Transforming Streets & Neighbourhoods in our Borough


PutneyHighStreet-Approach_TransformedOn November 4, 2017, David Irvin made a presentation at a Wandsworth Living Streets public meeting. a commentary follows on the content of the talk and Davids slides with brief commentary can be found here: Transforming our Neighbourhoods

This street has been transformed into a largely pedestrianised locality with a vibrant local shopping environment.  It was inspiring to see an example in London where a  Council has taken the lead in improving the public realm.

Notice its features:

  • Vehicles excluded from 7 am to 10pm, except for the local bus
  • Trees and other greenery
  • Much wider pavements
  • A deliberate kink in the roadway and strategically placed lamp post to slow down even the bus

These are all changes that prompt drivers to engage in a one to one relationship with pedestrians and encourage a shift away from a car-dependent driver culture.

Measures to prevent vehicles rat-running through residential neighbourhoods

Waltham Forest has introduced a variety of measures in its ‘villagisation’ or Liveable Neighbourhood scheme. Here is another one:

This bridge uses attractive wooden bollards, innovative seating and planters. Network Rail no longer had to pay for strengthening this bridge over the railway to cope with increased axle loads. They paid for this much cheaper option instead that ended rat-running here.

Filtered Permeability – one way to create a low traffic neighbourhood

In this map, you can see this locality on the edge of Tooting  is bounded by 2 big roads. Note the 2 roads between them that prevent vehicles proceeding. These allow residents still  to use their cars, but ends non-local traffic taking a short cut from the one big road to the other. One could also put in a pocket park near the school. And time restrictions on the road past the school in order to reduce the number of children who are ferried to school by car instead of walking or cycling.

These are principles that could be applied right across our borough in Wandsworth.

Map of the Tooting, Furzedown, Graveney  area in our borough.

Look at the main roads and see the residential areas stretching between them. Each could be transformed into a quieter, safer, more liveable neighbourhood if the Council introduced measures like some of those already mentioned.

Possible Ideas to transform our streets that could be applicable in many parts of the Boroug

1 Pocket Parks and reducing rat-running traffic – Esmond Road

Below bridge_Transformed

Look at this map of the residential area east of Putney High Street.  Because of congestion on Putney High Street and certain turning restrictions into it at Lower Richmond Road and Upper Richmond Road, vehicles are tempted to rat-run.

On Esmond Road, there is a railway bridge. No houses right here. This is what it looks like now.  Nothing to recommend it.

This is what it could look like. A pocket park under the bridge and across the road. Seats, Bollards. A play area for kids. It’s safe, green and looks nice. And it would stop vehicles rat-running. And Neighbourhood CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) funds exist to pay for such modest infrastructure improvements.

2 Creating Civic Space – Werter Road

Putney lacks civic spaces, except for St Mary’s at the northern end,  where people can easily meet. Where Werter Road leads into Putney High Street provides such an opportunity, particularly given the recently beautifully refurbished Baptist Church and its hall.

This is what Werter Road looks like now. Note the appalling canopy along the supermarket’s side and the offputting blank wall. And opposite there is another ugly and utterly blank wall along the side of a newsagent. And just where Werter Road narrows, cars and vans are allowed to park.  The road is the preferred choice again for rat-running, non-local traffic because  there are no traffic lights onto Putney High Street and vehicles are allowed to turn left and right there.

A Pedestrian Priority Area – this is what this part of Werter Road could be like. It would become once again mainly of use to local residents who would  now more easily be able to drive their cars on their road. Drivers would see they have to slow down and catch the eye of pedestrians as they negotiate this stretch of road. The supermarket could make good use of its side by opening it up as a shop front, as could the news agent chain opposite. Meanwhile the greenery and other facilities would attract shoppers on foot to partronise both the shops and make use of the lovely civic amenity provided by the church.

