An open letter to the leader of Barnet Council on Covid-19 and Streetspace

Last week, a report in the local Times on the discussion within the Council for a post-Covid recovery included a claim by the Leader that the Borough is ”pro-cycling”.  Unfortunately, the facts on the ground do not bear this out.   [Councillors discuss Barnet’s recovery plan from Covid-19, 19th June]   

On the same day it was revealed that cash-strapped Barnet had failed to receive any of the first tranche of £80m funding from TFL for schemes to improve cycling and walking. 

This money has been set aside for Local Authorities to provide space for pedestrians to safely return to our high streets and allow people to travel to work and school by bike (rather than sit in constant gridlock). 

Other outer London boroughs are taking this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but Barnet seems to believe that cycling will never be a viable form of transport. In fact, TFL data shows that Barnet has the highest potential for growth in cycling throughout London. Two-thirds of journeys in Barnet are less than 3 miles (a 15-minute ride). Nearly all residents live within a 10-minute ride of their local school, shops, or park and 40% of residents work in the borough.  Today we have written an open letter to Cllr Thomas setting out how many more would choose to cycle if the streets were not so hostile, which would make our roads quieter, the air cleaner and our town centres more appealing:

Streetspace Funding Allocation Article – Barnet Cycling Campaign response

Dear Cllr Thomas,

We are writing to you directly in response to the article in the Barnet Times about the Covid-19 recovery plan and following the publication by TFL of their first funding allocations for Streetspace.

We were disappointed to see that, so far, Barnet has not secured any of the funding that is available and hope the Council will be able to submit a successful bid in the next round so that the borough does not miss out on this much-needed budget.

From discussions with local officers we have been told that a proposal for part of the A1000 is in the works and we want to offer our support to help ensure this bid is successful. Barnet Cycling Campaign, as part of the wider London Cycling Campaign, are well placed to advise on the quality of the scheme to ensure that it stands the best chance of succeeding. With our help, we can all formulate a plan to secure both vital funds and to make sure the scheme is well-used by the community.

However, there is a bigger issue demonstrated by you, and one which shows why the Council will find it hard to get funding for its schemes.

It is clear from your comments in the article, and other correspondence with some councillors, there is a clear lack of understanding about what motivates people to cycle.

Looking at the quotes attributed to you:

You mention that cycling has ‘’barely grown’’.

We agree with this, and the root cause is council policy. It has been well proven both in other parts of London and elsewhere in the world, the one and only barrier is the availability of safe cycling routes and low-traffic neighbourhoods. Hills, weather, age and other perceived obstacles have been shown time and time again to not be so.

Need we remind you that Barnet is consistently one of the worst boroughs when it comes to KSI statistics? By not providing safe routes, the council is essentially opening a shark infested beach and saying, “we can’t remove the sharks because swimming hasn’t grown”.

You said “Not everyone wants to cycle to work, have a shower, and at the end of a hard day’s work cycle back uphill – particularly to High Barnet”

Is this an evidence-based statistic or an opinion? If the former, we would be very interested in seeing the Council’s evidence base. More critically, the same could be applied to any transport method. Not everyone wants to sit in traffic for an hour or owns a car. Not everyone wants to sit on a crowed tube, even before the pandemic. Taking this line is denying those who do wish to cycle the opportunity to do so, it is creating a closed market, denying an alternative because they don’t feel safe enough to cycle. The Council’s job is to provide the infrastructure for all to be safe, not to make judgements on how they perceive people to think.

Your comment also makes two questionable assumptions; That cycling is physically demanding and more time consuming than commuting by Tube, and that the entire topic is about commuters to the centre of town only.

Cycling to central London from Barnet is as quick as the Tube or driving, taking around an hour from High Barnet for an average person at speeds which would not break a sweat for anyone who does it regularly. Additionally, bikes are not as affected by traffic jams, breakdowns and strikes, making it a far more predictable journey than either car or public transport.

The requirement to have safe routes for cycling is far from being only for the distance commuter. Currently, there is a need to help those who commute by tube; however, we need to address getting people back to our high streets. With the need to socially distance on pavements paramount, it is a matter of time before you will have to start looking at taking out high street parking to create space or risk a second wave in Barnet. When you do this, people will need to turn to other modes for their shopping. This is good for a high street, a person doing 3-4 smaller shops by bike will spend as much per month as someone doing a single big shop by car.

