Dear Enfield Council,
Let’s face it – many of us in Enfield are addicted to our cars. We use them for all journeys, long and short, even trips we could have walked in five minutes. Are we just lazy? Or have we got into the habit because for many journeys, driving is not only the easiest way to travel, but actually the only viable option?
But now that we have blue bins right outside our front doors – and limited space in our black bins – most of us recycle. It’s been made convenient to do the right thing, so we do it.
The same applies to transport. We need the transport equivalent of the blue bin right outside our front doors. (We also need the black bin equivalent, because not every trip will work without a car.)
What is the blue bin equivalent? Healthy streets. Streets where you instinctively feel safe to walk, cycle, or wheel, no matter how young, old or disabled you are. You might get that feeling from a street that is so low in traffic, you find yourself strolling in the middle of the road. Or a street with plenty of traffic, but with safe crossings, wide pavements, and protected space for cycling. One or two of these streets don’t work in isolation. But when you have a network of low-traffic streets and safe main roads linked up across the borough, with every train station and bus stop easily reached by walking, cycling or wheeling, that’s your blue bin equivalent. Most local journeys won’t need a car.
Here’s an example. I live in a bit of Enfield where a patchwork of healthy streets has begun. Through traffic is removed from my neighbourhood, so on a street where thousands of drivers used to take a short cut, today I saw an elderly couple walking slowly along the middle of the road, and a father and young son riding home from the local primary school. I have lived in this neighbourhood for twenty years and I can tell you that before the council intervened, neither sight was even thinkable. No one would have walked in the middle of that road, of course, but even walking on the pavement was unpleasant, and there were many junctions with busy side roads to cross. Would that elderly couple have opted to go for a stroll in the area when traffic was rife? Or would they have driven to a park? And the father and young son coming from school on bikes – before, this was simply not an option. There was just too much traffic.
So the council has provided options that previously did not exist for many people. Driving is still possible, just as the black bins are still there, but now there are alternatives – for all ages and abilities.
We need this provision across Enfield. The statistics in the pockets of the borough that have healthy streets show a drop in car use and an increase in active travel. For those who haven’t got access to a car, or can’t drive at all (like all children) this must be a welcome liberation. And those who do have cars are clearly leaving them at home for some journeys. New habits are forming; the addiction is losing its hold.
Opponents of healthy streets focus on what’s been taken away – driving is a little less convenient when we can’t take every short cut. But think about what’s been provided – whole networks of safe, healthy streets where people have priority. We need more of this. We need streets that give us choices. We need streets that set us free from our cars.
If you agree, there’s an easy way to tell the council – use this form to send an email to all the party leaders in the local elections asking for ‘climate safe streets’, streets that allow more people to leave their cars at home: www.lcc.org.uk/enfield
Clare Rogers April 2022