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 Clare Rogers of Better Streets for Enfield defends the Quieter Neighbourhood schemes against attacks by opponents of Cycle Enfield. (Republished from the Better Streets website.)

SOGL Fernleigh Road e1510145469749The ‘lucky people’ are the residents of the affected area

‘Save Our Green Lanes’ (SOGL) member Helen Osman has been busy attacking two of the Quieter Neighbourhood plans in her newsletter N21 Online. SOGL are now distributing leaflets to households in both the Fernleigh Road and Fox Lane areas, encouraging a negative response to the consultations. What are they upset about? 

Fighting for the status quo

From the start of Enfield’s ‘Mini Holland’ programme, Save Our Green Lanes have seemed determined to keep things exactly as they are. Just as they fought change in the form of cycle lanes and renovated town centres along the A105, now they’re fighting change, however slight, to residential areas. And it’s always easy to stir up opposition to change. In one of their forums a woman wrote, “Our residential roads are just fine as they are. We don’t need 20mph zones and speed humps ruining our streets!”

But to us at Better Streets, the status quo seems very broken indeed. The status quo in our neighbourhoods is to breathe dirty air, to jump out of our skin as a speedster booms past, to witness collisions, to not know our neighbours and to fear riding a bicycle on any road. Seeing children play on the streets is a long-distant memory, except at organised play street events that close the road to traffic. We think it’s time to rethink what has become normal and give streets back to people again.

More congestion?

Helen claims that the plans will “create even more congestion on many roads”. She seems to be basing this on some mild measures such as banning a couple of left turns off Station Road for limited times of the week, a ‘point no entry’ on Stonard Road preventing drivers rat running down it in one direction only, and some one-way streets. Here’s the Better Streets feedback on the Fernleigh Road area plans.

It seems that Helen’s concern is not for the people who live on Stonard and other streets, but for those who’d like use them as a shortcut in their cars. Her assumption is that all residential roads should be open to traffic to take the pressure off main roads. In a way this is understandable – it seems logical, and we’re all used to taking shortcuts where possible. It’s the status quo. But At Better Streets we’re campaigning to stop rat running through residential areas; all the evidence shows that this actually reduces traffic overall, as well as opening streets to active travel for all. In many European countries that is the status quo.

The school run

In the Fernleigh Road area, Helen argues that the proposals will mean “parents in three schools will be badly affected, St Pauls, Palmers Green and Keble” … “Doesn’t anybody responsible for this scheme understand just how stressful it is having to get your child to school or nursery and then get yourself off to work?”

She presumably means that parents driving their children to school will be badly affected – and therefore access to these residential streets by car should be made as easy as possible. But right now, what’s hindering access to these schools by car is the sheer volume of other parents’ cars. Traffic on the school run is the bane of our streets. We need a way to reduce cars on the school run, not facilitate it.

Better Streets is fully in favour of banning cars from school streets at school run hours. Where ‘school streets’ have been created in Edinburgh, walking and cycling rates have gone through the roof – less convenient driving and less traffic on the roads mean that parents are happier about children travelling to school under their own steam. For parents going onwards to work, why the assumption that they have to drive? Often public transport and combined with walking and cycling are better modes to get to work. If only those parents who had to drive did so, we’d see a lot less congestion.

Consultation, consultation, consultation

SOGL can’t seem to fault the plans for the Fox Lane neighbourhood (here’s our response to Fox Lane ), so with both areas, they are falling back on a favourite tactic: attacking the consultation process. Helen criticised the Fernleigh Road QN for not consulting widely enough (which apparently meant not consulting those who don’t live in the affected area, but benefit from rat running through it).

What about the Fox Lane QN consultation? At over three weeks it’s a long enough period legally, it’s being advertised in the local press as it should legally (giving residents an opportunity to object), and like Fernleigh Road QN every affected household has received a leaflet. As one long-standing resident of the Fox Lane area commented:

“…we have seen an extraordinary level of hard and soft data capture, perception surveys and in particular 250 locals who volunteered to become engaged in helping find resolution [to the problems of traffic speed and volume in the area]. [In 2014] two workshops, with say 50 attendees each, worked towards an optimal solution.

This is possibly the most researched and widely consulted residential traffic area in London. What we certainly don’t need is more and longer consultation; now we are on the cusp of very long overdue action. It might not be perfect, at this stage, but it will be better… than what we have been forced to live with.”

Please respond!

The Quieter Neighbourhoods programme is not perfect and will not solve all traffic problems overnight, but it’s a big step in the right direction. Let’s engage with the council, support the process and push for a new status quo that is much better for everyone’s health and well-being.

Please respond to the Fernleigh Road QN consultation by Sunday 12 November and the Fox Lane QN by Sunday 26 November.

Clare Rogers

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Neil Littman's Avatar
Neil Littman posted a reply #3387 01 Dec 2017 19:08
Hi, I just wanted to respond to the comments with a few points.

The reason why leaflets were distributed around the areas in Fernleigh and Fox Lane was because the council sent out almost nothing to residents myself included, apart from a small square card advising us that a QN consultation was on the way.

Not everybody logs into the internet to download information either. There are a lot of people in the area without internet access. It was some time before it was discovered that many households had received nothing in the way of information and none of the schools in the area knew about the schemes.

All this is regardless of the pros and cons of the QN schemes which in principle I think are a good idea.

