BRAG: looking for local traffic solutions

Is there a way out of the Judd St Jam? Lots of different local views on this – including, we have to say, on the newly expanded Marchmont Association Committee which met this week.

One of our new members Nicky Coates has set up a new group specifically to look at the traffic issues and has posted this introduction to it.

“We were interested to read the report from Camden Cyclists, and also heartened that others outside Judd Street (and the immediately surrounding smaller streets) have seen the newly created congestion chaos on Judd Street and are sympathetic about the detrimental impact this has had on local residents.  But it is not, alas, only a rush hour phenomenon; solid traffic jams from Euston Road to Brunswick Square occur frequently at any time, often for many hours; we have had up to ten solid hours of idling traffic on Judd Street.  We have discussed this with senior traffic officers and they recognise the severity of the problem and that there is no pattern to the jams.

The cause of the jams is indeed the large number of motor vehicles wanting to turn west from Judd Street into Euston Road; and the cause of the suddenly increased number of vehicles in Judd Street needing to turn west is the cutting off of the west-bound route in Tavistock Place. The traffic situation in Judd Street and the surrounding streets changed radically in one day – the day the west-bound route from Judd Street into Tavistock Place was closed; this is when the chaos started.  This is understood by council officers and they are looking for solutions.

The change turned Judd Street into a street that is congested, highly polluted and dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. The chaos has also spread to all the surrounding streets. Before the change, for 30 years or more, traffic flowed well and there was room for all to use the space safely. Serious problems for cyclists on Judd Street only started when the Tavistock-Torrington trial was introduced – which was imposed without consulting local residents (although we know that others – non-residents – were consulted) and without even informing most residents; the change to our everyday lives has been a shock.

With regard to the counts referred to, we know that the council is also undertaking some spasmodic counting. But the counts will not, as has been acknowledged by the officers, record the stationary nature of the traffic and the hours of idling diesel engines (which can be not only smelt but tasted).

There is a risk that observers assume that all the traffic coming into the area is just passing through but this is not the case. It seems to be forgotten that there are several thousand residents in the area, as well as many small businesses, and all of these need access. The solutions suggested in the Camden Cyclists report – to cut off access to our area from the south and east as well as from the west and to close the one remaining route out to the west – are the measures that caused such consternation among local residents when the proposals were first announced.

Local people are concerned, upset and angry about this change, which has impacted massively on everyday life here.  We are also concerned that additional changes which TfL and Camden may impose – in spite (as emerged at the 10th March public meeting)   of there being little understanding or care as to the consequences for local people – will further damage our community.  We were told by officers at the public meeting that the computer modelling had not foreseen the traffic chaos that the Tavistock-Torrington trial would cause; it is therefore difficult to have any confidence in other plans based on the same computer modelling system.  The council should be listening to local people who know how local traffic flows and who have ideas about how to improve things.

So, in response to local demand, we have set up a new residents’ association – Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group (BRAG) – whose first task will be to tackle the traffic problems and, crucially, make local voices heard. We encompass residents who are cyclists, pedestrians and people with mobility problems who need access to cars and taxis for everyday life. Our core philosophy is that residents matter; we are the voters and the council tax-payers and we seem to be forgotten in the grand plans being imposed around us.  I will post more details of BRAG shortly.

Many in our group are cyclists and safety for cyclists is a major part of our focus. We need a better solution for cyclists, for pedestrians and for residents, and we are going to be working hard to find one.”

 Nicky Coates

Chair, Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group

Email info@brag.org.uk

 

 

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Unsticking the Judd Jam

Over the last two weeks of May Camden Cyclists investigated the evening rush-hour ‘Judd jam’, carrying out some traffic counts  to understand it and suggesting some solutions. They acknowledge their counts are small and, compared with official counts, very rough and ready – but they match what lots of us will have seen happening ourselves.

Their report has been forwarded to Marchmont Voice – here it is …


The jam is caused by the large number of motor vehicles wanting to turn west from Judd into Euston Road. The lights give priority to Euston Road, a red route, which allows for only 2 or 3 Judd vehicles to get through for each cycle of the lights. Thus the traffic backs up on Judd Street.