We ask you if you modelled how many residents live within a 10-minute sweat-free ride of their local shops, park or school? We can tell you that you have and It’s nearly all of them. Your own Long Term Transport Strategy consultation showed that over 2/3rds of car journeys within Barnet are less than 5km and that nearly every resident is only 10-minute, sweat-free, ride from their nearest shops, school or park. 40% of Barnet residents live and work within the borough and 30% of workers come in from the adjacent boroughs.

These are the types of journeys that many residents would rather cycle. For example, here is a list of journeys from your own ward with an estimate of the time it will take the average (unfit) person, the distance and total ascent

• Hendon Town Hall: 14mins, 3.1km, 30m

• Whetstone: 24mins, 5.6km, 20m

• East Finchley: 13 mins, 3km, 10m

• Golders Green station: 14 mins, 3.5km, 30m

• Burnt Oak Library: 22min, 5.7km, 20m

• Mill Hill Broadway: 20mins, 5km, 30m

We would happily take you on a ride on any of these trips to show you both how easy this could be, and the dangers people currently face.

Contrary to the belief of the Councillors we have spoken to, this is not about getting everyone to walk & cycle but enabling those who want to. Whilst you say you a pro-cycling, and the Long Term Transport Strategy talked a lot about reducing car use and increasing walking and cycling, when presented with the opportunity to do so you push back.

You mention ‘quadrupling’ as if it is some unachievable target that would have no benefit, but have you analysed the TFL propensity for cycling data?

Barnet is the borough which has the highest potential increase, moving from 8,500 trips by bike (2005-8) to 241,200, a staggering 28-fold increase (and yet still only 37% of mechanised trips). Quadrupling should be the absolute minimum achievable for any council in your position.

• Where is the borough’s plan to get more kids cycling to school from September?

• Where is the plan to deliver low-traffic neighbourhoods?

• Where is the plan to connect local town centres with active travel?

• Where is the plan to widen pavements and reduce traffic to revitalise our high streets?

• Have you modelled the increase in traffic from continuing to do nothing?

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver those improvements within months rather than over 15 years. Without you seizing this moment, you will not deliver your Long Term Transport Strategy. As mentioned, we want to work in partnership with you. We have already submitted a wide range of proposed routes and interventions and would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you and Cllr Cohen to discuss.

You have a very simple choice to make.

You can carry on your current path, acting under assumptions and misrepresentation, heading towards a traffic heavy, polluted borough which will continue put the lives of its residents at risk daily. Alternatively, you can work with us and other groups to truly free our borough’s economy and secure a legacy as leader of a healthy, vibrant borough with a revitalised high street scene capable of fighting the next pandemic.

Yours sincerely,

Barnet Cycling Campaign

Email: campaigns@barnetlcc.org


Barnet Cycling Campaign is the local borough group of London Cycling Campaign (LCC). We represent the interests of cyclists living or working in the Borough of Barnet and aim to expand the opportunities for all to cycle safely in the borough.

The group has over 300 members in Barnet of all ages and abilities, including commuter, utility, sport and leisure cyclists. We encourage more active, healthy forms of travel and help to get people out on their bikes and riding on the roads in Barnet. We campaign to make streets in Barnet healthier, safer and an improved experience for all cyclists, walkers and public transport users.

Emergency Cycle Lanes in Barnet

A radical change for Active Travel

The Government’s response to Covid-19 has led to a radical change in expectations on Local Authorities for traffic management in the form of statutory guidance. It recognises all of the advantages of active travel we have been advocating for years and states: “The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.”

The implications are profound. For the first time ever, there is a statutory duty on councils to provide safe cycle routes and encourage active travel. That means more than simply providing cycle parking and training. Allocation of Government funding for highways may depend on councils meeting these new obligations.

What’s happening in Barnet?

Barnet Council officers have the go-ahead from Councillors for temporary ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes on the A1000 from Tally-Ho to the border with Haringey. It’s a good start, but much less than what we have called for.

With problems using public transport, we are concerned that the roads could become even busier than before the pandemic.

Please would you email the council leader Cllr Daniel Thomas using https://membership.lcc.org.uk/help-london-stop-tide-motor-traffic-returning to reinforce the message that action is needed now.

