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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Harringay residents gather to support the 'Living Wightman' message                                                                       (Photo: Hugh Flouch)

Wightman Road is living again. 

With the traffic dramatically reduced as a result of the bridge works, this is a residential community reborn. 

A place where children play in the street, neighbours stop for a chat, families cycle safely through to Finsbury Park and that joggers and commuters can enjoy rather than endure.

For many of us, the idea of Wightman Road returning to a noisy, polluted traffic-clogged rat-run is unthinkable.

The peace today brings into sharp focus the nightmare that its residents have long suffered as a result of decades of planning decisions that have seen their needs come second every time to those of drivers using their home as a rat run.

Wightman Road is, unquestionably, a residential road. Despite this, it was having a massively disproportionate share of local traffic dumped on it –120,000 vehicles a week – only 40,000 less than, Green Lanes. 

This level of traffic was generating dangerous levels of pollution, with children most at risk. Levels of nitrogen dioxide - a pollutant that inflames the lungs, stunts growth and increases the odds of respiratory diseases such as cancer and asthma – were much higher than EU legal limits.

Given the high proportion of deprived households on Wightman Road, some of the poorest children in Harringay were paying the price for those motorists who were using it as a rat run. 

As such, Wightman Road represents in microcosm a wider divide in Harringay, which sees poorer residents suffer for the convenience of their wealthier neighbours.  While 62% of households in our ward don’t have a car, ownership is high in surrounding areas such as Crouch End and Muswell Hill. 

We should no longer tolerate this injustice, and we must not ignore this daily threat to the health of our community, and our children. 

One of the first things that the new London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, did when he took office last month was to publish a major report on air quality. He also said nothing should be off limits when it came to tackling the issue. 

He said: “Half a million under-19s in London are breathing in air in breach of NO2 levels. Separate from that, we know the air in London is responsible for 10,000 deaths last year and in parts of London children have under-developed lungs.” 

But it’s not just lethal traffic pollution on Wightman Road that was a problem.

This traffic included foundation-shaking, thunderous lorries and HGVs that breach the tonnage limit with impunity. The bridge-strengthening works will give the green light for even heavier vehicles.

And more traffic will be generated by an estimated 7,500 new households created by the massive residential developments in the immediate and surrounding areas – including at  Hawes & Curtis, Wightman Road Hornsey Station, Heartlands sites,  Smithfield Square on Hornsey High Street and  Tottenham Hale. Whilst we support the building of more affordable homes, it’s important to recognise that Harringay will  accommodate a disproportionately high level  of new housing in the borough. Wightman Road and the Ladder are right in the middle of all this development.

So when the bridge works finish in September, we won’t be going to back to how it was. It’s going to get worse.

So it’s in everyone’s interests that we act NOW to stand up for the quality of life of local residents, particularly children who face stark health inequalities, on Wightman Road and the surrounding area.

This is the aim behind Living Wightman; a group of residents who have come together to campaign for a safer, healthier and happier future for Wightman Road and the rest of the Ladder roads and, in doing so, inform a major initiative that Haringey Council is currently leading to address the traffic problems that have blighted Harringay for years.

In doing so, we are acutely aware of the concerns of businesses that have been affected by the current restrictions, particularly with the closure of the Alroy Road end, and congestion generated elsewhere and of the inconvenience experienced by residents in and around the Ladder.

Mindful of this, we are asking for the following:

Firstly, we’re requesting that Haringey Council extend the current arrangements beyond summer to allow time to find a long-term solution that drastically reduces traffic on Wightman Road. It isn’t practical to completely open and then limit traffic on Wightman. It would reproduce the initial chaos we all suffered when a change in access was first put in place.

Secondly, we’re proposing that any long-term solution allows access for local businesses and their customers, but stops Wightman Road being used a rat run through route as part of overall measures to improve traffic flow in the surrounding area.

Thirdly, in the meantime, we want to encourage even more people to take advantage of a safer, healthier, quieter Wightman Road, especially cyclists to use it as an alternative to Green Lanes as a route to Central London . We also want residents to share their experiences and ideas about how we can build on these gains and go forward.

There will be those who say it can’t be done.

You only have to look at access restrictions in the Gardens roads, on Hermitage Road and Harringay Road to see that this is not the case.

There will be those who say that the surrounding areas can’t cope with the displaced traffic.

The current situation, with congestion at times, at certain pinch points , is certainly far from ideal, but we know that there has been a drop in car journeys as a result of Wightman Road no longer being used as a rat run.

