Liveable Streets – For the Few …. Not the Many

Against Liveable Streets

Only 4% of people in Tower Hamlets travel by bicycle on 5 or more days a week.  Most of them are well off young white men under 35. (Source page 8 Bike Life document. Beware of all the assumptions, could’s and would’s).

Tower Hamlets aims to make Tower Hamlets the most cycle-friendly borough in London. But they consulted with the cycling lobby before residents.

Residents have other priorities and needs.

91% of residents from poorer socio-economic groups in the borough never cycle and a third of them consider cycling is simply “not for people like me”.  

While safety is a  concern for people who don’t currently cycle there are a lot of other reasons they prefer to walk or use public transport – lack of cycle storage facilities, need to carry children, poor weather, living too far away. Only 29% of residents even have access to an adult bicycle.

Women cycle less often than men.  Research shows their journeys are more likely to involve ‘trip-chaining’ (multi-stop journeys) which tend to be for a balance of child care, work and household responsibilities.

Closing a few streets in Bow is not going change these issues, but its all OK because the 12,000 (mostly fit young men) will be able to cycle faster (that’s out of the 317,700 population of Tower Hamlets).

The mantra for Labour at the last election was “for the many, not the few”. This has been turned on its head in Tower Hamlets. It’s no wonder the Liveable Streets consultation has provoked strong reaction.  

No bus gates, no road closures poster
No bus gates, no road closures poster seen in many local shops. Organised by the Tower Hamlets residents against the Liveable Sts Facebook group

Car ownership in Tower Hamlets is already the third lowest of the London boroughs, but still 30% of people in Tower Hamlets use their car or van to go to work. The disabled use cars and taxis more often than the rest of us. Young mums drop children off at school, social activities or sports, mostly short distances. Shop keepers need to get deliveries, their customers need to reach them.

The people who lobby for road restrictions think the rest of us can just walk more, or accept that car trips will take longer in future. Just suck it up – it’s good for you.

No impact assessment was carried out before the consultation was started. No one knows what effect the proposed changes will have. However Ace Cars already report that some journeys are taking 5 times longer due to the closure of Old Ford Road.

John Biggs said he would respect  the need for “residents to “use their cars for work, for family”.  Its time for him to show he represents everyone in Tower Hamlets.

Article and research by Bow resident, Sheila Kelly.

Since this article was published one of the Geezers has been ringing around the membership to check their current thoughts on the Liveable Streets proposals. He’s given me some details, but his last line was: “Basically they all hate it!…”


  1. Taxis are not “as important as buses and the Underground”.

    They’re important, sure, and for many residents crucial.

    But Tower Hamlets residents make only 14,000 taxi journeys per day, compared to 75,000 bus journeys and 100,000 tube journeys.

    (for comparison we also make 25,000 cycle journeys and 200,000 walking journeys daily… again well ahead of taxis)

  2. Obviously it is important to emphasise every address in the borough will still be accessible should the scheme go ahead.

    I agree with you about taxis, but think delivery vehicles probably should be included too. So many of us have realised under COVID lockdown that delivery vehicles are vital for those isolated for whatever reason. I would go further and say pretty much every street should have DEDICATED space for delivery vehicles so they don’t have to double park and block roads.

    A growing number of people don’t own a car and I know many who use a ZipCar/friend/family on the odd occasion they need one (trip to the skip seems to be a very common thing!).

    Regarding the shops – I would be cautious of cutting parking (ie I wouldn’t do it) around the market.

    Council vehicles – compared to this time last year I honestly think I am seeing a fifth/tenth of the number! They seem to drive up and down the borough all day. I really would like a FOI on how many (millions) of miles they clock up each year. Moving them to electric, I believe, would actually lead to a measurable drop in pollution – they seem to belch fumes out more than most! Council staff should be encouraged to purchase e-bikes under the Cycle to work scheme (40% discount). Many drive to work in a borough that is 6km (3.7 miles) long at its longest point (Islands Gardens to the top of Victoria Park.

    This idea of block the scheme wholesale doesn’t sit well with me. I would encourage people to answer the consultation (it isn’t a referendum vote) and answer the sliding scale questions. Write down any suggestions. If lots of people say extra disabled parking then they should listen

    The form takes quite a while to fill out and you have to register – just two days to go. So whatever your thoughts I’d get going on it:

  3. Alan it is not like you to not research your articles.

    It is a pity one can’t post attachments. In a map of London pollution levels you can see my road from outer space. The Tredegar/St Stephens/Roman and Parnel/Old Ford Rd dog legged rat runs show up at the same intensity as the M25.

    Regarding electric card, how much would 1000 charging points cost? Where would they go? How would they help with congestion in any way?

    Do you realise that electric vehicles are still polluting? Whilst exhaust fumes are eliminated they do in general cause an INCREASE in particulate pollution due to the extra wear and tear on tyres (the heavy batteries lead to a net increase in vehicle weight). There is also brake pad particulates.