You can also use the Cycling UK campaign: https://action.cyclinguk.org/page/59646/action/1 This lets you send an email to your local councillors in addition to the council leader. It also lets you do a follow up email to thank them for any measures and suggest others.

Government expectations

Here is the statutory guidance on reallocating road space:

Reallocating road space: measures

Local authorities in areas with high levels of public transport use should take measures to reallocate road space to people walking and cycling, both to encourage active travel and to enable social distancing during restart (social distancing in this context primarily refers to the need for people to stay 2 metres apart where possible when outdoors). Local authorities where public transport use is low should be considering all possible measures.

Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect.

None of these measures are new – they are interventions that are a standard part of the traffic management toolkit, but a step-change in their roll-out is needed to ensure a green restart. They include:

  • Installing ‘pop-up’ cycle facilities with a minimum level of physical separation from volume traffic; for example, mandatory cycle lanes, using light segregation features such as flexible plastic wands; or quickly converting traffic lanes into temporary cycle lanes (suspending parking bays where necessary); widening existing cycle lanes to enable cyclists to maintain distancing. Facilities should be segregated as far as possible, i.e. with physical measures separating cyclists and other traffic. Lanes indicated by road markings only are very unlikely to be sufficient to deliver the level of change needed, especially in the longer term.
  • Using cones and barriers: to widen footways along lengths of road, particularly outside shops and transport hubs; to provide more space at bus stops to allow people to queue and socially distance; to widen pedestrian refuges and crossings (both formal and informal) to enable people to cross roads safely and at a distance.
  • Encouraging walking and cycling to school, for example through the introduction of more ‘school streets’. Pioneered in London, these are areas around schools where motor traffic is restricted at pick-up and drop-off times, during term-time. They can be effective in encouraging more walking and cycling, particularly where good facilities exist on routes to the school and where the parents, children and school are involved as part of the scheme development.
  • Reducing speed limits: 20mph speed limits are being more widely adopted as an appropriate speed limit for residential roads, and many through streets in built-up areas. 20mph limits alone will not be sufficient to meet the needs of active travel, but in association with other measures, reducing the speed limit can provide a more attractive and safer environment for walking and cycling.
  • Introducing pedestrian and cycle zones: restricting access for motor vehicles at certain times (or at all times) to specific streets, or networks of streets, particularly town centres and high streets. This will enable active travel but also social distancing in places where people are likely to gather.
  • Modal filters (also known as filtered permeability); closing roads to motor traffic, for example by using planters or large barriers. Often used in residential areas, this can create neighbourhoods that are low-traffic or traffic free, creating a more pleasant environment that encourages people to walk and cycle, and improving safety.
  • Providing additional cycle parking facilities at key locations, such as outside stations and in high streets, to accommodate an increase in cycling, for example by repurposing parking bays to accommodate cycle racks.
  • Changes to junction design to accommodate more cyclists – for example, extending Advanced Stop Lines at traffic lights to the maximum permitted depth of 7.5 metres where possible.
  • ‘Whole-route’ approaches to create corridors for buses, cycles and access only on key routes into town and city centres.
  • Identifying and bringing forward permanent schemes already planned, for example under Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans, and that can be constructed relatively quickly.

Our call for temporary emergency cycle lanes and widened pavements

Update 21/05/2020This map shows our 1st, 2nd and 3rd priority routes for #StreetspaceLDN in Barnet.

This is our open letter to Barnet Council urging action to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians during the Coronavirus emergency.

To : Ilias Ioannaou (Cycling Officer)

Cc: Geoff Mee (Executive Director, Environment), Cllr. Dean Cohen (Chair of Environment Committee), Cllr. Alan Schneiderman (Opposition Spokesperson on Environment)

29/4/20

Dear Ilias

During the coronavirus emergency, there has been a radical change in transport patterns within London and this situation is likely to continue for some time.

Around Barnet, more key workers are cycling to work whilst large numbers of residents are cycling and walking for exercise or shopping more locally. On the negative side, quieter roads have led to an upsurge in speeding.

In other Boroughs, such as Lewisham and Lambeth, plans are being formed to put in temporary emergency cycle lanes and widened pavements to make it safer to cycle and to ensure people have plenty of space to queue outside shops and get around safely (see attached photos).

They are also considering how transport patterns will change as the lockdown eases so that people can continue to get around safely.

