Thousands back petition for exemptions in Highbury People Friendly Streets
- Credit: Google Maps
Nearly 3,000 people have backed a petition calling for residents and businesses to be exempt from the new Highbury low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTN).
Traffic schemes, coined People Friendly Streets, have been rolling out in different areas of Islington since last summer.
Designed to promote cycling and walking and reduce pollution, People Friendly Streets sees bollards, signs and traffic cameras installed on some roads to stop rat running.
Brought in under experimental traffic orders, People Friendly Streets are installed for an 18-month trial with a consultation after a year.
However, just over 2,800 people have now signed a petition by campaign group Keep Highbury Moving to ask Islington Council whether number plate recognition technology could be used to give residents and businesses exemptions.
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A founding member of the group, Joanna, who wanted to use only her first name, told the Gazette: "We need proper consultation to what people want to see for all residents who are affected.
"I feel there’s a lot of assumptions being put out there. It isn’t against the law to drive so I feel this is a really heavy-handed approach on all car drivers without any compassion."
She raised concerns about access for disabled people and the emergency services, the impact on businesses reliant on deliveries, the validity of a trial during lockdown and displacement of traffic onto main roads, which she says proves the schemes do not make the streets "friendly for all".
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Another resident, Richard Brooks, said: "In principle, I understand the need to have certain streets with as few cars as possible. For example, it was a good idea to bring in bans on cars in the streets near primary schools first thing in the morning, and then as schools close in mid-afternoon. A good idea even though I was fined in the early days when driving - I think in Romilly or Prah Road.
"I also think that some of the rat runs needed some restrictions. However, [the] new restrictions have done far more harm than good."
Another group, Low Traffic Highbury, has been set up in support of the schemes.
A founding member, Jon Taylor, said: "I love LTNs - provided they are established well in cohesion with other traffic measures, I genuinely believe that time will show it will be a benefit to the majority of people.”
He cited similar schemes which he said saw an initial increase in traffic but then a decrease as drivers adapted.
Jon encouraged everyone to engage with the group, including those against the Highbury scheme.
“We are all local residents who want to get positivity out there and give people the chance to engage without having a confrontation," Jon told the Gazette.
"So many people find it frightening to stick their head above the parapet because the people who do are often quite frightening. But there should be a real debate about this.
“I think we have to look at this as a holistic approach. LTNs are one part of tackling pollution in London."
Low Traffic Highbury is hoping to recruit a streets champion for every affected road - this is a knowledgeable person who can be a point of contact for any concerned residents.
Cllr Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s environment and transport chief, said: “We know how important Islington’s streets and neighbourhoods are for local people, but in recent years we have seen satellite navigation systems directing traffic through residential areas, causing more traffic, pollution and road danger.
"People-friendly streets are designed to address this situation, and to help the borough respond effectively to the continued fall in public transport capacity during the pandemic."
She said the Highbury schemes will create a "safer, greener, healthier Islington where everyone is able to travel safely and easily around the borough".
View the petition at www.change.org/p/islington-council-keep-highbury-moving
Residents can leave feedback on the People Friendly Streets schemes at https://islingtonpeoplefriendlystreets.commonplace.is/