We welcomed Cat Kenyon of Haringey Living Streets to speak at our second lockdown webinar – addressing the all-too topical issue of maintaining reduced traffic and pollution while enabling people to get back to work post-lockdown.
South Tottenham resident Cat’s awareness was raised while on maternity leave for her second son in 2018. At talk by Prof Jennifer Aldridge of the University of Westminster sparked her interest in living streets as a social justice issue. ‘I began to wonder why less able people didn’t have time to cross road? Why it took my neighbours 10 years to campaign for a safe crossing to the park? Why cycle routes were usually blocked with cars? And why enormous chunks of space on my street are allocated to driving but there isn’t enough space to hold my child’s hand when walking along some sections of the pavement.’
Living streets and social justice
Cat described how those in deprived communities least likely to own a car suffer most from the driving culture: poorer air quality, a tripled child road traffic injury rate where there is poor access to open space, and obesity as people are trapped indoors and exercise little.
Impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis has brought a drop in motor traffic and increased cycling and walking. Air pollution at illegal levels in Haringey, and which leads to 40,000 early deaths in the UK each year from lung and heart disease has dropped significantly. Meanwhile there have been reports that air pollutants may contribute to deaths from Coronavirus, making it critical that air pollution does not worsen as the lockdown eases.
Social distancing has highlighted how limited some pavement space is. Haringey has now started to extend pavements outside some shops and at ‘pinch points’.
Two-thirds of Haringey residents commute by public transport – the third highest rate in the UK, while car ownership level is one of the lowest. Transport For London estimate that to ensure safe social distancing on public transport, capacity will need to reduce by 85%. A mass shift to car use will lead to gridlock as well as pollution.
We need safe cycling and walking routes immediately. Over 40% of urban journeys are under 2 miles, so perfectly suited to walking and cycling, freeing up public transport space for those who cannot walk and cycle.
The Mayor of London has announced a radical Street Space plan, while Boris Johnson has urged regional leaders to commute on foot or bike.
There are positive examples to follow – despite initial resistance Walthamstow village achieved a 44% reduction in vehicles and marked nitrogen dioxide reductions. Broadway Market in Hackney could go car-free, while ‘school streets’ are being introduced in Haringey.
Models in other countries include Amsterdam and Milan, which is transforming 35kmof streets for cycling. Paris Mayor Anne Hildago has said ‘Pollution is already in itself a health crisis and a danger — and pollution joined up with coronavirus is a particularly dangerous cocktail.’
Living Streets’ vision post-lockdown
Living Streets supports Haringey Council’s funding application for an emergency transport plan with measures like emergency cycle lanes installed in a matter of weeks – ‘Cycling can no longer be for the brave.’ Their vision also includes:
– Wider pavements and improved crossings.
-Low traffic neighbourhoods .
– School streets with temporary restriction on motorised traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times
– Expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone
– Joined up provision with neighbouring boroughs for cycle lanes.
How you can help:
- Receive updates from Haringey Living Streets by signing up to their newsletter here.
- Write to your ward councillors and Cllr Kirsten Hearne, Cabinet Member for Climate and Sustainability, to say you care about this issue.
- Talk to your neighbours about the changes you’d like to see.