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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Fiddling Whilst Rome Burns? - Consultation on Haringey's New Draft Air Quality Policy

Anyone living n the post-2016 Britain that we currently inhabit will be all too sadly familiar with the concept of our democratic bodies fiff-faffing around the edges whilst failing to tackle the real issue. Dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists may say that they're all too familiar with this conundrum where air quality is concerned. Haringey Council is now setting out  its air quality plan for the next five years. Can it too be fairly accused of too little too late? Does its new plan dodge the real issues?

Like many of us, if asked, I'd say that air quality matters, but it's not something I get worked up about or have done much, if anything about. But like many, it's also hard for me to keep my head completely buried in the sand and the trajectory of the globe's environmental heath continues to worsen.

Against that backdrop I thought I ought to avail myself of the opportunity to review Haringey's Air Quality Action Plan that's up for consultation until the end of this month. 

The only reason I'd found out about the consultation was following-up a story in the Standard about cycling in London being at record levels. I wanted to see if there was any data about Haringey.

Once I'd serendipitously stumbled across the consultation (the way you have to in Haringey), my next hurdle was actually getting hold of the draft plan. The brief consultation communications can be easily located through search. These refer repeatedly to the draft policy, both the draft policy was nowhere to be found. Even the link to it on Haringey's website took me back to the consultation document. 

In response to my question about this, Haringey's PR minded Twitter stream unhelpfully trotted out a line about giving any feedback on transport issues to such and such an email address. However, my thanks to a member of the almost always very helpful and very responsive web team who fixed the issue with the link on the website within 10 minutes of my talking with him. Props!

So having got hold of the draft policy, I took a spin through it....and quickly felt rather unqualified to assess its quality. 

I can observe that parts of Harringay seem to have cause for concern and that the only monitoring of air quality in our area is on Green Lanes. I can read what the air quality measurements are. But I'm not really au-fait with what I'm reading.

What did strike me though is that the consultation document explains in piechartese that something like two-thirds of our air pollution comes from transport. However when I look at the measures proposed in the draft plan there seems to be precious little tacking this primary issue. With local sensitivities raised by the outcome of the Harringay Traffic Survey and the Wightman Road changes, this comes at a particularly trenchant time for us all. 

So, is there someone who understands these issues better than me? I have several question to the world at large.

  • Am I being too critical of the draft plan?
  • Is it wrong to expect our council to take stronger action on the primary cause of air pollution or would their powers be too limited and the effects be too diluted by our location close to the heart of one of the world's major cities?
  • How does the plan compare with what other city-based borough councils are doing?

The Haringey page for this consultation is here. Both the consultation pdf as well as the draft plan should be available from there. If you can't find them, I've dowloaded copies.

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Haringey was declared an Air Quality Management Area in 2001, I believe one of the requirements of that is they have to produce this Air Quality Action Plan. The fact that they are still not meeting NO2 emission targets after 19 years does suggest that the plans are insufficiently focused on the primary causes of pollution and/or not radical enough.

I'm afraid a lot of the money spent on encouraging cycling - cycle parking, cycle training and cycle maintenance courses, pollution awareness in schools etc. - will have little effect unless accompanied by significant measures to reduce traffic, especially filtering through traffic off local streets.

Hi Hugh,

Thanks for flagging this. One of the members of Haringey Living Streets is collating detailed feedback on the plan which I’ll post here once ready for your reference. 

At an earlier sharing of this paper our immediate reflections were there was too much focus on electric cars, and not nearly enough on walking and cycling infrastructure to enable more Haringey residents to reduce car journeys and choose greener, healthier alternatives. If we want mode shift we need meaningful investment to our streets - which will save us much more in the long term!

Given the volume of through traffic on Green Lanes and Wightman Road and across the borough any radical measures to reduce motor vehicle pollution has to be in partnership with neighbouring boroughs and probably Londonwide. This will only be possible if there is widespread political will and consensus on limiting the use of private cars within London to those who absolutely need it with the rest of us being expected to use public transport. Too many people complain about motor pollution while owning and habitually using cars - we stopped doing so nearly 20 years ago. 

We do all focus on the things that are important to our own lives right-here-right-now, though, don't we (and I include myself within the scope of the personal pronoun I've used). 

Compare this thread started at midday on July 9th, with one of the many many threads about Wightman Road started about twelve hours later. 

This one has 129 views and three comments. At the time of writing, the other has 2341 views and 87 replies.

Indeed. Had a look and a lot of the recent replies on that thread appear to be from unhappy cyclists - the fact is that cycling will only become safer in London if motor vehicle use is drastically curtailed across the capital. Cyclists also need to recognise that not everyone can or wants to cycle and that speeding cyclists - some of whom think traffic lights don't apply to them and that they can mount pavements at will - endanger pedestrians, albeit to a lesser degree. There are no easy solutions except to blame officialdom but I should say, as an avid pedestrian, I've found Wightman Road recently safer and more pleasant to negotiate with fewer cars travelling less fast and fumes not as bad as before. 

I agree that no group of road users is without its inconsiderate members. The subset of cyclists you mention deserve the same harsh opprobrium as do bad motorists. It's the sense of entitlement of this group that lead me to conclude that a Wightman Road pavement shared with cyclists will never work well for pedestrians. 

Good to hear your positive experience of the reworked Wightman. Have you had any issues crossing the road?

Crossing the road where there are no traffic lights might have become a little easier due to slower speeds but let us see what it is like once all the changes have been implemented. I wonder if the addition of a set of lights at the Endymion Road end might prove useful?

It certainly would. But, if I remember rightly, both zebra and pelican solutions were rejected because of the blind corner just to the west of the junction with Alroy. I'm sorry to say that if this push-back had come from almost anywhere else but Haringey Traffic, I might have been convinced by it. 

The subset of cyclists you mention deserve the same harsh opprobrium as do bad motorists.

I have to disagree with you there Hugh.

Its world news when a plane crashes somewhere in the world killing all on board, imagine the news if there were 24 plane crashes in one day - but cars kill a similar amount of people as a big plane crash happening every hour every day every year. Whereas you've more chance of being killed by lightening than a cyclist.

Cyclists going through red lights might be annoying for drivers but its no where near the same thing as bad driving.

There's all those many crashes going on killing and maiming people. There's the ruining our neighbourhoods making residential areas unsafe and cluttered up with infrastructure for cars and parking. There's the air pollution cars cause with proof now that its making people sick and ending our lives early. There's all the conflict and wars over oil causing misery around the world. Not to mention the global warming, the climate emergency and the death of the planet.

We should be penalising car use, and before that happens at least stopping non-car users having to subsidise it. Drunk driving became unacceptable as much due to public perception as due to the laws about it, if it becomes similarly socially unacceptable to be driving around unnecessarily that would help limit car use and ownership and enable authorities to more easily bring in schemes to limit car use and so help improve air quality.

This is where the harsh opprobrium should be. It will take some shift in public attitudes but it needs to happen and it is starting to happen and we can all help make it happen quicker by explaining this to people who drive.

My 2c's! 

So no opprobrium or just less harsh opprobrium?

When cyclists take a trip by bike instead of car, especially around here, they are literally risking life and limb to help save the planet, so we should cut them a little slack. But in this context of air quality and road safety blaming anything on bicycles is irrelevant whataboutery isn't it?

I assume that when cyclists take a trip round here they do so mainly as a lifestyle choice and not in a spirit of self-sacrifice.

Any road user who acts dangerously or inconsiderately gets my opprobrium for their bad behaviour. Some people seem to think that choosing a non-polluting form of transport forgives people all other road user behaviour sins. You seem to be of that mind. I am not. 

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