John McMullan has made this proposal in various places. Maybe there’s an extended discussion of it in this forum somewhere, but what I’ve seen is scattered around the threads. In any case, I think it’s time to try to move this in the direction of concerted action, so here are my 2p.
We should begin a campaign to close Wightman Road to through traffic, along with complementary traffic controls at certain points on the rungs of the Harringay Ladder (exactly what and where these additional controls are would depend on the particular points at which Wightman is cut). This would eliminate through traffic from the Ladder, except on Green Lanes itself.
These roads are residential. The area has a combined population of over 10,000 (the population of Harringay Ward, most of which is the Ladder, is estimated at 13,700). We need to take this action in order to make the streets safe for children; to make the street a place of neighbourly interaction; and to make the air cleaner and healthier. Children should be able to walk to school and to parks; cyclists should have a safe north-south route through Harringay (Wightman would become that route).
Some further points:
· Road traffic reduction – don’t see this as a NIMBY proposal to chase traffic elsewhere: one of the aims should be to reduce road traffic overall. Roads accommodate traffic. There is ample scientific evidence that an increase in road capacity simply increases traffic, until at some point congestion chokes off the increase - at which point, highway planners call for more roads, leading to a spiral of ever-increasing traffic. What we see in the Ladder today is part of that spiral: several years ago, the Haringey council took two steps to reduce traffic congestion on the Ladder by making it flow more easily: it made all the rungs of the Ladder one-way, and it allowed pavement parking on Wightman to effectively widen the Wightman roadway. Both of these increases in road capacity have led simply to more traffic and faster traffic – the streets that are less safe for children, the air that is more polluted.
· The reverse is also true: a reduction in road capacity reduces traffic, overall. Somebody will rightly complain of increased traffic congestion, somewhere, as a result of cutting off traffic through the Ladder. But a reduction in road capacity will mean that overall traffic in north London will be reduced, and that will good for air quality, for child safety, for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists generally, and for the reduction of greenhouse gasses. Some may say that it would be better for the government address these problems in a comprehensive way, but such comprehensive treatment of the problem is, at best, slow in coming. By taking this local action, we can make a small contribution to the overall reduction of the problems caused by road traffic, and at the same time show public support for more comprehensive action.
· Half-way measures don’t do the job. Speed bumps slow traffic a bit, but are not sufficient to make the road safe. 20mph limits are nice, but there are no resources to enforce them.
· Whole Ladder: if you cut traffic on any one of the Ladder’s rungs, you just push it to another. For that reason, the Ladder needs to act together as one community.
· Other neighborhoods: for reasons discussed below, cutting off Ladder traffic might well reduce traffic in adjoining neighborhoods. More importantly, cutting off Ladder traffic should be seen as one step towards making the borough of Haringey a continuous quilt of safe, healthy, traffic-calmed neighborhoods. It builds on the work done by residents of the Gardens and other neighborhoods in recent years, and we should hope that it is followed by similar actions in other neighborhoods.
· We cannot know exactly what the effect on traffic in other neighborhoods will be – traffic engineering studies of the question would be helpful, although even there we note that such studies are far from an exact science: it may be necessary to experiment!
· Cutting routes through the Ladder will probably increase traffic on Green Lanes, but it will also help that traffic flow better. Most of the traffic to and from Wightman on the rungs of the Ladder crosses one or both lanes of traffic in Green Lanes. The constant merging in of traffic at several points along Green Lanes and the turns across Green Lanes traffic slow the north-south flow, including the buses. While Green Lanes would certainly continue to be congested after cutting off Ladder traffic, the near elimination of cross-traffic should improve the flow.
· Much of the cross traffic is coming to and from St Ann’s Rd and the various roads feeding through St Ann’s (Woodlands Park, Black Boy Lane, etc.). It also passes through a handful of short, heavily traveled residential streets on the east side of Green Lanes: Salisbury Road, part of Harringay Road, and Alfoxton Avenue. Similarly, to the north of the Ladder, much of the traffic on the Hornsey Park Road/Mayes Road is to or from Wightman; to the south, the same goes for much of the traffic on Endymion. By eliminating the Ladder routes, many of these trips that now cut through the adjoining neighborhoods would probably not take place.
While it would be great to reduce traffic on Wightman road, blocking it completely seems nuts to me - a recipe for gridlock, especially on Green Lanes, and for diverting traffic through residential streets in Stroud Green.
