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Archive for the ‘Transport’ Category

by Natalie Bennett

In a letter in the Ham & High of May 2, 2013, Mr Uys (Drivers faced with trolley jam) expresses eloquently the frustration of  Highgate High Street residents, workers and visitors with the thoroughly anti-social behaviour of the Tesco store there, but the problem is much wider than this one store.
Camden Green Party members talk regularly to residents near Tesco and Sainsbury stores in Kentish Town High Street, Fortess Road and Swain’s Lane, among others, who are plagued by trolleys blocking pavements, HGVs blocking roads, and noisy unloading at all hours of the day and night.
These supermarket chains are simply anti-social and abusive of the power of their size, and are being allowed to get away with behaviour that advantages them against their independent competitors – stores that are of far greater benefit to their local communities and provide far more jobs and business opportunities for suppliers.
Independent stores typically get deliveries by small vans, from a range of independent wholesalers and food manufacturers, and they have storerooms in which stock is held (on which they pay business rates).
By contrast the chains stock the stores straight from HGVs three or four times a day, using the public space of the pavement, and road, without any respect for the rights and needs of others.
When Camden Green Party had a pop-up shop in Fortess Road, the Sainsbury’s Local opposite regularly littered the highway with traffic cones, blocking off an HGV-sized space outside their store. They have no right to do that – only the arrogance of size and sense of entitlement that has infected far too many of our large companies, as demonstrated also by the way they continue to squeeze down staff wages, enforce casualisation on unwilling workers and employ unconsciounable zero-hours contracts.
The Green Party seeks on a national level to ensure that supermarkets pay the true social cost of their way of conducting business, or make major changes. On a local level, our councillors seek to ensure that noise abatement cases are brought by local authorities to address the nuisance that occurs.

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There was a very useful and serious meeting tonight at the town hall as the Scrutiny Review for Road Safety in the borough heard evidence on how to improve safety on Camden’streets. The meeting has been prompted by an extremely concerning spate of road deaths in Camden and particular concern around the Kings Cross/York Way junction that recently claimed its second life this year.

The Culture and Environment Scrutiny Committee heard evidence from Camden Cycling Campaign’s Jean Dollimore, the ‘cycling champion’ councillor Paul Braithwaite and Tom Kearney, a resident of Hampstead who had first-hand experience of a serious traffic incident. The councillors present were clearly sincere and keen to address the problems the borough faces; let’s hope the other bodies they will need to work with can step up with the same vigour.

Jean Dollimore’s extremely useful presentation laid out some simple facts. Road speeds kill. Compare the 90% death rate of collisions at 40 mph with the 2.5% rate of those that take place at 20 mph – a direct argument for reducing the speed of traffic in Camden. Jean explicitly talked about rolling out far more 20 mph speed limits to protect cyclists, pedestrians and, yes, drivers.

It’s difficult not to get angry when you hear that Transport for London (TfL) has made commitments to improve the danger spots in Camden since 2004 and yet no action has been taken. Indeed the Kings Cross junction looks set to become more dangerous rather than less unless public pressure can prevent the dangerous proposed changes.

The specific junction at York Way/Gray’s Inn Road has a high average speed and heavy traffic use and yet not only is there no cycle lane the road lay out gives room only for two vehicles side by side and then forces them to merge mid junction – of course it’s dangerous! Simple measures, like forcing the merge well before the junction and the introduction of a cycle lane would cost almost nothing but would immediately make the junction safer for cyclists.

Councillor Linda Chung made an impassioned plea that “one of the problems is the police and how they work” with a very strong statement about how the Metropolitan Police is falling well short when it comes to investigating deaths and serious incidents on Camden’s roads.

Councillor Braithwaite made a number of very useful points in his presentation including the lack of safe pedestrian crossing along Euston Road (which can take an age to cross), the lack of action on the ten most dangerous junctions in London, the cycle super highway (or blue paint on the road to you and me) and also the fact that the Kings Cross area has had a new college, a concrete blocking plant and is building new housing in the area and yet there has been little to no action on road safety despite the fact that they are coming under more and more pressure.

Braithwaite declared he had real sympathy with those who called for TfL executive members to be charged with corporate manslaughter for the “carnage” on the roads.

Finally Tom Kearney made a very moving presentation on the very real personal cost of TfL’s road safety statistics. He powerfully stated that if TfL’s roads were a factory then the death rate would have had them shut down years ago.

He made particular reference to the way the school run for the private schools in the borough created a Grand Prix situation on the roads with parents driving their 4x4s like mad things to drop off the kids making the roads too unsafe for all the kids. He suggested a school run tax to be levied on private schools to force them to deal with the issue. It’s a nice idea – I wonder if it’s possible?

