An open letter to the Mayor of Hackney

An open letter to the Mayor of Hackney

How Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) impact people with mobility problems.

I am a 63 year old Stamford Hill resident. I have mobility issues – I suffer from spinal stenosis, asthma, diabetes and fibromyalgia. I rely heavily on my car, as I can only walk short distances and I cannot use public transport at the moment because I am very vulnerable to Covid. In fact I can rarely use public transport even without Covid, unless it is more or less door-to-door.

Since Hackney LTNs have been put in place, I have personally been affected very much by the increased traffic at Upper Clapton, Lower Clapton and right around the borough. A journey across Hackney, to the A12, takes over an hour now to cover the four miles, where previously it would only have taken around 20 minutes. Having to sit in traffic for extended periods of time causes me back pain, muscle stiffness and exacerbates my asthma.

I can no longer go from one place straight to another, as I would have done previously, as I have to sit for so long in traffic that I need to go home to use the bathroom before I can set off to my next destination. An unexpected result of your policies.

I have been caught several times in traffic gridlock at the Lea Bridge roundabout and have witnessed ambulances and police cars trying to get through without success. Without a doubt this is placing those being transported to hospital in need of emergency treatment, at great risk.

Constant heavy traffic on Amhurst Road, Pembury Road and Graham Road is shocking. I really feel for those who live in social housing along those roads, who are now unable to open their windows due to high pollution and noise from frustrated motorists. I have a friend who lives on Northwold Road who has two autistic young sons. She cannot open her windows, due to traffic congestion and it is seriously affecting her children. There are schools along these major roads, whose pupils must also be affected by the fumes from stagnant traffic?

Delivery drivers, small businesses, cab drivers, buses, carers trying to reach their clients are all affected by these measures. Some areas are no longer serviced, as it takes so long for tradesmen and delivery drivers to reach them.

I read just today of a cab driver who, had to drop an elderly lady – on crutches with a broken leg – a five minute walk away from her home, as he was unable to get to her house, now in an LTN.

I think very few people, motorists or otherwise, would dispute the need for reduced pollution in the borough, but these measures have increased pollution outside of the LTNs. Children in these areas are more at risk of pollution! A scheme which was supposed to make life safer for cyclists has only increased the danger for them!

This whole scheme was ill-thought through, poorly implemented, lacks consultation and for so many residents is a complete disaster.

One may be forgiven for thinking it is only serving to increase congestion in Hackney deliberately, so that ULEZ can be extended throughout Hackney, thus making cash cows of motorists yet again!

Instead of closing off roads, why not offer motorists discounts to switch to electric cars? Many of your constituents are unable to walk more or jump on a bike! It’s time you took their needs into consideration. We are taxpayers too.

Yours, a very disgruntled former Labour voter of Stamford Hill.

An open letter to Cllr Jon Burke

An open letter to Cllr Jon Burke

Road closures don’t add up to safer cycling

An open letter to Hackney transport chief Cllr Jon Burke from a resident and cyclist.

Dear Jon,

part of me believes that you are a career politician, trying to do the right thing for the environment. But, the fact that you so readily disenfranchise so many people and discount the hardships suffered at your hands – only speaks of your privileged world view.

Yes you may come have from a minimum wage Liverpudlian background but clearly you’ve lost touch. Somewhere along the way you have forgotten that as a councillor, your actions can cause harm as well as good for a huge amount of ordinary, working people. I understand the motive of environmental action because I’m on that side of the movement too. I’m a cyclist and part of the XR movement. You might be surprised how many of us are against you.

The reason why? True environmental action has results, whereas your plan is just greenwashing. It takes scant evaluation of the road closure scheme to see why: 

Do the road closures represent viable cycling corridors for people commuting? No.

They are by no means a direct route to anywhere. 

Do the road closures result in less pollution? No.

