16 October  & Watts response - Long read!

Dear Islington Residents,

Thank you for your detailed email with feedback on our people-friendly streets programme.

We are implementing people-friendly streets across the borough as we believe that if we do nothing as more people return to school and work, the impact on local residents, and on residential streets and main roads, will be extremely detrimental.

We do appreciate that the measures will add time to some journeys, in particular shorter ones. The reason we have brought the measures in now is to try to prevent a rapid escalation in the number of vehicles using local streets as lockdown eases. This would have a very detrimental impact on residents living and moving around their local streets, especially for the approximately 70% of Islington households who do not have access to a private car and therefore largely rely on walking, wheeling and cycling to get around, with public transport operating at significantly reduced capacity. Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) are a tried and tested way to reduce the impact of traffic in residential areas and reducing the overall number of car trips by making it safer to walk, wheel and cycle.

You have raised some specific points about the scheme and I have addressed these below (now numbered for ease of reference). We also have a general FAQ document you can view here.

1. "We believe that they have been implemented in an undemocratic manner"

In our 2018 manifesto, we committed to close certain roads to through traffic to prevent rat-running, make neighbourhoods more liveable and improve cycling routes. We were elected on this manifesto with a 57% share of the vote.

The Council published its Executive Report on 18 June 2020 which laid out plans for the people-friendly streets programme.

Islington Council's proposals for people-friendly streets are consistent with the Department for Transport's (DfT) statutory guidance 'Network Management in response to COVID 19' published under section 18 of the Traffic Management Act 2004. The Council is required to have regard to the DfT guidance in carrying out its network management duties under sections 16 and 17 of the 2004 Act.

The DfT guidance states that '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', and that 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.

On 15 May 2020, the Mayor of London and TfL issued interim guidance to London boroughs on the London Streetspace plan. The measures the Council has introduced are consistent with this plan, developed in response to COVID-19 and aimed at creating more space on streets so people can walk or cycle while social distancing and easing pressure on public transport as the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown is lifted.

The use of an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) complies with the DfT guidance referenced above. In making the ETO, the Council must follow the procedure set out in the Local Authorities' Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996 (as amended by the Traffic Orders Procedure (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020). It has followed this procedure, including consultation of relevant bodies.

Further, when deciding whether to make a traffic order the Council must have regard to the Mayor of London's Transport Strategy (sections 142 and 144(1)(a) Greater London Authority Act 1999) and it has done so. That strategy emphasises the importance of reducing emissions and improving air quality.

The provisions of the ETO process do not require public consultation prior to the start of the trial, although the Council did in fact engage with the public before the start of the trial, as outlined in the Executive Report of 18 June under 'Consultation'. The Council has also committed to a full public consultation after 12 months as part of each trial scheme. These are genuine trials delivered at low cost, so that they can easily be reversed. Consultation alongside monitoring information will inform a final decision after 18 months on whether or not to make each scheme permanent.

The Council has also considered the application of relevant provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. It is not considered that the implementation of these ETOs will impede the rights of individuals.

2. "[The LTNs] are not achieving their objectives / We believe that the road closures implemented are not delivering any of the benefits envisaged. In fact, we clearly see adverse effects." [See also 2a, 2b and 2c below]

We have been pleased with how the scheme is going so far. Early anecdotal evidence shows that local people have found that once filters have been put in place, they have enjoyed their quieter, safer and cleaner streets.

These trials, like all traffic schemes, need time to be effective and for the traffic patterns to settle down. Shorter trials would not be able to take account of seasonal variations in traffic patterns, including school terms and holidays. Time is also needed for local people to assess the changes and to make decisions about their travel habits - we expect to see shorter trips switched from motor transport to active means (walking, wheeling and cycling) but this was not expected to happen immediately.

The first LTN implemented in St Peters has been operational for three months and therefore it would be too early to evaluate the success of the trial, which will be carried out based on resident feedback during formal consultation and from the robust monitoring data. We will be collecting data relating to traffic flow, air quality, collisions, crime, noise and compliance rates (how many drivers pass through signed and camera-controlled filters). The data will be analysed in due course and some of the data will be published as part of the formal consultation at the end of the trial period.

"These include serious concerns around:

2a: "access for emergency service vehicles"

We spoke to the London Fire Brigade, the London Ambulance Service and the Metropolitan Police about the changes we were planning, and discussed how the changes and traffic filters might impact them. In some circumstances we adjusted our plans on the basis of these discussions.

Emergency Services will often benefit from the changes as small, residential roads will no longer be full of other traffic blocking their routes to emergencies.

If there's an emergency on your street, the emergency services can still get to your address, as no roads are being closed to motor vehicles. Emergency vehicles can legally pass through camera-controlled filters, like bus gates, so their routes across many residential areas remain unchanged. Where there are physical barriers, like bollards, these can be unlocked by the London Fire Brigade, who carry keys. In most cases, a filter with a physical restriction is often nearby to a camera-controlled filter, so there is usually an unrestricted route through via a short diversion.

