HOUNSLOW STREETSPACE

Consultation Response December 2020

Summary
Hounslow Cycling wholeheartedly supports the Streetspace vision. We agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has altered residents’ use of the transport network and that the Council should respond in a way that increases active travel levels and reduces transport related emissions. This is in line with the Hounslow Transport Strategy, Air Quality and Climate Emergency action plans, and also with the statutory guidance issued in 2020 by the Government and the Mayor of London.

We recognise that the rapid design of 22 projects was challenging for Council Officers. We believe that the design work was generally of high quality despite the challenges. We do have some reservations over Turnham Green Terrace where there is a conflict between the short term need for pavement space and long term need for a good bus service to the station.

We appreciate the effort that some Councillors and Officers have made on communications but feel that more could have been done. Many residents do not accept that encouraging modal shift from car use to active travel actually helps to address congestion as well as health and environmental issues. Good communications are necessary to explain individual schemes while this principle is disputed.

Building the new infrastructure was plainly problematic and the consequent delays and disruption have been unwelcome to all who travel. The TfL work on Chiswick High Road has been particularly irksome with a third of the carriageway unavailable to any traffic at all for a prolonged period. This has unfortunately stirred up opposition to the programme. It has also made it difficult to judge the overall effectiveness of interventions.

The Council has done more to transform use of the borough’s road space than anyone would have believed possible a year ago. The increase in active travel is already plain to see and more can be expected as and when public transport capacity is restored. This will have long term benefits in better air quality, more physical exercise, less carbon emissions, and improved centres for shopping and eating. This has all been achieved on a relatively small budget, in a short space of time, in the most difficult of circumstances. We are heartened by the success of Streetspace and grateful to all those who have been involved in delivering it.

Vision
Hounslow’s long term stated aim is to reduce car use from 44% of journeys to 29%, i.e. to increase active travel from 56% to 71%. This is not primarily about cycling (it is more about buses) but cycling is likely to play a part in it. We agree with the vision of a network of bike lanes that uses CW9 as a spine and extensive low traffic neighbourhoods that make it safe for cyclists to reach those lanes. None of this is new, Streetspace just moves the borough more effectively in a direction that has been approved through democratic consultation and votes.

The significant reduction in traffic during the first Covid lockdown illustrated just how attractive a rebalanced transport network could be. Benefits (as expected) included significantly reduced journey times for those who had to travel by car. Unfortunately, the subsequent constraints on public transport capacity and reversion to car use showed just the opposite. We believe that matters would have been considerably worse if the Council had not seized the funding that was on offer from DfT and put temporary measures in place. It will be interesting to see the statistics comparing boroughs when they are available.

Overall, we are wholeheartedly supportive of the Streetspace vision.

Design
Our members particularly welcome the School Streets project. Consideration had been given to the design before the pandemic hit and the benefit of that early thinking is plain to see. It is perhaps premature to make these measures permanent as installation delays mean that the impact cannot yet be properly measured. We are optimistic that few (if any) design changes will be needed.

Design work on the South Chiswick Liveable Neighbourhood evidently reflected the data and views that had been gathered before the pandemic hit. The design is a complex jigsaw of ANPR cameras with time-based controls, ANPR cameras with a white list and low cost modal filters (barriers and planters). We believe that the notion of replacing barriers with ANPR cameras is devoid of merit. Cameras could enable a smarter solution if the budget was available but placement would be different: either at key nodes within the LTN or ringed around the perimeter. We look forward to replacement of the red and white barriers with less intrusive planters.

We have reservations about the Turnham Green Terrace project. In our view the design has been compromised by the need to address two different problems. In the short term, numbers using the tube station are low and wider pavements are essential for social distancing of shoppers. In the long run, the priority will revert to the use of buses, walking and cycling to the tube station. We are minded to remove more parking spaces (this being a low value use of scarce space either way), permanently widen the pavements, redeploying some of the gained space with parklets, SUDS or other green solutions. We would like to see wider consultation before any permanent changes to use of the carriageway.

Please refer to Appendices 1-22 for more detail on these three projects and brief comments on the other nineteen.

Communications
The multiple benefits of modal shift are well understood by those of us who follow transport issues. Targets for modal shift have been included in national, London and borough strategy for some years. Modal shift is not just about health and environmental benefits, it also frees up scarce road space for those who really need it. This point is still not understood by most motorists. This is partly due to purblindness – they don’t want to know – and partly due to the unwillingness of politicians in Westminster and County Hall to deliver an unpopular message.

It is not easy for Councillors and Officers to explain the Streetspace projects to motorists who do not get modal shift. They are all too frequently confronted by a barrage of fake news and irrational objections. We note, for example, that Hounslow House has allegedly been infiltrated by an Evil Cycling Lobby that wants to turn Chiswick into 1970s Belfast. Good communications on every scheme are really important given this difficult background. It takes time and effort to arrange leaflet drops, visits to local businesses, councillor videos and so on but that time and effort is really worthwhile. Organisations like Hounslow Cyclists have a role to play in this and we will continue to support council communications wherever we can.

One myth that has largely been busted is the idea that motorists cannot change their habits. Anecdotally, we believe that bike use has increased significantly this year. We know that many of our older members used to rely on their cars before taking up bikes for some or all journeys. We note that car registrations in Chiswick (where the noisiest opponents are based) have actually been falling. The willingness of key councillors to get out of their own cars and onto bikes has surely played a part in this: nobody is asking residents to do things that they would not do themselves.

Build
Hounslow Highways has struggled to deliver the infrastructure. This is understandable in that the change of stance at the DfT caught everyone involved in road building on the hop. The emergency budget for bike schemes is small compared to the overall roads budget but a significant increase on previous years. There is never a good time for roadworks but the Streetspace works have been particularly badly timed and (seemingly) needlessly prolonged.

Chiswick High Road has been particularly irksome with a closed bike lane taking up around a third of the carriageway from Chiswick Lane to Heathfield Terrace. This is a TfL project not a borough one but residents do not distinguish between the two.

We are concerned that consultation responses during and shortly after the disruption are likely to be hostile. We believe that more weight must be given to responses that are submitted once schemes have had a chance to settle in. Hard data on traffic counts and speeds will also take some time to reflect new patterns of use.

Achievement
The Council has done more to transform use of the borough’s road space than anyone would have believed possible a year ago. The increase in active travel is already plain to see and more can be expected as and when public transport capacity is restored. This will have long term benefits in better air quality, more physical exercise, less carbon emissions, and improved centres for shopping and eating. This has all been achieved on a relatively small budget, in a short space of time, in the most difficult of circumstances. We are heartened by the success of Streetspace and grateful to all those who have been involved in delivering it.