns about LTNs, such as traffic increasing around their perimeter, and emergency services being affected, there is enough data from similar schemes across London to alleviate these concerns. Around Hackney’s LTNs, Transport for London data show that there was no increase in traffic levels at their borders. Recent data from a Freedom of Information request revealed that while Wandsworth briefly had LTNs in place, ambulance service response times in the borough were actually reduced compared with data from the previous year when there were no LTNs.


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The benefits of People Friendly Streets are numerous: from children being able to play safely on their streets, to getting a better night’s sleep and feeling less stressed due to reduced traffic noise. LTNs make it easier and more enjoyable for people to walk and cycle. People Friendly Streets are beneficial for our health both now and in the long term: we know that those who are exposed to high levels of air pollution are affected more severely by Covid-19. Covid-19 aside, we also have many public health issues associated with physical inactivity. LTNs will help improve health and wellbeing and allow more people to enjoy their local neighbourhood.

Highbury West and Highbury Fields LTNs were implemented on January 11. If you live locally, do take the time to go and enjoy the new quieter streets. The remaining areas of Islington eagerly await People Friendly Streets! For more information

Changes designed to keep us safe

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Patrick Lawson, London’s happiest bus driver, full address supplied, writes:

I saw on YouTube that even though cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods are a positive initiative for pedestrians and cyclists, some shop owners feel that cycle bollards reduce their parking for shoppers and for loading. I understand why businesses might feel frustrated, but I think it is really positive what Islington and other councils are doing to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe on London’s streets.

I’m not frightened at cycling on the high street and I do follow the rules, but cycling recently on Liverpool Road, and other parts of London, I felt extra safe with bollards on the cycle lanes, knowing cars couldn’t overtake me closely at speed. I’m also a bus driver and drive cars and buses regularly. In a bus I never overtake cyclists unless it is safe to do so. I’d rather wait behind them because I see that cyclists are vulnerable as they don’t have metal protecting them! I do appreciate there are reckless cyclists, just like reckless people. But recklessness is a choice! We can’t blame the good cyclists for the reckless cyclists. We just all have to be responsible.

Lorries turning left and killing cyclists is not on. That’s why I also support Transport for London’s plan that by 2041 they want zero deaths on London’s roads.

As a bus driver I’ve noticed the road closures, but it’s a good thing they’ve stopped cars going down some roads. I believe government and councils are doing their very best to keep people safe, that’s something to say thank you for.

The other day I rented a Zip car (neighbourhood car share) and I realised the frustration a lot of car drivers must go through! Normally on Southgate Road I could take any of those turnings straight to Essex Road, but not now. I was sitting there doing deep breathing to calm myself down. I could imagine car drivers wanting to take the next left getting frustrated. I understand why a car driver would say “that person just walked out into the road” but it would be better if their response was kinder and they thought, “I’m so glad I’m responsible and professional enough and experienced enough to have seen the hazard!” That’s what they teach us as bus drivers.

When I got my driving licence there wasn’t that attention to hazards. Drivers may complain about traffic, but they need to remember that these changes are keeping people safe. At Highbury Corner there is now so much more space for people to walk and socially distance and that’s a good thing. And with slower traffic you can see the 43 coming and still be able to catch it.

Climate strategy could be better

Eilidh Murray, Canonbury, full address supplied, writes:

I struggle to ‘join the dots’ regarding Islington Council’s strategy regarding climate change - readers will remember that the council declared a climate emergency in 2019. While there is excellent progress in rolling out an ambitious programme of People Friendly Streets, at least in the south of the borough, the big disconnect comes with greening our urban environment. 
For example:

  • community parklets: which take up a single car parking space and create a small oasis where people can sit, chat, grow and enjoy being outside - a particular benefit for those without gardens in these Covid-constricted times. In spite of many efforts to introduce a plan for community parklets in Islington, the no-can-do attitude prevails, in contrast to Hackney where there is an established process and many different community parklets have been created. In Islington’s own Biodiversity Action Plan, consulted on in March 2020 and updated in September 2020, it states that 17 per cent of Islington is deficient in access to nature.
  • planters: it seems that even in Mayton Street, a beacon of green in a dismal streetscape, the council has still not approved the wonderful street planters. On the contrary, they have consistently wasted time and money issuing “obstruction notices” when there is clearly no obstruction, whether for pedestrians, buggies or wheelchairs. In the Biodiversity Action Plan, the council’s vision is “To protect and enhance Islington’s biodiversity”.
  • green parking permits: an idea to allow people to green a space prevously occupied by a car but which was deemed so frightening and risky that the proposed cost of a green parking permit was set totally outside the budget of anyone wanting to green their local environment. It’s cheaper to park a car in Islington than to create a beautiful green space or incidentally, to hire one space in a corporation bike hangar.
  • chopping down trees which seems to be an easy option for developers and councils to build on precious green space as in Dixon Clark Court. People value trees – over 600 have signed a petition to give all our trees a TPO rather than the current 1pc and over 2,000 people have signed a petition specifically to ask the council to save these precious DCC trees. Your readers will be aware of this ongoing saga which is far from over; suffice to say that once a 52-year-old tree is chopped down, it simply cannot be replaced by a sapling. The current crop of councillors responsible for this arborial massacre won’t be around to see the saplings deliver the benefits that the existing trees are already providing – neither will I – but future generations who live, are educated and pass by the denuded, built-up site won’t be thanking the council retrospectively for their reckless actions in 2021.

So Islington Council - you could do so much better.

Give tenants a say on their housing

Pauline Hutchison and Pat Turnbull, regional representatives, London Tenants Federation, write: 

On Tuesday, January 19, social housing tenants and leaseholders from across London are invited to come together for the launch of The London Tenants’ Manifesto.

Just over a year ago, tenant reps from across London met to begin drawing up a vision of a positive future for social housing in London. Since then, Covid-19 has shown us that this tenant-led vision is more timely than ever. 

The Health Foundation is now making the case that social housing is essential to the Covid-19 recovery phase. Yet each scandal, disaster and sham consultation tells us that the quantity, quality and management of social housing is far from where it needs to be. We, as tenants, should be at the heart of discussions as to how this can change, but too often we feel unheard.

On January 19 we will be looking at how this could be turned around. We want to ensure that, when it comes to our homes, social housing tenants and leaseholders are respected as experts and involved from the outset in overseeing all aspects of the safety, design and maintenance of our homes.

The launch will take place at 2pm on January 19 via Zoom. To all interested, please email info@londontenants.org to find out more and book.

We hope to see you there.

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