2b: "the exceptional needs of the elderly, infirm and vulnerable"

We carried out a Resident Impact Assessment (RIA) prior to the start of the people-friendly streets programme (which can be viewed here), and we produce an area-specific RIA prior to the installation of each new area. Each RIA considers the costs and benefits of each scheme for residents with protected characteristics.

Since the introduction of these measures, we have seen a significant increase in elderly and disabled people using the streets to walk, wheel and cycle safely.

2c: "and the increase in crime"

Crime has increased since lockdown in Islington, as it has in every part of the country. This is not in relation to the introduction of people-friendly streets but more people being out and not isolating at home.

We are monitoring anti-social behaviour calls within each LTN.

As mentioned in 2a above, we are in contact with the emergency services throughout the installation of our people-friendly street measures, and the Metropolitan Police Service will keep us informed if they see crime rates going up in any area. So far, this has not happened.

3. "This has resulted in direct discrimination and a breach of Section 122 of the RTRA 1984."

Section 9 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 enables the Council to make experimental traffic orders (ETOs) to deliver our people-friendly streets schemes. A separate ETO is drawn up for each low traffic neighbourhood. In deciding whether or not to make an order under section 9, the Council has to comply with the provisions of section 122 of the 1984 Act which requires the Council to exercise that function (so far as practicable having regard to the matters specified below) to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic (including pedestrians) and the provision of suitable and adequate parking facilities on and off the highway. The specified matters are:

(a) the desirability of securing and maintaining reasonable access to premises;

(b) the effect on the amenities of any locality affected and (without prejudice to the generality of this paragraph) the importance of regulating and restricting the use of roads by heavy commercial vehicles, so as to preserve or improve the amenities of the areas through which the roads run;

(bb) the strategy prepared under section 80 of the Environment Act 1995 (national air quality strategy);

(c) the importance of facilitating the passage of public service vehicles and of securing the safety and convenience of persons using or desiring to use such vehicles; and

(d) any other matters appearing to the local authority to be relevant.

The Council has complied with section 122, balanced the various considerations and concluded that implementing the ETO is the appropriate decision.

4. "a violation of our human rights"

See answer to question 1, above, in particular the final lines: The Council has also considered the application of relevant provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. It is not considered that the implementation of these ETOs will impede the rights of individuals.

Every person in Islington able to drive to their property. I don't believe it is a fundamental human right to drive down every street in the borough in any direction.

5. "The Government guidelines state that Councils cannot make such decisions without:

  1. Considering access for Blue Badge holders, deliveries and other essential services as appropriate;There is no change to access for any driver of a motor vehicle. See also 2b above for how we have considered Blue Badge holders who come under the protected characteristic of disability.

  1. Considering access for Emergency Services;

See answer 2a above.

  1. Consulting local businesses, including those temporarily closed, should be consulted to ensure proposals meet their needs when they re-open;

We have engaged with local businesses, informing them of our proposals ahead of delivery. Where issues have been raised we have written to or spoken with individual businesses, explaining the schemes in more detail or working together on solutions.

  1. Enabling kerbside access should be enabled wherever possible for deliveries and servicing;

  2. Within our low traffic neighbourhoods, we are not making any changes to kerbside access. The Liverpool Road cycleway (cycleway 38) does involve the installation of a segregated cycle lane which will impact on kerbside access. As well as stating that "Kerbside access should be enabled wherever possible for deliveries and servicing", the Guidance also states that "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" and gives as its first suggestion (our highlights):

· "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."

It is not physically possible to follow the Guidance and install pop-up, lightly segregated cycle lanes whilst also maintaining similar levels of kerbside access. Our resident impact assessment for cycleway 38 includes information about alternative pick-up and drop-off points, including access on side roads or by using the remaining parking spaces.

  1. The public sector equality duty still applies, and in making any changes to their road networks, authorities must consider the needs of disabled people and those with other protected characteristics. Accessibility requirements apply to temporary measures as they do to permanent ones.

See answer 2b above.

  1. Undertaking a full impact assessment

See answer 2b above - we have done this.

We believe that these guidelines have not been followed."

We have followed the guidelines - see individual answers above

6. "The displacement of local traffic onto longer, more time-consuming routes on main roads has led to unacceptable congestion and additional air pollution in what are still residential streets. With no sign of traffic 'evaporation', the project is at best flawed and at worst socially unjust."

Since 2009, and the advent of the smart phone, the use of Sat Navs has increased exponentially. As you will see in the graph attached, this has redirected traffic from main roads and onto 'C', residential roads. Our residential roads were not built for this level of traffic and none of our residents were consulted on this when it happened.