This link details Lambeth’s policy: https://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?ID=6585

See also this guide on what local authorities can do during the current emergency.

What is Barnet planning? Has the Borough considered any similar measures? Are you planning to consult with residents and stakeholders, or work with the Mayor and TFL? How will you identify streets and areas for action?

Some specific ideas might include-

  • Temporary low traffic neighbourhoods under Experimental Traffic Orders to reduce through traffic so that streets are safer for residents to walk and cycle.
  • Create temporary cycle lanes on main corridors using cones and barriers. Roads like the A1000 from High Barnet to East Finchley, the A598 through Temple Fortune and Finchley, the A502 through Golders Green and Hendon and the A5 on the western edge of the borough are all wide roads with space to accommodate cycle lanes.
  • Widening pavements in town centres with temporary suspension of street parking.

We look forward to hearing from you and supporting your plans,

Regards

Charles Harvey

campaigns@barnetlcc.org


What you can do:

Contact your local councillors to suggest places in your ward needing extra space for cycling & walking: https://e-activist.com/page/59487/action/1 [Please copy your ideas to campaigns@barnetlcc.org]

Further reading:

TfL Streetspace for London page, including outline plans for emergency cycle routes and guidance for Boroughs.

This excellent article is quite long but well worth reading: How do you build a city for a pandemic.

Coronavirus in Scotland: Pop-up paths and cycle lanes to boost social distancing.

Milan announces ambitious scheme to reduce car use after lockdown.

Victoria Quarter development in New Barnet

Fairview Homes are planning to build 652 residential units in 14 blocks of up to 10 storeys with 392 car parking spaces on the former British Gas Works in New Barnet. This is almost double the size of the former plans agreed by the Council.

https://publicaccess.barnet.gov.uk/online-applications/ Reference: 20/1719/FUL
Direct link: https://tinyurl.com/vqappapr2020

Proposals to improve active travel are minimal and we have objections on grounds of highway safety and traffic generation. Disabled persons’ access in the area is also problematic.

You can view our response here and may wish to respond personally if you know the area.

Coverage in The Barnet Society News has highlighted some key points, including the need for:

  • traffic calming measures at the hazardous road junctions either side of the railway bridge, at the junction of Station Road, Station Approach and Lytton Road and the junction of East Barnet Road and Victoria Road;
  • cycling routes to New Barnet main line station and safe cycling routes to both High Barnet and Cockfosters tube stations;
  • a new level footway and cycle way along the northern boundary of the Victoria Quarter site linking to an improved tunnel under the main line to provide access to schools in the area.

If you would like to help with cycle campaigning in Barnet please contact Charles Harvey (Email: campaigns@barnetlcc.org).

Our response to the draft Transport Strategy for Barnet

The consultation is published here https://engage.barnet.gov.uk/Draft-Transport-Strategy and closes on Friday 24 April.

Between 2020 and 2041 Barnet’s population is predicted to grow by 14% to 450,000 and this strategy seeks to define how their needs for transport will be met over that period.  It is linked closely to Barnet’s Local Plan on which we responded in March.

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It is not viable simply to change the fuel used in motor vehicles or to hope that people use public transport instead. We argue for a much greater emphasis on sustainable and shared mobility solutions and a more ambitious roll out of a cycle network and low traffic neighbourhoods.

You can view our response here.

If you would like to help with cycle campaigning in Barnet please contact Charles Harvey (Email: campaigns@barnetlcc.org).

Our response to the draft Local Plan for Barnet

The consultation is published here https://engage.barnet.gov.uk/Draft-Local-Plan-Consultation and closes on Monday 16 March.

This stage defines the approach to development over the next 15 years and we have commented on most aspects relevant to cycling, including transport and climate change.

It includes details of 67 sites identified for development around Barnet and you may wish to respond personally.

The next stage of consultation should include a delivery plan.

You can read our response here.

South Central Hertfordshire Growth and Transport Plan: Response from Barnet Cycling Campaign

Herts Council are consulting on their plans for a new transport strategy for transport improvements and investment in Welwyn Hatfield, Hertsmere and St Albans, in line with forecast development to 2031. This is important for those of us who cycle between LB Barnet and Hertfordshire and our Campaign Group has sent in the following response:

Continue reading “South Central Hertfordshire Growth and Transport Plan: Response from Barnet Cycling Campaign”

Yes to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

For anyone with concerns about traffic using Barnet’s residential streets as short cuts, the debate over the Low Traffic Neighbourhood plan for the Fox Lane area in Enfield is both relevant and enlightening.  Many residents in the affected area want to benefit from the improved safety, lower air and noise pollution and opportunities for walking and cycling that a significant reduction in traffic volume would bring.