It is the details of them that are not so good and many of the proposals will either not work or cause more issues outside those areas due to displacement of traffic. I have seen the arguments in Walthamstow that many journeys simply stopped and that is also entirely possible.

As for using the local press to inform people, what local press? I live near the Fernleigh scheme and there is only one newspaper which used to be put through our letterboxes but no longer arrives.

One important factor is that these schemes are being rushed through before the full impact of the cycle lanes is being monitored which will be at least three months. Would it be more sensible to wait until all this work has settled down and we can see exactly how traffic is flowing.

We already have a potential issue that QN will NOT solve which is the narrowing of Palmers Green high street to the point where buses will hold up traffic and increase fuel emissions which will impact on the health of people using all forms of transport as well as pedestrians. You can live a few streets away in a quiet area then be confronted by the exact opposite. This is already affecting emergency vehicles which cannot get past the present level of traffic.

Think there are a lot of different things going on in the area that are already having negative impacts on the quality of life so would hold back on promoting the QN schemes until we know the full extent of everything else.

For the record at our local residents association meeting last night over 95% of those attending were against the scheme. Assume that local residents view must count for something. Also expressed was the view that the council have no wish to engage with the local community on virtually any matters any more. One councillor called our residents association a 'political organisation' It is the same as it has ever been, not aligned to any political party.
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #3388 02 Dec 2017 18:05
I can’t speak for Fernleigh but do know in the Fox Lane QN there was at least 4 (council) door dropped items over the analysis period, including the opportunity to partake in two surveys, two workshops and this very recent consultation. The first door dropped item resulted in 500+ responses, 250 volunteers to assist and an exchange in the local press (it does exist) so I guess there was evidence of community traction.
As for rushing through because much is already changing: let’s go wild and assume there’s a 50% drop off in traffic volume in Fox Lane streets. In many cases that would still be well above what research has deemed to be local community healthy, whereas if things go the other way and volumes increase then more the need for QN features. The South West of the borough is a long acknowledged traffic major issue spot (look at past council plans).
Looking at air quality, we’re fortunate to have a decent bus network but the UK is covered with bus routes where it stops and so do you when following in a car – or frequently where there is the overtaking option, the bus waits forever until some kind soul lets it back out into the flow. So it’s a much faster pull away from stops now, good news for bus passengers for a change. Take away a line of single people driving their cars and pop them all into the large capacity bus and we would find a miraculous increase in available road capacity for those who actually need it. But on Air quality, sitting stationary and the large levels of brake and tyre particulates do not occur and with more modern vehicles the engine will temporarily lick off so dealing with gaseous emissions too. Just perhaps stationary traffic is actually less polluting in such circumstances? (No one will yet know, the brake / tyre wear research data is itself only very recently off the press.)
As for working with the council, I would say I’ve had more than my share over the last decade and more, both parties and many different officer functions. What I’ve always found is that if you have a decent idea, articulate it, treat people as humans, often with more detailed experience and knowledge in areas than yourself, then you can get great traction and progress where it’s possible. I've also seen the opposite approach - and results, some rather recently.
David Hughes's Avatar
David Hughes posted a reply #3389 03 Dec 2017 01:38
This is not going to be very well put because it's close to 1.0am, so I may come back to it on Monday next (5/12/17).

Karl has dealt with many of the issues raised by Neil Littman, but there is one issue at the heart of this: the Council's avowed intention of encouraging people to walk, bike, or use public transport, especially for short journeys, and very especially driver-only short journeys. In addition it worries me that in a crowded city drivers mind waiting behind a bus; it happens in any city. Of course some drivers may be starting or finishing a long journey, but when city roads are crowded it is usually at what we tend to call the rush-hour, i.e. mainly short journeys to work and back, or to some event like a football match. Why not walk, bike or bus.

Put another way, my way, why do many people put their car on just as automatically as they put their shoes on? I live one of the forthcoming Quieter Neighbourhoods (QN), and I see few walkers or bikers with the exception of parents walking their children to or from school (what I can't tell, is whether they have simply found it necessary to park quite a long way from school and walked past my window for the last stage of their journey). Recall: it was and is the intention of the council to encourage drivers to walk, cycle or use public transport.

And finally for tonight: QNs are about creating better places to live, not relieving traffic pressure. Of course the creation of nicer places to live will put further pressure on drivers to consider alternatives, but why should drivers be favoured over residents, and particularly over children's freedoms around their home.

The issues we have with cars in 2017 have largely come about because, with best of intentions, the concern has been to keep traffic flowing with the consequence that drivers have come to expect, often demand priority. That strategy has hit a brick wall with all sorts problems, which when I'm more awake I could list, but there is one emerging very clearly:drivers' sense of entitlement. Most drivers expect decisions to suit their preferences but that has to stop which is now recognised in many countries.

Really things have to different in future.
David Eden's Avatar
David Eden posted a reply #3409 04 Dec 2017 11:08
" over 95% of those attending were against the scheme"

Well I never, local residents against a propposal. That's why NIMBY has been part of the English lexicon so many decades!

NB: objection will never be accompanied by viable/sensible alternative.
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #3410 04 Dec 2017 13:51
Again, since WHRA geographically doesn’t cover the Fox Lane QN, we have to presume the 95% against refers to the Fernleigh QN – which is within WHRA boundaries. But since the Fernleigh QN was apparently started in response to residents’ concerns within that specific area, why is this particular group –set up to represent residents’ views - so against it? Makes you wonder just what is going on.

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