Covid – 19 and Active Travel in Newham

A lot has been going on since our note to Councillor Asser on 6 May;

(1) Government Guidelines to Local Authorities were issued on 9 May outlining bold and clear actions that should be taken in weeks “to reallocate road space to people walking and cycling, both to encourage active travel and to enable social distancing to restart”  In respect of immediate measures these were more radical than envisaged in our submission.  Of the various funding sources announced, the £2b over 5 years and £250m for pop up bike lanes was already announced in February.

(2) TfL have issued their Streetspace for London Plan followed by interim guidance to Local Authorities on 15 May.  This plan also meets the challenge and urgency of the situation; and includes temporary cycle routes, additional space for walking and cycling in town centres and transport hubs, accelerating Low Traffic neighbourhoods.  On the downside some existing sources of existing TfL funding have been adversely affected or moved into the Streetspace Plan.

(3) Newham Cyclists held meeting with Council officers responsible for sustainable transport on 15 May.  This covered a wide range of options available for measures that could be taken in accordance with the Government Guidelines and gave us a chance to put forward the many suggestions we had gathered from a variety of sources.

(4) Later on 15 May the Mayor of Newham released a statement indicating that the Council had “been working on plans over recent weeks to invest more to encourage walking and cycling.” Some action has been taken in Green Street and High Street North to facilitate social distancing on the pavement but everything else remains as an option or under discussion or has no implementation date. An analysis of why Newham Cyclists is concerned with this response as falling short of expectations is set out below.

(5) This week Councillor Asser has been in touch with us.  He kindly offered a meeting which we are arranging for next week.  In doing so he emphasised the work in hand relating to cycling, walking, low traffic neighbourhoods and school streets in the face of challenges in respect of finance and resources. He expressed a determination that projects should not be announced before it is clear they can be implemented.

The Newham Response

It is clear that urgent action is needed.  The Government Guidelines specify a number of actions to be taken within weeks.  These are matched to the Mayor’s statement in the annex.

There is no mention in the Mayor’s statement of a number of key elements of the Government Guidelines for action.  Nor any mention of (a) removal of the legal parking on pavements which make social distancing impossible and (b) ending the free permit for residents to park on the street.  Those actions that are mentioned (other than High Street North and Green St) are subject variously to consideration of options, an implementation period without a time limit, examination or, in the case of Streetscape Plans discussions with TfL.

It is true that all local authorities face challenges to finance and pressure on resources. We see other London Boroughs having taken more significant action already.  It also is likely that any new funding will go to those authorities that are nimble in putting forward credible schemes meeting tough deadlines.     Indeed there are opportunities for quick and cheap interventions in Newham meeting the Government Guidelines. We have put these forward and will continue to do so.

The response from Newham Council so far gives us concern that it is continuing to fall behind in active travel, and that it will not take the opportunity (albeit in grim circumstances) of achieving a rebalancing of the priority between motor vehicles and active/sustainable transport in the borough.  There remains a high risk of returning to what the Mayor has called the “old normal” with its well – recognised effects on air quality, the general environment, public health and safety – areas where Newham already lags behind the country and other London Boroughs. We fear that history will not look kindly on Newham if it fails to grasp this opportunity to match other boroughs which took effective steps to protect their residents from Covd-19.  The fact that there is an organised motor vehicle lobby in Newham should not prevent steps being taken to restrict motor vehicles in favour of active travel which, where taken elsewhere have proved to be successful.  The example of Waltham Forest shows that they will turn out to be popular too.

Annex

Points in government guidelines are in italics;

  • “Pop up” cycle facilities.  The Mayor’s statement includes the carefully nuanced i.e. limited, statement that “From next week, more changes will be introduced, and options explored, in other high ‘footfall’ areas of the borough to help residents shop, walk and cycle safely. 

    The statement goes on to specify in this respect (a) “Examining which roads can be narrowed or converted to one-way only by using barriers to create more social distancing space” and (b) Reviewing ‘insets’ for car parking, and other parking bays, in high ‘footfall’ areas to see which ones can be removed to widen footpath areas for safe walking or cycling.”  One way streets – even with cycle contraflows are a second best option compared with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.  Cycling will not be made more attractive if those cycling are pushed into through traffic.  In contrast the Government Guidelines advocate segregated cycle lanes as far as possible.

  • Using cones and barriers to widen footways particularly outside shops and transport hubs.  Action has been taken, as announced by the Mayor, in High Street North and Green Street.  Some inset parking bays have been removed and loading time have been limited, but the predominant action is stencilling the pavement and putting up signs.  These, and the decluttering of pavements promised by the Mayor, are not a substitute for creating genuine space for walking and cycling.

  • Encouraging walking and cycling to school, for example through the introduction of more ‘school streets’.  The mayor’s statement does not mention adding to the existing 5 school street schemes in Newham.
     
  • 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. Not specifically mentioned in the Mayor’s statement.  Newham has traditionally been reluctant to introduce 20 mph limits (despite our consistent suggestions in response to consultations) and even in some cases failed to signpost the existing ones clearly. 

