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Cycle "Quietway" scheme being derailed by local residents claim campaigners

Hackney Council has prioritised concerns of local residents over London Fields "rat run" reduction promises, despite more people in the borough supporting the scheme than opposing it, say campaigners...

A group of local residents are being allowed to derail a cycling scheme, despite the fact more people supported than opposed it in a recent consultation, according to campaigners.

Cyclists are frustrated after Hackney Council announced it will not stop rat running traffic in the London Fields area, at the request of residents living in surrounding roads, even though across Hackney, more residents and visitors supported traffic reduction, while traffic reduction in this area was a pledge of every elected councillor in 2014.

Hackney Council announced last year it would trial “filtering” - where planters or bollards prevent rat running motor vehicles using a street but allow cycles through – in London Fields, for a Transport for London–funded cycling Quietway scheme. After local residents raised concerns about the effect of the scheme on traffic on surrounding roads, however, it decided to run a consultation before a trial, offering four possible options.

Although the council says narrowing the street will reduce traffic by 400 vehicles per day out of 4,000, campaigners say without a greater traffic reduction the route should not be considered a Quietway, and money should not be awarded the scheme.  

Hackney Council forced to backpedal on cycle quietway trial

The London Cycling Campaign’s Infrastructure Campaigner, Simon Munk, told “We’re very disappointed with the report from Hackney Council and the results. Modal filter ‘cell’ schemes can be controversial – but there’s a growing body of evidence that schemes such as this reduce motor traffic significantly overall and don’t cause gridlock on nearby roads.

“Without major interventions such as ‘Option 1’ ['filtering', or 'filtered permeability'] these roads will not be sufficiently quiet to make for a useful Quietway – they certainly won’t be under ‘Option 4’ [road narrowing], which would still see nearly 4,000 vehicles a day using Middleton Road, most as a cut-through. As such we don’t believe funding the scheme currently proposed will represent good value for any cycling budget.”

Sabotage, trolling and threats as Hackney rat run row turns nasty

Of 2,063 consultation responses, 1,288 were from residents within the London Fields catchment area. Of catchment area responses, 67 per cent opposed the area-wide filtered permeability option (to prevent cars rat running). Meanwhile, 47 per cent supported simply narrowing Middleton Road.

Including all respondents who live, work or visit the area, 49 per cent were in favour of Option 1, filtering, and 48 per cent against, excluding duplicates. However, the Council cites duplicated responses in its headline results, which puts the figure against filtering at 49 per cent, and for at 48  per cent - a figure it says “does not significantly change the outcome of the results” as it is a matter of 1 per cent.

However, both Munk and Jono Kenyon, chair of the Hackney branch of the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), question the Council’s analysis of results and urge it to trial area-wide filtering.

Kenyon said: “A trial of road filters would allow the collection of actual data rather than speculation and modelling. We firmly believe that the outcomes of a trial of filters would show positives for the area and Hackney as a whole.” 

Kenyon points out many votes against filtering have come from residents already living on filtered roads.

In 2014 all elected Councillors for Hackney agreed to a series of 'asks' for cycling as part of the LCC's Space for Cycling Campaign, which included reducing traffic specifically in the London Fields area. Kenyon told the Council’s plan will not meet its own aims of reducing traffic in the area, but could potentially make the area more hostile for cycling.

He said: “By the council’s own admission, this scheme will do very little to reduce through motor traffic. A number of HGVs will now use of nearby roads, whilst Middleton road which forms part of the Quietway will actually become more hostile for cycling.

“Whilst it is clear that the some of the various options have not been universally popular amongst some local residents, overall, the area wide scheme (option 1) was the most well supported by Hackney residents.”

Munk said only option 1 would reduce motor traffic on Middleton Road to less than 2,000 vehicles per day, making it a “proper Quietway”.

According to Munk a “very determined and vocal minority” are being allowed to derail the scheme without fully understanding the impact it will have.

He said: “We want Hackney to look at the principles that seem to be underlying their report and decision-making. A relatively small group of residents in the immediate vicinity of the scheme shouldn’t be able to derail, on the basis of fears that could be tested and allayed with a trial, a scheme that has the potential to boost cycling and walking in the area, across Hackney and beyond. Nor should Hackney be going directly against its own stated policies on this basis.”

A Hackney Council spokesperson told the decision to trial narrowing Middleton Road, in the London Fields area of Hackney, was because of local opposition within the catchment area to filtering (option 1).

The spokesperson said: “The consultation was open to the wider community, however, due consideration has been given to concerns from the local area directly affected by the proposals.

“67  per cent of respondents within the catchment area opposed Option 1. Our main concern has to be the local residents – so we feel that we cannot push through a scheme with this level of local opposition.”

Hackney Council says reducing the width of Middleton Road would prevent around 10  per cent of all vehicles from using it – around 400 vehicles per day of the current 4,000.

The spokesperson said option 4, to narrow the road, would be trialled, “because more people who would be directly affected by the scheme support it than oppose it.”

“We will monitor the impact that the width restrictions will have and consider the alternatives put forward in the consultation. At some point in the future we may consider more options, but these would be consulted on.”

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