Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Green shoots of spring?

Easter weekend has come and gone. Whilst walking along Blackshaw Road on Saturday, I saw the car above. Given that the vehicle is damaged from the rear as well as the front, I suspect that some other driver managed to hit this car from behind with some force pushing the car above right over the sign post.

In terms of street vandalism, the owner of the vehicle in the picture no doubt will get an insurance claim. When it comes to fixing the sign post, our council is very unlikely to file an insurance claim to cover the costs. We all will pick up the tab for that, whether we drive or not.

For those of you not local to Tooting, this is how wide the road is at this point:

Then on Monday evening returning from a visit to my family, I saw this on twitter:

Sadly, both Labour and the Conservatives locally seem to take the view that these collisions are a suitable price to pay for the convenience of allowing people to drive everywhere, and anywhere they would like.

With my Lib Dem colleagues we take a different view. We hold the view that a more strategic approach should be taken, one where walking and cycling are included as a serious transport option, and not something to be bolted on (maybe) at the end to fit in around the space for motor vehicles. This means making choices about whether we allow unfettered through access for people to drive along residential streets. It means looking at our main roads and providing true protected space for people to be able to cycle or use a mobility scooter along them.

It seems that some local businesses are already ahead of the game on this. The Castle pub on Tooting High Street has had a refurb, and re-opened last week. This is what they've done with what was car parking space. Now, how's that for some green shoots of spring?

As an aside, The Selkirk pub has a lovely beer garden too.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Why do I do it? Why should the Fishponds trial take place?

Just gutted for the family of the people involved in that RTC (Road Traffic Collision).

It's a beautiful spring day, I'd been out collecting more signatures for the Tooting High Street petition. Got home, putting their details onto the system I check on twitter, and I see the post above.

One family today will have received a call to go to the hospital for their loved one. It is very likely that the driver of the vehicle will not have been seriously injured. Cars/vans are very good at protecting their occupants. Whilst I don't know the exact details of this RTC, it is likely that the person who has been seriously injured wasn't in a motor vehicle. Whether they were or weren't is kind of irrelevant.

The fact is that at least someone has been seriously injured this morning on Fishponds Road, as a result of someone driving a motor vehicle.

I don't want to be a family member caught up in this, when I know action can be taken to reduce the risk of events like this taking place. How many more people do we need to let get hurt, before we will even just try a different solution?

For all those that oppose the trial scheme, I don't think many would choose to swap places with the family of the seriously injured person today.

I campaign because we can, we should, we must act to reduce the chances of this happening again. We need politicians who don't just stand up and say, 'one crash is one crash too many' and then not act. We need both politicians who recognise the problem, and importantly are prepared to do something about it.

I'll be standing with the Liberal Democrats in Tooting ward in the coming local elections. I think too many people have been hurt on our streets, and nothing of substance has happened to reduce danger for too long. If you agree with me, I hope that you'll be able to support me and my colleagues with your vote so that we can try to reduce the chances of these terrible incidents taking place again.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Progress on 20mph in Wandsworth comes at a slow pace

The Tooting Labour team are rightly pleased that our council has finally moved forward on consulting residents in Furzedown and Bedford wards on 20mph limits. In Bedford ward, I understand that the Conservative councillors are also supportive, so it's good to see cross-party support for these measures.

However, what I feel is a serious lack of conviction from both parties above is the following. The Labour team talk about their campaign for 20mph in Furzedown in 2007. It is now 2014. If as a party, they had been seriously behind 20mph limits, I do think that 7 years is more than long enough to have campaigned and petitioned borough-wide.

The Conservatives have a similar lack of conviction. Senior party members know that the evidence suggests that most people are supportive of 20mph limits on residential streets when asked. Indeed where their members have 'campaigned' on it, the support has been overwhelmingly positive. Yet the lack of any real desire to make evidence based policy decisions, or indeed ensure that the council adheres to policy guidelines as highlighted in this weeks open letter to the Prime Minister, makes local progress even more challenging.

With the local elections fast approaching, for those looking for real progress, and an evidence based approach to improving the local area, there is a real choice. I'm going to be standing with the Liberal Democrat team as a candidate for councillor in Tooting.

Too many people for too long have had their concerns ignored by both Labour and the Conservatives. We need a strong voice for local people at the council, one which I believe me and my Lib Dem colleagues would be better placed to deliver.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Air pollution highlights need for safer streets

The recent weather conditions which have deposited dust from the sahara across London have highlighted the chronically bad air quality conditions that we all live with on a day to day basis.

As this report from the BBC highlights, the main cause of air pollution in London is as a result of motor traffic:

This is yet another reason why we need to create safer streets, where walking or cycling short distances become the norm.

Our Mayor talks about ‘encouraging people to walk/cycle’ something which our local authorities have been doing for decades. I’m not suggesting that they should stop doing that, but let’s fix the streets so that being able to choose to cycle to the shops doesn’t seem like a life or death decision.