  • 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. Not specifically mentioned in the Mayor’s statement.

  • 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.  The Mayor’s statement does mention implementing “more” low traffic neighbourhood schemes.  Newham Cyclists are not aware of any existing “Liveable Neighbourhood” or “Low Traffic Neighbourhood” schemes although at least two (Custom House and Forest Gate North) have been in the planning stage.  No areas are specifically stated nor any time scale provided.  Newham Cyclists have proposed others that could be easily implemented.
  • Changes to junction design to accommodate more cyclists.  Not mentioned in the Mayor’s statement.
  • Whole-route’ approaches to create corridors for buses, cycles and access only on key routes into town and city centres.  Not mentioned in the Mayor’s statement despite Newham having been identified (in 2016 by TfL) as having a number of “strategic” corridors with the greatest cycling potential in London.
  • Identifying and bringing forward permanent schemes already planned.  Not mentioned in the Mayor’s statement other than the general reference to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.

The Implications of the Covid-19 Crisis

The Covid-19 crisis is a tragedy from which Newham has suffered more than most areas. This tragedy has implications in many areas of life including, as discussed at our annual Meeting, for walking and cycling in the borough.

In the light of this discussion we have sent this submission to Councillor Asser, Cabinet Member for the Environment, Highways & Sustainable Transport. It sets out some actions that could be taken now to facilitate social distancing for those walking and cycling and steps that need to be taken to rebalance priority between motor vehicles and active travel once the lockdown is eased. Many of these demands will be familiar from our previous campaigning.

Also here is a template, which we encourage all those keen to improve active travel in Newham to send to their local councillors. It can be amended to suit precisely what you want to say and can highlight your local bottlenecks.

Keep well everyone,

Arnold

Annual Meeting 27 April 2020: Readout

20 of us gathered virtually for our Annual Meeting. Given the circumstances we focussed on essential business and our reaction to the Covid-19 crisis.

The following were elected Officers:

Co-ordinator – Arnold Ridout

Deputy Co-ordinator – Kerena Fussell

Secretary – Kate Byrne

Treasurer – Bill Bremner

Ride Co-ordinator – Steve Smith

Infrastructure Rep – Olawale Ajibola

Deputy Infrastructure Rep – Chris Kershaw

QEOP Rep – Jonathan Rothwell

The Annual Report, Accounts for 2019-20 and the Budget for 2020-21 were approved. Steve’s Ride Report and an album of Robin’s photos are now available. We hope to arrange for cashless donations at Fix Your Ride sessions when they resume..

In response to the current crisis we encourage members as individuals to lobby their Counsellors on the immediate advantages in promoting cycling and walking and, once the lockdown is eased, to take the opprtunities to maintain the impetus given to sustainable transport and better air quality in the face of an anticipated flight to motor vehicles. A number of templates for this are avaiable including that of Living Streets and British Cycling and those already used have propmpted some responses. We will also provide a template. Other London local authorities are known to be actively looking at how to exit the lockdown by exploiting the opportunities to promote sustainable transport.

We agreed to supplement important individual effots with a Newham Cyclists submission to the Council to remind it of the opportunities available now and post lockdown. This should take into account that the Council’s enforcement officers are presently stretched, but include for the longer term: 20mph, liveable neighbourhoods and ensuring that future road proposals provide good quality provision for cycling – especially given teh anticipated “flight back to cars”.

We also agreed to collate and pass on members suggestions for temporary improvements as part of this exercise. These suggestions should be sent by e-mail – newham@lcc.org.uk

We are in the process of putting together some good cycling routes which we shall publish if we can.

We were warned of increased cycle thefts including breaking open of cycle hoops.

Finally we agreed to keep our next (virtual) meeting to our regular last Monday in the month slot despite this falling on a bank holiday.

Arnold

Annual Meeting Monday 27 April 2020 7.30pm

Due to the Covid 19 crisis this year’s annual meeting will be held using the Newham Cyclists Zoom account.

If you would like to participate can you please indicate by e-mailing newham@lcc.org.uk or responding to the social media notices. You will then be sent an invite.

The agenda will be:

*Election of officers

*Accounts 2019 -2020 and Budget 2020-2021 (to follow)

*Agreement of Annual Report 2019-20

*Any other business.

Arnold

Advice on Cycling

If you have started cycling during the current crisis or have newly returned and would like some helpful advice this is available from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) and Newham Cyclists, the borough section of the LCC. Resources available include:

An LCC helpline: You can access the free advice service via Facebook Messenger at https://www.facebook.com/LondonCyclingCampaign or 020 7234 9310 or advice@lcc.org.uk. You will be connected with LCC representatives, who have a wealth of cycling information and knowledge and will be on hand to advise people on basic cycle skills, locking and parking bikes, safe route planning, where to buy bikes and gear, and cycling safely in traffic including near HGVs and lorries.

