Responding to comments regarding data and the larger issues at hand

A statement prepared following a large response to our campaign

Showing support for Sutton’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

It is not clear where the the 2,000 cars an hour on Browning Avenue and Ruskin Drive claim comes from (which is presumably the data to which you refer – apologies if this is not the case). Reading through today’s posts (and our thanks to all those who have taken the time to write), Paul Mclaughlin notes that Cllr Ruth Dombey mentioned the 2,000 figure in an email (date unknown). So that could have been the original source. If so, presumably, Cllr Dombey had been given the information from an officer, or she may have misinterpreted/mis-understood the information she had been given. Transport planners and officers would have (or certainly should have) known that a figure of 2,000 vehicles an hour on one residential road would be highly suspect, and if presented with such a figure should have questioned it. Everyone else (including councillors), if asked, would probably have no idea of the specific numbers of vehicles (other than “a lot” or “a few”) on any road at any given time. So, if Cllr Dombey misinterpreted the data (and essentially got it wrong) then, to a point, that is understandable. Clearly, though, it would have been helpful to have double checked the fact before sending the email (perhaps she did, and perhaps the same answer came back – yes it is 2,000 – who knows?).

It has also been noted that the figures released by Cllr Abellan for Browning Avenue (exact location not stated) in a tweet on 18 September appear to show that 1,483 was the maximum three-hour peak period count (with 550 being the highest recorded figure in any one hour) during the week of the survey. Interestingly, and something that was not picked up until now, a respondent replied in a tweet the same day and included a graphic (undated, and original source unknown but believed to be Sutton Council) that detailed “Browning Avenue receives around 2,000 cars down the road”. So perhaps that was the source of the 2,000 incorrect figure. From viewing the map included with the graphic, it has occurred to me that the count could be for the total traffic movement through all arms of the Dorchester Road, Ruskin Drive, Browning Avenue intersection rather than Browning Avenue itself, but even that would be unlikely to account for such a high figure).

As far as we are aware, Get Sutton Cycling has never stated that 2,000 cars an hour are driven along Ruskin Drive or Browning Avenue. Our Low Traffic Neighbourhoods leaflet for Worcester Park notes that at some point in 2019 a traffic count on Browning Avenue and Ruskin Drive recorded 2,000 cars over a three-hour peak period (suggesting 650 or more in any one of those three hours, which is not orders of magnitude above the correctly released figures). Those corrected figures were not available to us when the leaflet was prepared. Had they been, our figures would have been revised slightly to reflect this. 

Of course, whether people consider the correct figure of up to 550 vehicle movements an hour at peak times on Browning Avenue to be high or not is, in many ways, subjective. It is clear, though, that the Browning Avenue/Ruskin Drive trial, in its current early stage, is causing a lot of disquiet and concern for some residents. Inevitably with such trials there is going to be a period of adjustment. Is it the adjustment that is the issue, or is it something else? It would be easy to throw in the towel. If this trial does not run for a full six months, though, the question will then be what happens next? If traffic levels continue to rise, are things going to get easier or get more difficult?

Finally, we would like to take the opportunity to provide some additional context at a regional level (beyond that of the current Streetspace initiative and the Covid-19 pandemic), because many people appear to think that it is us that is setting the agenda here and we have somehow manipulated certain councillors. The Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy (March 2018) in many ways carries on from where the previous Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy (May 2010) left off.

In 2010, Boris Johnson wrote in the Mayoral Foreword to his Transport Strategy “I want to create a cycling revolution and to make walking count – not only to help reduce congestion and carbon dioxide emissions, but also to improve the health of Londoners”, and “With its growing population [1.25 million more people by 2031 compared to 2007] and astonishing base of skills and resources, London will not only lengthen its lead as the greatest city on earth, it will come to be seen as the best big city on earth, the best big city to live in”.  The Executive Summary noted “The growth of London will lead to more trips, up from 24 million per day within London to more than 27 million in 2031. Thinking differently about travel to encourage a shift away from the private car, smoothing traffic flow, continuing the cycling revolution and making walking count will help the environment and reduce congestion“. In part two, Changing Policies: “Encouraging more people to cycle is a key Mayoral priority….. The aim is to achieve a five per cent modal share for cycling (currently two per cent) by 2026, which equates to an approximate 400 per cent increase compared to 2000” [noting the latest figure for Sutton is 1.3 per cent]……. TfL analysis suggests that around two-thirds of the potential for increased levels of cycling in the Capital is in Outer LondonAbout half of all car trips here are less than two kilometres and public transport provision is not as comprehensive as in central or Inner London”.

In 2018, Sadiq Khan writing in the Mayor’s foreword “Transport doesn’t only shape our daily lives and determine how we get around London – it can create new opportunities for Londoners and shape the character of our city”….. “…we also need to look at how we can fundamentally change the way people choose to move around our city as the current trends are increasingly causing problems for London”…. “….some parts of London have been planned around car use for so long that there are no decent alternatives. To begin to resolve these problems, London must become a city where walking, cycling and green public transport become the most appealing and practical choices for many more journeys. These active, efficient and sustainable transport choices not only support the health and wellbeing of Londoners, but also the city as a whole by reducing congestion and enabling the most efficient use of valuable street space. With an ever-growing population set to put increasing pressure on our city’s infrastructure and public spaces in the coming years, it is important that we start to make these changes now”. There is an emphasis in the strategy on borough traffic reduction strategies, but also the recognition that “people in outer London are less amenable to reducing their car use” and that the “recent history of planning around car use in outer London, in particular”, will mean that providing new of more appealing alternatives – which are essential to facilitate a switch, “will be a challenge that will take longer to overcome”. Nevertheless, only 60 per cent of journeys are done on foot, by cycle or using public transport within outer London.  Cars are currently being used for the remaining 40 per cent of journeys. Of these car journeys, the strategy notes, about 80 per cent are short enough to feasibly be switched to active, efficient and sustainable modes. LB Sutton has set targets for the proportion of trips taken by borough residents on foot, by cycle, or public transport, from the current 45 or 46 per cent (2018), to 48 per cent by 2021, 56 per cent by 2025, and 63 per cent by 2041.

Essentially, therefore, Streetspace (and the trial of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods) has simply accelerated things. In time, we may look back and think that was a good thing. 

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to comment on our post ‘Showing support for Sutton’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’. If nothing else, all of this is getting the conversation going. As is ever the case, everyone’s decisions now will shape the future.

Posted in Areas without through motor traffic, Comment
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