Do you know your school street from your low traffic neighbourhood? Your modal filter from you bus priority road? Find out about the measures the Council is proposing as a solution to enable distancing after lockdown. What do they do and why this is important?
Brent Council has published its recovery transport plan on 9 June, setting out a series of measures they are hoping to implement, to enable people to distance themselves as we restart from lockdown. We have published our response here.
These measures are mandatory for all local authorities to do, as explained here, and there is funding available for councils who show decisiveness and leadership. There will be a period of engagement as views are sought over how best to implement these necessary changes.
These measures are to enable walking and cycling as we have been told to avoid public transport. In Brent, with only half of the population owning a car, we heavily rely on the public transport network. Therefore, these proposed measures, if implemented will offer an alternative mode of transport, to suppress a surge of motor traffic which would be catastrophic for our health.
So what are those measures, central government mandated local authorities to implement swiftly and meaningfully? What do they do? How do they work?
Buses need to be reliable and obstructions on routes are a major cause of delays. During recovery, public transport will not be at full capacity because of the need to observe distancing.
During the recovery, workers will adapt with going in at different times so it’s crucial that they can have a reliable bus service. To minimise disruption to the wider public’s lives, the council may introduce measures like parking suspension on routes where this is a problem.
Access to the road where a school is located, is only opened up to people walking and cycling, during school drop off and pick-up times. Residents, blue badge holders and emergency vehicles still have access. Operational only term times.
This is to protect children and their families from pollution, road danger, and support them in their choice to actively travel to school. Physical distancing means that parents will have to spread out on pavement outside the school so they need the space for doing so safely.
Brent already has two schools piloting these schemes, using ANPR cameras, however the current emergency may mean that a temporary barrier is used for now.
School streets are effective in decreasing level of traffic at the school but also in surrounding streets. They also lead to an increase of active travel, making the schoolrun much more enjoyable for everyone.
Find out more on Transport for London Streetspace guidance.
In area where pavements are narrow and footfall is high, people need more space to pass each other at the recommended physical distance. In some areas, there may be obstructions to pedestrians due to a particular layout.
The Council has started on these measures by widening the space for pedestrians on the pavement. This was achieved with block barriers installed on the road, in effect, extending or doubling the size of the pavement so people can be safe when stepping on the road.
Ramps need to be installed with enough allowance to make it easy and comfortable for wheelchair users, mobility scooters and families with strollers, to go up and down the pavement without any inconvenience.
In some places, it may be necessary to suspend parking. Provision for disabled parking however will remain, and if absolutely necessary to be moved, it would need to somewhere else nearby which still offer convenient access.
Parking are not linked to level of customers and spending. On the contrary, people coming to shop on foot, cycling or by public transport spend on average 30% to 40% more than those coming in a private motor vehicle. Read the research by London Business Improvement Districts (source: Survey of London BIDS) to find out more.
The need for physical distancing makes it difficult to use public transport. Walking can only get you so far. For those of us who can’t work from home and who work further than 1 mile away, cycling is the most efficient way to get from A to B. Given the established link between the effects of covid19 and pollution, using a motor vehicle for work commute is not recommended.
We expect this temporary infrastructure to be safe (physically separated), inclusive (wide enough to be suitable for cargobikes, adapted cycles and families) and as connected as possible. Transport for London’s Streetspace Plan recommends using Berlin Temporary Cycle Lanes Guide.
Councils have used cones, temporary barriers and flexible wands to reallocate space for cycling safely away from motor vehicles. Such materials are much better than paint as they visually and physically designate a space.
The council has the data they need to create safe space for distancing when cycling in places where they are desperately needed. In Brent, one of the major barriers that prevent cycling from being the obvious and most convenient alternative to public transport is the North Circular Road.
We have been advocating for years for safe and inclusive crossings. Now is the time to do it. We need three crossings to cover the whole borough. So in addition to the one proposed in the West part (Hillside/Craven Park), we need one in the East (the A5/Edgware Road), and one in the centre (Blackbird Hill/Neasden).
The council also needs to ensure safe space for people cycling to work in hospitals, so healthy corridors around hospitals and other medical centres. Any areas where level of pollution and deprivation are high, would greatly benefit from these measures.
A low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) is a very simple idea: it’s protecting a group of residential streets from through traffic (rat runs). It works best for an area up to 1km2 because it is walkable, so no longer than a 15 minutes walk. LTNs are usually bordered by main roads or natural lines (river, trainlines, etc…).
This is achieved with a combination of modal filters (planters, bollards, alternated one way streets, bus gates – where buses are the only motor vehicles allowed -, school streets) placed in several locations within the area. This prevents motor traffic from using residential streets to bypass the main road near by. This ‘short cut’ phenomenon has worsened recently because of phone apps such as Waze which identify, in real time, quieter and congestion-free areas and tell drivers to go there instead of staying on the main road.
With quieter streets, local residents are safer to walk or cycle around their neighbourhood and people living there, as well as their visitors, can still access every address by car. Access is enabled by going around, instead of through.
There are some misconceptions about low traffic neighbourhoods, here is a myth buster from A Guide to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods by Rosehill Highways, London Living Streets and London Cycling CampaignMyth-Buster-LTNs
A study of emergency services response times was published following the implementation of low traffic neighbourhoods in Waltham Forest and evidence shows that response times have actually improved not surprisingly since this is a measure that is effective at reducing traffic.
Low traffic neighbourhoods are highly effective in reducing pollution, road danger and cutting congestion. By also enabling active travel, LTNs lead to noticeable improvements to residents’ health. Businesses and retailers, within the neighbourhood, also benefit as it is well evidenced that shoppers visiting on foot, cycling or by public transport spend and average of 30%-40% more than those coming by cars.
With regards to fears over traffic displacement, this study by Professor Rachel Aldred shows that traffic does not behave like water and that drivers will adapt by either changing their habits (for instance, instead of going to a shopping mall, people may start using their local shops more, therefore not needing the car) or swapping transport modes. This is known as traffic evaporation and it usually leads to a 15% reduction in motor traffic.
Sustrans have just produced an An introductory guide to low-traffic neighbourhood design to help communities with improving their own neighbourhoods. This guide contains practical advice from making the case for a LTN to a method on prioritisation.
Brent Council submitted bids to the new funding stream (Active Travel Fund delivered by the DfT and TfL). This funding has been made available to reallocate space to active travel so we can avoid public transport where distancing is difficult.
Due to the health emergency, local authorities can use Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) to quickly implement interventions such as school streets, low traffic neighbourhoods, pavement widening and pop-up cycle lanes. All these changes contribute to more cycling and walking by supporting people who choose to leave their car at home for local, routine trips.
An ETO enables local authorities to try things out for 18 months before making a decision over whether or not transforming the trial into a permanent scheme. Once a new scheme under an ETO is in place, residents have 6 months to air their views during which the council can make tweaks to the scheme.
This is a process that still allows residents to have a say during the consultation period. It also has the advantage for views expressed to be based on real life situations rather than misinformation and endless exchange of opinions as opposed to factual observations. ETOs are also an opportunity for the local authority to harvest live data and supporting evidence that a specific scheme is right for a specific location.
Sylvia is the current Brent Cycling Campaign Coordinator. She is a Cricklewood resident and a cargobike mum of two.