Free LCC Membership for NHS staff: LCC has 11,500 members who pay an annual subscription and support the charity’s campaigning and cycling promotion work. They get benefits including free liability insurance, access to cycling news and information, free legal advice and a range of discounts. Individual members normally pay £49/year but staff working for London NHS trusts or at London hospitals can access membership for free for an initial period of three months, which may be extended if the coronavirus crisis continues beyond June.

https://membership.lcc.org.uk/nhs-key-worker-membership

Newham specific advice from local cyclists: e-mail us at newham@lcc.org.uk letting us know in general terms what your query is and how you wish to be contacted and we will get in touch and try to answer.

Finally, Handlebars are crowdfunding for their scheme to donate a bike for NHS Key workers.

Arnold

Co-ordinator, Newham Cyclists

https://membership.lcc.org.uk/nhs-key-worker-membership



Readout from 30 March 2020 Meeting

This was our first attempt at a virtual meeting which, despite glitches, was judged a success by the 15 who participated.

We discussed the operation of the group during the current Covid 19 crisis and the various ways in which we could help.

We decided (a) to hold a virtual, short form Annual Meeting next month; (b) to subscribe to Zoom; and (c) to investigate further with LCC the approach by Newham Council to relaxation of parking enforcement, in the light of the opportunity to exploit the benefits of active travel. For example, there was an opportunity for some temporary cycle lanes on some of the very worst roads within the QEOP.

We agreed the broad lines of next year’s budget, which should enable us to keep about £500 in reserve to meet LCC’s suggestion to local groups to avoid spending their reserves at present. We decided not to press for the usual payment from LCC based on membership given the circumstances.

There was a general infrastucture update and focussing on the light phasing at Stratford Town Centre.

Keep well

Arnold

Readout from 24 February 2020 Meeting

14 of us gathered at the Velodrome after the successful Greenway Ride which also featured the participation of Newham Community Dogwalkers.

  • There has been positive engagement from all the Newham Councillors we had contacted following the previous meeting and also Mr Desai, the London Assembly Member for the area and Chair of its Police Committee The only non-response had been from Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling commissioner.

    Newham Councillors reported from a meeting earlier on 24 February that police action had led to a significant downturn in incidents. We decided to take up offers of meetings with Mr Desai, and James Beckles, Newham Cabinet Member for Crime and Community Safety, and discussed a number of steps that could be taken to ensure that crime is prevented in the future.
  • We decided to respond positively to the forthcoming consultation by Newham Council on its emission based scheme for charging for parking permits. Whilst this may not go as far as we would have liked we believe our support as an organisation and individually is the best way forward on a matter we ourselves had raised with the Council last year.
  • We looked at our forthcoming rides and activities. 29 February and the 7 March see our first round of support for the AAA children’s cycling club in Canning Town. 14 March will be our first Fix Your Ride in Woodgrange Market. The Much Hadham Ride is on 22 March. Bike from Boleyn will now take place on 2 May.

    We discussed the practicalities of the proposed new Newham Parks Ride on 24 May, during Newham Heritagae month. Also, in the light of their awkward timing we felt that our participation in the Forest Gate Festival may need to be limited; and that we were unable to organise a Stratford Feeder Ride to the Freecycle event on 15 August.

    A series of “Zero Vision ” walks of the Romford Rd is being undertaken by TfL and Newham Council this week to assess what improvements in ennforcement could reduce accidents. On Monday we were the only community group to attend this.
  • On infrastructure, our next catch up meeting with Newham Council officials will be on 6 March. Members are invited to raise any concerns they have which could be addressed at this meeting. We decided that we could respond to a consultation on the shortening of the 101 bus route insofar as it related to our overall aim of promoting active travel and insofar as it raised particular cycling issues.
  • Views were canvassed on the LCC policy on charging motor vehicles using East London Bridges in anticipation of an LCC Policy Forum meeting on 27 February and on the Crossrail improvements in response to an academic study.
  • We were reminded of the “Heathy Streets Scorecard” on the CPRE and LCC website which was being revisited this year, and invited to contribute views on how the metrics of this survey could be improved for the purposes of a forthcoming update.

Greennway Ride and Meeting

Our next meeting is at the Velodrome on 24 February at 7.30pm.

As we decided at our January meeting we are riding along the Greenway before this meeting to draw attention to the recent increase in crime along it. We will meet at 6.15pm at the East Ham end where the Greenway meets High Street South. We hope to be joined by other Greenway Stakeholders.

Come along to the meeting or the ride, even if you cannot make the other.

Let me have any issues you want to put on the agenda for the meeting either by e-mail or the Group.IO.

At the moment I current issues are:

  • Greenway update;
  • A response to some academic research on Forest Gate “improvements”;
  • Forthcoming rides and events including our monthly “Fix your Ride”; Bike from Boleyn (2 May) a possible Newham Parks Ride in partnership with the CPRE (24 May);
  • Our Annual Meeting in April;
  • Infrastructure, including items for catch up meeting with Newham Council scheduled for 6 March.

Arnold