The council has just released traffic count data for the Fox Lane area (via this letter to residents) – and it paints an unpleasant picture of drivers cutting through residential streets and speeding.

What does the data tell us?

The data was collected before installing any of the Quieter Neighbourhood planters in the area, which are hoped to slow and reduce traffic. The Palmers Green Community website has produced this handy colour-coded table based on the council’s data.

  Baseline Data
Road Name Speed – mph
No. of cars in a
1-hour period
  N/E S/W Total Time
Amberley Road 26.2 26.3 402 8am
Bourne Avenue 33.7 32.6 272 8am
Burford Gardens 30.1 28.7 106 4pm
Cannon Road        
Caversham Avenue 29 31 183 8am
Conway Road 25.7 25.3 88 8am
Cranley Gardens 30.4 27.9 75 1pm
Derwent Road 27.8 30.3 100 12pm
Devonshire Road 30   117 6pm
Fox Lane 28.9 24.5 548 8am
Greenway 30.4 29 154 8am
Grovelands Road 29.5 29.6 140 4pm
Harlech Road 27.7 27.7 66 3pm
Lakeside Road 27.5 32.2 117 12pm
Meadway 29.7 29.6 419 8am
Oakfield Road 18.8 17.8 46 12pm
Old Park Road 29.3 26.2 303 8am
Parkway 26.2 24.6 59 8am
Selborne Road 25.5 23.8 249 8am
St George’s Road 29.4 30 153 8am
The Mall 20.5 20.2 368 4pm
The Ridgeway 15.9 19 31 9am
Ulleswater Road 30.3 30.5 79 8am

Key: Green – good for all-age walking, cycling and play; Amber – will discourage some from walking or cycling; Red – a hostile, unhealthy street. Source: Palmers Green Community website based on council data.

What the speed data means

The speeds given are for the ’85th percentile’ – in other words, 85% of traffic on the street was doing that speed or below, and 15% of traffic was going above that speed. For instance, ’30mph’ on Devonshire Road means that of of every 1,000 cars using the road, 850 were going at 30mph or less – and 150 were going faster, breaking the speed limit. Given that 30mph is already an inappropriate speed for most residential streets, this is not a good result. For a healthy residential street, the 85th percentile speed should be below 25mph.

By this criteria, only three of the monitored streets – Oakfield, Ridgeway and The Mall – record decent speeds by most drivers. (And The Mall’s low speeds are possibly explained by its unhealthy amounts of traffic.) Seeing the 85th percentile alone also masks some horrifying speeds in the 15% zone – although hopefully the 70.4mph recorded on Grovelands Road was a one-off.

Fox Lane area streets colour-coded for speed
(Map: Oliver Bruckauf for Better Streets)

What the cars-per-hour data means

Simon Munk, Infrastructure Campaigner for London Cycling Campaign, told us, “If the distribution of traffic through the day is fairly standard, then anything above 100 [cars per hour] isn’t going to be great for all ages, all-abilities cycling; anything over 200 is over the LCC limit for needing protected space for cycling; anything over 500 is over Department for Transport guidance for the Strategic Road Network. In other words, 100ish is good, 200ish is OK for most folks but won’t be a kids paradise, and 400+ is ‘Woah there, Nelly!’ – particularly if speeds are also over 20-23mph for the ’85th centile’.”

A planter on Amberley Road. Will it stop the rat running?

To put it another way, Basil Clarke worked out the number of cars per second at peak hours on the PGC website:

  • Fox Lane: 548 = a car every 6.5 seconds
  • Meadway: 419 = a car every 8.6 seconds
  • Amberley Road: 402 = a car every 9 seconds
  • The Mall: 368 = a car every 9.8 seconds
  • Old Park Road: 303 = a car every 12 seconds

Only three of the area’s streets are green for both speed and volume. And Fox Lane itself, at 548 vehicles in its peak hour, is the worst of all. Yet Fox Lane is not getting any Quieter Neighbourhood planters to try to reduce traffic volume – the scheme simply leaves it open as a through route.

Will the Quieter Neighbourhood scheme work?

The council has installed around 50% of the planters so far. They are also due to start installing speed humps on Fox Lane at the end of March. They will monitor traffic again soon to see the effect of these measures, and then once more after installing the remaining planters. As Better Streets, we are waiting to see the results of that final monitoring. However, Basil Clarke notes, “Feedback from residents (so far only anecdotal) suggests that the planters have had little or no effect on either speed or volume of traffic.” 

A street in Walthamstow’s low traffic neighbourhood (Image: @E17ModalFilters)

If the final traffic monitoring does not turn these streets’ data to a healthy shade of green, we are calling for more effective measures that remove through traffic completely. The Better Streets vision for the Fox Lane area is for a truly quiet neighbourhood, where rat running is eliminated – traffic is very low – people have priority on the street – any age can walk or cycle – community can flourish – and children can play. That vision includes Fox Lane itself, which could be an important route for people on foot or bikes, especially families on the school run.