Harrow is set to lose access to significant funding following the inappropriate removal of the Streetspace low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and cycle lanes. This was announced by the transport adviser to the Prime Minister on 30 July and reported in the media.
Cycle lanes and LTNs significantly improve safety for people walking and cycling. The recent fatal collision in North Harrow and increase in serious cycling casualties (11 in 2020, compared to total 15 in the previous 3 years), highlight the need for safer roads. Harrow performs poorly on overall ‘Healthy Street’ indicators.
Safer streets would enable more people to walk or cycle, reducing car use, with subsequent improvements in people’s health through increased physical activity. A strategy for sustained improvements in active travel infrastructure is needed. Such a strategy was recommended by the council’s Traffic and Road Safety Advisory Panel on 22 April, with stakeholder engagement to take place and a report to be produced in 3 months, but this has not happened.
What went wrong with Streetspace, and how can Harrow avoid this in future?
Population-based surveys have consistently shown that the majority of Londoners support measures to improve walking and cycling. However, we are aware that the Streetspace schemes resulted in vocal opposition and a large number of negative feedback responses. The decision to remove the schemes was disappointing, according to TfL’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner:
… there were clear signs that some of the schemes had the potential to encourage more people to walk and cycleWill Norman, TfL Walking and Cycling Commissioner
The Streetspace schemes all created meaningful improvements for walking or cycling, but decision making regarding conduct of the trials was contrary to current guidance, and the trials were not retained for long enough to enable people to change their travel behaviour. The updated statutory guidance on traffic management provides strong justification for Harrow to persist with important road safety measures despite complaints from opponents of schemes.
The guidance states:
Trial or experimental schemes should be left in place for the full duration … or… until at least 12 months’ traffic data is available and has been published
Consultation and community engagement should always be undertaken whenever authorities propose to remove, modify or reduce existing schemesTraffic Management Act 2004: network management to support recovery from COVID-19 (updated 30 July 2021)
Calls for early removal of schemes should therefore be resisted (Harrow council removed part of the low traffic neighbourhoods after just 6-12 weeks, without consultation).
The guidance also states that “consultations are not referendums”, and if there is a need to ascertain public views, this should be done by “professional polling to British Polling Council standards, to establish a truly representative picture of local views”. The council should not base decisions on the percentage of positive responses to a consultation, because respondents are not a representative sample of the population (they may be more motivated to respond because they oppose the change).
To avoid future schemes following the fate of Streetspace, Harrow council must plan strategically, ensuring that all road schemes are designed to the cycle infrastructure standard LTN 1/20, and foster the development of a cycling culture in Harrow.