Trouble in Chiswick
Hounslow and Ealing councils have imposed a series of road access and traffic changes in Chiswick as part of their Streetspace initiatives.
C9T, the temporary pop-up cycle lane is a TfL scheme funded by Streetspace; the rest are LBH schemes funded by Streetspace.
In May 2020, the Government suddenly provided millions of pounds to local Councils as incentives during the pandemic to provide more space for active travel, walking and cycling.
The problem is that in the rush to get the funding, democracy, consultation, local business needs and common sense went out of the window. What little consultation there has been is flawed, designed to get to the “right” answer according to the Council or TfL.
Many of the roads targeted are described as “rat-runs” but are in fact essential local routes to our homes and shops, friends and family, from one part of Chiswick to another. The pandemic has simply been used to make changes that are contrary to fairness and equality.
People are now faced with road closures, lack of parking, painfully slow and lengthy journeys and severe fines if they fail to spot new, poorly designed road signs.
These decisions have been taken by people who don’t live in Chiswick and haven’t been directly elected by the voters of Chiswick. They don’t understand Chiswick and how it works for residents and businesses. They are driven by a mix of ideology, a desire to satisfy a section of the cycling lobby, and to take easy money being handed out by the Government. There are also hundreds of thousands of pounds to be made through unfair Penalty Charge Notice fines.
Traffic Evaporation or just displacement?
There is a belief by some of the Councillors in Hounslow that by making it harder for people to drive, traffic will “evaporate” and people will walk and cycle. The study Councillors refer to is several years old. We believe that this thinking simply ignores the reality of people’s needs, lives and personal situations; the fact is that thousands of us already cycle and walk, and only drive where there is a strong case for doing so.
One justification is “Climate Emergency” but there is no actual evidence that this will help the climate or reduce pollution. There is a good chance that it will make things worse. Pollution on Chiswick High Road had been improving; now it is getting worse again, as is pollution on those roads which are having to cope with the displaced traffic.
Two out of the three Hounslow council cabinet members who are driving through these changes are members of the Hounslow branch of the London Cycling Campaign. They want more cycle lanes for cyclists, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of more congestion, more pollution and increased dangers on the roads, in the cycle lane and at junctions.
The case for Traffic Evaporation is out of date
Councillors and campaigners keep arguing that these projects will ensure the “evaporation” of traffic. But many of the arguments are out of date and open to question. The evidence is simply not sufficient to create such a traumatic disruption to millions of people’s lives all over London and Chiswick. Here are the studies on which the Councillors are relying – mostly relating back to one 1998 report.
- 1998 report: https: //www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/sites/cycling-embassy.org.uk/files/documents/Traffic%20Impact%20of%20Highway%20Capacity%20Reductions-%20Assessment%20of%20the%20Evidence.pdf
- It was republished in 2016 and this boastful review is interesting: https://www.transportxtra.com/publications/local-transport-today/news/48672/-disappearing-traffic–the-report-that-didn-t-quite-disappear/
- 2004 European Commission report:https://ec.europa.eu/environment/pubs/pdf/streets_people.pdf
- Referred to here:https://www.onestreet.org/resources-for-increasing-bicycling/115-traffic-evaporation
- Rachel Aldred thought piece based on the 1998 report:http://rachelaldred.org/writing/thoughts/disappearing-traffic/
- LTNs 2020 report from Rachel Aldred reviewed by Urban Design Group: https://www.udg.org.uk/publications/news/2020/low-traffic-neighbourhoods-major-research-report
Swapping bus lanes for cycle lanes
One of the worst aspects of the changes has been the fact that the new cycle lane on Chiswick High Road has taken over the existing westbound bus lane. The result is that thousands of people are stuck on stationary buses with their journeys lengthened, sometimes doubled or even trebled while the cycle lanes are barely used. The buses have to share one lane with all the other vehicles – cars, vans, lorries, motorcycles and emergency vehicles – which creates gridlock and increases pollution.