Saturday, 18 October 2014

Tooting Air Pollution over twice 'safe' EU limit

Work done over the summer has highlighted the horrendous air pollution that Tooting residents are currently living with.

The Furzedown Low Carbon Zone (FLCZ), supported by the trades unions, Transition Town Tooting and the London Sustainability Exchange collected samples from the 21st July to the 1st August. Download the pdf of the image above here.

This builds on work that the London Sustainability Exchange has been doing with other community groups across the borough.

Putney High Street is infamous for it's high levels of air pollution. The respite offered with the works on Putney Bridge over the summer (see this chart for the run up, and this chart for when it re-opened) clearly highlights that it is the volume of motor traffic that is the principle cause of the problem. In Battersea, around Clapham Junction train station there are black spots too. 

The Battersea Society with their ‘citizen science’ surveys have produced some alarming results. At Clapham junction they found that particulate matter, the most dangerous type of urban pollution , was five times above the European Union Limit and nitrogen dioxide levels were double the European limit.

We need real political leadership to drive change on this. We can't afford to ignore the evidence. Something that me and my Lib Dem colleagues have been fighting for locally. Creating safer streets where walking and cycling short trips are the norm is a key part of the solution.

What can you do?

If you haven't signed the following petitions please do:

Time for 20 - NB not just Tooting specific

Let's make Tooting High Street safe for all

Better, Safer people friendly streets for Smallwood Road/Fountain Road area

Also on the 22nd October, FLCZ are hosting a film night to discuss & fund raise for further local actions to be taken. You can register here.

**Update re: Other events**
On the 23rd October, The Putney Society are running the following event: What is happening in the battle against poor air quality? 7.30pm, at St Mary's Chuch, Putney. £3 for non Putney Society members to attend, free for members. Includes speakers from Kings College as well as Cabinet member Cllr Jonathan Cook.

Then on Tuesday 11th November, The Battersea Society are running their event 'Is the air in Battersea killing you?' 7.30pm at All Saints Church, Prince of Wales Drive SW11 (Near the Queenstown Road Roundabout) Speakers include Samantha Heath LSX (London Sustainability Exchange) Chief Executive, Susie Morrow chair of Wandsworth Living Streets & Houda Al Sharifi, Wandsworth Director of Public Health.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Autumn has arrived

With an incredibly dry September, the colours of the leaves in the trees and the arrival of the wind and rain has clearly announced the arrival of autumn.

As well as some beautiful scenery (in between the showers) for everyone using the roads, we all need to adjust to the new conditions. Riding my regular route to work, I'm acutely aware of the defects in the road. Our fellow road users in their cars/vans seem blissfully unaware.

The reason I, and others, cycle out in the middle of the lane on some busy roads is not to hold up others who are driving on the same road. It is to avoid being thrown off my bike by a cracked up road surface which will end up being a significant pothole.

When it is wet I'm also aware that my braking ability is diminished and change my speed accordingly. I'd be incredibly grateful if other road users (in cars, vans, buses, lorries) could do the same. Being tail gated whilst riding on a wet road surface is far from pleasant. If I were to fall I could be killed by the simple virtue of the person behind not having given me enough distance to stop.

Too often I do have little chats with drivers on my way home. They overtake in an aggressive manner, I catch them up 1-1.5km further ahead as they are stuck in traffic at lights. Some are nice, others aren't, but the fact remains that they didn't gain any time by driving aggressively. I've reported drivers to the police, nothing really comes of it.

I'd love to not give drivers the impression that I'm holding them up. It's why I've shown my support for TfL's proposed new cycle superhighways in the centre of town.

You can too via London Cycling Campaigns easy to use tool here.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Fircroft Primary school parents let down by Tooting Labour

Quite rightly there has been a lot of discussion recently about road safety. In the run up to the local elections alongside the discussions for Fishponds Road, the parents of children going to Fircroft Primary school voiced their concerns via a petition (organised by Tooting Labour) for a zebra crossing.

You can see the paper going to committee next week here with the council's response to the petition.

In my view, there are two ways to look at Labour's support for this petition - cynical or inept.

Why could it be seen as inept?

The local Labour team should be well aware of the policies that are in place to get change to happen. If they aren't, little wonder that problems have dragged on in Tooting for years. Instead of engaging with officers, and the petitioners to confirm the number of signatures needed and then forcing the council to act in light of their campaigning the result is frustrated local residents.

Why could it be seen as cynical? 

The local Labour team are likely to have been fully briefed as to what was needed to effect change. They were more interested in being seen to support change than actually deliver it. Politics at it's worst and part of the reason why in my view there is a distrust of politics.

Further illustration of Labour's desire to campaign on issues which have already been decided is their 'campaign' for cycle parking on the Heritage Estate. Over a year ago with the Wandsworth Cycling Campaign I successfully campaigned to get Bikehangars to Wandsworth. We are pending formal announcement, but the decision has already gone through committee. Now that the council is very close to announcing a trial, lo and behold Tooting Labour are 'campaigning' on this issue.

