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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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Is that 90% a guesstimate? The use of the phrase ratrunning suggests the sentiment that only residents should be allowed to use Wightman or the Ladder rungs. Is the vision of Living Wightman to improve quality of life for that very small part of the borough while making a bad situation worse for everyone else? How true is the guesstimate of 210,000 or is that a politicians calculation?

I've looked through Joe's maths and it seems a reasonable calculation. The monitoring points on Wightman were placed a fair distance apart (roughly one at each end and one in the middle) so didn't capture movements between these points. For instance they wouldn't have captured any of the traffic that went up Warham, then went back on to Green Lanes which would be a common manoeuvre as vehicles exiting Salisbury Road weren't allowed to turn right at the GL junction. If you look at the data for Beresford Road (a down road) you can see just how much traffic uses Ladder roads to exit on to GL rather than continue the journey all the way up to Turnpike Lane

I'm not a politician Pat, and my numbers are based on the traffic counter data collected during one week in January earlier this year. There's a link to both the data and my calculations in the post you just replied to so anyone can check it. In summary:

211K - sum of vehicles entering Wightman per week from either Turnpike Lane, Endymion or one of the 10 westbound ladder "rungs". (That's the minimum number of actual journeys of any length on Wightman, since some journeys might go up one rung and down another, inbetween the traffic counters)

24K - number of journeys along the full length of Wightman (sum of vehicles entering Wightman from either Turnpike Lane or Endymion, MINUS the vehicles leaving via an eastbound "rung")

almost 90% ratrunning - the difference between 211K and 24K (i.e. if it is not travelling the full length of Wightman then it must be ratrunning).

"ratrunning" - cutting through a residential sidestreet instead of using the intended major roads.

The 90% figure assumes that traffic from actual Ladder residents (their visitors, deliveries and tradespersons etc.) is negligible. There were 2,515 cars and vans owned by Harringay ward residents according to the 2011 census, let's say 1,000 of those are used each day - it still seems likely that the proportion of ratrunners is over 85%.

The vision of Living Wightman as in the original post does explicitly include improving traffic flow in the surrounding area. The evidence suggests that Wightman is significantly worse off than the surrounding area though, the traffic counters show that the busiest point on Wightman is actually busier than several nearby double-decker busroutes (Turnpike Lane, West Green Road, St Anns Road):

So the 90% is based on an assumption. Are drivers on the Ladder heading towards Hornsey or Crounch End considered rat runners as by the definition in your post they should be cutting back onto Green Lanes rather than using Wightman? Currently, traffic in the surrounding area has gone from bad to worse. I have friends towards Ally Pally complaining about the impact of the Wightman Road closure and Green Lanes is now even more dangerous to cross with annoyed drivers stuck in traffic.
Pat, maybe another way of thinking about it is why, despite the closure of Wightman Road, are all of these vehicles still going along GL despite the inconvenience? If you look at the areas surrounding The Ladder they are almost all blocked, calmed or otherwise made as unattractive to drive through as possible. The net result has been that traffic really has little choice but to go through the area.
There are some posters (not you by the way) who seem to be saying that if people don't like the way things are here they should either just put up with it or move. The situation on The Ladder hasn't ended up the way it is because it's the best route but because to a large extent it has been manufactured to be this way.

If the people on Green Lanes don't like it THEY should move.

( only kidding by the way, but I was the one told to move to Frinton  )

I'm not clear which of my assumptions you think could be wrong, Pat - do you think there are fewer than 210K vehicle journeys per week on Wightman, or that more than 5% of these are made by the 2515 cars and vans owned by Ladder residents?

No, really, all residential roads should not be through routes. 

It isn't just about it affecting the health of residents there, but it also massively contributes to the amount of motor traffic precisely because alternatives like walking or cycling are made more dangerous. 

This is exactly what the Dutch do: any road that has not enough space for cycle tracks will have its traffic volumes reduced. Therefore most roads should be treated in this manner. We need to be providing alternatives: cycling is the one that has been neglected the most. 

This is especially true of the school run, one of the most depressing aspects of our current road set up.

Hi Billy! Can you give me the link for that Guardian piece if you have? Not sure I want to be depressed but would like to read! Many thanks.

Thanks Billy. Read it and is a bit gloomy. So much mindset to change and also depends on councils being brave and bold as the article says. Now there's a challenge to Haringey Council - a brave, bold and creative solution to the Green Lanes Transport Study that progresses Health, Wellbeing and the Environment for the local community. I guess it might take environmental armageddon before drivers accept changes to behaviour in the interests of health and environment. The human race is so inherently selfish (there I did get depressed!). Link here if someone else wants to read.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2016/jun/14/lesso...

Enfieldian here- the precedent has been set with these judicial reviews as the Waltham Forest one failed. I wouldn't be too depressed about it: as long as Enfield Coucil have done their homework they have a very little chance of succeeding. 

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