Update on Newham Response to Covid-19 Active Travel

Here is the text of a e-mail sent to Councillor Asser, Cabinet Member for Environment and Highways and Sustainable Transport, copied to the Mayor and Council Officers. The film and audit document are found in the post concerning the Romford Rd of 29 June:

“Following the Newham Cyclists meeting of 29 June I am writing in relation to the three aspects of the Council’s response to the Covid – 19 crisis as it affects active travel. 

 Romford Rd

We were pleased to hear that the Council had secured £250K for installing temporary cycle lanes in the Romford Rd and North Woolwich Rd.  As you know we think that Barking Rd should have been a priority over North Woolwich Rd, and as a consequence we urge the preponderance of the funds to be spent on ensuring a good quality scheme for the Romford Rd.

On 19 June we carried out an audit of the Romford Rd looking at how it could be quickly and practically converted into a continuous borough corridor in which those cycling could feel safe. The result is attached. 

We very much believe that it is possible to create a temporary safe corridor based on a combination of (a) creating 24 hr mandatory cycle lanes segregated by wands and “armadillos” (b) turning existing bus lanes to 24 hrs (c) removing legal parking in both of these and (d) removing pinch points.  However these measures must be supported by enforcement of parking and loading regulations, and a 20 mph speed limit.  None of this is novel.

We  filmed out audit, which provides a clear illustration of why residents now see the Romford Rd as too dangerous to cycle.  Also, the attached texts of e-mails from a Redbridge teacher who finds the Romford Rd difficult and whose pupils are inhibited from cycling to school  because of the danger of the Romford Rd reinforces this perception.   We urge you to progress this scheme as fast as possible addressing those parts that can be done immediately rather than waiting for the whole scheme to be implemented in one go.    

We are very happy to discuss the principles of our audit and the detail with you or the Officers concerned. We intend to invite relevant Councillors to discuss with us the sections passing through their wards.

 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

We applaud your success in securing funding for three low traffic neighbourhoods. We also appreciate the detailed consultation to date on the joint scheme with Waltham Forest.  We are happy to provide input into the other schemes that have been funded.

DfT have stated that boroughs which do not demonstrate rapid progress risk having this funding withdrawn. Given that we are now in July, Newham’s disappointing inaction must now make this a real danger, especially when compared with neighbouring boroughs already putting their schemes into place on the streets. Given that the Council has the relevant powers as the highway authority, we should be grateful if you could let us know if there are specific issues holding these schemes up so that we can publicly lend support where we can. 

 School Streets

We understand that the restoration of existing school streets has been made dependent on the consent or even request of the school concerned.  If true this is very concerning, risks wasting public money and bodes ill for the implementation of further school streets for which financial provision was made by the Cabinet. We would appreciate it if you would confirm what the actual position is?

What we are seeking in relation to all three of these matters is absolutely consistent with Statutory Guidance given to local authorities, and progresses other Council policies.

The grim circumstances of the Covid-19 crisis has given the opportunity for the Council to demonstrate how its residents can keep safe whilst going about their daily lives, and that it is ready to realise the potential and benefits of active travel.  This opportunity needs to be grasped for the reasons highlighted in the paper considered by the Cabinet on 11 June.  It is unlikely to arise again.

This correspondence will be published on our website.

Romford Road

Newham Council have received funding from TfL to instal temporary cycle lanes along the Romford Rd. With this in mind we carried out an audit on 19 June 2020.

Romford Rd is officially an London Cycle Network + cycle route (unbelievably) and has been identified by TfL as a Cycling Future Route i.e. a route with very high cycling potential where the needs of those cycling ought to be addressed.

If you want a feel of the reality of cycling along the Romford Rd, this can be found in Bill’s film of the audit.

Our audit document is here.


Covid -19 and Active Travel: an Update

On 11 June the Newham Cabinet agreed unanimously the recommendations in the paper on active travel presented to it (copy in post of 5 June below).

In addition, TfL have to date provided £843K of external funding for a number of schemes in Newham.  We are in the top half of grants to boroughs. 

The good news is that:

  • There is now some (minor) rebalancing of the Keep Newham Moving funding towards active travel and a review of more significant rebalancing.
  • 3 low traffic neighbourhood are now funded ((i)Stratford Village, (ii) Maryland and Forest Gate north (jointly with Waltham Forest), (iii) Atherton and Woodgrange)
  • 2 borough corridors (Romford Rd and North Woolwich Rd) are funded.
  • 7 more school streets are to be implemented if the schools agree.
  • Decluttering and pavement widening and removal of parking bays has some external funding.   

