Call for EV charging stations off pavements

by David Harrison, Islington Living Streets and vice-chair of London Living Streets

IslingtonEV_lowresLondon’s pavements have long been an obstacle course. It is hard to walk more than a few feet without encountering a post or box or something larger.

Some street furniture is, of course, useful: lampposts and benches spring to mind. Some is useful but poorly sited: we need bus stops, but not where their footprint dominates the pavement.

Utilities take up a fair amount of space. Phone boxes have been increasingly installed as advertising sites under permitted development rights – which Ministers have failed to scrap despite pleas from councils. Things might get worse. The press has reported that the Secretary of State for Transport wants utilities to dig up pavements, not streets, so as not to slow down motorists.

Indeed, most of the clutter on streets is associated with the motor car. Long ago it was decided not only that cars would dominate the carriageway and own the kerbside for parking, but that pedestrians would have to suffer all the paraphernalia thought necessary for driving: giant road signs, the endless posts which record parking restrictions, and the machines for paying for parking.

Recently a new and even larger impediment has been appearing all over London. Electric vehicle (EV) charging points (point is definitely a misnomer) are making life even more difficult for pedestrians, especially wheelchair users and wheelers of buggies.

Of course, with almost 10,000 deaths per year in London due to long-term exposure to air pollution, and with motor vehicles the major cause of poor air quality, it seems a good idea to replace dirty diesels and petrol vehicles with clean electric ones. To do this the Government is encouraging local authorities and others to install an infrastructure of charging points, but it has given no thought to the consequences for pedestrians.

Some installations may also not be compatible with equality legislation, that requires anyone looking after the street environment, including private companies, to eliminate obstructions for disabled people.

From time to time, pious expressions are made about the need to reduce street clutter, but they are readily ignored in practice. My ward — Mildmay in Islington — has some of the worst new installations. St Paul’s Place is so wide that parking places are set at right angles to the pavement on one side, still leaving more than enough room for two large vehicles to pass. Even so, the charging points are on a narrow pavement. Round the corner, in Mildmay Grove North, the charging points are placed on an even narrower pavement though the parking spaces in the street are never full.

Like so much other pavement clutter, these installations are unnecessary. It is perfectly feasible to install them on the road. This is done in Paris, and there are a few places where this has been done in Islington. A diagram drawn by Susan Claris at Arup shows how it can be done.

Hierarchy of locations

There is some good news. At the recent, well-attended Islington Healthy Streets Hustings organised by Cycle Islington and Islington Living Streets, all the candidates committed to putting new charging points on the road. This included Councillor Webbe, who has once again been appointed the Cabinet Lead for the Environment and Transport. We must ensure both that the next wave of charging points is on the road, and that many of the recently installed ones are moved.

Even better, charging points could go in public car parks or locations such as supermarkets, shopping centres and petrol filling stations.

We suggest a hierarchy of locations for charging infrastructure. Pavements should be the last resort and only suitable if a minimum 2.5 metre width is left for sociable walking.

  1. Off-road locations such as car parks, supermarkets, shopping centres
  2. The carriageway
  3. The pavement if a 2.5 metre width remains

EV not a panacea

But even where charging points are on the road or car park, we must appreciate that electric vehicles are not a panacea. The electricity which powers them is not all generated by clean electricity. Streets will still be dominated by motor vehicles, and children unable to play or cycle in them. Pedestrian and cyclists will remain at risk, and still likely to suffer high levels of deaths and injuries. Sitting in an electric vehicle will do nothing to address the obesity epidemic and diseases associated with this and lack of exercise. Electric vehicles will not by themselves remove the vast amounts of unnecessary ‘black top’ which disfigures our public realm.

Finally, there is a question of equity. Government support for EV charging infrastructure and the purchase of electric vehicles is a large subsidy to the well-off who are buying them. Given that almost three-quarters of households in boroughs like Islington do not own a car, surely social justice demands that money be spent on the many, not the few.

At present, users of bike hangars are paying over £100 per year to park their bikes. There is also need for more zebra crossings and safer junctions in the borough. The money the Government is giving to subsidise the electric car industry might be better spent on any of the above or, best of all, on a few bollards to create low-traffic neighbourhoods, such as in Walthamstow where through-traffic is removed and streets returned to residents.

Response to the Government Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy: Safety Review

FeetThe Department for Transport (DfT) has called for evidence on ways to make cycling and walking safer. London Living Streets welcomes the review and strongly supports the Government’s ambition to increase cycling and walking.

Our response, accessed here, provides a range of recommendations. We will cover some of these in a series of blogs, starting with a summary here.

This review is long-overdue, coming at a time when deaths of pedestrians and cyclists make up nearly one third of all fatalities in the UK. In 2016, a total of 550 pedestrians and cyclists were killed on Britain’s roads. Motor traffic remains the leading cause of death for children aged 5-19 years in the UK.