In order to keep the roads clear for people who have no other choice but to drive, we cannot do nothing. Traffic levels in London are rising, and Transport for London (TfL) report that traffic levels are now returning to pre-Covid-19 levels, despite many people still continuing to work from home and thus not adding to traffic volumes. There is now data available that indicates that in some places outside central London it is now worse than pre-Covid-19 levels (https://www.edfeurope.org/traffic-congestion) which is extremely concerning. This lends weight to TfL's modelling which predicted that if no action was taken, road traffic is set to double as London emerges from the pandemic. The data source referred to above indicates that on 7 September 2020, congestion stood at 153% of 2019 levels in areas outside central London, and is on the rise in central London as well.

Doing nothing to discourage the increase in driving seen in outer London would have seen traffic and pollution levels rising on both main roads and residential roads in Islington. Traffic on London's 'C' or unclassified roads has risen by 72% in the past 12 years, whereas traffic on A and B roads has seen a slight fall over the same time-frame. These 'non-strategic' and predominantly residential roads were never designed to take higher levels of traffic and any action (or inaction) which increased it even further would create huge problems for the road network.

People-friendly streets make it easier and safer for people to walk, cycle and use wheelchairs, buggies and scooters, by introducing measures to stop traffic from taking short cuts through residential areas. Every local trip which is switched from a motor vehicle to another way of travelling means one fewer vehicle on the road, leaving the roads clearer for people who have no choice but to use cars. Currently, 1/3 of car journeys in London are under 2km (see p10 of report), a distance which could easily be walked or cycled by many.

Evidence from the introduction of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Waltham Forest shows that on main roads surrounding the LTN, "in general, the maximum hourly traffic volume has reduced since the introduction of the scheme ... traffic appears more spread out across the day and into the evening" (p.86). This suggests that some motor traffic disappears as people switch journeys to other modes (or combine several trips into one), or make different decisions about what time of day to travel. Similarly, bus journey times are not significantly increased and air quality on main roads does not get worse. While the scheme becomes established there may be sometimes of the day where queues form, but as people get used to the changes many will be able to make different travel choices.

Our LTNs in Islington have been in place for a small number of weeks - at most, in the case of St Peter's, three months. In line with the answer to question 2 above, this is not enough time for people to experience the impact of the measures, and make the changes in their travel habits which result in traffic evaporation.

7. "Islington is not breaching current EU PM limits. A far reaching exercise which so negatively affects its residents and businesses is not warranted or necessary."

EU PM limits are a single metric for measuring the impact of our people-friendly streets measures. They are not even the only metric for measuring air quality in the borough - as the Islington Air Quality Strategy 2019-2023 states: "Despite significant improvements, Islington has consistently exceeded EU limits for NO2 in parts of the borough for many years." It goes on to say: "Road transport accounts for almost half of NOx and over half of PM10 emissions in Islington. The main area where we can reduce emissions from transport is encouraging a modal shift towards more sustainable forms of transport and support individual and businesses to switch to less polluting vehicles when a vehicle is still required. Reducing car use provides huge benefits for everyone."

Meeting the EU limits is not in itself a guarantee of healthy air quality. The Islington NHS Clinical Commissioning Group report on air quality from January 2019 states that: "Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. There is no evidence for a safe level of various air pollutants, and adverse health effects are felt well below the legal EU limits that apply to England."

Residents across the borough (including the nearly 70% of households who do not own a car) are negatively affected by poor air quality. As the extract from the Air Quality Strategy above makes clear, roughly half of the emissions causing this poor air quality come from road transport and from people who choose to drive in the borough. The installation of people-friendly streets schemes to enable and encourage a shift from polluting to non-polluting modes of transport has to be a necessary part of making improvements in this area.

The impact of LTNs goes far beyond improving air quality. It is a programme also designed to improve road safety, encourage better public health (by increasing active travel), enable better social distancing, reduce noise pollution and reduce carbon emissions. As part of the monitoring strategy for the LTNs we will be measuring air quality on local roads and side roads.

We have published air quality monitoring data here which shows that air quality outside schools is improving in recent years. Over the same time-frame, we have made multiple interventions including limiting motor traffic outside schools through the use of School Streets.

8. "as councillors of LBI, you are neglecting your duties to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office that you hold. You are therefore guilty of a wilful dereliction of duty."

We believe that it would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the Council if we maintained the status quo and allowed traffic to rise to levels even greater than before lockdown. Without action, Transport for London modelling has shown that our streets will become congested with motor traffic - we must act now to provide more space for local people to walk, cycle, use buggies and wheelchairs as a safe alternative to using public transport.

I am always happy to speak to residents and hear about the issues which matter most to them. Which is why I, alongside Cllr Champion, met with some of you and colleagues from your campaign group back in September, in the hope that we were able to have a constructive conversation at that meeting.

If there are practical changes or improvements which you want to share with me, or Council Officers, please do. As you know, based on feedback from residents and partners, like the emergency services, we have made changes to schemes and we welcome further feedback to improve them.

Thank you again for writing to me.

Best Wishes,

Cllr Richard Watts

Leader of Islington Council