Glyn Roberts from Greenpeace Waltham Forest looks at the way forward for local transport
Waltham Forest’s drive to create safer, low-traffic neighbourhoods, is winning admirers from around the world who are eager to follow suit, a Zoom meeting heard last month.
With a new survey suggesting most Londoners support such measures, a Greenpeace-hosted discussion heard that the borough was “leading the way”. Traffic had been reduced in many residential streets, improving air quality and safety, with cycling and walking being encouraged.
Parents and borough officials have joined forces over six years to block traffic ‘rat runs’ and shortcuts, while Waltham Forest Council has won grants to develop its ‘Mini Holland’ traffic-calming and cycleways scheme.
“We’re now reaching out across the UK and beyond,” said Dan Kelly, a Walthamstow father who helped organise a campaign to create safer streets for schoolchildren. “People have come from all over the world to visit – particularly Walthamstow and Leyton. We’ve delivered over 100 study tours.”
Dan was one of several grassroots campaigners and transport experts addressing the event, organised by Greenpeace Waltham Forest to discuss sustainable transport. The event was supported by funding from People’s Postcode Lottery. One Greenpeace speaker, Lucy Bridgewater, said: “The right investment from the government would contribute to a fairer, greener and better recovery from the pandemic. We’re calling for at least £10billion a year in additional public money for sustainable transport.”
The environmental organisation also wants the government to redirect the £27billion it has committed to new road building into greener measures, pointing out that transport is currently the UK’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
This call has been bolstered by the results of a new survey. Recent polling commissioned by Greenpeace UK, and carried out by YouGov, asked Londoners to choose their top two from a range of seven proposed transport improvements. New roads were the least popular choice, while 47% said they want less traffic on the roads, 36% wanted cheaper bus and train tickets, and 34% wanted roads to be better maintained. When asked if they would support low-traffic neighbourhoods, 54% said they were in support of such measures, with just 24% opposed.
Dan Kelly works for the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, and became active in a campaign back in 2013 to improve road safety around the primary school in Pretoria Avenue attended by his children. A long struggle ensued to overcome opposition and other hurdles. “Sometimes we had to resort to campaigning, making banners and waving our fists in the air,” Dan said. He advises people in other neighbourhoods to be sure to build strong support networks in order to advance, warning: “An individual politician can still scupper your efforts.”
Local endeavours eventually prevailed, creating quiet, pleasant streets decorated with floral planters, such as in Aubrey Road, Walthamstow. Hannah Boustred, Greenpeace Waltham Forest’s joint co-ordinator, said Orford Road was seen as an “exemplar” model for others to learn from. “People talk about it as a huge success story,” she said.
Finally, the Greenpeace event heard from Carolyn Axtell, founder of JoyRiders, which aims to encourage more women, including those from a Muslim background, to get on a bike. She said women from ethnic minorities often needed help to overcome lack of confidence, but free bicycles and instructor courses funded by the council “opened the floodgates,” said Carolyn. “Many were just waiting to be given a chance.”