Pedestrians still get a raw deal on our streets, with narrow footways, inadequate crossing opportunities, long waits at pedestrian crossings, speeding traffic, pollution and traffic noise. It’s hardly surprising that walking levels are at a historic low in England. The modal share of walking for transport was at 22% in 2015, down from 29% 1994/6 and 35% in 1975/6.

This is a great shame considering walking can solve a number of pandemic public health problems. Child obesity has increased nationally by 20% over the last 20 years, and is a serious health threat.

There are also legal requirements to make roads usable for everyone in society, not just those in motor vehicles. The Equality Act and Public Sector Equality Duty, for example, require councils not to discriminate on the basis of age and ability.

We are calling for a fundamental rethink of how society is arranged in order to end the continuous and unconscious domination of private motor vehicle in town and cities and thereby promote walking and cycling.

Infrastructure and traffic signs 

A key focus for London Living Streets is improvements to infrastructure, particularly around junctions and crossings and traffic filtering for low-traffic neighbourhoods. In our response to this review we advocate:   

  • Manual for Streets and Manual for Streets 2 to be the basis for street design. The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges must be revised and limited to arterial roads with limited pedestrian and cycle traffic;
  • a minimum inclusive footway width of 2.5 metres;
  • all street furniture, including electric car charging points, that encroach on this width to be placed in the carriageway;
  • more walking amenities including plants, trees, seating and rest areas;
  • better crossings for pedestrians with shorter wait times;
  • direct single-phase crossings on all arms of the junction;
  • priority for pedestrians and cyclists travelling straight ahead on pavements, for example with continuous level crossings over side road junctions and give-way lines pushed behind the line of pedestrian footways;
  • traffic filtering to become the norm on residential streets in order to reduce and calm motor vehicles;
  • ban on pavement parking;
  • and a 30% reallocation of car parking space for walking and cycling assets.

The laws and rules of the road

In terms of laws and enforcement, we call for:

  • road pricing to reduce volumes and subsequently casualty levels;
  • 20mph speed limits to become the default in urban areas;
  • safer 5-10mph speeds on residential roads to increase the safety of children;
  • roads policing to become core police work to ensure it is better resourced, monitored and evaluated;
  • a clearer focus on driving offences that affect vulnerable road users;
  • a Roads Collision Investigation Board to ensure greater transparency, accountability and effectiveness in collision investigation;
  • criminal justice reform so offending drivers face suitable sanctions. Too often, drivers who have committed serious offences with terrible consequences face lenient penalties.

Our response also provides detailed recommendations for a revision of the Highway Code (HC) to remedy the bias against people walking and cycling. These include:

  • rules that make it clear a motor vehicle has a dramatically greater potential lethality compared to walking or cycling;
  • new rules on junction priority that oblige motor traffic to give way to cyclists and pedestrians going straight ahead at a junction;
  • removal of anti-pedestrian rules that, for example, require pedestrians to stay on pavements, wear fluorescent clothing and children to be accompanied by — even strapped to — adults.

We argue that these rules are unreasonable and place the onus for not being hit on the pedestrian. Car drivers should be driving at speeds at which they can see pedestrians under any light conditions and stop in time.

Training and educating road users

The driving and theory tests must be more effective in teaching drivers the reasons behind the rules, the dangers of motor vehicles and their speeds, and the vulnerability of pedestrians and cyclists.

Living Streets also supports the principles of:

  • ‘graduated driver licensing’ that sets a minimum amount of time before candidates can take their test;
  • driver retesting, particularly for older drivers;
  • Safe Urban Driving training for commercial drivers in urban settings;
  • a compulsory re-test and remedial training for drivers who have committed serious driving offences and have more than 12 penalty points.

Government must also change the focus of road user education that currently prioritises the responsibilities of cyclists and pedestrians rather than encouraging these activities.

Vehicles and equipment

We recommend widespread adoption of the Direct Vision Standard that rates how much a HGV driver can see directly from their cab in relation to other road users. We also advocate Safer Urban Driver Skills training and greater use of rail and water-borne transport and urban cargo bikes to reduce predominance of HGVs in towns and cities.

Other measures should include adoption of Intelligent Speed Assistance that assist drivers in complying with speed limits and Black Box technology that monitors how motor vehicles are driven to reduce dangerous behaviours.

While we believe that autonomous electric vehicles are more likely to be safer for vulnerable road users, the focus on their use must be sharing of vehicles and their effectiveness in providing mobility as a service.

We also believe the use of SUV-type vehicles should be discouraged in an urban environment. Evidence shows that the weight and size of these cars presents greater danger to pedestrians.

