Camden officials gave a detailed run down of the reasons behind the Tavistock Place trial at the MA organised public meeting on Monday night (19th September), and fielded some tough questions from residents, both for and against. We’re grateful for their time. Here’s our follow up to some of the issues covered …
Have enough people been informed about the consultation?
More efforts are being made to distribute the consultation document, with Camden telling us that more targeted deliveries and more notices in the affected streets are on their way.
What measurements has Camden done, and how?
The consultation document can also be found here. It contains a lot of numbers, with figures on cycling, walking and motor traffic, both before and after the trial, during peak morning, lunch time, and peak evening hours. The counting of motor vehicles took place on 12th May 2015 and 17th May 2016. Cyclists were counted in March 2015 and June 2016.
There were questions at the public meeting about why these dates were chosen. They are in similar times of year, outside of school holidays or Easter, so they offer a good basis for comparison – although it does seem to us that the cycling counts could have been closer together as there are likely to be more cyclists in June than March.
There is also data on air pollution, measured in terms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air. These measurements cover a three month period between July and November 2015, before the trial, and seven months from December 2015 to June 2016 during the trial. It isn’t entirely clear in the document but we understand the measures given are for the average amount of nitrogen dioxide pollution over the whole period. Some people at the meeting questioned the reliability of these measurements – here’s Camden’s answer on that one: –
“Camden uses a range of different types of equipment to monitor nitrogen dioxide emissions (the main pollutant of concern in Central London, due to its effects on human health). The device used at Russell Square is an automatic reference method monitor. Data from this equipment is sent directly to King’s College London, who are contracted by the Greater London Authority to manage London’s Air Quality Network. King’s College then relays the findings to the Council (this data is publicly available). King’s are recognised experts in this field, and London’s air quality network is one of the most advanced in the world. The monitors in Gordon Square and Tavistock Place are mobile real time monitors. The data from these devices is held on a server at a specialist environmental management company. Camden’s air quality officer then accesses this server remotely to download the data.”
Do the data tell us anything we haven’t seen for ourselves?
Certainly air quality campaigners, cyclists and local residents supporting the new road layout have seized on the falls in pollution, especially the 21% reduction on Tavistock Place itself, which provide clear evidence of what a dramatic improvement reducing motor traffic can have on air quality. The cuts in pollution on Russell Square and Gordon Square are less but still significant. Cycling has increased on what was already the busiest route for bikes in Camden, with an extra 100 cyclists heading west on Tavistock Place during the morning peak hours, and over 80 more in the evening heading east.
Others will point to the increase in traffic on the main North-South routes as a cost too high for the improvement on Tavistock Place – though the picture is not entirely even. Judd St has seen a 58% increase in morning peak period traffic heading north – an extra 146 vehicles in one hour; though the increase is a lower 11% (36 vehicles in the hour) in the evening. Woburn Place north-bound traffic was 19% higher in the morning but actually 8% lower in the evening; whilst the increase in traffic on Endsleigh St was 166% in the morning (113 vehicles) and over 200% (156 more) during the evening hour (though as some have pointed out, this is likely to be partly due to the closure of Gordon Sq north for the entire period). Of course these measurements don’t take account of how long vehicles spend sitting in traffic.
The one surprise we’ve noticed is Guilford St – where there has been less traffic throughout the day. This is interesting since those with long memories will recall that one of the objections to the original design of the cycle way on Tavistock Place was the fear it would increase traffic outside Coram’s Fields.
Do residents’ views matter?
We asked the Council whether people passing through the area that do not live or work here have an equal right to comment on the proposals. The answer came: “We welcome comments from people passing through the area as well as those living or working there. We will analyse the consultation responses by postcode so that we can distinguish between the level of support (or not) for the scheme from local residents and businesses and from people from outside the area. Recommendations from officers on whether or not the scheme should become permanent will take this distinction into account.”
So there you have it – yes, resident views (for and against) matter, but Camden will be taking into account the responses.it receives from wider London as well.