Thursday, 20 November 2014

Grim reminder of violence on our roads

Last night, cycling home from work, I passed the emergency services looking after a moped rider who was on the ground under a red blanket.



They were by the traffic light closest to us in the streetview image above.

Moments earlier, I'd been passed at speed (too close for my comfort), coming up Westwood Hill. I caught up with the driver at the lights (junction with Crystal Palace Park Road), and politely tapped on the passenger window to speak with him.

He put down his mobile phone, pressed the button to lower the window, I asked him to give me a bit more space. His response was I should have been wearing hi-viz.

Riding in this morning, I reflected on the fact that earlier this summer I had helped another cyclist who had been involved with a collision just 50m from the junction in the streetview image above.

The ripped up road surface, potholes, broken glass, smashed street furniture or debris from 'minor collisions' is all around us.

It's 'Road Safety Week' this week. Another reminder that our road system is so broken, that instead of designing in safety, and reducing the risk of collision by design, we ask road users to 'Look out for each other'.

We are starting to see the green shoots of change emerge. The proposed new Cycle Superhighways in London, the wider TfL Roads development programme, the Oxford Road scheme in Manchester, and a number of schemes in Bristol (amongst others). These schemes wouldn't be happening without the dedication of campaigners across the UK many of whom have worked tirelessly for years with little thanks, I for one am immensely grateful for all of their work.

My hope is that I won't be another statistic of a road collision, and that I, along with my family and my local community will be able to safely travel in and through our local area by bike in the near future thanks to changes to our street design.

This requires political leadership at a local level, as many of the changes that need to happen will be on council controlled roads.

In hope.

PS A little later after having written the above I saw my letter to the Wandsworth Guardian has been published today.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Wandsworth Town Centre - Gyratory removal consultation


Right, this is more of a local post than recent ones about the proposed new Cycle Superhighways, but not quite Tooting (yet)!

TfL are now consulting on proposed new traffic flows in Wandsworth Town Centre, with removal of the gyratory system that local groups have been calling to be taken out for decades. In fact, probably from as soon as it went in, but that is speculation.

The proposed traffic flows look good to me, and I would urge you to respond to support TfL in this phase of the consultation.

I have, however, flagged concerns that the artists impressions omit high quality cycle routes.




This is all the more galling given the great proposals that we've now seen that TfL are capable of with the North South, East West Cycle Superhighway proposals.

The detailed design work will be done following the hopefully positive outcome of this consultation, in a secondary consultation phase.

I think this is a significant step forward in TfL evolving how they engage with local stakeholders, rather than, as has been done in the past presenting a fait-a-complis which for all intensive purposes can't be amended however valid the comments and critiques may be from the consultation process.

Please add your views here.

If we don't engage with the bodies that are re-designing our streets, then we can't be surprised when our views aren't taken into account.

Deadline for responses is the 5th December.

PS If you live in/around Tooting, consultations are in the pipeline for us too (Balham High Road, Tooting High Street/A24).

Monday, 17 November 2014

Inspector reports following public enquiry

In the summer of 2013 Wandsworth Council consulted on removing the white lines along the cycle routes through Wandsworth and Tooting Commons. I blogged about it here.

It is fair to say that there were some strong views on both sides of the debate (excuse the pun). As a result we have had a public enquiry. Today, the inspector has published his findings, where he has recommended that the orders be confirmed without modification.

I'm delighted with the outcome. That said I don't think that the valid fears and concerns raised by the objectors should be dismissed out of hand as a result of this enquiry.

I believe that it is in the interests of all that once the works have been completed there should be on-going monitoring of the routes for at least 6 months to evaluate how the changes have impacted on the user experience.

You can view the letter from the inspector to the council here.

You can view the full report from the inspector here.


Friday, 7 November 2014

Safer, enabling, empowering streets

Often in talking about 'cyclists' there is quite a narrow image of the sort of person that people conjure up in their mind. Isabelle Clements director of Wheels for Wellbeing as part of 1000 Londoners, 1 story project (has been interviewed in this video).



It is a powerful, beautiful reminder that in creating safer streets we enable and empower more members of our community to more fully participate, explore and engage with the world around us. 

Do take a few moments to watch.

PS for those watching #24HrsAE last night, if you know someone who for one reason or another has a physical mobility issue do check out Wheels for Wellbeing. As Isabelle says, her wheels give her wings. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Reasons why Labour are failing Tooting residents

Nothing is possible without total control



When I'm being critical of Labour whose councillors have been elected in Tooting (Graveney and Tooting wards since 2010), some people object and suggest that in order for the Labour team to effect change they need total control of the council.

The underlying premise is that without total control nothing can happen.

It's an absolutist approach, and one that resonates with the Tory/Labour members that hark back to a time (which never really existed) when there were only two parties in town. It fails to acknowledge that coalition has worked nationally, and that coalitions have been working for years in town halls up and down the country. To be clear by 'coalition working', from a Lib Dem perspective, the party has delivered a lot of our 2010 manifesto pledges. Granted not all, but we are the smaller party in the coalition, and there is an illiberal coalition of sorts between many in Labour and the Tories who would prefer to go back to the days when it was just a fight between the Red & Blue teams. Interesting to hear today that Labour are now claiming to support reform for the House of Lords whilst they abstained or voted against a bill that would have delivered substantial reform when they had the opportunity only a couple of years ago.