They’re mostly in already low traffic areas, used by locals to access arterials, schools, medical facilities and petrol stations (yes the odd “rat runner” uses them too, but not many). It’s pretty obvious any local pollution reductions is just relocated from one area to another, putting peoples lives in danger (where’s the benefit?). Additionally locals are now forced to drive further and longer, just to reach major roads, and vice versa, so fuel consumption and pollution increase.

Do the road closures reduce traffic in Hackney? No.

The closures have reduced traffic by small amounts on insignificant roads, but on the roads that people actually use to get to work or hospital, or to care for someone in need, the traffic has become ridiculous!

Do the road closures make cycling safer? No.

According to the London collision map, only a small amount of cycle Vs vehicle accidents happen on the roads that have been closed. By far the greatest amount of accidents happen on the major roads where you have failed to install dedicated cycle lanes. Why do cyclists choose do use these routes despite the danger? Because they are commuters with no time for scenic journeys through Hackney.

Do the road closures make sense? No.

Many of the closures are located adjacent to existing cycling routes, that cyclists actually prefer and offer more direct routes (like cutting through Hackney Downs).

Do the closures pose a safety risk? Yes.

Over a recent weeks main road congestion has dramatically increased to the point that even when using any available space, emergency vehicles have been trapped by traffic that have now where to move to. This will cost lives (we’ve all witnessed this and it’s getting worse. How have you missed it?). With all this in mind the residents of Hackney, rightly assume that his is just eco-political puffery and greenwashing.

Do these road closures result in additional foot traffic for local retail? No.

The vast majority of these closures are located nowhere near retail areas.

You claim that this is just an adjustment period. But that by no means detracts from the fact that it’s a badly thought out scheme for hackney roads and has been applied as cheapskate alternative to proper cycling infrastructure. It’s either that or your world view is so myopic, you can’t see what is right in front of your face.

The idea of “15 minute cities” sounds great on paper, but when you apply it to a road network established in the 1700s that meanders from village to village, with no direct access to major highways then it falls rather short of being practical. People don’t move to London and live where they work (unless they become a career politician). People live where the do because it’s what they can afford with access to transport routes, whether that be by train, car or bike.

The nature of London, is as network of connected villages; as such each village has an obligation to each neighbouring borough to provide effective transit through or else the whole system falls into paralysis. The actions of Hackney council have a flow-on effect to neighbouring boroughs. So, much like a river when you block off road tributaries the overall volume of traffic on larger courses will increase to breaking point. You’ve stated that the current Hackney council policy is targeted towards out-of-borough vehicles, but by penalising them you have also penalised the residents of Hackney.

Keep in mind that Hackney has a smaller than usual vehicle ownership, so the people you are hitting the hardest are those who really need a vehicle, being elderly or disabled (or their carers), trades people and other working class who have no other choice for their livelihoods, than to drive. What you have a achieved is the opposite of the design – you have not freed us of traffic – the traffic is now apocalyptic!

I’m a cyclist but if I want to rent a Zip Car for an important reason, I can bank on an hour drive, just to get out of the neighbourhood. What’s more, as a cyclist, I’m somewhat offended that this has been done in name of cycling, on streets that already presented no issue in regards to safety or pollution. Additionally you are treating Hackney as an Island – it’s not. As a resident, each neighbouring borough is a vibrant part of the overall culture that makes living here great. For those of us that can cycle or walk they are still in reach. For those that cannot, you have now cut them off from life long relationships of huge importance.

I get that you want to convert Hackney into a lasting eco-cycling hub. But this is not Amsterdam. If it was Amsterdam the council would have first invested in thousands of miles of dedicated cycle routes and not just closed a bunch of roads, patted themselves on the back and then arrogantly ignore the outcries of the citizens. Like you, I wish to see a greener hackney (and London). But please, quit this charade – remove these stupid barriers and invest in genuine cycling infrastructure that encourages people to cycle safely, whilst still enabling residents with a genuine need of vehicles to continue using them without hours of gridlock. You keep pretending that this scheme is working. It’s not.

 

Ben Eady