Certainly these parents don’t seem inclined towards walking buses or cycling with their kids to school making the roads more dangerous for everyone – we need new ways to encourage better behaviour. In his words they pay for their 4×4, they pay the school fees, well they can pay for danger they pose on the roads too.

Well said.

Sadly one negative theme was the difficulties people were having working with the police and TfL. We need to find more leverage where staff can’t or won’t help us improve safety.

The committee meets again on December the 5th and it was very pleasing to see how seriously the councillors concerned took the issue. Let’s hope that we can collectively pressure TfL to help us make our communities safer.

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by Natalie Bennett
It was a little dark for good photos, so you’re going to have to take my word (with others’) for the fact that some 2,500 cyclists turned out on Thursday night for a “flashride” to protest against TfL’s effort to pretend that the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge is a country motorway. (Among them the Green Party’s London mayoral candidate Jenny Jones.)

For many Camden cyclists crossing the river Blackfriars is a logical route to and from South London, but the plans are truly terrifying – try crossing a 30mph stream of traffic when you simply want to move from the cycle lane to the “straight-ahead” lane.

There’s no adequately safe cycle crossing of the river (and pedestrians around the busy train station here also have good cause to be concerned). An alternative plan for Blackfriars has been set out – and we need to continue to fight for this or something similar.

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I went last week to a very well-attended Central London meeting held to express solidarity with the BA strikers.

The statement that struck me was from the BA worker: “This is clearly an attack on the unions. By the company’s reckoning we came within £9m of the cuts they needed – yet the most recent days of action cost £100 million. This is not about money.”

Steve Hedley, London Region RMT organiser, spoke also about the 800 frontline jobs that were planned to be cut from the Tube. He suggested that instead of looking at the jobs of the workers who answer questions on platforms, who evacuate passengers during fire alarms etc, the posts of the more than 200 people working for the Tube who are paid more than the Prime Minister might be considered.

The CNJ also reported on the meeting.

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Camden Green Party members and friends enjoyed a fun morning on the Big Green Battlebus on a tour of Camden spreading the “Vote Green” message. All very environmentally friendly – the bus is fueled by recycled chip fat – and great fun – the top deck was the place to be for the party.

Highgate candidate Naomi Aptowitzer, as you’d expect from a rapper, proved a dab hand on the loudspeaker system, while Holborn and St Pancras candiidate Natalie Bennett unwisely decided to push vocal chords already stretched by a flood of hustings.

Camden battle bus

Waves and smiles greeted us – thanks all!

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I’m happy to have just signed the Ramblers’ Manifesto.

It calls, as you might expect, for better protection for public footpaths, for the quick development of the new coastal route, and for better development of green spaces for walking.

But the part that interests me most,, particularly in relation to Holborn and St Pancras, is the call for walking to be made the highest prioirity form of transport.

There’s a very practical application of this just down the road from me in Somers Town – on the Euston Road, where a number of the traffic lights force pedestrians – at least ones obeying the “green man”, to wait for a complete traffic cycle in the middle of the road, with traffic speed fast, choking fumes, and the delay.

Euston Road is a real community barrier, splitting people apart, and certainly the hostile setting of the lights for pedestrians doesn’t help.

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Was leafletting this evening outside Kentish Town Tube, and when we’d pretty much saturated that with leafletters I moved up to the bus-stop near the Y-intersection of Kentish Town Road, Highgate Road and Fortress Road.

So I got a close up and personal (some car passengers were so keen to get a leaflet they were calling me over, which was a bit of a challenge) view of traffic flows on the corner, and they really are a dangerous mess.

The busy bus stop just before the corner is for services not just going up Highgate Road, but also Fortess, which requires them to basically pull straight across the traffic the second they pull out from the kerb.

Since the bus stop is so busy cars heading up Highgate Road are going around them, then swerving in, pretty well most of the time.

Put into this lots of cyclists trying to get from the left to right hand lane – with many drivers trying to catch the green light while dogding past a bus, and I saw a couple of near-misses just in the 40 minutes or so I was there.

Oh and adding to the confusion there are lots and lots of joggers making their way through or around the bus stop queue (why are there so many joggers here?)

Still a special prize has to go to the one who came up behind me, grabbed a leaflet very neatly without slowing down, and was gone in a flash – definitely the leaflet take of the day.

It’s not easy to see how you could fix this intersection, but certainly something needs to be done.

(And thanks to all the leafletters who were out this evening at KT and Mornington Crescent – it was an excellent showing!)

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