There are a number of petitions that I'm running locally which I'd urge you to support, if you haven't done so already:

Achieving small changes on their own won’t fix everything, but lots of small changes can all add up.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Flow chart & local travel

Thinking about how people get around locally the other day, I thought that a flow chart could be a good way of visualising why I think making our local streets safer will improve transport choice/options. First point is the recognition that the principle cause of road danger comes from motor vehicles on our roads. (See Road Danger Reduction Forum for more info on this)

Second is how we make decisions in terms of local trips. Broadly I think the following variables come into play:

1. Purpose of trip
2. Distance to travel
3. Available options
4. Ease/comfort of journey

There may well be others, but I think these really cover it. I'm also sure that academics will have done something similar. If you know, then please do comment with a link at the bottom.

The first point could be described as the 'function of the trip/journey'. Examples could be, going to the shops, getting the children to school, going to work. The second point clearly depends on the first and will vary accordingly.

The third one is different clearly for everyone. Broadly speaking, walking, walking and public transport, walking and driving (private car/scooter/motorbike), walking and cycling. With car clubs and taxis/mini-cabs in my mind we can lump them together with public transport.

The fourth and final point, is how easy or comfortable will the trip be based on the the other points. For some, doing a big shop, will mean that they need to use the bus, or a taxi/mini cab to get their groceries home. Others will drive their car, and some ride a bicycle.

Public transport has experienced a huge growth period in the past 15-20 years in London. As I understand it, the availability and reliability of the bus network has improved significantly. Also a lot of work has been done to promote bus travel, and reduce fears about safety when using the bus network.

When it comes to walking or cycling progress is being made belatedly. According to TfL's 'Attitudes towards Cycling report' from March 2012 whilst 86% of Londoners know how to ride a bicycle, and 50% have access to a bicycle the report highlights that 'concern about safety is the most commonly mentioned deterrent to increasing/taking up cycling'.

The petitions and campaigns I've been running locally, are about creating a safer street environment. I believe that if we do that the options in terms of how people travel locally will increase. The failure to address the very real danger presented by motor traffic for years, has resulted in cycling being effectively removed as a viable choice for most people. The consequences are more congestion, more strain on public transport, and unacceptably high levels of people getting hurt on our streets. Mistakes people make behind the wheel of a car/van/lorry or bus sadly too often result in terrible consequences for people who are caught on the outside.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

What Wandsworth bike hire stats can tell us

Last week, the council announced that almost 23,000 bike hire journeys had been made in February.

It's certainly encouraging that people are choosing to use the bikes locally. That said, usage numbers on their own are difficult to judge as good/bad or indifferent if there is no benchmark or comparison point.

The article goes on:
the area around Battersea Park proved to be the most popular destination with 1,305 journeys to and from the docking station in Albert Bridge Road, 1,206 uses of the docking station at Queen’s Circus, which is directly adjacent to the park’s south easterly entrance, 940 uses on the nearby Ethelburga estate and 558 a stone’s throw away in Alfreda Street.
Battersea as a whole saw the highest level of use with a total of 9,855 bike rides.
One simple reason in my mind why the area around Battersea Park has proved so popular. The park offers a virtually motor traffic free environment where people can use bicycles.

There is another point, which I also think important to consider. Until the recent arrival of the docking stations, people who wanted to cycle, but had no storage space weren't able to cycle.

Hopefully the impending arrival of the bike hangers to Wandsworth later this summer will start to address that issue. In essence, if we provide space where people can store bicycles and a safe environment where they can ride, people will cycle.

Sadly across too much of Tooting and Wandsworth borough, most people don't feel that our streets are safe enough to cycle on. Even if they would like to, many people don't currently have any space to securely store a bicycle for daily use.

With all the support for a number of the local campaigns I've been running, hopefully change is in the offing.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Traffic a religion - it's all about belief

With all the furore surrounding the proposed trial scheme for Fishponds Road, it has certainly given me food for thought.

There are a not an insignificant number of residents in and around Tooting, who hold the belief that the scheme is crazy, a waste of money, and will cause even more congestion and potentially loss of business for local shop keepers. 

I respect their right to hold that belief.

However, I hold a different belief. One that challenges and questions their belief. This means that the debate is no longer held on rational grounds, but on emotional ones. To question the status quo, and suggest that there is a better way is threatening, and can lead to further questions as to what else could be different.

I believe that when there are differing views, which can be tested in the real world, it is right and proper to put them to the test. 

A lady I was speaking with last weekend within the trial area, who opposes the scheme, commented:

"It's all fine you talking about the theory, but I'm talking about practical issues. There will be congestion, it will be a nightmare."
Trying to explain that the very purpose of conducting a trial, is to move from the theory to the practical, was lost in that moment. Below are some more examples, of where similar schemes have been implemented, in other parts of London.

Towards Colliers Wood:

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Off Fulham Palace Road:

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Famous Goldsmiths Row:

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These are London examples. Not from another country, not even from other parts of the UK. Just a few miles away. Some have been in for years. The first example from Colliers Wood isn't as high quality as the Goldsmiths Row one, but it's exactly the same principle.

The Fulham Palace Road, is perhaps more relevant to Tooting, as there are a good number of shops there too.