Monday 17 December 2018

Environment Monday - Barnet Council and a sustainable transport policy

Every Monday, we look at issues affecting our local environment. Today we look at the transport policies of Barnet Council and how they are working with The Mayor of London todeliver a coherent transport policy. The answer sadly seems to be "they aren't".

The relevant page on the council website says

Local Implementation Plan

The Mayor of London produces a transport strategy for London. Local Implementation Plans set out what individual borough's will do to implement the Mayor's Transport Strategy locally.

Local Implementation Plan for 2005/6 – 2010/11
 We are consulting on the new Local Implementation Plan from 2011/12.

After more digging, I found a draft version of a 2018 plan.

The objectives are described, interestingly it says
The aspiration to increase sustainable travel to a mode share of 80% presents significant challenges for Barnet, where the car remains an important mode of transport. A significant number and proportion of car tripswithin and across Barnet originate  elsewhere and are  between origin and  destination points outsideof the Borough on keystrategic routes (e.g. M1, A1, A41,  A406). Equally, the origins and destinations of traffic on these routes are not necessarily within  Barnet and traffic
reduction strategies will require cross-borough collaboration significant input, and potentially funding, from TfL. Those who administer such roads (TfL and Highways England) must help contribute to vehicle reduction targets on their networks in Barnet, especially in relation to freight.
 So is 80% "sustainable" achievable? The answer is that it certainly should be, but before we can answer, we need to be sure what sustainable really means. I can find no proper definition of this in the document. It could be argued that the only truly sustainable form of transport is walking. Even cycling requires raw materials, steel, rubber and plastics and requires a smooth carriageway. A human on their feet is the best all terrain vehicle. In fact probably the only place that a human being is not at home travelling on is a road or cycleway. But realistically most people would not walk more than a mile if they need to get somewhere. If you live in Cornwall, this makes walking more or less anywhere impractical, however in the London Borough of Barnet, good design should put facilities in easy walking distance. I live in Millway, the shops, railway station are 1/4 of a mile. My place of work is 1/2 a mile. I rarely need to drive. I tend to take Thameslink to town and use the bus and tube network. It is quicker and cheaper than a car for such journeys.

When I speak to people who drive into town from Mill Hill, the reason is generally they live more than a mile from Mill Hill Broadway Station and when they factor in the cost/hassle of parking at Mill Hill station, they find a car journey more pleasant. Typically they do not work in the centre, but in places such as Hackney and Tufnell Park. The question has to be, how do you encourage such people into "modal shift". The options for some is a bus journey or cycling to the station. Many of the buses are packed or don't serve their roads. For people living in areas like Bedford Road, the walk/cycle to Mill Hill Broadway station is from pleasant. The nearest bus to the Broadway is the 251 which involves a ten minute walk in the wrong direction, for a service that is often packed.

I've long been a fan of the concept of small hopper buses that serve specific estates and locations, opening up public transport to estates a mile or two from stations. These are ideal for electric or hydrogen cell vehicles. Such solutions are not necesarily sexy, but do offer a simple, quick win. This is recognised in the strategy "Work with TfL to review bus routes to serve new development and lessaccessible locations and to realise the  delivery of orbital express bus provisionand demand responsive public transport.". It will be good to see what comes out of this review

Then there is cycling. From my perspective, the biggest issue in the Borough of Barnet is safety. To cycle safely, there should be segregation between cars, cycles and pedestrians. Juncions such as Apex Corner, Henleys Corner, Brent Cross and Mill Hill Circus are quite simply lethal. Cars and Lorries often drive aggresively as soon as they see a cyclist and are resentful of cyclists riding defensively. Cycling is an excellent way of travelling distances of between 1-3 miles. Whilst I mentioned that there are environmental costs compared to walking, it is the greenest vehicular form of travel. Barnet Council should be identifying journeys in the 1-3 mile band, that are potentially popular, and installing segregated cycleways. All stations, schools and hospitals should have clear paths between local housing estates etc and such sites. This would reduce pollution and traffic and increase health. Sadly there are virtually no proposals to make cycling safer in the Borough. This is a real missed opportunity. Barnet likes easy to implement schemes such as cycle parking, and training schemes, but have an intense aversion to actually making safe cycleways. There are opportunities, such as the disused rail lines between Mill Hill and Edgware and Mill Hill Broadway and Mill Hill East. These should be converted to cycle lanes ASAP.

Then there are the railways and tube network. The Thameslink network has had a major upgrade. Once the teething problems with the timetable are ironed out, this will massively improve travel options. Interchange with Crossrail at Farringdon will also make travel to Heathrow far easier. The proposed Brent Cross Railway will also open up West London to Barnet residents. Sadly there are no plans to extend the line to Colindale and Mill Hill, which would open up the RAF museum to mainline train travel and the new developments at Graham Park and Colindale. The Northern Line also needs to explore ways to improve travel options to Mill Hill East and beyond to Copthall and Saracens. Perhaps the major improvement would be to have step free access at stations. It is totally unacceptable that 2 million people a year use Mill Hill Broadway, but none are in a wheelchair. This is recognised in the strategy "Step  Free access is proposed at additional Northern Line stationsin the borough at Mill HillEast, Burnt Oak and in the major growth areas of Colindale andBrent Cross.The delivery of Brent Cross West will provide a new National Rail station with step-free access and London Borough of Barne thas  undertaken a study and provided information to Network Rail, forapplication to the DfT regarding proposalsfor introduction of step-free accessat Mill Hill Broadway Station" This is a painfully slow process. When the idea of a London Mayor and TFL was first mooted, we were told that this was just the type of thing they would make happen. Sadly we've had three Mayors over  a period of eighteen years. Two were obsessed with grand schemes and the third seems unable to make a decision about anything.

The plan talks about consultations. Sadly the date for this has been missed as it was between 2 November 2018 and 7 December 2018 (according to the document). This is a ridculously short period of time and sadly I completely missed the deadline. Many other Boroughs actually ask local bloggers etc to contribute. That's not how things are done in Barnet.

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