Electric cars missing from monitoring of people friendly streets

The Angel Association has submitted its response to Islington Council on the findings of the report on the implementation in St Peter’s Ward of the People Friendly Streets (PFS) trial.

Introduction

  1. This is a response to the recent monitoring report on the introduction of PFS in St Peter’s Ward published on the Council website. The report can be found at https://www.islington.gov.uk/roads/people-friendly-streets.
  2. This response also has regard to the Transport Strategy for the borough, adopted in 2020 and available at https://democracy.islington.gov.uk/documents
  3. This response from the Association raises a number of  strategic issues on which we would welcome the Council’s comments.
  4. It also poses a number of questions about the findings of the Monitoring Report, on which we would like to have clarification.
People- friendly streets has meant roads closed to traffic

Strategic issues

  • The PFS Trial adds to significant previous measures in the Ward to calm and limit traffic. These previous measures include stopping up streets, narrowing streets and building width restrictions, street humps and a 20mph speed limit. Taken together these have had very significant traffic restricting and traffic calming results.
  • Also, in inner London in particular, there has been a significant fall over many years in car use and discretionary private car journeys. This has resulted from public transport improvement, bus lanes and other road use restrictions, car parking costs and the growth of car free developments.
  • The stated objectives of the PFS initiative, consistent with the Islington Traffic Strategy, are to make roads in the borough healthier, safer and cleaner.
  • There are two important points in the overall traffic strategy mentioned at para 2 above which have a bearing on PFS: one is the Council’s commitment to incentivise the adoption of electric vehicles in place of petrol/diesel; and the second is to promote the concept of “the 15 minute City”, ie a 15 minute walking/cycling distance to access key amenities such as town centres in the borough.
  • We are therefore surprised and disappointed that the PFS monitoring report, as far as we can see, makes no mention of electric vehicles.  None of the extensive analysis of vehicle flows referred to in the monitoring report distinguishes between electric and non-electric vehicles. We suggest that this is a serious gap in the analysis.
  • We would like to understand how the traffic restrictions put in place to enforce PFS also have regard to the needs of local businesses, whose continued ability to operate underpins the success of the “15-minute city” concept. We know from analysis provided by the local Business Improvement District that the PFS related traffic restrictions restrict business activity by making journeys longer, with congestion delays on the boundary roads. Further, the “vehicle by type” analysis in the Council’s report makes no distinction between, for example,  taxis serving the disabled, business deliveries, building  maintenance vehicles and general vehicle journeys.   
  •  We would also point out that a modal shift to cycling does not necessarily lead to safer streets – contrary to the underlying premise of the initiative. Unsafe driving by cyclists, including the illegal use of pavements, lack of lights, and a failure to respect pedestrian crossings, contributes to anecdotal evidence that many pedestrians, especially older or frail people, are feeling increasingly threatened by aggressive cycling behaviour.  The increasing use of electric scooters and other two-wheel electric “bikes” on our roads, and pavements, is also cited by local respondents as a source of increasing anxiety for pedestrians.
  • A further strategic issue is the choice of physical barriers – bollards etc – as a way of enforcing the traffic restrictions.  We recognise that the traffic restrictions put in place across St Peter’s are in principle temporary, and their continuation is subject to further public consultation. However, in the light of the commitment in the Council’s Traffic Strategy to the use of technology, we would expect to see serious consideration being given, if the PFS initiative is continued after further consultation, to the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to make local roads accessible to local residents and essential business traffic while blocking them to rat runners.  

Commentary on the report

The statistical basis

  1. An important statistical issue is to disentangle the effects of the PFS trial from the wider effects of the economic slowdown taking place when the PFS trial was in place. The report states that this has been done by, in effect, adjusting the traffic flows in order to isolate the PFS effects (“normalising”). This is a standard statistical procedure. However, by implication, it imputes the whole of any residual effect on traffic movements to PFS – rather than being able to separate PFS effects from other behavioural effects, eg working from home. We would suggest that these separate behavioural effects could better be identified by a properly structured sample survey that captures changes in behaviour.

Air pollution

  1. The monitoring report states that there has been no significant difference in changes in air quality in St Peter’s compared to the whole borough. This is a puzzling statement. We would have expected a PFS trial to have had a positive effect. We would welcome clarification on this point.

Congestion

15. The report states:

“There is a mixed picture in terms of the change in motorised traffic volumes on boundary roads. Overall across boundary roads, the total changes in volumes of traffic show a negligible change, which is a positive outcome in line with the objectives of the scheme”.

This is a disappointingly weak conclusion.  These measurements of flows do not capture the evident congestion and significant traffic delays which are adding to the pollution, and concern, experienced by people living on and using these roads. 

Conclusion

16. We would welcome comments on the strategic issues raised at paras 8 – 12   above.

17. We would welcome clarification on the detailed comments at paras 13-15 above.

October 1921

Angel Association

info@angelassociation.org