In collaboration with Enfield Cycling Campaign, we wrote the following open letter to Enfield Council.

*Update: please find Cllr Barnes’ reply below our letter*

Dear Cllr Caliskan and Cllr Barnes,

We are writing to urge you, as leaders of Enfield Council, to make simple, temporary changes to our streets to prevent the predicted boom in motor traffic as lockdown eases, and to encourage people to travel sustainably and safely with enough space for social distancing. 

We have witnessed an unprecedented drop in motor traffic in Enfield during the Covid-19 lockdown. While the cause of this drop is tragic, the benefits are undeniable: clean air, safe, quiet streets and a massive rise in people of all ages cycling both for exercise and essential journeys. 

Traffic may come back worse than before 
Yet as lockdown eases, this welcome rise in air quality and active travel would be lost if we allow traffic to come flooding back, while public transport is shunned and at low capacity. Particularly in Enfield, we could see a catastrophic rise in car use and the resulting negative safety impacts this would bring (see the modal shift in Wuhan below). This would badly affect walking and cycling – active travel rates are dependent on routes that feel safe and have lower traffic volumes. Many key workers currently cycling to work or residents to the shops won’t continue when motor traffic levels return to pre-Covid levels or worse. 

Source: Ipsos |Impact of Coronavirus to New Car Purchase in China

Space for distancing 
Also, councils around the country are recognising that the UK’s car-centric roads with narrow pavements and lack of cycle infrastructure make social distancing almost impossible for pedestrians and cyclists. And while lockdown restrictions might ease soon, social distancing measures are expected to continue in some form until 2022. In order to limit contagion, more space is needed for those walking and cycling to maintain a safe distance from each other without stepping into the road or cycling in heavy traffic.

Our asks
That is why, while traffic volumes are low, we are urgently calling for the following measures. They are in line with those called for by London Cycling Campaign, Living Streets and Cycling UK, to name a few, and a growing number of boroughs across London are adopting them. We particularly recommend reading Lambeth’s emergency transport strategy, which will introduce temporary cycle lanes, widen footways and create low traffic neighbourhoods.

  1. To enable cycling as transport, we suggest pop-up cycle lanes on the following public transport routes, to create “corridors for key workers” and preempt a rise in commuter car trips:

    – Along the Piccadilly Line
    – Along the 212 / 307 bus routes through Enfield
    – Enabling access to CS1

    We can provide more detailed suggestions including maps in the next few days. 

  2. To deal with pinch points that are barriers to all-age cycling, we want to see road space reallocated to make active travel safe. The narrow bridge on Aldermans Hill N13 is one example that prevents families safely reaching the C20 cycle lanes – instead they tend to cycle on the pavement. This could be addressed by coning off a lane of traffic to walking and cycling. We can help identify several other similar pinch points in the borough and make detailed suggestions if needed.

  3. To lock in the benefits of low traffic, we are especially calling for a trial bus gate on Brownlow Road so that air pollution does not return to its previous toxic and illegal levels. A bus gate here would open up the street for families to cycle to school as well as commuters to work, forming the backbone of a healthy low traffic neighbourhood that prioritises sustainable transport. Filters would be needed on surrounding streets to prevent traffic displacement.

  4. To enable social distancing on shopping streets, we would like to see road space reallocated to people where pavements are narrow and people have to queue. This can be achieved by suspending parking anywhere near local shops or coning off traffic lanes and all service roads. Suspending parking (leaving disabled provision and loading) would also discourage unnecessary car use for short journeys to local shops.

Active travel improves public health
Not only are these measures essential to enable residents to socially distance while walking or cycling, prioritising active travel is a crucial strategy for improving public health. Active travel tackles obesity and air pollution. People with obesity and lung conditions are at a higher risk of getting sick, while air pollution has been linked to a higher death rate from Covid-19.

This public health crisis demands immediate, decisive and strong leadership from the council to assure the safety of residents during this pandemic. Enfield council needs to ensure residents have safe routes they can use to walk and cycle to work, the shops, or for exercise.

If there is one thing this crisis has taught us, it’s that the future is not a given. We’ve learnt that there are certain things we can change, very quickly, especially when public safety is at risk. We can choose how to reshape our public space and mobility. The coronavirus crisis has been like a crash diet for our streets. The question is, how many pounds do we want to gain again?

Although we can’t wait to go out and meet each other again, even at a safe distance, we don’t want or need to go back to those fume-filled, congested and hostile roads of the past. Let this crisis be a turning point for healthy streets in Enfield.

Many thanks,

Viola Rondeboom and Clare Rogers
On behalf of Better Streets for Enfield and Enfield Cycling Campaign

Reply from Cllr Ian Barnes on Wednesday 29 April:

Many thanks for your letter.

Some of the initial data coming out of Wuhan as the lockdown is relaxed is indeed disturbing with regards to a potential huge rise in private car use and the possible hit taken by public transport.

Enfield Council recognises the challenges ahead and at an informal Cabinet meeting last night (Tuesday) officers were tasked with examining potential mitigating measures to protect the residents of the borough and to bring details back to Cabinet.

You mention Lambeth in your letter and I do want to point out that their first phase only concerns footway widening [our sentence quoting £75,000 for the whole project was an error and is now removed from our letter – Clare]. They are very open about the fact that all other phases, including temporary cycle lanes and LTNs, rely on continued TfL funding and as they admit there is considerable uncertainty about this funding going forward.

Cllr Ian Barnes