Do you want a Quieter Neighbourhood?

Is your neighbourhood affected by too much traffic? If it’s fast or heavy enough that you wouldn’t feel confident cycling in your area,  crossing your own road or letting your child play on the street, then this is for you.

Enfield Council are asking what we think of our residential streets and neighbourhoods for its Quieter Neighbourhoods scheme. The aim is to make our neighbourhoods better for walking, cycling, play and sense of community. The perception survey is here. (The survey has now finished for Palmers Green, Bush Hill Park, Winchmore Hill and Grange Park – look out for draft designs for these areas – but your views are still needed if you live elsewhere in Enfield.)

From the Quieter Neighbourhoods website

From the Quieter Neighbourhoods website

Our suggested response

The perception survey asks about traffic problems in your neighbourhood and what you think would improve them. Here are things to consider in your answers, to put in your own words if you agree:

For concerns, make it clear how heavy or fast traffic affects you – such as not feeling safe crossing the roads or cycling in the area, or letting children play in the street, or walk or cycle to school.

For suggestions (questions 8 and 10), ask the council to reduce the amount of traffic, not just speed:

  • Strategically close some residential streets to through traffic, so they are access-only for cars
  • Do this using ‘filters‘ (like bollards or planters) that stop cars, but let cycles and pedestrians through
  • Consider area-wide filtering rather than just one street.

(To find out more about filtering and why we suggest it, see below.)

Other suggestions to slow traffic and improve your street:

  • Continuous footways crossing the entrance to a street, giving pedestrians priority
  • Sinusoidal speed humps to slow traffic effectively
  • A 20mph zone for the whole neighbourhood
  • Trees and other greenery, rain gardens,  and seating.
Crossing this side road in Waltham Forest feels and looks like walking on pavement - a 'continuous footway'

Crossing this side road in Waltham Forest feels and looks like walking on pavement – a ‘continuous footway’

Here’s the link to the survey again.

Is there even a problem with our streets?

Some people feel that our residential streets are just fine the way they are. However, if you have any of the concerns listed above – such as not feeling safe crossing roads, or cycling in your own neighbourhood – traffic is affecting your quality of life. Here are some of the ways residential street traffic impacts us (or jump straight to our suggested solutions):

Through traffic

Many of us in Enfield live on residential streets that attract a lot of non-resident traffic, passing through to shave seconds off their own journey, for instance on their way to the North Circular or A10.  With sat navs guiding drivers on the shortest possible route, this problem isn’t going away, and putting up a 20mph speed sign or narrowing the road entrance will not stop it (while these measures are of course welcome for reducing speeds). And one-way streets can simply encourage speeding, since there is no risk of oncoming traffic to discourage it.

So our streets have become conduits for traffic and places to park, rather than a place to chat to neighbours or for children to play safely. The dominance of traffic is such that most adults would not consider cycling even in their own residential neighbourhood, and those that do report bullying by some drivers who seem to feel they own the road. Traffic also affects community: studies have shown that the more traffic there is, the less people know their neighbours.

Children and the elderly

children-skipping-on-pavement

No longer a common sight on our streets

Children hardly ever play on Enfield’s streets these days, compared to the 1960s or 70s. Nor do you see children walking or cycling independently to school or to see friends. Parents’ (well-founded) fears of traffic danger have led to the majority of children being driven or escorted by parents on public transport, so that many have lost their independence completely, as well as some much-needed exercise. Meanwhile, in the modern-day Netherlands, roads are so safe for walking and cycling that children have kept their independence, with 75% cycling to secondary school. Is it any coincidence that Unicef found Dutch children to be the happiest in the world? Of course, streets designed to work for children work for many others too – so at the age of 65 and above, Dutch people are still cycling nearly a quarter of all their journeys, enjoying their independence and getting plenty of exercise to boot.

Getting enough exercise and fresh air

With traffic dominating our residential streets, neither walking nor cycling are attractive options for getting around our neighbourhoods. For those who own cars, driving presents itself as the safest and most convenient option. As a result we’re simply not getting enough exercise. “More than 40 per cent of Londoners do not achieve the recommended 150 minutes of activity a week; and 28 per cent do less than 30 minutes a week” writes Will Norman, in the Mayor of London’s report on Healthy Streets for London. For those without cars, cycling could potentially be a healthy, cheap way to travel – except that most Enfield residents don’t feel their neighbourhood streets are safe enough, even for an adult, to cycle on. Cycling is reserved for the fit and the brave. Having the new cycle lanes on main roads won’t get people on bikes unless it’s safe to cycle to them – on quietened residential streets.

screen-shot-2017-03-24-at-23-26-39

From the Mayor of London’s Healthy Streets for London report

Meanwhile, air pollution caused by excessive traffic on our roads is a serious health concern, linked to the death of 9,400 Londoners a year.

 A solution that works: cut the through traffic

This road in Walthamstow used to be a rat run - after filtering, a child can cycle on it

This road in Walthamstow used to be a rat run – after filtering, a child can cycle on it

As Better Streets we feel that the solutions lie not just in calming traffic speeds on the streets where we live, but reducing traffic volume. As in the Netherlands, residential neighbourhoods should be a network of streets where walking, cycling and play are prioritised, and drivers are ‘guests’, entering only to access streets their own street at slow speeds. Enfield’s Quieter Neighbourhoods programme is the ideal opportunity to civilise our streets in the same way.

‘Modal filters’

Waltham Forest has recently created two ‘low-traffic neighbourhoods’ (and is planning a third). In Walthamstow and the Blackhorse village area, car journeys have dropped by more than half (taking nearby main roads into account), and former rat runs have become havens for walking, cycling and play. Traffic can no longer drive through these networks of streets, but every resident can still access their own street by car.