Others claim that surrounding roads wont cope and all that’s needed are speed humps and 20 mph signs. Anyone who believes that should visit Waltham Forest, or just spend a few minutes viewing this film of the best place in the world to cycle https://vimeo.com/76207227

It’s clear that changing the thinking, that spreading through traffic around a grid of streets is better than keeping it on main roads, is challenging. Smartphone Apps like Waze, which provide instant routing changes to avoid traffic, encourage this spreading onto residential streets. It leads to a viscous circle with locals using cars for short journeys, as they feel safer driving than cycling or walking.

Modern housing developments are often designed as ‘cells’ with a single way in and out for traffic, but grids of streets laid out in Edwardian times can be hard to convert. Enfield Council has proposed one design of road closures and bus gates, while Fox Lane residents have now come up with a revised approach. We look forward to seeing what happens when the trial scheme is in place. Read more at Better Streets for Enfield

Fox Lane Plans Revealed

Enfield Council has followed its aspiration for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) with detailed proposals for the first of these in the Fox Lane area, close to the Barnet border.

Under the plans, this large network of residential streets between Southgate Green, Bourne Hill and Green Lanes with have 18 road closures (except cycles), 2 of which will be bus gates. The bus gate on Fox Lane will divide the area into two cells, each having just one entry point for motor vehicles.

The local campaign group thinks reducing those car journeys to a few hundred (mainly residents’ vehicles entering/exiting the area) will be transformational. They expect fewer collisions, less speeding, a stronger sense of community, and a big rise in all-age walking and cycling, especially on the school run. Read more…

What are LTNs?

This begs the question on what residents in other outer London boroughs want for their neighbourhoods, especially for us in Barnet.

Enfield Council plans low traffic neighbourhoods

This week Enfield Council announced plans to create “low traffic neighbourhoods” (LTNs) throughout the borough. “The ambition of the Council is to adopt a ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhood’ approach, where ‘through’ motor vehicle traffic is discouraged or removed.”

This is good news for Enfield and something that Barnet should be doing.

We congratulate Better Streets for Enfield, whose top campaign ask is to see a low traffic neighbourhood in every ward, preventing through motor traffic from cutting through residential areas and prioritising active travel and residents’ well being over car journeys.

The Connaught Gardens low traffic neighbourhood will take the whole area into account, including busy through route Hazelwood Lane. See http://cycleenfield.co.uk/quieter-neighbourhoods/

While Enfield’s “Mini Holland” funding from the Mayor has led to miles of new cycle infrastructure, so far not a single road has been closed to through motor traffic. Enfield has experimented with measures like width restrictions, which the council found was ineffective in reducing traffic speed and volume. Meanwhile in the neighbouring Mini Holland borough of Waltham Forest, 40 roads have been closed to rat running drivers since 2014, leading to a significant rise in walking and cycling and a drop in short car journeys and air pollution.

Orford Road, at the heart of Walthamstow’s low traffic neighbourhood, only allows buses and bikes from 10am to 10pm Cyclists on Orford Road

Low traffic neighbourhoods will transform Enfield’s streets. The public health benefits – encouraging more all-age active travel, reducing air pollution and strengthening communities – can’t be overstated. LTNs are also an important tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Which neighbourhoods will be low in traffic?

According to the Cycle Enfield website, the first phase will address three areas: those surrounding Fox Lane N13, Connaught Gardens N13 and Fernleigh Gardens N21. The maps on the website suggest that the areas will be treated as a whole and through traffic kept on surrounding main roads.

A second phase will focus on the Bowes Park area, where Better Streets has long supported a local campaign for a low traffic neighbourhood; and the areas surrounding Bush Hill Road and Firs Lane.

A third phase will look at neighbourhoods east of the A1010/Hertford Road and Fore Street in Edmonton and areas surrounding the Hertford Road north of Ponders End. These larger areas will be divided into smaller sub-areas for LTN treatment.