Everybody wants safer streets, and especially fewer accidents. But fewer appreciate that this can mean hard choices. Speed bumps are no deterrent and just cause noise. 20 mph zones are a good idea but the police don’t have the resources to enforce them: and in any case a collision at 20mph can do a lot of damage.
The only proven way to make residential streets safer is to force through motor traffic to use the main roads. The only through traffic should be pedestrians and cyclists. That means blocking some streets.
But a few noisy motorists object, stalking online forums like Streetlife. They think they are doing the world a favour by rat-running to bypass major roads. But the silent majority of residents understand that this means letting through a stream of professional drivers, some with big lorries, who have no time for the locals. It’s a shame that so many local politicians are giving this noisy minority such weight.
Some politicians are happy enough to sit back and wait for local residents to propose road schemes, like the proposed Fishponds Road trial, and let them go to local consultation. But they won’t lend these schemes their support for fear of offending the motorists. Labour’s local councillors, and even its local MP, are like this.
To their credit the Tories aren’t sitting on the fence on this. They believe we shouldn’t do anything until there’s nasty accident.
This apathy by the Conservatives and Labour alike means that council officers aren’t allowed to be pro-active to develop more rational traffic plans. It forces local residents to be their own traffic engineers if they want to petition for a local scheme. And these local schemes lack a clearer overall strategy.
As Lib Dems, we think that that Wandsworth Council should develop ideas itself, in consultation with local residents and other interested bodies, like Transport for London.
It’s shame this isn’t happening. Rat-running traffic deters pedestrians and cyclists, causes wear and tear to the roads, noise, pollution, and lots of little bumps and accidents, always with the threat of something much more nasty. And it doesn’t even help congestion on the main roads as rat-running vehicles create delays when they rejoin the main road, and when they turn right to enter residential streets. Proper action to make major roads and junctions better is neglected. And more people are forced to travel by car because the streets are unsafe for other users.
Local Lib Dems are calling for something better. It’s time for proper action on safer, cleaner, healthier streets.