3 Encouraging Active Travel and Improving Health – Legalising Contra-flow Cycling on one-way roads

This residential area is a nightmare for cyclists because of the roads being one-way. This requires them to cycle 2 or 3 times the actual distance between their homes and the important shopping street of Putney High Street.  Look at the map. And the irony is that there are three Santander Cycle docking stations on these one-way roads – which increases the number of cyclists adversely affected.

All the Council has to do is issue a Traffic Management Order and put up signage in accordance with DfT (Dept of Transport) regulations. Carriageway markings warn drivers that, on these roads that will remain one-way for motor-traffic, they can expect oncoming cyclists who would have the lawful right to cycle in either direction on such streets. This is the case with almost every road in the City of London. Lambeth Council has already done this on 40 of its one-way streets, and is about to do this on 70 more. In Wandsworth, one or two local roads already allow this, and there have been no complaints from residents or reports of accidents.

Allowing such contra-flow cycling improves the safety of cyclists because they can catch the eyes of oncoming vehicle drivers who, in any case, would have to slow down. It benefits residents because average vehicle speeds, and hence pollution and noise, on their streets would fall. And since all pedestrians are used to looking both ways on most roads, they will have no difficulty in getting used to doing so on these contra-flow roads.

The cost of this simple measure is very modest since a TMO can cover a number of streets (in fact it could cover all the one-way streets in the borough if wished!) and costs about £1500.

4 Transforming the bigger through roads – Putney High Street

Putney High Street is a case in point.  It is a classic case of the dilemmas of getting the  balance right between the Movement function (getting traffic from A to B) and the Place (a location that attracts people to come to shop, eat and socialise).

This is what Putney  High Street is like today. Masses of congested traffic. High levels of air pollution.  An offputting place for people to be. Dangerous for cyclists.

But note: the carriageway space is much wider than the two lanes of traffic actually require.  To the disadvantage the large numbers of pedestrians herded onto narrow pavements. Herein lies the opportunity for change.

This is what it could be like. Narrow the two lanes of the carriageway to what a single line of vehicles in each direction need.  Create a ‘shared use’ vehicle-wide strip between carriageway and pavement along either side of the road. This is where traffic can go on to when emergency vehicles need to pass or for freight deliveries at night. For the rest, it is part of the pedestrian realm. The planters ‘green’ the street, without interfering with underground services, and at a modest maintenance cost the local Business Improvement District could pay for. These planters ensure that this intermediate ‘share use’ pavement provision will not be used by vehicles to drive along. And the ambience of the street would be transformed – to the benefit of pedestrians and local businesses’ turnover.

Further measures could be considered, including getting rid of traffic signals along the length of the road. With traffic restricted to a maximum speed of 20mph, it would be more likely to  flow smoothly and pedestrians could catch the eye of drivers and cross safely.

In a busy big road like this that is slightly wider like part of Balham High Road, there would be room for lightly segregated cycle lanes as well.

And what would happen to the traffic? When Putney Bridge was closed for repairs over several months, traffic  apparently found other routes or ‘evaporated’ – namely some drivers realized that they had better alternative options, including using public transport. And in any case, of the 42,000 vehicles using Putney Bridge, only 17,000 of them continue along Putney High Street.


The proposals outlined here are not the only ways to transform our public realm to the great improvement of the lives of all our residents: 

  • their safety on our roads,
  • their health,
  • their convenience when moving about,
  • their shopping experiences,
  • the ambience of the neighbourhoods where they live.


The cost of different proposals varies greatly –from the almost negligible (a change in traffic regulations), to the modest (which a local BID could afford), and to the much more considerable (which would require Community Infrastructure Levy expenditure and/or financial support from Transport for London).

Congestion is unpleasant and dangerous!

It is up to all of us as residents to persuade Councillors and Officers that huge improvements could be made to the streets of our Borough which would be to the huge benefit of all residents and businesses.

A paper relating to David’s talk will be found here: Improving your neighbourhood