Cllr Russell King spoke at a meeting organised by Wandsworth Living Streets (WLS) on 17 July. His talk covered in detail a wide range of issues of concern to Wandsworth residents The meeting was well attended and, with the vigorous Q and A following his talk, lasted well over two hours. WLS was also happy to welcome Greater London Assembly Member, Richard Tracey and Jane Ellison, M.P. for Battersea. Sadiq Khan, M. P. for Tooting, sent a respresentative. What follows is a rather staccato summary of what Russell King said.
Wandsworth Council has a Vision for Pedestrians: The walking experience must be made significantly
- More Enjoyable.
To achieve that:
Roads must be made safer
- A new Road Safety Strategy is being drafted. Accident rates on Wandsworth-controlled roads have fallen in recent years and are now very low. The same does not apply to the small number of very busy Red Routes controlled by Transport for London (TfL).
The Council approach has been to tackle accident hot spots. This has been successful, and these hot spots no longer exist. Instead, collisions in which pedestrians and cyclists get injured occur sporadically across the road network.
- Changes in Modes of Travel are occurring: In particular, cycling is increasing. Cyclists are vulnerable and the Council wants people to be able to cycle safely in safety.
- All high accident areas are on TfL-controlled Red Routes: In particular, Tooting High Street has a very bad accident rate over the past 3 years.
Urban Environment must be improved
Wandsworth Council is constrained by the scale of reduction in funds available to it. Broadly, in 2010 it spent about £300m; by 2016, it will have lost some 40% of its funding and only have some £180m to spend. But it has made the necessary economies and cuts to cope with this.
- Pavements: From May 2013, the Council has started a 6 month programme to repair all pavements. The intention is that this upgrading will be sustained over coming years.
- Town Centres: Wandsworth’s 5 Town Centres have proved very successful compared to many TCs elsewhere. But they now face big challenges. The Council wants to make them attractive places to visit.
- Tooting High Street: The Mayor’s Roads Task Force (July 2013) looked at Tooting High Street and Tooting Broadway. A scheme for tackling its problems (notably the high accident rate) is being worked on. But implementation still some way off.
- Balham Boulevard: The idea was initiated by Jon Irwin of Wandsworth Living Streets. It will extend from the railway bridge at Balham south to Ritherdon Road. The current 2 lanes of traffic in both directions will be converted to 2 lanes, 2 segregated cycle lanes, and a green central reservation – A French-style boulevard. This scheme is coming through speedily with TfL and Wandsworth Officers drawing up plans to be put out for consultation.
- Wandsworth’s Gyratory: The gyratory must go. Will cost £40m. The aim is to humanise the town centre. Wandsworth is working with TfL re funding and proposals. Some CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) funds from developers like the Ram Brewery site will be used.
- Putney High Street: a particular problem is air pollution. Following the initiative of the Putney Society, Wandsworth Council has been active on the issue. It collected evidence that found that 70% of some (Ed. not all) vehicle emissions came from TfL diesel buses. Half the buses are now upgraded or greener vehicles. But there is still a long way to go solving the bus problem. Beyond this, the Council is looking at ways to reconfigure the ways in which deliveries by HGVs etc are made. If these could be shifted to roads at the back ofshops,. It would create extra space on the High Street for either wider pedestrian pavements or cycle lanes. (Wandsworth Living Streets’ Dave Irwin had developed detailed proposals, which he put forward at a Putney Society meeting where Cllrs King and Jonathan Cook also spoke).
- Clapham Junction: Far advanced. Residents like the improvements. The current phase is extending these along St John’s Road. And beyond that, a scheme to ‘refresh’ Battersea High Street is being produced.
- Nine Elms: This huge development has two particular pedestrian-focussed features — the kilometre long Linear Park and an improved and extended Thames Path along the river.
- Street trees: Wandsworth already has many. The Council has identified places where more trees could be planted. In Winter 2013/14, 1,000 additional street trees will be plante.
- Street Cleaning: It costs the Council £4m a year to clean the streets where people drop litter etc. This cost must be brought down. The Council has 2 approaches:
- More education of residents by the Council about the cost and anti-social nature of making a mess on our streets.
- Some resort to fixed penalty notices and fines against offenders who are caught.
- Innovative Experiments: in the past, Officers have tended to see professional expertise as the only source of ideas for solving problems. Also, some problems, notably rat-running, are intractable. The Council is trying out a new approach:
- DIY (Do It Yourself) Streets: Sustrans have developed this idea. The notion is to involve residents in finding a solution to a problem – bringing them together, identifying the problem, working with Officers, and developing ‘ownership’ over the problem and the possible line of solution. Another possible positive result is a greater sense of local community. So what may start with a particular problem can grow in all sorts of ways (voluntarily cleaning up on a street, identifying and helping vulnerable residents, encouraging urban art etc. Wandsworth has engaged Sustrans in a pilot project in Tooting Bec. If it works, they might try it elsewhere.
- Summer Streets: An idea from New York where some of Manhattan’s streets were closed to traffic on successive Sundays, opening up the streets to children’s play, community activity of various kinds. This summer Wandsworth persuaded residents to try out the experiment on a quite busy road between Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common – Nightingale Lane. On 14 July, the local residents, with support from the Council, closed the road to traffic and held a ‘country fair’. Wandsworth Living Streets supported them and participated. It was a huge success, with well over 2,000 people coming. Wandsworth is keen to see if the idea could be expanded next summer to one or two other such streets.
