The Barnsbury and St Mary's Neighbourhood Group has surveyed our area to find out what residents think about traffic. The area is between the Caledonian Road, Holloway Road, Canonbury Road, Essex Road and Pentonville Road. We contacted people by delivering leaflets to over 10,000 households, inviting them to complete the survey. 353 residents of the area responded and we have analysed the results.
There is a very strong response in favour of the Council's People Friendly Streets with 9 out of 10 people wanting the Council to take action to reduce through traffic, even though half of the respondents use a car. This shows that even drivers want through traffic reduced. Through traffic is often called 'rat running'.
This result is reflected in responses from the disabled people living in the area: half of the people who use mobility scooters also use a car but still 80% of those with cars are in favour of the Council taking action to reduce through traffic. Drivers often assume that all disabled people drive everywhere, but our survey shows this to be untrue – they are no more likely to use cars than the rest of us and they are struggling to cope with the excess traffic that makes their use of the streets difficult, and they want it reduced.
It's well known that across Islington only about a third of people have access to a car. Our survey also asked whether people use taxis and we discovered that 28% use neither cars nor taxis. That’s almost a third of the residents in our area who never contribute to the problem but still they have to suffer all the downsides of through traffic: noise, pollution, danger. That is just so unfair.
We also asked whether speeding or the volume of traffic affected people’s willingness to recommend to children that they walk / cycle locally. Of the 275 that answered this question, 230 said yes. That's 83% unwilling to encourage their children to lead active healthy lives because of the traffic in our streets. That's just building up a health and obesity time bomb for the future.
Another worry people have is that as lockdown eases, with many people unwilling to risk public transport, traffic levels will rise, and through traffic will flood onto residential streets in even greater numbers than before. This was already happening before lockdown with all the GPS systems treating main roads and side streets as equally fair game. In our survey only 1 in 20 people thought traffic wouldn't increase after lockdown.
We asked people to tell us their concerns in their own words and the response is powerful. Here are some examples:
Speeding around blind corners, e.g. Florence Street and Canonbury Villas.
Too much traffic. We need aggressive traffic reduction measures. Will be unpopular but it's the right thing to do.
Increased traffic bad for environment and dangerous for kids.
Through traffic rat-run on Thornhill Road.
The cars outside are always speeding. Ideally this road should be access only.
I am out daily for walks with my young children. My son has just turned two and wants to walk. There are some parts of the street that are so dangerous because the pavement is too narrow. There is no drop from the pavement to the kerb - it makes it so easy for cars to mount. When walking past this part of the road I physically have to shield him from the vehicles on the road.
The potential for a rise in human conflict and the rising number of apparently weaponised drivers.
Dangerous driving e.g. overtaking on blind corners Canonbury Square; aggressive driving on double parked streets; squeezing cyclists at pinch points. Also increased traffic volumes and unsafe driving on match days. Lack of pavement space & dropped kerbs for mobility device users.
Speeding vehicles using quiet streets as rat runs.
Feels unsafe and very busy. Cars going through residential streets - just feel very nervous when on the road. Not safe.
The sidewalks are often too narrow for the volumes of pedestrians, especially because social distancing needs to be kept.
There are lots of pedestrians and cyclists on the streets of Barnsbury yet in many streets cars and trucks are prioritised, particularly Hemingford Road which has become a fast north south rat run.
In April and May we got a glimpse of the benefits of low traffic during lockdown.
Like many other people I am using my car less and cycling more and we need to build on this while there is momentum and not lapse back into toxic car use habits.
We have small children and are concerned that they are unable to go outside to go visit the playground.
Published in Islington Gazette on 4 August 2020
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