The traffic travelling N on Judd is primarily coming from traffic travelling westbound (WB) on Guilford Street, though some comes from WB traffic on Tavistock Place (ratio approx. 77/23). Though we have no counts to confirm it, we believe that the majority of this traffic comes from Gray’s Inn Road and that it is using Judd as the final part of a rat-run to avoid the King’s Cross junction.

The WB traffic on Guilford that does not go N to join the Judd jam carries on to Russell Square where it either turns N to join the Woburn jam or S (to go places we did not investigate). The N/S ratio is approx. 43/57 but we think that is a false reading since the NB traffic on this lights-controlled junction is so heavy that, if the Guilford NB traffic respects the yellow box, the lights can run through multiple cycles with no NB traffic getting across (despite all the hooting from behind). We suspect that much of the traffic that turns S is actually destined for the N but trying another route (such as all the way around Russell Square).

* In our count for the N turn onto Woburn we included the small number of vehicles that use Herbrand and Coram as a rat-run through to Woburn. See the evidence here

* The WB Tavi traffic turns N onto Judd by using the Wakefield / Handel dogleg.

* The WB Guilford traffic turns N towards Judd by using the Lansdowne / Brunswick dogleg.

Drivers are willing to sit in traffic jams for long periods of time, making the street environment for residents and other road users extremely unpleasant. From the behaviour we witnessed we believe that many drivers are continuously reassessing their route, selecting from possible options at each junction, based on the weight of traffic they see ahead. In the evening rush-hour this area suffers from traffic trying to travel north or west and, like water, it finds its own level, filling all possible routes equally to the detriment of all.

Possible solutions

One idea might be to change the traffic light sequence at the Judd/Euston junction to give more time to the flow from Judd. However that would reduce the flow from the east along Euston Road, which would result in a greater build-up on Gray’s Inn Road, which some drivers would avoid by choosing the Judd route, and so it would all end up the same as before the change to the lights. So that would not solve anything, and would only tend to enforce the idea that Judd should be taking this level of traffic.

TfL and Camden have already decided which roads can take heavy rush-hour traffic – see this page 22 of the Camden Transport Strategy. In this area these include: Gray’s Inn Road, Euston Road, Woburn Place. And does not include: Judd Street, Tavistock Place, Guilford Street, let alone Wakefield, Handel, Lansdowne, Brunswick, Herbrand, Coram.

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North and West bound traffic is using these local streets are if they were part of the SRN. TfL and Camden need to redirect that traffic back onto the SRN. Our suggestions would be to implement some or all of the following:

• Close the left turn from Judd onto Euston,

• Close the Wakefield / Handel dogleg to through traffic,

• Close the Lansdowne / Brunswick dogleg to through traffic,

• Close the Herbrand and Coram rat-run.

TfL and Camden have already consulted on traffic schemes which would achieve some of these measures and we hope they can quickly implement something to resolve the traffic problems in this area.

 

Judd St cycle plans opposed by RNIB

The Royal National Institute for the Blind has called for Transport for London to scrap its plans for extending the North-South cycle highway along Judd St, according to this week’s Camden New Journal.

The Institute has also raised concern about the proposal to replace the pelican crossing near to the RNIB’s home on Judd Street with a widened zebra crossing.

RNIB director Fazilet Hadi is quoted in the paper as saying: “We are extremely concerned that the dramatic increase in the number of cyclists, combined with the removal of the pelican crossing, will put many blind and partially sighted people at risk of injury. TfL must not assume that all blind people are easily identifiable and that cyclists can spot them in advance. Many people with sight loss do not use a cane or have a guide dog.”

A protest last week was supported by blind peers including former Labour home secretary David Blunkett.

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Roman lessons for Bloomsbury?

Is there an alternative to the road schemes now being trialed and planned for Bloomsbury? The schemes are intended to make driving more difficult in central London, so encouraging other modes of transport.  But critics fear they will create more congestion not less, and force local car drivers to take circuitous routes.

Amsterdam and Copenhagen are often cited as models for London – but local resident and planning expert Tony Tugnutt finds inspiration further south…

“So when in London why not do as the Romans do?