  4. A divisive misleading article trying to create an impression of those “posh young white men” against the rest of us, who want the status quo. Actually a diverse bunch of people want quieter, less polluted streets. That statement that most of the regular cyclists “are well off young white men under 35” really is not shown or even suggested in the report you’ve cited. Yes- currently a higher proportion cycle from those categories, but just say that. You could equally have said how well off white men disproportionately drive cars as an argument to reduce how cars dominate our public space currently. And yes, some more people, who don’t cycle now, might feel more confident to give it a go once it’s safer. If you look at who is cycling around here now- you can see it’s actually already changing. And this article just ignores the benefits of Liveable Streets for people in terms of walking, sitting and breathing.

  5. Do you support the large number of vehicles rat-running through Bow daily (Tredegar/St Stephen’s/Roman and Parnell/Old Ford Rd (approx 50% of vehicles)? No? That’s good as this scheme will keep them off side streets. Every residence will still be accessible by vehicle and journey times will likely decrease.

    Do you support maintaining pollution and traffic levels outside our primary schools? Of course not. Most children live very close to their primary school. Up to 30% of rush hour traffic in London is due to the school run. Reducing this traffic will improve air quality and decrease journey times for those residents who need to use their cars.

    The scheme will likely increase journey distance, but decrease journey times.

    If everyone who cycles in Tower Hamlets each day were to switch to car that would be 8 miles of cars end-to-end.

    Alan and Sheila – for transparency what roads do you live on? (And if you are on a Cul-de-sac estate block – please don’t say the name of the nearest main road). I’m ON Grove Road – could throw a shootout easily onto the centre of the road from where I live.

    Do you oppose measures to improve the “streetscape so it is more accessible for those with mobility issues – giving mobility scooters and pedestrians priority? Of course you don’t. This scheme will be great for those of us who have mobility issues.

    Do you oppose the scheme because of perceived INCONVENIENCE?

    I would be interested in what Ray and the other Geezers think.

  6. Tower Hamlets households with at least one bike: 25%
    Tower Hamlets households with at least one car: 30%
    These are very similar percentages, hardly “for the many, not the few”.

    I can see why car owners aren’t at all keen on these proposals.
    But the majority of Bow residents walk, cycle or take public transport instead, and it’ll be good to be able to move around more safely.

    1. There are lots of people who are not car owners who are against these proposals. Do you have a link for these figures please?

    2. Thanks for sending the detailed TfL spreadsheet

      I hadn’t seen it before and I have had a look at it.
      The data for people who cycle 5 or more days is a bit better than the Sustrans data (4%). On the other hand only 1.6% of trips in Tower Hamlets are for shopping or personal business.

      The Liveable Streets consultation thinks improving cycle safety is the answer but I see from this spreadsheet that 37% of people in Tower Hamlets already live within 400m of the strategic cycle network so its obviously more complex than that.

      Tower Hamlets aims to double the number of people cycling regularly. Its going to be an uphill struggle

  7. I approved another comment by AC April, but our website lost it – so here it is:

    Hi Sheila, you say that ”The presentation was economical with the truth when it came to air pollution” and then you go on to focus only on one of the two slides.
    Why did you omit to talk about the other NO2 diffusion tube, showing levels of pollution at the junction of Tredegar Road and St Stephens road?
    Those readings are the worst in all of Bow, and both of these roads are classed as residential.
    I agree that the Council is not being entirely candid, but pleaese try and cover all sides of the story if you want to make a point.

    1. Thanks for writing in. You are correct about that. I’m sure Sheila will reply when she gets a chance. That junction where St Stephen’s Road joins Tredegar Road is one to look at. Last year the Council put in a bus gate at the A12 end which stopped traffic leaving the area. This caused a build up of fumes and anger all around Bow. They need to do the opposite, and make it easier for the traffic and the pollution to move on.

    2. thanks for the comment. The slides given in the presentation were not labelled with the source so I don’t know where the figures come from. They seemed to me to be far higher than the figures in the annual air quality survey which includes data for that junction.

      I contacted Liveable Streets last week and asked for the information. So far I haven’t heard from them.

  8. Ok, so what are you proposing?
    The council is not going to give residents a free pass to drive through bus gates, etc. and the health of our community is affected by pollution. What do we do?

    1. We are told about half the people who are driving through Roman Rd and Old Ford Road stop in Bow so the non stopping people should be stopped by the bus gate.

      In other parts of the country councils give residents permits to drive through the bus gate. People who own cars in Bow will already have parking permits so people who enforce the bus gate knows the car belongs to residents and can let them drive without penalty.

      Some people who stop are carers and key workers. Tower Hamlets already gives a lot of them permits so they could be allowed through the bus gate as well.

      Its a bit controversial but I would also give them to taxis. In london they are as important as buses and the underground. They are used a lot by people with mobility problems who can’t manage public transport
      And as they are moving away from diesel and towards electric engines they are polluting less and less.

      I wouldn’t give permits to casual visitors or delivery vehicles.

      I certainly wouldn’t give permits to council staff. They should practice what they preach.

      I would put this in place and run it for six months and see what the effect is. I would publish the results and have a real dialogue, get away from the lobbying.

      I don’t think we need to rush this through. The local shops are really struggling with Coronovirus problems. If Roman Road market and shops close now they may never get back.

      We are told that the traffic restrictions won’t impact them but we just don’t know. Of course clean air is important but this isn’t the only initiative that is tackling the problem. Tower Hamlets own monitoring shows significant improvements in recent years. We should take time and get it right.

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