Example of a filter - pedestrians and bikes can pass through (and emergency services can remove)

Example of a filter – pedestrians and bikes can pass through (and emergency services can remove)

How have they achieved this? The secret is ‘modal filters’. Strategically placed around the neighbourhood, a filter allows bikes and feet through certain streets, but not motor traffic, ensuring that there is no logical, direct way to drive through the whole residential area and deflecting through traffic back onto main roads. Some residents might need to drive via a slightly indirect route to access their own street, adding a couple of minutes to their journey, but everyone can drive to their own street. Most residents agree that this is a small price to pay for much quieter streets and the opportunity to walk and cycle safely.

But won’t that cause gridlock on main roads?

Data from Waltham Forest council found that there was a slight increase on main roads neighbouring the Walthamstow scheme, but not  enough to cause serious congestion (one road had a 3% increase, another 11%). The surprising result was that many cars journeys were not displaced elsewhere, but simply ‘evaporated’. They counted 10,000 fewer journeys a day across the area. That must have made a significant difference to air quality. And it suggests that with much better conditions for walking and cycling, more journeys have switched away from driving. ‘Traffic evaporation‘ is a phenomenon noticed all over the world in similar situations; so is the fact that the more road space given to motor traffic, the more traffic will increase to fill it.

I live on a main road. I don’t want a ‘low-traffic neighbourhood’ on my doorstep!

As we said above, filtering an area to through traffic does not appear to cause a large increase in traffic on main roads. And while main roads or important through routes can’t be filtered, they can still be made better and healthier. Some measures that would improve your street include: better pedestrian crossings, a 20mph limit, trees and other greenery, protected bike lanes (acting as a buffer between the pavement and motor traffic as well as making cycling safe), and seating. These ideas are all included in the Mayor’s Healthy Streets approach and are planned under Cycle Enfield already, but make sure you request this for your own street. Finally, if you end up with a low-traffic neighbourhood or even one filtered road on your doorstep, that’s public space which can benefit you too – it could provide a safe route for you and your family to walk or cycle through, without facing traffic danger or fumes.

8 Comments

  1. park avenue cars and motorbikes
    dangerous to cross
    noisy day and night
    needs traffic control cameras or bumps or cameras 20m.p.h.limit
    bumpy pavements very unsafe
    stop lorries big vans using park avenue

    • admin

      April 11, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks for commenting. We’ve heard others raise concerns about Park Avenue as well. Have you given your views to the council via the Quieter Neighbourhoods perception survey? If not, the link is in the post above.

  2. I agree with the idea of quieter streets. However, the proposals seem designed to benefit streets that are not main roads (ie the Lake Roads). If implemented, won’t this force people who use rat runs onto main roads like the A105 Green Lanes and A111 Bourne Hill, making the environment even worse for people who live in these areas. More emphasis needs to be put on banning heavy goods vehicles from using A111. Narrowing roads, More cycle lanes. Benefits for people who cycle or walk.

    • admin

      April 11, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      It would seem to be common sense that if you stop traffic going through residential neighbourhoods, it will create congestion on main roads. However as the Waltham Forest Mini Holland has shown, there is only a slight rise on neighbouring main roads and the rest of the displaced traffic simply ‘evaporates’. In other words, pleasant conditions for walking and cycling, and in some cases a slightly longer journey by car, mean more people choose not to drive short journeys. Waltham Forest is the best example in London, but if you visit any city in the Netherlands the same applies – residential streets tend to be access only, and safe for children to play on, while motor traffic is directed via main roads. It all works very well!

  3. Irritated resident

    March 29, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    I do wonder where the auther lives? It’d be nice to go back to the 50s and have kids playing in the streets but nowadays they’d have the owners of cars parked there complaining, especially if a football hit their car. I’ve recently got rid of my car for various reasons, one being that it will be a nightmare to drive anywhere with cycle lanes. Check out Bush Hill Parade, will it be better after the work is completed? This is another example of the cycle lunacy affecting this borough’s decision makers. Sadly many people never speak to their neighbours, a fact of life due to modern work patterns. All this “nudging” people to do what others wnat them to is beginning to remind me of East Germany or North Korea. A bit of an exaggeration, yes, but showing the same signs of “we know what’s good for you better than you do”. Just more pie in the sky thinking from Anderson, Sitkin and Taylor.

    • admin

      April 5, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Hello – I’m the author and I live just off Green Lanes in a residential rat run. It’s not a question of going back to the 50s. I’ve just come back from a trip to Holland, where children still, now in 2017, are playing in the streets because their residential streets are not through-routes for traffic. There, children’s right to play and adults’ right to socialise on their own streets is given priority over whether or not someone’s car gets hit by a football. Much more civilised.

      As to Bush Hill Parade, let’s wait and see when the work is finished before jumping to any conclusions. I’m personally looking forward to cycling there to shop.

  4. I welcome the concept of a return to being able to walk and cycle more within my immediate neighbourhood. My children are now in their 30s but when they were attending infant and junior school I used to cycle them up to school in Southgate from Lakeside Rd, Palmers Green and felt safe doing so. I would not do so now.
    I would welcome ‘modal filters’ in Lakeside Road as my impression over the last 8+ years is that this road is being used increasingly as a rat run by motorists moving between Aldermans Hill, Fox Lane and Bourne Hill trying to avoid using Green Lanes. Traffic also often travels at speeds which is eye watering more so as at the top of the road where Lakeside meets Fox Lane there is a natural curve in the road so drivers are effectively blind to oncoming cars.

    • admin

      April 7, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Yes, agreed – I use Fox Lane a lot and frequently see the aftermath of collisions there. Let’s hope the QN scheme shuts down rat running across the Fox Lane area and then maybe more people will feel able to walk and cycle with kids to school.

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