Attitudes and public awareness

We believe that attitudes will change if government imposes stronger penalties for dangerous driving and it revises the Highway Code as we propose. This will help reduce drivers’ sense of entitlement on the road.

Attitudes can also be influenced by a transformation of road-user education in schools,  driver training, and messages to the media from central and local Government. Pre-driver training  should also be replaced by education which stresses the disadvantages of driving to society.

We also ask Government to set clearer targets and indicators for walking and cycling and call for the reinstatement of national road safety targets. But these targets must always incentivise rather than discourage walking in order to increase safety levels.

DfT should also publish statistics to show how risk relates to different vehicles and travel modes and invest in “near miss” research to better identity risk hotspots.

Government can also raise the status of walking by encouraging and promoting community-led schemes. For example, school streets (such as pioneered in Hackney), play streets, regular street closures, car-free days, and parklets challenge the assumption the road is just for cars and show how other types of activity can bring streets to life.

Last, and certainly not least, active travel requires more funding. The Government’s transport spending plans currently propose a rapid increase in roads investment, while the tiny annual allocations for its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) are currently set to decline.

This is contrary to its aim to make cycling and walking a safe and normal option for short journeys and to maximise their health, environmental benefits. This must be reversed. 

More detail is available here in forthcoming blogs. Please use our comment facility below to share your thoughts on this and considerations for future work.

Councils promise a more liveable London

Orford_Road_Flickr_MartinDeutschMore than half of council leaders in London pledged to create a high-quality “Liveable Neighbourhood” in the run-up to the local elections on 3rd May.

Members and supporters from London Cycling Campaign, London Living Streets and Living Streets asked main party leaders in all London boroughs to support a Liveable London.

By pledging to do so, party leaders demonstrated an ambition to access TfL’s Liveable Neighbourhood programme, that provides grants of between £1m and £10m for schemes that reduce car trips, improve residents’ health and local air quality.

Both organisations have heralded the success of the campaign, with the results announced so far meaning that:

  • 55% of newly elected borough leaders have committed to a high-quality Liveable Neighbourhood;
  • Seven boroughs have cross-party support for a high-quality Liveable Neighbourhood;
  • and 54% of boroughs currently without funding for a Liveable Neighbourhood have committed to submitting a high-quality bid over the course of this term.

London Cycling Campaign and London Living Streets are looking forward to working with all newly-elected council leaders across London. Together we can build places where the air is cleaner, children can roam and walk or cycle to school, there are relaxing places to sit and relax, and everyone can walk and cycle safely and happily.

Ashok Sinha, Chief Executive of LCC said:

We’re delighted that so many council leaders have pledged to undertake transformational projects to make their boroughs more liveable, by reducing motor traffic and/or introducing protected cycle lanes. This will not only make walking and cycling a safe and enjoyable choice for everyday journeys, but will help clean up the air their residents breathe and make it easier for everyone lead healthier lives.

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive, Living Streets said:

Cities around the world are nowadays competing on liveability. We want to see liveable neighbourhoods right across London where everyone can walk and cycle safely and happily. We look forward to working with boroughs across London to transform the city together and make it a truly world-class city to live in.

You can see a full break down of pledges by borough here: https://lcc.org.uk/pages/my-liveable-london-pledges

Essential briefing documents on low-traffic liveable neighbourhoods from LCC and London Living Streets are also available here: https://lcc.org.uk/pages/low-traffic-neighbourhoods

Main image: Flickr, Martin Deutsch 

Flower power: Chelsea’s streets come alive in bloom

by Colin J Davis, of Streetscapes.online and author of Streetscapes: how to design and deliver great streets

 

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Our campaign is for healthier, happier and more livable streets. What could be more uplifting than the splendid displays of flowers in, on and around the shop fronts of Chelsea during the week of the flower show?

Picking up the theme of love, emphasised at the royal wedding at Windsor the previous weekend, the Chelsea in Bloom displays were very individual but with firm coordination.

How can this (obviously commercial) enthusiasm be replicated across London? One way is to help people to work together. An independent trader or a store manager perhaps needs to be introduced to a local gardening group.

People love flowers but might not be too knowledgeable about how to grow them. This could lead to local people being even more involved in improving to their own streets.

A new book — Streetscapes by Colin Davis — produced with the cooperation of Living Streets may also help. It brings together all the elements of successful streets including systems to reduce the impact of traffic, encourage walking and help make streets more enjoyable. It is available at Amazon for £15.

Walking news from Hackney’s Cycling Conference

PhilGlanville

One of the many noteworthy announcements from Hackney’s seventh cycling conference was that next year it will add ‘walking’ to its title.