- Street Clutter: The Council in recent years has taken out ‘several miles’ of guard railings. Many reasons for doing this – penning pedestrians in like sheep; railings also take away a significant part of the pavement from pedestrian use (because of the way they inset from the edge of the carriageway); they also encourage drivers to drive faster than they would otherwise; cyclists occasionally caught between vehicles and the railings; etc. If anyone sees places where guard rails ought to be removed, let Cllr Russell King know.
- Street lighting/Safety at Night: Wandsworth known for quality of its street lighting. But many systems coming up for renewal. Council looking at LED lighting (much more energy efficient) and will trial it.
- Parking on Pavements: Vehicles are not allowed to park on pavements, except that a situation grew up where on a certain number of roads the Council, following residents’ pressure, did allow it. But there is a 2 metre ‘double buggy’ rule that any vehicle on-pavement parking must leave that width free for pedestrians on the pavement. Only in some cases, the width left for pedestrians can be less than one metre (e.g. Broomwood Road SW11). There may be signs of a change of attitude among some residents; in one case, led by Cllr Kathy Tracey, residents are now petitioning the Council to end parking on the pavement in their road.
- Pedestrian Crossings: Two notorious cases where no pedestrian crossing exists and they ought to.
- Queens Circus, Queenstown Road, Battersea Park: This is a particularly dangerous case. Susan Hoffman of Wandsworth Living Streets has long been pressing the case for a crossing here. The Council has now obtained the necessary funds. It has a scheme. The last hurdle to overcome is what to do when a large volume of traffic comes out of Battersea Park after an event. The new crossing scheme is about to go to the Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
- Brighton Yard entrance at Clapham Junction Station: The Council accepts a new crossing is needed at this new entrance to the station. TfL have looked at situation and is supportive of a new crossing. The obstacle is the development of the Peabody Estate: where the crossing needs to go is where there will be a temporary access road for HGVs into the Estate during its redevelopment. The alternative way in would be via residential roads. (Wandsworth Living Streets has made a short video showing how dangerous the existing situation is. Look at it on You Tube or at www.wandsworthlivingstreets.org)
- Public Health and Transport: Now that the Council is responsible for Public Health, these two teams are starting to talk to each other. There is are huge health disparities in the borough. Cllr King argued that car owners tended to be healthy, while the nearly half the population not owing a car, especially in Latchmere and Roehampton, tend to be the least healthy. He views transport policy, in particularly encouraging Active Travel, as largely irrelevant to reducing these health inequalities. (This led to much debate in the Q and A session that followed).
- Reducing the speed limit to 20mph: Following the West Putney and Dover House Road experiment (2 wards where a 20mph speed limit was introduced without additional physical traffic calming measures), the Council has agreed to develop a 20mph strategy. The details are not yet decided. There are different ways of promoting 20mph where residents want it. It is cheaper to introduce across a whole area. Some Councillors, as in West and East Putney, want it for a whole ward; others do not. He is of the view that large swathes of the Borough will become 20mph in the next few years because many residents want it. But unclear whether it will become the norm borough-wide.
- Do you have any good ideas for streets in Wandsworth? Cllr King issued an invitation. He would welcome residents sending ideas they have to him. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Question and Answer session
Russell King’s talk was followed by a vigorous Q and A session. Some of the points which participants made:
Some junctions appalling: e.g. Putney High Street & Tooting Broadway: PHS is awful at both ends for pedestrians and cyclists. Underpass under Putney High Street not possible. How about one simultaneous Green Man phase for pedestrians to cross all arms of the Putney Bridge crossings?
Speed enforcement by the Police? The idea that the Police are willing to enforce 30mph but not 20mph speed limits is mistaken. In reality, the Met do not enforce any speed limits (20 or 30 or 40 or 50mph) in Wandsworth; they merely rely on occasional cameras. So any argument against 20mph that argues the Police won’t enforce the new speed limit is irrelevant.
Community Speed enforcement: The Met have a Community Speed Enforcement programme. Were keen to expand it post-the Olympic Games. What is their position now?
Motor cyclists: Tend to drive well over the speed limit. Have a high incidence of serious road collisions and accidents.
TfL Red Routes – How to improve Road Safety: Crucial to do this because majority of serious collisions happen on TfL Roads. But TfL only recognises Tooting High Street as a priority because of its accident rate. There may be other ways of getting TfL action (e.g. the Cycling budget).
Education of the public to make Red Routes and borough roads safer: Council does a lot of road safety education. It wants to do more.
HGV delivery routes and times: Could they be phased outside times of day or night when there are lots of pedestrians in our Town Centres?
BT Phone Boxes as street clutter: Usage is collapsing. BT has a budget to remove them. In practice, BT charges Wandsworth for each box removed. Hence few are (re)moved.
What to do about roads where people shop, access services and socialise, but which are not just residential or Town Centres? E.g. Lower Richmond Road; Bellevue Road; Northcote Road etc. The Council needs to pay attention to these roads, where the place function for people on foot is so important. They need to be made more attractive, quieter, safer – ie more seating, more trees, public toilets, slower speeds (20mph), and distinctively paved.