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London council set to remove emergency cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods

Report for Harrow Council recommends scrapping active travel measures following six-month review

Low traffic neighbourhoods and emergency cycle lanes in the London Borough of Harrow that were brought in last year as part of an emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic are set to be scrapped after two reports compiled by the council recommended that the schemes be removed “with immediate effect.”

While other councils in London such as Wandsworth and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea have previously removed emergency infrastructure, should Harrow Council’s cabinet approve the recommendations when it meets on 29 April, it would be the first time that pop-up cycle lanes and LTNs had been scrapped following detailed consultation with stakeholders and residents.

The recommendations that the schemes be removed follow a six-month review of each initiative, which the Labour-controlled council introduced in the northwest London borough in October last year under its Harrow Streetspace Programme.

The reports, compiled by council officials and which you can find here, were prepared ahead of a meeting this Thursday of the council’s Traffic and Road Safety Advisory Panel, and conclude that it should recommend that the cabinet remove the schemes.

The cycle lanes in question are in Honeypot Lane in Queensbury, Sheepcote Road in Harrow and Uxbridge Road in Harrow Weald, and were financed by a £100,000 grant from Transport for London (TfL).

The report said that they “were funded on the condition that we only used the TfL design criteria, which wasn’t Harrow specific and therefore didn’t account for any local conditions.

“Therefore, post implementation the schemes have clearly demonstrated that they aren’t the option best suited to Harrow and that alternative designs for any future cycle scheme fully account for local conditions,” it continued.

“The TfL funding has been exhausted and therefore any new scheme would require new funding which is not currently available from within existing budgets.

“With the need for social distancing to continue for the longer-term, alongside the return of schools and easing of lockdown restrictions it is expected that levels of car usage will remain high, if not increase, in the short term, thereby putting further strain on the highways and junctions.

“The engagement and consultation over the experimental six-month period have highlighted that a majority do not agree with the design of the cycle lanes and have clearly indicated that they are not working for all users.”

The report added that there is still “support from residents and ward councillors to retain the 30mph speed limit introduced as part of the cycle lanes schemes on Honeypot Lane and Uxbridge Road.”

The campaign group Healthy Streets for Harrow last month urged people to support keeping the cycle lanes, saying that “the key outcome of the trial is that it has been shown to be feasible to reallocate road space away from motorists to create protected cycle lanes along these sections, with negligible impact on motor traffic.

The group added: “Some sections of the routes have been used well and they provide a good experience for people, as they are direct and convenient. However, overall cycling numbers are still low, because the routes are incomplete and lack protection at junctions.”

In total, 1,949 responses were received on the three schemes, 1,609 of which were described as “negative mostly” and 132 as “negative.” Just 38 responses were described as “positive” and 153 as “positive mostly,” while 17 were “neutral.”

But Healthy Streets for Harrow last month said that “opponents of safer roads have posted multiple entries with non-specific negative feedback, and the proportion of negative and positive responses is in no way representative of the views of the general population.”

The report to the council says it will cost between £50,000 and £66,000 to reinstate the previous traffic lanes, with the money for that coming from its Highways Maintenance revenue budget.

The four LTNs introduced last year are Headstone in South Pinner View, Francis Road in Greenhill, Vaughan Road in West Harrow and Southfield Park in North Harrow, paid for by £180,000 of TfL money.

The report into it acknowledged that “while the residential roads within the LTN have benefitted from reduced levels of traffic, speeding and vehicle damage, surrounding roads have experienced an increase in levels of traffic, longer journey times and waiting times at junctions, and increased vehicle emissions thereby reducing air quality.”

As with the report into cycle lanes, it said that car usage is expected to be high, and even perhaps increase, as lockdown restrictions ease.

It said that the engagement and consultation process had found that “a strong majority do not agree with the LTNs, do not feel that they are working, and do not agree with the proposal to retain the LTNs using ANPR and virtual permits.”

The report said that to continue the schemes and implement them using ANPR cameras would involve a capital cost of £172,000 as well as year-round operation costs of £93,500. Removing the planters and signage currently in place in the four LTNs, meanwhile, would costs £25,000.

A Telegraph report regarding the expected axing of the schemes claimed that they “block emergency services.”

However, the report on LTNs states that at a meeting last month, “it was confirmed that the emergency services continued to meet their statutory response requirements,” and that “there are no significant issues concerning the LTNs within the borough.”

As far as the cycle lanes are concerned, the report noted that “no operational issues have been highlighted generally but some changes were made to the Honeypot Lane cycle lane due to the proximity of Stanmore Fire Station to the cycle lane, and impact on queueing traffic on emergency vehicles leaving and accessing the station.”

A separate report recommended that an 18-month trial of four school streets scheme in the borough which began in October last year be continued, and that the council carries on evaluating the schemes during that period.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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