Gazette letters: Traffic plans and consultations and training for arrest
PUBLISHED: 08:30 21 September 2019
The public consultation on Islington's draft Transport Strategy 2019-41 closes on September 29, writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington.
So, there's still time for residents to have their say on the creation of a "healthy, fair and enjoyable transport environment as part of building a fairer Islington for all" (Claudia Webbe, Preface). This can be found at islington.gov.uk
While highlighting the borough's "low car-ownership", the document fails to spell out that, according to TfL, just 26 per cent of households owns or has access to a private vehicle. Is that because the obvious question would be: why isn't parking reduction on our currently jam-packed residential streets part of this long-term strategy? Not only would that be fair to the overwhelming majority of borough households, it would, arguably more importantly, improve conditions for residents, pedestrians and cyclists as visibility would be improved.
Bad enough but worse, Objective 2 for the creation of "Safe and Secure streets - [where] 'traffic will not pose a danger to street users, and streets and places will feel and be free from crime'" - completely ignores the single most effective means of achieving this end: closing the roads on which we live to rat-running through traffic, known in transport jargon "modal filtering".
As if on cue, the photographs below - taken by a dog walker and passed to me recently - demonstrate the outcome of leaving our streets unchanged, in this instance in St Mary's ward behind St Mary Magdalene Academy and close to Freightliners City Farm. Fortunately, no-one was injured in the smash but the driver of the speeding VW car ran off after the incident on Sherringham Road near the junction with Crossley Street before the police arrived. Drug-running on that and nearby streets, including my own, has increased in recent months and questions are being asked as to the possible involvement of the vehicle.
It is thought that the VW might have been heading for Crossley Street where, only a couple of months ago, an academy pupil on his way to the school was knocked from his bike, sustaining a badly fractured arm - by a parent returning from the "school run". Parked vehicles on either side of the narrow street make riding a bike hazardous, as on so many of our local roads.
So what's going on, Cllr Webbe? Why isn't modal filtering and the removal of parking from our residential streets - for which you are responsible - at the core of this 22-year plan?
Thursday night's presentation of the council's draft Transport Strategy by Cllr Claudia Webbe was an exercise in frustration writes Bob Barnes, name and address supplied.
Cllr Webbe demonstrated that she understands the biggest issues with Islington's transport, particularly with her impassioned speech about so many people losing limbs every single week. And that whilst poorer people are priced out of car ownership, it is the less well-off residents (who) are most likely to bear the brunt of the negative impacts of the transport system.
As well as safety and inequality, she's mentioned use of space and the big issue of the century - climate change: We have to make transport more space efficient - only by reducing private car-use will Islington remain accessible for its residents. Islington will be less dependent on motorised vehicles. We declared a climate emergency making Islington net zero carbon by 2030.
So why the frustration - surely it's good that our elected politicians are recognising the real issues? It's because there are no solutions offered. Clllr Webbe targets a mere 15 per cent reduction in vehicle miles over a 25-year period, meaning there will still be almost one million vehicle kilometres every single day in tiny Islington. And just a 7pc reduction in private cars over the same 25-year period, meaning that Islington's parked cars will take up the equivalent space of 4,000 homes. The council are clearly setting themselves some soft targets, rather than trying to make a real improvement to the lives of Islington people.
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Cllr Webbe received some good questions from Green Party Cllr Caroline Russell and members of the audience. Cllr Webbe talked a lot in response whilst saying approximately nothing - in a manner not dissimilar to Theresa May. The last thing the people of Islington need is another politician who tells us everything we want to hear whilst offering nothing of substance to back it up.
Islington Council has been clear - we face an environment and climate emergency. The time for further bold action is now, writes Cllr Claudia Webbe, executive member for Environment & Transport.
That's why the council has set the ambitious target of achieving a net zero carbon borough by 2030, building on our impressive record of reducing emissions by almost 40 per cent already and Islington seeing the 12th largest decrease in per person carbon emissions of anywhere in the country.
As the council's lead member responsible for delivering the change we need to see to address the climate emergency, I was disappointed to receive a set of "demands" from Extinction Rebellion Islington, as referred to in a letter to the Gazette last week (Nicola Baird).
Whilst we of course welcome scrutiny of the council and elected members, and fully support people's right to engage in citizen activism, we will not make decisions that affect the lives of local people in response to threats, deadlines or demands. We have enjoyed positive relationships with the various activist groups and individuals who care passionately about these issues, as do we, and we will continue to develop our efforts to tackle the climate emergency in that spirit of co-operation.
We are fully committed to taking the necessary action to address the climate emergency. However, it is essential that we take action whilst fully considering the impact of any decisions on the lives of local people. For example, the council has launched Angelic Energy - the not-for-profit council-owned energy supplier - to help offer fairer prices for 100pc renewable electricity and have switched all our streetlights to low-carbon LED versions that are supplied by 100pc renewable energy. Unfortunately, it is not currently possible to simply switch supply for council homes to fully renewable electricity without having to pass the extra cost of doing so directly on to tenants and leaseholders, which would currently see bills rise by at least 5pc. In a borough where 10,000 households live in fuel poverty, we have to make sure our transition to a net zero carbon borough does not penalise those who can least afford it.
We will, of course, look at how we can source the cleanest electricity possible, whilst seeking the
best deal for residents. But we also need the government to restore the Climate Change Levy exemption for energy produced from renewable sources, which would help to make renewable energy cheaper to purchase for landlords like the council.
One small correction to Nicola Baird's otherwise excellent letter, writes Sebastian Sandys, Imperial Hall, City Road.
I understand Extinction Rebellion has a target of 10,000 arrests in October, not 5,000.
Nicola's correct though. The prospect of arrest can engender fear and panic. It passes though, and with 14 arrests under my belt for one thing or another, I'd be happy to help her overcome hers. Either through some formal training or perhaps over a large glass of red at a pub of her choosing.