A report from Aviva has been published this week, with a section of Upper Tooting Road around the Tesco Express at Ansell Road being revealed as the 5th most dangerous junction for cyclists in London. Thanks to the work of Caroline Pidgeon at city hall, we've also learnt that there has been an underspend of £50 million in the cycling budget this financial year that could have been spent improving these blackspots.
However, political inaction closer to home in Tooting also contributes to Upper Tooting Road being so dangerous for cyclists. The most dangerous points on the road network are at junctions and crossing points. Simply because people are travelling in different directions, and therefore human error often leads to collisions.
We know that not every junction can have traffic lights or bicycle signals to ensure safe mixing of different road users, however if we reduce the number of major crossing points, such as from side roads, we can manage better the interaction between road users. By moving the mixing points to key junctions, that are designed with all road users in mind, the areas of risk become concentrated and then can be better managed.
Clearly with our residential streets, people still need to access their homes, so entrance/exit points have to stay. What we can do however, is reduce the flow of non-residential traffic using the side streets as rat runs. If you reduce the number of vehicles exiting side streets, then you reduce the risk of collisions in those locations.
If Labour and the Tories could see the bigger picture, then they would have recognised this as one of the outcomes of the proposed trial for the Fishponds Road area.
The conclusion made by the highway engineers/officers on the proposed trial was as follows:
There is a possibility that there will be a increase in traffic flows in some residential roads due to transfer of traffic on account of the point closures, but this will be offset by the forecasted reduction in traffic over the larger area.
It appears that Labour and the Tories are comfortable living with the number of collisions, and see them as a price worth paying to allow those residents that drive to continue to do so as they see fit. Only held back by the traffic jams of those who would like to choose alternatives but don't feel that the streets are safe enough.
Wandsworth Council also claim that the roads they manage are some of the safest in London, which they are only if you ignore the TfL roads. The system however, must be seen as a whole, and understand that irrespective of who manages the roads together they are used as a network.
Under the Tory council, three people have to be killed or seriously injured in a consecutive three year period, or a major petition has to be carried out to allow the council to look into safety improvements to the road network at the moment.
I asked Cllr Leonie Cooper, the Labour lead on transport issues, what local residents could do if they travel along roads that they feel are dangerous, but they don't live on. She responded as follows:
It would be quite a change of policy to introduce the involvement of people who pass through an area, perhaps being there for a few minutes, compared to involving people who live there all the time.In terms of numbers required to support a petition, it is not only the numbers in favour, but where the Council itself consults it is also the percentage of those who are in favour of the change. The Council will always carry out its own consultation to follow up a petition - once it has decided that this is the correct response to the initiating petition.
As was shown with the proposed Fishponds trial, neither local Labour or the Tories are even prepared to try ideas that work elsewhere. Because we know that we are not able to count on Labour or the Tories to deliver safer streets, we are running petitions like this one for Tooting Bec Road.