Damien Egan, the Mayor of Lewisham, has apologised to Lewisham residents after a scheme to reduce car usage angered residents who saw a huge increase in traffic, pledging changes would be announced soon.
This scheme – implemented early in lockdown – saw Milburough Crescent Street, Hedgley Street, Clarendon Rise, Limes Grove and College Park Close blocked off under emergency transport measures.
But as lockdown eased and traffic flooded back to the borough, residents complained that the closures were putting pressure on other roads.
Egan said: “I am sorry to all of those residents who are seeing more traffic on their streets and I know it must be frustrating to be living with this disruption.
“The current measures are not working as expected. Perhaps we are trying to do too much too soon.
“We have been urgently exploring options for how we can relieve pressure on surrounding roads.
“Next week I am confident we will be in a position to announce some short-term changes.”
Residents had been vocal with their complaints on social media. One Twitter user said the traffic increase was affecting BAME less wealthy communities the most in the area, and putting more people in danger.
Twitter user @LittleNinjaUK said: “I understand that you and many others preferred my pre-#LTN social media activity. You’d prefer I stay in that space and stand quietly by whilst LTNs increase traffic for the poor & BAME communities already exposed to illegal levels of #airpollution.”
Majid Khan said: “What’s more alarming that there are pro-LTN people who think it’s ok to displace traffic and pollution and cause more health problems for others, but it doesn’t matter because they will have a chance to have better air quality. Isn’t better air quality a right for everyone?”
Many boroughs across London are using LTNs. The initiative was inspired by the improvement in air quality within Lewisham over lockdown – which saw a reduction of 33 per cent in some areas. Local authorities acted quickly to both keep this up and create more space for residents to social distance.
In response to community anger, Lewisham Council’s newsletter said that they were adding more signs to give drivers further warnings and working with sat nav equipment “in order to avoid sending motorists down closed routes.”
However, not everyone is complaining. Lewisham councillor Octavia Holland expressed joy in seeing many Lewisham residents use bikes.
Holland said: “You barely used to see children cycling before this LTN. This morning, quiet roads, and children cycling in the cold and wet. We need more of this, urgently.”
Lewisham Council said it would hold a public information session on October 22 at 7pm with Egan and Kim Wright, the chief executive.