Wandsworth: a Borough fit for walking

Wandsworth Living Streets – calls to candidates for 5th May election

We are pleased to present our ‘top 6’ areas for action for all Wandsworth Council candidates to commit to doing if elected on 5th May 2022.  The list is not meant to be comprehensive but rather to help focus everyone’s minds on practical measures which Wandsworth Council could do to make walking in the borough easier, safer and more pleasant. 

We encourage you use the actions set out as talking points with candidates who come seeking your votes in the elections – or as ideas to guide action, if you are seeking election or already are in a position to effect change on our streets.

Wandsworth Living Streets ‘top 6’ actions for all Council candidates to commit to doing if elected on 5th May 2022

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our councillors elected on 5th May agreed transport in our borough is so important to every single resident that it ceased to divide the political parties? 

Imagine if every candidate agreed to some basic principles and actions by the Council to benefit all of us when we are out and about on foot? After all, most of us walk some local trips every week. What a wonderful thing such cross-party agreement would be. 

Making it easier and safer to walk benefits everyone

Walking is:

  • the healthiest and cheapest way of getting about
  • kindest to our planet, and 
  • most used by the widest diversity of our borough’s population.

Six actions for walking that every candidate could commit to

Wandsworth Living Streets (WLS) has nearly 12 years of campaigning for improvements to our walking environment. Here are our ‘top 6’ – some of the most important practical actions we would urge all candidates to embrace to make our streets more welcoming and getting about on foot easier and safer:

  • High-quality pavements
  • Safer crossings where they are needed
  • Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) – building on success
  • Parking policy – fairer treatment for all council taxpayers
  • Greening our streets – more people-friendly spaces
  • Speed limit enforcement by the borough

High-quality pavements

As a key element of walking infrastructure, high-quality pavements are essential to any good walking experience. More ‘people-friendly’ space is needed if we are to create joined-up safe and pleasant routes for people walking, all over the borough. 

The Council should commit to a rolling annual programme for upgrading (not just maintaining) sub-standard pavements, with specific attention to:

  • Smooth, level surfaces (to reduce the incidence of falls and injuries)
  • Adequate width (depending on the importance of a street in accessing shopping areas, train & tube stations, key bus stops, & other local facilities like schools, parks etc.)
  • Using quality materials to enhance the amenity value of a neighbourhood
  • Removal of clutter – such as multiple poles and other redundant street furniture 
  • Dropped kerbs – a particular accessibility issue for people using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, pushchairs and buggies.

This programme will need a separate budget line, the expenditure of which to be reported on annually. The council should consider engaging residents, for example the Council website to allow residents to recommend particular streets where pavement upgrading is needed, and to make the case for such upgrading.

Safer crossings where they are needed

Crossings are as important to pedestrians as pavements. 

The Council should commit to:

  • Clarify and make easier current requirements for people to have their request for a new crossing investigated by Officers
  • Revise current practice, strengthening the primacy of pedestrians on our roads. This is already acknowledged by the Council in its Road User Hierarchy, as set out in Wandsworth’s Environment & Sustainability Strategy and its Walking & Cycling Strategy
  • Acknowledge that Zebra crossings give far better protection to pedestrians than so-called ‘informal’ (uncontrolled) crossings.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – building on success

The many existing LTNs across the borough show that residents generally, and pedestrians particularly, benefit from reduced through traffic, cleaner air, fewer road casualties, quiet and pleasant localities, and roads that are easier to cross. 

Rolling out LTNs more widely will build on the success of our borough’s long existing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (like the Shaftesbury Estate in Battersea and the neighbourhood west of Putney High Street) and is reinforced by updated Department for Transport Statutory Guidance – Traffic Management Act 2004: network management to support active travel, published on 1 April 2022.

