Positive Values, Positive Actions

When I moved to London in the 1970’s from the south coast there were many gains but there were also losses. I remember missing the countryside and the coast terribly and re-entering the city after trips to see family and friends was made particularly hard by having to use the always busy, unremittingly grey and built up North Circular (A406). I found this transition especially difficult after starting a family and the experience of guilt towards my children for giving them this kind of an environment in which to grow up in, was acute. But you do what you have to do and the work and continuing education opportunities justified staying as did the social network we developed. I’m writing all this by way of an introduction to the subject of busy, urban roads because one of the things I remember thinking as we drove or often waited along the traffic-filled A406 was: “things could be worse; how must it be to be someone who actually lives on the A406?”

Now, decades later, I am having to consider the vexed question of who gets to shoulder the burden of the cost to quality of life and the environment of busy road systems. All over London Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are being forced on Londoners as part of a huge push to reduce traffic in the capital. In my neighbourhood a network of residential streets have been closed to through traffic and the council is busy raking in hundreds of thousands of pounds from fines imposed on drivers, many of whom unwittingly infringe the new rules as new cameras, often placed in hard to detect places, record the confusion. In addition, the larger roads are now full of slow moving or stationary traffic emitting fumes into people’s gardens and homes and for the thousands who live in the LTNS more traffic miles are incurred by tortuous road systems, incidents of road rage have increased discernibly and no-one gets anywhere easily, even if they are using public transport or are on bicycles or foot.

There is, of course, some local opposition and many of the residents are displaying signs in their windows proclaiming ‘STOP the LTNs from closing our neighbourhoods’. As I ‘ve walked around our neighbourhood it has struck me as particularly depressing and insensitive of councils during these months of enforced social isolation, to introduce these LTN measures and make traveling and interacting even harder and more unpleasant. The signs in windows have made me think, however, and one of the main thoughts has been that using words like ‘STOP’ and ‘closing’ are not likely to bring any positive action or change. I was wondering if a sign that stated ‘SHARE the traffic and open our neighbourhoods’ might make more difference to how people were thinking?

In the same way, councils acting entirely from the motivation to reduce or limit traffic does not promise to convince or influence the populations they are elected and paid by to serve. They’d be much more likely to bring local people with them if they attempted to be honest and positive about the values underpinning policies and budgetary decisions. For example, if they talked about the fact that traffic, the environment and quality of life are issues shared by everyone, it would be much harder to ever even consider projects that blatantly disadvantaged some over others and we would all be more inclined to commit to alternative positive, shared actions like driving less, electric cars and charging points, caring for the environment and supporting public transport more.

2 comments

  1. Extremely interesting post, very well presented but I think it is worth your while to post it complete on Nextdoor rather than have the link as it should be out there for all to see…A thought provoking post.
    Perhaps it should also be presented to Cllr. Barnes if you haven’t already done so.

    Like

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