Anecdotally, many residents also report walking, cycling and using public transport more and, if they have cars, using them more thoughtfully – for example, running errands as part of one journey rather than making lots of short trips.

This decline in car use can only help ease congestion in the long-term and be welcome if the Council is serious about meeting its ambitious aim of reducing carbon emissions by 40% in just four years.

But there is no question that we are anti-car. Many of us are motorists. Rather that the Living Wightman campaign is pro-people and communities.

The current arrangements on Wightman Road – for example, pavements in terrible condition impassable to wheelchairs and buggies in some places because of cars parked on the pavement rather than the road, are about as anti-people as you can get.

They are unsafe, potentially in breach of equalities laws and prioritise the rights of people using the road as a rat run over those who live there.

This cannot be right and is totally unfair.

We only want for our children and quality of life what our neighbours in places where this has been made a priority are getting without question.

No residential road should have 120,000 cars, vans and lorries roaring past people’s homes every week

No  child should have  their health put at risk and their lives cut short by dangerous levels of pollution

As we are seeing now, in a safer, healthier, happier Wightman Road, there is a better way for Harringay .

So let’s be ambitious and imaginative in striving for this together.

What can you do?

To find out more,  get involved, tell us what you think, share your ideas, please get in touch. You can:

Tags for Forum Posts: traffic, wightman bridge, wightman bridge closure

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Wouldn't the idea be for the outside lane to be a bus/cycle lane only, rather than an 'everybody' lane?

That's what I was thinking too

The theory is that removing obstructions such as buses stopping, cyclists, etc would allow the drivers to speed up and down the road without anything getting in their way. Whether or not that would be the case, or the volume of traffic, cars pulling out, people crossing over, the 20mph speed limit, etc. would be enough to nullify this is hard to tell.

One option would be removing the centre white line which seems to be the current trend to try and make drivers take more care.

I live in one of these side roads and as I have said previously on this thread, the number of cars fighting for parking and right of way, especially during the weekend, is not pleasant. Our street is also a residential street yet the Wigthman Road view seems to be that as long as it doesn't affect the new idyll, it can be ignored. If Green Lanes traffic is restrict, where will the traffic go and how will it affect our neighbours? Do the residents of Wightman Road have a view of how the vision for Wightman Road will affect the wider community?

I think the Living Wightman position is for the same treatment of streets both sides of Green Lanes, Pat. So their vision is very inclusive.

Currently the Harringay traffic study is looking at the whole area. Recommendations made out of that piece of work may mean adjustments across Harringay. Essentially, all of Harringay is in this together. Personally, I want a realistic solution that works for the whole borough but also allows a good quality of life for us all, for our families and for our neighbours. 

Sophia, until May 2014 (just over six months before you joined HOL) we had two active and one inactive local politicians (Ward councillors) west of Green Lanes. Since the last local elections a rather blind or bribed electorate removed the two active councillors and gave us three invisibles instead. East of Green Lanes a purchased or tricked electorate replaced three active and dependable councillors with a trio of place-persons. The local MP is a refugee from Harringay and his home constituency, and a failed Mayor of London. You may, of course, write to any of these creatures. Depends whether you expect a response.

Great work! Another step closer to a cleaner, safer, fairer London!

I totally support this and any measure to reduce the overall traffic levels in Harringay. I still suggest making Wightman rd One Way only. Widen pavements and increase the number of trees to absorb pollution. Add a living wall of plants to absorb pollution. A residential street like Wightman rd being used as a super - highway as it was, is, in my view unacceptable, particularly because of the threat to health .

This morning Trudy and I had breakfast in the sunshine at the Cabin sandwich bar at 278A Wightman Road.  What a treat.

Lovely photo Dick - nice reminder that Wightman Road is a place where people live, socialise, eat breakfast. Not just a way to get from A to B!

This entire post is classic not in my back yard nonsense. All residents were aware of the street when they bought their flats and houses. It's not like this is a new problem. And the impact on green lanes and around is a joke. So no, I hope they don't even consider extending it.

I've been on crutches for a month and have to take cabs, and going to crouch end used to take 5 mins in a car or 15 min walk. Not being able to do either, has turned this into a half hour problem.

The real issue is unless they build a tunnel, the area will always have this problem. There is no solution for the fact that green lanes and Finsbury Park are basically one artery to get out.

Funny I don't like near there and I still support it. 

A tunnel would certainly not work. The number of motor vehicles tends to match the capacity you give it. 



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