Back to Tooting


Flytipping, abandoned bikes, the pedestrian crossing next to Fircroft School (safer streets), and preventing 'shop stall creep' on Upper Tooting Road are the examples of why I think that Labour are failing local residents that I'll use in this post. I'm pretty sure that similar examples could be used against parties of other political colours, but in Tooting, of late we have Labour politicians.

Flytipping:


Back in 2008 our Graveney ward councillor and our MP were 'campaigning' on the issue. To give credit where credit is due, the approach covered in the story by the Wandsworth Guardian is laudable.

Fast forward to 2014, and thanks to local resident Tom Quaye badgering our council the Wandsworth Guardian has run a new story flagging the issue again. Labour use the fact that they don't run the whole council as a reason for why this is still a problem.

As Tomma (maybe Tom Quaye) from the article highlights in the tweet above, where can the local Labour team point to proposals they have put forward to improve things? We have the same council officers managing the street cleaning contract for us in Tooting as in Putney. Officers will prioritise their efforts where issues have been flagged. If our councillors don't raise it then it is less of a priority.

Abandoned bikes:


Around Tooting Bec and Tooting Broadway tube there are a bunch of bikes that are locked to the stands that have been vandalised and parts stolen from them. For whatever reason their owners have left the rest of their bike attached to the stands.

Concerted action by local councillors could ensure that these are dealt with.

Can you imagine an abandoned, burnt out car being left in the town centre?

On an aside, cars/vans are being left to rust away on our residential streets as you can see in this post.

Pedestrian crossing next to Fircroft School:


Labour's failure to understand the process is the underlying reason why this call for action was rejected at the committee. You can view the decision on the committee papers (14 - 492) here.

If Labour were running the council they would need to change all the policies in place in order for their approach to be adopted. Instead of engaging with officers at the outset, or having a good understanding of process from their years of having elected councillors, the petition was drawn up, they gathered support and end result no action.

Compare and contrast what I did for the Fishponds campaign.

I checked in advance with officers what number of signatures would be needed, then went and gathered them all, and finally the consultation happened. Leaving aside the detailed points of the Fishponds scheme, if I, without being elected, can campaign and get a consultation to happen for street change it begs the question why are the Labour team unable to do so?

However, what is clear from Fishponds, is that neither Labour or the Conservatives are even prepared to try to fix an acknowledged problem. Little wonder problems last for years in Tooting as the consensus between the Red & Blue teams is to do nothing.

'Shop stall creep' on Upper Tooting Road:


In the local elections this was flagged as an issue, and I checked with the Town Centre Manager to see what had been done. She told me that a few years ago the issue had been raised. As the road is a TfL managed road the council had come to an agreement with TfL to pass over responsibility for a trial period to the council. Monitoring and enforcement was then carried out by the council contracted enforcement officers that work in the rest of the town centre.

Lo and behold this approach worked, result you may think. However, as our councillors didn't keep on top of it, when the trial period lapsed it wasn't renewed.

Fast forward a few years on and the same problem has returned. Another opportunity for another politician to be seeing to do something. Dan Watkins the conservative PPC to his credit has been out with officers. Again, if either the Red/Blue political representatives in Wandsworth were keen on really fixing problems then this one should have been in the bag years ago when the trial solution worked!

Empowerment & plurality of views


Being a Lib Dem my approach is one of empowerment, looking to fix problems so that where possible we don't need to re-visit the same ground time and time again.

I welcome plurality of views, and recognise that often in complex issues there is more than one solution and that within my party we don't always have the solution. But, as a party we are open to listening to experts, looking at the evidence, and want to fix issues so that we can move onto the next ones. We want to genuinely engage with people from across the community, not just 'our supporters'.

Engaging with people 'whatever your politics' is a hollow claim from our Labour councillors.

Regular followers of my blog will know that I petitioned for changes to Mitcham Lane last year. This has gone before the committee and officers are now working on proposals which is a real result that I'm immensely proud of.

At around the same time that I was petitioning, local Labour councillor Mark Thomas did a survey with businesses on the parade at the Thrale Road end of Mitcham Lane. At the notes from the last committee meeting Cllr Cooper passed comments from the people that her team had been in touch with to the committee. None of the councillors contacted me in advance of the committee meeting to seek my views, or represent me and the 550 people that had supported my petition.

The first time the paper went before the committee, the Labour councillors, whilst having invited a deputation from the people they had surveyed, instead of welcoming my views voted for me not to speak. Cllr Jones has informed me that it was because I didn't turn up with 3-4 other people and it was because of process.

Fortunately the Conservative majority on the committee didn't take that view.

I celebrate diversity in all guises, and try to understand differing points of view whilst not always agreeing with them. I think we should support people holding varying political affiliations working to better the community. It is sad that the local Labour team seem so partisan in their approach.

Any party unchallenged is at risk of complacency and 'listening to their own'. Labour dominate in terms of elected representatives in Tooting, and in my view our community is the poorer for it.

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. 

**Update**
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.
**Update**

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.

**Update x2 - Transition Town Tooting event**
Date: Wed, November 26, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Venue: Tooting United Reform Church, Rookstone Road, SW17 (junction with Mitcham Road) (map)
Did you know that if you live in London you lose approx 2 years of life expectancy from air pollution? Tthere are parts of Tooting where Nitrogen Dioxide levels are 2 to 3 times the European safe exposure limit? Tests carried out on Tooting High Street show dangerous levels of air pollution. The Mayor of London’s ’ultra-low emission zone’ does not include Tooting. Much more needs to be done to ensure Tooting has a clear bill of health! This event will look at the issues in depth.

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.