If all this is implemented to a good standard it will represent a significant step forward in active travel in Newham. 

NewhamCyclists had asked for greater urgency and ambition from the Cabinet as we think the immediate crisis and the longer term interests of the residents of Newham demand a very significant switch to active travel. 

Our briefing paper (see post of 9 June) set out a series of asks.  These could have been easily funded from a reasonable rebalancing of the Keep Newham Moving facility i.e. using approximately £5m of a facility of approximately £10m per year currently prioritising motor traffic over active travel.  The Cabinet have already agreed to using more than £3m of this facility if necessary. Indeed, any call on this facility would not have have to be used to the extent that the Council is successful in its external bid for funding – as it has already to the tune of £843k; with the prospect of more to come if it delivers on the schemes so far funded. .

Because Newham Council is refusing to let us know what they are bidding for or have bid for it, is difficult to know precisely what is intended.  However the following appear unfunded from the Newham Cyclists lists of asks:

  • 2 of the 5 low traffic neighbourhoods already identified by the Council as feasible (Custom House and Plashet)
  • Temporary cycle lanes in Barking Road to form a “borough corridor. ” This corridor runs through the heart of the borough and ought to have been prioritised over North Woolwich Rd for which the Council has sought and received external funding, This already has a segregated cycle track or wide pavement that could easily be shared use pending a more comprehensive scheme.
  • 13 extra School Streets.
  • Removal of Greenway obstructions.
  • An end to legal pavement parking.
  • A borough wide 20mph limit.
  • Improved enforcement directed and countering the widespread illegal pavement parking and other motor traffic contraventions which inhibit active travel.

We shall continue to press for these, and have audited Romford Rd to look at how it could become an active travel corridor. If you have any questions or would like further details please get in touch.

In the meantime please also :


Socially distanced rides

We are planning some local rides that comply with the new new government guidelines. A maximum of six riders can participate in each group and therefore pre booking is required
28th June Newham Ride
Approximately 10 miles including the Greenway, Royal Docks, Thames Barrier, East India Dock, Bow Creek, Memorial Recreation Ground

12th July River Ride
Approximately 15 miles including the river Lea, Cody Dock, Bow Creek, North Woolwich, (depending on conditions ferry or tunnel crossing), Beckton, Greenway
26 July Newham Parks Ride
See the Newham’s parks and green spaces route by Bernard McDonnell in London Cyclist summer 2020

All rides start at 10am and finish by 2-3pm at the View Tube.
More details will follow

Covid -19 and Active Travel in Newham

The Cabinet of Newham Council is is due to meet on 11 June and consider a paper on its Covid – 19 Response in relation to active travel.

Here is a detailed analysis from the perspective of Newham Cyclists. It leads to the conclusion that the measures proposed lack urgency, are not sufficiently ambitious to meet the circumstnaces the borough faces and omit proposals for some important matters.


Newham and DfT Emergency Funding for London

Here is the text of an e-mail sent today to Councillor Asser, Cabinet Member for Environment, and Highways and Sustainable Transport and copied to Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz.

At a very well attended meeting of Newham Cyclists yesterday, we discussed the need for urgent developments in active travel following our meetings with you and your team, and in the light of the new deadline of 5 June to apply for DfT Emergency Funding for London.

As the first exercise of this kind, this is a test of the preparedness and the will of the Council to avoid a reversion to the old normal of congestion, pollution and inactivity. DfT have been explicitly clear that future funding for active travel is dependent on the delivery of initial schemes within 8 weeks. 

As you know, we have been concerned at the pace of action of the Council in comparison with comparable neighbouring boroughs.  It is not helpful that the cabinet is not due to discuss these issues until 11 June – over a month after Statutory Government Guidelines were requiring action be taken within weeks.

We are very strongly of the view that Newham Council must ensure that it applies for funding for ambitious schemes of good enough quality to deliver real practical benefits for walking and cycling, and meet the condition of swift implementation.  Any reluctance to act in the face of the local entrenched motor vehicle lobby must be weighed against the lives that are at stake.   With thousands of our residents utterly reliant on public transport to get to work, Newham should be at the forefront in creating ways for them to get about safely by walking and cycling so that they do not face having to take unnecessary health risks or risk losing their job. It is shocking that very little seems to have been done, and that time is running out

We appreciate that with the recent media focus on the severe impact of the Covid-19 crisis on our borough it would be unforgivable if we did not grasp this opportunity to significantly address the poor environment and health of residents – two issues that are significant contributors to the impact of Covid-19.

