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!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Fishponds - a different take on the consultation responses

The whole Fishponds saga for me is a microcosm of the political challenges that we face as a community if we genuinely wish to see progress. Taken at face value the responses from the consultation seemed to give an overwhelming rejection of the trial approach which my Lib Dem colleagues and I were advocating.

There is cross party consensus that there is a problem, the challenge is doing anything to actually fix it. The pie chart shown above is from the data provided from the consultation (I put in an FOI request to get the breakdown - view pdf here) . I've added an extra layer, which broadly categorises the comments into people who agree there is a problem, those who think there isn't one, those who are undecided, and people using the consultation to flag other issues.

It is worth, in my view, re-visiting part of the conclusion made by the highway engineers/officers who wrote report 13-741:

There is a possibility that there will be a increase in traffic flows in some residential roads due to transfer of traffic on account of the point closures, but this will be offset by the forecasted reduction in traffic over the larger area.
In my view, the officers are stating that resident concerns of an increase in traffic are unlikely to be realised because of the forecasted reduction in traffic over the larger area.

Labour and Conservative councillors on the committee were unanimous in their view that nothing more should be done here in supporting the recommendations in paper 14-371. I should also add, that in my view officers made exactly the right recommendation. Officers work in a political environment where they need to respond to the councillors who are elected to represent us.

It does beg the question, can local people really be too surprised if long standing problems aren't fixed when neither of the two elected parties are prepared to call for any real action? This was the 4th consultation for the same problem in 12 years. No action has been suggested to date (that I'm aware of) by either of the elected parties to resolve this.

With my Lib Dem colleagues we will continue to work hard to get action to fix long standing local problems. That frustration was what led me to stand in the local elections. Officers frequently know how to fix local issues, but all too often our politicians get in the way.

If you are tired and frustrated by the lack of any real action do get in touch. There is a group of people locally who really do want to make a difference. I hope that in future elections people will be able to scrutinise the record of action, or lack thereof, to sort out local problems by those political groups who currently represent us. Maybe in the future we'll have a few more people supporting the Lib Dems locally, and we can really start to fix some of these issues.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Decaying van rusting to bits in the street

It's coming up for two years since I first came to view the property that is now my home in Furzedown. Fairly confident betting that it's been a little longer that this van has been parked on my street.

Thanks to the pro-active nature of the Labour team in Tooting & Furzedown that represent us locally I'm left wondering if they are waiting for the van to naturally decay and then claim that it's as a result of their work!

Another issue on Mitcham Lane is the cars that are regularly parked there for sale, clearly not private re-sellers. If local people keep on voting Labour, we can't be surprised if we keep the same problems.

A Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) would probably help. Even though the lead councillor locally, Cllr Leonie Cooper, is co-chair of SERA (Labour's environmental group), you would have thought that a CPZ might have already been put in place given how long she has been a councillor. Doesn't really say much for her local action/credentials on the environment.

Given the lack of action shown by Labour, with my Lib Dem colleagues we are working to tackle issues such as this. If you'd like to get involved and help out do get in touch.