If you are concerned about how dangerous it is to cross Wightman, then lobby for more pedestrian crossings with traffic lights. I'd strongly support you in this. It would be a much better approach than the so-called traffic calming measures which, as far as I can see, have simply made the road more dangerous for cyclists by creating pinch points where drivers and bikes are pushed close together.
I say this as someone who no longer owns a car, and would certainly personally benefit from a car-free Wightman Rd open to bikes.
I agree that a car-free city would be better as an overall target. However, just punishing motor-vehicle owners is not enough.
The intelligent approach would always be asking why do we use private vehicle:
In my case (Falkland Road resident, near Wightman road) I commute 3 days a week by tube/train, the other two by motorcycle. I also own a car that I use occasionally and to carry the family around.
If I had a choice, I would do all 5 days by motorcycle because:
- tube/train is more expensive, crowded, the air is less clean than the polluted air in the surface, it takes me slightly longer, too hot in summer. To top it up, the bike ride is a LOT more enjoyable.
Those are the things that need to be fixed. Adding speed bumps to Wightman road all the way down and then Tollington Park has made my commute worse, yet it has made very little to push me towards green lanes and the west side of Finsbury Park, which would add another 5-10 minutes to my commute.
The same principle applies to cycle lanes. Just because we paint something in the floor, it does not make the road wider to separate the traffic. It just allows someone in the council to tick a "greener" box
The speed bumps have certainly been a disaster in my opinion.. As a cyclist , Wightman has always been most dangerous stretch of my commute from N8 to the West End, and the bumps have made it MORE dangerous. As a resident, the bumps have traffic noise worse - many of the heavier vehicles don't slow enough for the bumps, bounce in the air and hit the hit road with a big crash.
I've always been wary of the proposal of closing Wightman to traffic completely as, as has been pointed out already, where would the the traffic go? If Green Lanes is saturated from a traffic POV, I suppose traffic would naturally flow through Crouch End and over Crouch Hill, or maybe via Ferne Park Road. Is there capacity on those roads? They're both certainly wider than Wightman, I'm not sure what the current situation with traffic is on either of those routes tho
Traffic has been shown to mysteriously disappear if you give it nowhere to go and to mysteriously appear when you do. I don't think there would be much knock on through Crouch End, it's already saturated at the important pinch points.
Seconding John here: the level of traffic is not a natural constant - it responds, more than anything else, to the capacity of roads to carry it: if you increase capacity, people drive more (partly due to the increased capacity, partly because more road space and more cars means it's less pleasant to travel by foot or cycle), so traffic gradually increases and fills up the bigger road. The same thing happens in reverse, but since again there's a period of adjustment that means increased congestion for a while.
I agree with you completely about the speed bumps on Wightman. In general, they're a poor tool. It would be nice just to have some speed enforcement.
What if we just put Islington style road narrowings at either end to stop the HGVs (and Ferraris!)?
Where is the dislike button? If this isn't NIMBY, I don't know what is.
I think a desire to reduce traffic is actually policy in Hackney, not nimby at all. We're a democracy and the majority of residents would like to see less traffic and in fact even enforcement of the HGV limits would be a start. Thanks for your valuable contribution to the debate Vernon.
I couldn't agree more with you. HGVs, especially in combination with bicycles, in the same road are a recipe for congestion, as they try to overtake each other at different points, slowing down the rest of the traffic.
HGVs on their own are also noisy and a bit of a pest.
However, someone needs to supply the stores. So we must provide a place for them to go before barring the route.
We're only barring it as a through route. You could still get to it from any of the ladder roads, via Green Lanes.
I think it's not really NIMBY. I think it is worse in the sense that I can understand and sympathise with the NIMBY thought. I will elaborate:
If I live in a nice place and they build something "not nice" in my back yard (rail road, dump, motorway, park with a sports area, etc.) I wouldn't be happy. Not matter how good it is for the public, it certainly causes a damage to me (my living conditions will deteriorate, my home will be worth less...)
However, if the "not nice" feature was already there when I moved in, then asking the council to remove it so I can gain from it is just plain selfish.
Well there are many residents on Wightman Rd who moved there when it was a sleepy little residential street and the fact that the council have slowly changed its purpose over the years under the radar should give pause for thought.
Here's another thought, if it was appropriate to gate off the Gardens to residents only (and they only gated off the through route aspect of it) why not for the Ladder? My personal answer would be that what happened in the Gardens was selfish and impacted other residents adversely, it was beggar-thy-neighbour. Closing off Wightman Rd to through traffic will have a massive impact on people who drive through where we live but I can't see a single place where we would be shifting traffic to in the way that the closure of the Gardens did.