Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm, on why we have to act to rebuild a greener Hackney and how we are listening to residents’ views:
While the effect of coronavirus continues to hit London hard, one of the few benefits of lockdown was a cleaner, greener city, with less traffic, cleaner air, and more people walking and cycling.
We want to rebuild a greener Hackney and secure these benefits for future generations
We’re hard at work introducing three new low traffic neighbourhoods in Hackney Downs, Hoxton West and London Fields, implementing a further 15 traffic filters across the borough, and creating 40 new School Streets, helping over 14,000 children walk and cycle to school.
Not only will this secure the cleaner, greener city we saw during lockdown, but it will support everyone in Hackney – including the 70% of Hackney households who do not own a car – to walk and cycle more safely as public transport capacity remains low, and encourage more people to swap their car for walking or cycling – with the benefits to health and air quality this brings.
This is fully supported by the Department for Transport, who, through Transport for London, are giving councils funding to implement these changes.
Listening to residents
We know that these changes are ambitious and so we want to put residents’ views at the heart of this process.
All of these measures are being introduced on an experimental basis for a maximum period of 18 months. This allows residents to see how changes work in practice before having their say – which we will take into account before any decision is made on whether or not to make measures permanent.
We’re listening to residents every step of the way too. We’ve already made changes to the Hoxton West low traffic neighbourhood following feedback from local people, and want everyone to tell us what they think about the measures at rebuildingagreenerhackney.commonplace.is.
Disruption can take time to end – but we will take action where needed
As with all transport changes, there can sometimes be a number of weeks of disruption while drivers get used to changes and sat nav apps adjust. This is expected and can unfortunately cause inconvenience.
All of the measures are designed to limit the effect of traffic displacement – where a change to a road causes traffic to use an alternative route – but I want to reassure residents that we are monitoring traffic levels around each of the changes so we know how they affect our roads.
If you are currently seeing higher levels of traffic than normal on a road near a low traffic neighbourhood, it is likely that this will die down as drivers take other routes. This may take a number of weeks, but I’d like to thank residents for being patient during this time.
There are also a number of other factors creating temporary increases in traffic in the borough – including Transport for London roadworks in Hackney Road and Thames Water work in Stoke Newington.
If we see significant changes in monitoring statistics, we will look at further measures to mitigate issues.
Why we have to act
We do not want to make residents’ lives harder. All of our new filters allow local people, including disabled residents, and businesses to continue to access their property by car or van. Instead, they are aimed squarely at limiting through-traffic, which should be using main roads, not back streets.
It is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that 40% of traffic does not start or end in the borough, instead using our neighbourhood streets only as a rat-run.
It is simply not right that these drivers use shortcuts through residential areas, passing through streets where most households do not own a car.
Traffic is already at pre-lockdown levels or above. If we do not take action quickly, commuters from out of Hackney will take to their cars, blighting our neighbourhoods, and exacerbating the air quality and road safety crises we faced before lockdown.
If we are brave now, we can reclaim Hackney’s streets for people, not cars, and secure the cleaner, quieter neighbourhoods we experienced during lockdown. This has always been our ambition. The pandemic makes it an imperative.