Tag Archives: Wandsworth

Battersea rat run

Wandsworth Council have decided to proceed with an experimental traffic order opening up the south side of Battersea High Street to through traffic. This trial has arisen due to a petition of 22 signatures from businesses at the end of the street.

It seems likely that opening up this part of the road to traffic will create a classic rat run situation, with traffic now being able to cut through from Vicarage Crescent to Battersea Park road. The council claims that they will be taking measures to prevent a rat run but without preventing egress from Battersea High Street at this end it is difficult to see what measures can be taken.

It is currently unclear when the trial will start and on what basis the success or otherwise of the initiative will be judged.

There are several problematic issues that arise from this decision and why I think the trial should not be extended.

Firstly, the basis on which the decision was taken appears to be flawed. The assumption that increasing traffic is the way to increase business for retail outlets is often taken reflexively. However, this assumption does not necessarily correspond to reality, especially in a densely populated urban area where half the populace do not own a car. Given that no economic case was given to the council before the decision it appears it is merely based on an assumption. I would contend that it is a flawed assumption.

The retail outlets at this end of the street include several restaurants and pizza delivery outlets, a few newsagent, a green grocer, a hairdresser and a bookmaker. These types of business are predominantly reliant on local, repeat custom. The notion that allowing motor traffic to this part of the street would increase business seems weak given the nature of the businesses involved.

It is worth relating that research conducted by London Councils has shown that the number of customers arriving by car is generally over-estimated. The research also showed that people arriving by public transport or by foot visit more frequently and spend more money than motorists in town centre shops.

It is highly likely given the characteristic of the local area that the majority of the custom would come from a relatively short distance and most likely come by foot or public transport. Increasing traffic on the road could actually deter this type of custom.

The idea that increased traffic would create extra business is also weakened due to the lack of parking in the area. Where exactly is the extra custom going to park their vehicles to use these shops? With the new residential developments in the area the pressure on parking space is only likely to grow.

There are other ways in which to improve customer flow and help the local business. It is disappointing that the most banal option available is the one which has been selected. The research indicates that a more attractive street with better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists would be most beneficial. Improving access from the Battersea Park Road end of the street for pedestrians could be beneficial. Alternatively making the area next to the current barrier more attractive could be beneficial.

Secondly, the decision seems to run counter to the council’s public health remit. The tacit encouragement of travelling by car contradicts the council’s supposed desire to increase activity such as walking and cycling.

Nitrogen dioxide levels are already over the desired average levels on Battersea Park Road. Increasing traffic in the area would appear likely to lead to further pollution. This would be damaging to local residents. Wandsworth had 148 deaths related to poor air quality in 2008. To risk a further deterioration in the local air quality could be regarded as irresponsible.

There is also the risk of an increase in accidents due to an increase in traffic. There are many vulnerable users of this road due to there being a primary school, nursing home, church and charity building on or just off the road. Thus there is a high concentration of our most vulnerable pedestrians in the area. It seems odd for the council to prioritise the motorist over them and to increase the likelihood of accidents involving these vulnerable users of local amenities.

Finally, the decision is also at odds with the general transport policy. The high street is part of the Wandsworth Cycle network and the council has installed several stations for the bike hire scheme in the immediate area.

It is unrealistic to expect more people to cycle whilst simultaneously encouraging more motor traffic in the area. Most people cite the fear of accidents as a reason for not cycling. The act of increasing traffic in the area is therefore going to make people less likely to use the route for cycling, especially the first time, irregular users that the hire scheme is purportedly looking to encourage.

The fact that the council is prepared to spend money from ever decreasing resources on this initiative is worrying. The general trend in London is to re-prioritise our infrastructure away from the car. For Wandsworth to take this decision, even if motivated by a desire to help local businesses, seems almost wilfully perverse. The creation of a rat run here will be harmful to local residents and endanger the many vulnerable users of the road. It is far from clear that there will be any economic benefit and indeed, the allowance of traffic at this part of the road could have a detrimental effect on local businesses as it becomes more difficult for pedestrians to access the shops.







Time for Twenty?

As a result of writing a blog on London’s cycling infrastructure yesterday I reviewed several statistical releases about casualties arising from traffic incidents. One figure struck me and got me thinking about the issue of road safety in Wandsworth. In 2012 there were 9 fatalities on 20 mph roads as opposed to 595 deaths on roads where the limit was 30 mph. [1]  I cannot find any figures that allow me to flex these figures for miles of road that are 20 mph and 30 mph but it seems a compellingly stark statistic.

it is also worth nothing that pedestrian fatalities are disproportionately spread amongst the moe vulnerable age groups. Children and the elderly comprise 48.3% of all pedestrian fatalities and 48.7% of all serious injuries. [1]. Transport for London have produced a report which shows a 42% reduction in casualties in 20 mph zones, with the main beneficiaries of this reduction being children aged up to 15 [2]. I think that we owe these people the highest duty of care. If one believes that it then seems remiss not to tailor our speed limit to reduce the danger to them.

Wandsworth has one of the highest percentage of residents not owning a vehicle in the country (55.7%) [3]. Despite this much of our urban landscape in the borough is seemingly designed to prioritise the motor vehicle. The safety of our citizens should be paramount and yet it would appear that we as a borough have been catering more to the structural needs of others. 

To offer a local example, crossing Battersea Church Road can feel rather like playing the old computer game Frogger. The turns make it very difficult to reliably judge traffic and when best to cross. This is exacerbated for the more vulnerable pedestrians such as the elderly and those with a pram who inevitably would take longer to cross the road, and in the case of the elderly be more likely to have problems with seeing and hearing.

Wandsworth has had a trial of  20 mph in West Putney and Dover House Road and seen a drop in the casualty rate from 7 to 2.18 in West Putney and from 3.66 to 3.27 in Dover House Road. [4]. As such it has been shown that the scheme could have a beneficial impact on safety locally and the council has agreed that if 25 per cent of people living in an area give their approval then a 20 mph limit can be introduced. I hope that it is introduced in St Mary’s Park ward soon.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/245387/rrcgb-2012-complete.pdf

[2] http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/20-mph-zones-and-road-safety-in-london.pdf

[3] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-286262

[4] http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/s28018/13-430%2020mph%20Review%20OSC%20-%20Report.pdf