This is welcome, not simply because this was one of Hackney Living Street’s demands in its campaign manifesto for the May elections, but also because it reflects an understanding that cycling is just one ingredient in a liveable city. If cities are for everyone — and not just motorists — they must encourage walking and living as well as cycling. Or as Andreas Røhl, Gehl Architects’ biking expert put it, ‘cycling isn’t the goal, it’s a means to an end’.

Listed below are some other key announcements and inspirations from last week’s event, many of which – we are happy to announce — originate from London Living Streets campaigns.

Bollards are the future

Or so said Simon Phillips, transport manager from Lambeth Council. Thankfully, filtered permeability — using features like bollards or planters to stop rat-running traffic on residential streets —  gained a lot of airtime at the conference. Phillips made the important point that we should be looking beyond TfL’s Healthy Streets to building ‘Healthy Neighbourhoods’, or wider cells with less traffic and more liveable environments.

London Living Streets chair, Jeremy Leach and London Cycling Campaign’s Simon Munk presented their invaluable new guidance on low-traffic liveable neighbourhoods. These briefing documents are packed with detail and advice from campaigners, councillors, engineers, planners and engagement specialists.

But speakers were realistic about challenges in building wider support for the concept. As Feryal Demirci, Hackney’s deputy mayor said, ‘this is not a perfect science. Whilst we at getting more sophisticated in tackling car dominance, so are the arguments against it.’

Glanville made an interesting point that while a few years ago the argument may have been framed as motorists versus cyclists, today it is more about ownership of space, or hyper-local arguments about what people want from the space where they live.

Councils must learn from this. Munk advised councils to give residents greater agency in shaping transformation of their areas. Gone are the days of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ consultations, he said. Residents must be brought in from the outset, for example via surveys about their street. If residents say they want to cut traffic or improve safety, then councils can show how schemes can address those principles.

Parklets

Welcome news also came from Hackney’s mayor about plans for a residential ‘parklet’ programme. This follows the campaign by London Living Streets campaigner, Brenda Puech who installed a mini park  or ‘parklet’ on a car-parking space outside her home in Hackney.

Hackney Council opposed her efforts in 2017, forcing her to move the People’s Parking Bay to various locations to outflank evictions. But one year on and following massive community support for the parklet, Hackney Council have come round to the idea.

This is a ground-breaking result for Puech and London Living Streets. London boroughs have paid for a handful of parklets in the past, but this is the first time a council will enable communities to create their own. Puech hopes this is a first step in changing how people think about and use our kerbside public space.

Sub 20 speed limits

One member of the audience argued that 20 mph speed limits were still too high on residential streets. In response,  TfL’s streets chief, Jeanette Baartman agreed and suggested colleagues were looking into this.

School Streets

The conference was also opportunity for Hackney Council to promote its School Streets programme, where roads around schools are closed to traffic at drop-off and pick-up times to improve road safety, reduce air pollution and encourage children to walk and cycle.

Four schools now have a school street in operation with a further 12 planned over the next four years. As Glanville says, the schemes have captured popular imagination so they expect wider take-up in and beyond Hackney. To enable this, Hackney Council is about to launch a School Street Toolkit for professionals in other boroughs.

Central London Walking Network

London Living Streets vice chair, David Harrison, presented his vision of a Central London Walking Network that would link London’s key attractions and stations.

This ‘elegant and simple’ idea would prioritise London’s medieval streets for walking and cycling, leaving later, Victorian Streets to through motor traffic. With a relatively simple face-lift these ancient, interesting and intriguing streets would be brought back to life with wider pavements, places to rest and greenery to enjoy. More information is available here.

ULEV

Delegates also heard about plans for London’s first ever ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV) streets. The plans, set to go live in July across nine streets in Shoreditch and Hoxton, will introduce two time-restricted pedestrian and cycle zones, allowing access to ULEV and local residents and businesses.

In a recent consultation, 56% of respondents were in favour and 40% opposed the plans. The restrictions will be enforced via Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, from Monday to Friday between 7am- 10am and 4pm-7pm.

‘I was pleased to see a number of mainstream press coverage around the scheme, and it certainly contributed to the large number of consultation responses from taxi drivers,’ said Mayor Glanville.

Quietways

Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner, announced that London will not give up on its Quietway programme, quoting a figure that 11% of Quietway 1’s cyclists have switched trips from cars. He said they will be revisiting the design of routes and consider more traffic filtering to reduce motor traffic.

Bigger picture

Once again, Norman made all the right noises about ‘getting people out of their tin boxes’ and the importance of evidence when promoting active forms of travel. We hope these aspirations are matched by actions. London Living Streets remains concerned about the recent approval of the Silvertown Tunnel beneath the River Thames in East London. If London’s mayor and TfL believe in evidence, we’d hope they consider the evidence which proves more roads encourage more cars.

Main image of Hackney Mayor, Phil Glanville courtesy of Hackney Council