On a positive note, it does seem from the other papers going to committee next week that there is a huge amount of progress being made as a result of the work of civic society campaigners across the borough. Indeed it does seem that work is in the pipeline for major improvements to Tooting Broadway, something that I've been keen on for a number of years now.

If you would like to join me and the local Lib Dems really campaigning to improve Tooting (whether we win or lose elections) drop a line to info[at]

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Inactivity is killing us (Political & Physical)

Public Health England is currently consulting on 'Everybody Active, Every Day':

An extract from the first document (An evidence based approach to physical activity) on the link above:

Inactivity is killing us 
Physical inactivity is responsible for 1 in 6 (17%) of deaths in the UK. This makes it as dangerous as smoking. Yet over a quarter of us are still inactive, failing to achieve a minimum of 30 minutes of activity a week, and in some minority communities this falls to only one in ten adults. Whilst measurement differences limit direct comparisons, international studies using a single methodology consistently demonstrate that we lag behind most other similar countries in reducing physical inactivity.

In Tooting as you can read from my previous post about Fishponds, and the unanimous decision to do nothing by Labour and Conservative councillors on a recognised problem. The pie chart above highlights that there is a consensus that there is a problem, just a difference of opinion on how to fix it. 

The second document (Implementation & Evidence Guide) in the consultation on 'Everybody Active, Every Day' has the following extract (pg 9):

Road transport contributes to a number of health hazards and health inequalities, causing air pollution, noise and injuries, particularly in urban areas. More disadvantaged areas tend to have a higher density of roads and traffic. Pedestrians, cyclists, and users of other modes of transport that involve physical activity need the highest priority when developing or maintaining streets and roads. This can mean re-allocation of road space to support walking and cycling; restricting motor vehicle access; introducing road-user charging and traffic-calming schemes; and creating create safe routes to schools. Such policy changes have prompted substantial shifts from car transport to walking and cycling. 

Other boroughs of the same political colours representing Wandsworth today are cracking on with making these necessary changes happen. Why is it that both parties, Labour and Conservatives, locally seem so reticent to engage with the evidence base for the benefit of all? 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A chat with Dan from Putney Social

Last weekend I popped down to Putney and caught up with Dan who runs Putney Social.

Since then London Cycling Campaign have posted this, a quick way for you to show your support for their latest proposals for new Cycle Superhighways in the centre of town.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Why Tooting should support TfL's proposals for new Cycle Superhighways

You may have heard the news this week that Transport for London have launched two new consultations for a North-South and East-West cycle superhighways that will run through the centre of London.

Blackfriars Road visualisation - North-South

Victoria Embankment visualisation - East-West
You can, and should respond supporting these consultations on these links:

For sure there are some details which could be improved as with any major project, but the core thrust of what could be will be a game changer.

Local impact?

You may be thinking if you live in and around Tooting / Balham, this is all quite nice, but actually I don't really go into the centre of town so this doesn't really affect me.

It does for the following reasons. A few years ago I proposed radical changes to Balham High Road. The Mayor announced funding for TfL to work on it this spring. Looking at some of the details in the Blackfriars Road visualisation gives me a lot of hope that the consultation for Balham High Road next year will be of similar quality.

Tooting High Street and Upper Tooting Road are gridlocked almost every weekend. Earlier this year, with the local Lib Dem team as part of the local elections, we got over 700 signatures on a petition (including paper signatures) calling on the Mayor to make Tooting High Street safe for all.

The proposals for the centre of town show everyone that not only is TfL is capable of doing high quality street design. It also shows that campaigning does work. These proposals wouldn't exist without the efforts of campaigners across London and the London Cycling Campaign.

Will it slow down traffic?

Experience from New York suggests that it won't.

Next steps

Please support the consultations. There are organisations and individuals who don't think that what has been proposed will work, or that it is needed or that people deserve it.

I'd like my children to be able to grow up in a London where as a family we can all ride into the centre of town and the only worries we might have would be if it's going to rain.

PS - I'd also add that the proposals to deal with rat-running on/around the Fishponds Road area, in my view are part of the wider solution to improving our streets. Current views from our elected representatives is that doing nothing is acceptable.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Back to school - the school run - a little plea

Francis Hirzel cycles to school daily (Gabriel Szabo/Guzelian)
from Independent article linked below

As the start of the school year is only just around the corner, a little plea. 

A growing number of children would like to cycle to school and indeed are. For some it will be their first time cycling regularly on our roads. Please give our young people who are starting to cycle some space, and be considerate if they wobble or make what may seem to be an erratic decision. 

We all make mistakes, particularly when doing something new for the first time. It makes it even more important for those who have to drive their children to school that you take extra care over the next couple of weeks. 

The same goes incidentally for taking care around adults on bikes too. 

Thanks for reading, and hope that it's a good start to the new school year for everyone!