As someone lucky enough to have visited the Eternal City many times over the years, a scheme implemented there seem to be heaps more effective than Livingstone’s Congestion Charge. The Congestion Charge does nothing for pollution or city life just £££££ out of drivers’ pcokets. So why not send it packing like his bloomin red bendy buses, now blue, retired in Malta and catching alight friends tell me?”
Rome has a restricted area ZTL (“Zona Traffico Limitato”) in Centro Storico and Trastevere where driving is authorized only to local inhabitants or to individuals destined for a hotel in the restricted zone. Your hotel will assist you with the registration of your license plate number. The ZTL-zones in Rome are controlled by video cameras.

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And this is the advice the city’s authorities give visitors…

“Rome is the third-most-visited tourist destination in Europe, the seat of the Italian Government and the Roman catholic church. In the centre of Rome parking is possible but very limited. The best option to park is a car park.

Traffic in Rome is chaotic and stressful. Roman car driver are sometimes aggressive. Our advice is to park your car as quickly as possible and spend your time in Rome car-free. Besides that, street parking in the historic center is hardly possible, there no parking bays.”

‘Rushed’ traffic consultation

Local residents have been given no assurance that traffic plans involving the closure of the Judd St / Euston Rd junction will be re-modelled, following last week’s public meeting.

Councillor Phil Jones has told Marchmont Voice that further design work may be undertaken after the local elections – but is only one of a “range of options open to us”, including implementing the scheme as currently proposed. No decisions are likely to be taken “until the summer or beyond”. The current consultation, which many local residents have described as rushed and incomplete, closes on Sunday March 20th.

At the meeting – one of three consultation events about the scheme – local residents highlighted a long list of limitations in the traffic modelling carried out by TfL and LB Camden so far, and said more time should be taken to properly assess the impact on levels of local traffic and air quality. These included the failure to take into account the impact of the Tavistock Place one-way trial scheme, or to consider the possible closure of Gordon St due to the HS2 works, if they go ahead. Traffic planners were also urged to model the possible alternative of using Mabledon Place as an exit onto Euston Rd, and to take into account the effects of the proposals on a wider area. The consequences for ambulances travelling to University College Hospital were also raised.

Local councillors say the 20th March deadline was set to get the consultation done before the start of the ‘quiet period’ that limits Council activities ahead of May’s local elections.  It’s also understood that backers of the scheme within the Council were anxious to get in budget bids before the Mayoral election. But they have admitted there were problems with the distribution of information about the consultation and that this will be better next time.

UCL comes out in support of new Tavistock Place cycle lanes

The Marchmont Association has no standing view on the new scheme but, given its influence, this looks significant from the University…

UCL President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur has written to LB Camden “strongly welcoming” the scheme and calling it a “a major step forward”.  He makes the point that UCL is “one of the largest institutions in the Borough of Camden, with over 38,000 students and 11,000 staff” and claims that “the changes to the Tavistock Place and Torrington Place cycle lanes are providing a safer means of cycling to and from the campus, as well as creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment by removing a large number of vehicles.”

Here’s how UCL imagines the Gordon / Torrington Square section looking in the future. Which is a lot neater than now.

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Traffic schemes – public meeting 10th March

Camden Council has announced a pubic meeting to discuss the various traffic schemes proposed for our area – the Midland Rd / Euston Rd / Judd St junction; the North-South Cycle Super Highway; the Brunswick Sq proposals; and the Kings Cross Gyratory (see previous blog).

For some reason the Council is requiring everyone who plans to attend to make a reservation. Those wanting to go are asked to submit names in advance to LB Camden traffic planner Darren Barton at darren.barton@camden.gov.uk.

Barton, who is the design engineer for the Midland Rd scheme, said:

“We have received feedback that the various proposals have caused some confusion on how these schemes would impact local residents. To help explain the projects and how they interact, we have organised a public meeting on Thursday 10 March at 6.30pm at our new offices in Kings Cross (5 Pancras Square).”

Other officers from LB Camden who will be in attendance are Simi Shah (Joint Acting Head of Transport Strategy) and Dan Tait (Design Engineer – Brunswick Sq / North-South Cycle Superhighway).

Representatives from Transport for London will also be there.

Details of each scheme can be found online at the following links: https://consultations.wearecamden.org/culture-environment/midland https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/cycling/northsouth?cid=cycle-north-south https://consultations.wearecamden.org/culture-environment/brunswicksquare https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/kings-cross-gyratory