The Council should commit to:

  • Residents in any local residential area to have the right to have the Council investigate putting in place effective measures to stop motorists taking a short-cut through the area, in accordance with publicly available criteria
  • Use best practice in the engagement/consultation process, including ensuring that the need for change, and the nature and timing of Council actions on streets concerned, are clearly communicated to those affected. Residents of streets directly affected are of course key relevant people to engage with; recognising that LTNs by definition create a network of safer streets, efforts should be made to promote the wider community benefits of such schemes to people who walk or cycle through the area
  • Careful monitoring and assessment, with rapid introduction of further changes, if necessary, along with correction of any errors of implementation, using the highly flexible Experimental Traffic Order mechanism. ETOs were designed to allow this ‘trialling’ approach to changes to the road network.

Parking – Fairer Treatment of all Council Taxpayers

These steps reflect the costs that motor vehicles place on our street environment, would reduce car dependence and reallocate road space to benefit those on foot. We think that on-street car parking should be progressively reallocated to other uses, as has been done elsewhere, recognising the varied functions that our streets and public realm (should) fulfil.

The Council should commit to:

  • Emissions-based parking charges for all vehicles parked on-street and off-street to better reflect the costs that motor vehicles place on our environment.
  • Offering 5 Free 1-hour Visitor Parking Permits to every household in a CPZinstead of 10 to only those residents with parking permits. Currently, only Resident Parking Permit holders are able to apply for 10 ‘Free’ 1-hour zone Parking Permits for vehicles belonging to visitors. This discriminates against car-free households in Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs). 
  • Ensure that on-street bike hangar membership is fairly priced: Currently, one space in a cycle hangar is priced by Wandsworth nearly as much as an EV parking permit, even though it takes up much less public space.
  • Allow residents of a street to request an (on-road) parklet, to enable streets to better support social and environmental uses, by reallocating some kerbside space to planting, seating etc.
  • Introduce a Workplace Parking Levy: This will help reduce the number of people choosing to drive to work in our borough instead of using public transport or other means. It would also raise additional funds to finance the changes to our road infrastructure to make walking a more attractive way of making short trips.

Greening our streets – more people-friendly spaces

For generations our roads have been shaped to facilitate travel by car rather than walking, travel by bus, or cycling.

The Council should commit to: 

  • Locate all new electric charging posts (except lamp posts) on the carriageway, not the pavement. We would like to see this clearly stated as Council policy on the Council’s website. Free-standing charging posts risk becoming the new pavement clutter of the future; street light charging is less egregious but still reduces amenity to people walking.
  • Restore the full width of pavements to pedestrian use where on-pavement parking is currently permitted, at a rate of at least five streets a year. This would be a practical way to reduce motor vehicle dominance on our streets, and to make walking safer and more pleasant for all.
  • Extend operational hours of borough Bus Lanes preferably to 24/7 (and ensure enforcement mechanisms are in place) e.g. using mobile cameras to detect and fine lawbreakers.
  • Remove parking on borough Bus Lanes. Bus travel is used by more people every day than catch trains and the Tube. Bus passengers are all pedestrians at the start and end of their trips. Their journeys must not be made longer by parked vehicles getting in the way. This measure would also reduce danger to people cycling on busy roads.
  • Widen Pavements narrower than current minimum Wandsworth Council standards by narrowing the carriageway, to address pinch-points for pedestrians and other places where people walking are cramped – for example, Battersea Church Road north of Battersea Square. Given the growth in Wandsworth’s population and the stated priority given to walking, this should be a top priority.
  • Local Street Improvements using Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (NCIL/Wandsworth Local Fund money). For example, periodically, residents in every ward can suggest projects to improve their local area. Council guidelines for making suggestions should specifically mention pedestrian-friendly measures, and prioritise them – for example, additional seating, shade, planting including Sustainable Urban Drainage, pocket park, parklet, drinking fountain…

Speed limit enforcement

We all know lack of enforcement is the Achilles heel of our borough-wide 20mph speed limit (which is so important for safety, air quality and the liveability of an area). The Met Police lack the funds and staff to do this effectively. 

The Council should commit to:

  • Continuing and potentially rolling out the council’s current trial using an experimental traffic order to help enforce speeding on local roads
  • Reviewing streets where speeding is known to be a particular issue, with a view to ‘changing the grammar’ of the street concerned (by making infrastructure and/or traffic management changes), to facilitate slower driving.

Wandsworth Living Streets, 5 April 2022, adapted 12/4/22