Although there is now less than a week before the deadline for applications, we renew the offers of help and point you to the concrete suggestions that we have previously made. 

If you are able to indicate what you are applying for that would be greatly appreciated; but in any event, once the application has been lodged we should be grateful for a copy.

We shall be publishing a copy of this letter on our website.”


Covid -19 and Active Travel – an Update

Since our earlier post more guidance has been issued by various authorities and the process is continuing. Details can be found on our Discussion Group .

This post updates and sumarises our meetings with Councillor Asser in anticipation of further discussion at our monthly meeting on Monday (1 June)

On 27 May there was a meeting of Manor Park residents with Councillors Dawood and Patel, Councillor Asser, and Newham Officers to discuss active travel. A significant proportion of participants were our members. The next day Councillor Asser, supported at officer level by Richard Wadey, met 9 of us. We should record our gratitude for the time and effort all these have given to meeting with us.

Throughout this process we have collated and shared all the suggestions that have come to us for active travel improvements and also provided a list of “quick wins”.

Newham faces problems in avoiding a return to the “old normal” …

It was clear that Councillor Asser and his team of officers had been working and thinking very hard and had been in discussion with neighbouring boroughs and outside experts. They have been very transparent. He outlined the challenges he faced: (a) money, (b) a determination on his part that to ensure that schemes could actually be put in place on the ground, (c) a desire that temporary schemes should become permanent, (d) avoiding criminal removal of temporary schemes as has been experienced with one of the school street pilots, (e) resources, (he did mention that some furloughed TfL staff had been called upon), and (f) the fact that Newham was starting from behind other, more progressive authorities.

The Council was concentrating at present on pavement widening, cycle paths, School Steets and resurrecting plans for low traffic neighbourhoods hit by withdrawal of old funding sources by TfL.

Councillor Asser explained his approach of seeking to address the entrenched motor car lobby in Newham by speaking to residents and businesses direct.

On funding:

  • The Council has or is on the point of applying for £2m from a TfL emergency pot;
  • It is monitoring the allocation of the Government’s announced £250m of which £25m has been allocatedto London;
  • It is actively pursing an emerging extra (as yet indeterminate) sum from the Government for road closures and School Streets;
  • The Council is spending £1m from its existing capital fund. Further decisions would have to be made to “rebalance” money allocated to “Keep Newham Moving” under the old regime.

In practical terms:

  • A Cabinet meeting will take place on 11 June for decisions to be made (including on the parking permit scheme consulted upon prior to the current crisis):
  • Experimental Traffic orders are being prepared, in conjunction with Waltham Forest to implement the joint Low Traffic Neighbourhood previously at the planning stage and on which early consultation had taken place;
  • Discussions had been initiated with TfL on converting bus lanes on main corridors to 24 hr operation and Councillor Asser agreed that these discussions ought ot include the question of rephasing lights;
  • Next week a portal should go live for the public to record their suggestions for schemes;
  • Applications for funding are being made and prepared – which involves specific schemes.

We for our part stressed the following:

  • Ugenct action is vital given that lives are at stake. The Mayor has rightly and eloquently publicised the particular problems that Newham faces. It would be damaging if the Council is not seen to be doing everything it can to directly address those problems.
  • Extra resources should be pulled in if needed; we offered practical help.
  • The Council needed to avoid extreme risk aversion in the face of the motor car lobby that could not be entirely overcome. Elsewhere where measures have been put in place they have proved popular.
  • There were a host of minor measures that would help active travel, many of which we have raised and which fall outside the main schemes being currently worked on. These should be followed up, especially when put on the portal, as this would not only improve the conditions for active travel but increase public engagement if suggestions are seen to be acted upon.
… but Newham also has opportunities to benefit from active travel.

Our plea for urgency has since been reinforced as it emerged that Government funding will be withdrawn if schemes are not meaningful and not completed in less than 10 weeks. Over 1 month will have passed between the Government’s original guidelines envisaging action within weeks and and the crucial Cabinet meeting. In the meantime other Councils have made significantly more progress.

Keep well and keep cycling,


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.


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,