Residents up in arms over Hackney low-traffic neighbourhoods

Walford Road closure in Hackney. Pic: Flickr Alan Denney

A row has broken out about road closures in Hackney, with some locals claiming the council’s scheme to create what they call low-traffic neighbourhoods has backfired.

The council’s plans came into force at the end of June and saw 20 additional roads close, nine of which were to create low traffic neighbourhoods. Eleven of the roads closed were known by the council to be ‘rat runs,’ meaning that drivers used them to avoid buildup on the main roads.

The council hoped that by closing these roads the areas would become safer. An additional 40 new School Streets – which see roads with schools on them closed at certain times of the day when children are entering and leaving school – were also announced.

The council said the road closures – done in Hoxton ( via Shepherdess Walk, Nile Street and Ebenezer Street) and also in the Haggerston/London Fields area ( via Pritchards Road, Forest Road, Richmond Road, Middleton Road/Haggerston Road, Dunston Street and Lee Street to the east of the A10 in Haggerston) are to aid social distancing and to encourage more walking and cycling in the borough. They will exist alongside previous road closures done by the council in May.

East London Lines first reported on this story back in May when the council closed roads such as Barnabas Road as an experimental measure. Plants were used to create barriers to cut off access to streets being used as rat runs as well as to aid social distancing during the peak of COVID-19.

But the Facebook group Horrendous Hackney Road Closures claim not only have these road closures caused rush hour gridlock but they have also stopped emergency service vehicles being able to get through traffic quickly.

On October 1, the Facebook group ‘Horrendous Hackney Road Closures’, which has over 5,000 members, protested again outside Hackney Town Hall.

Henrietta Priddie, a member of the Facebook group Horrendous Hackney Road Closures, told East London Lines: “I walk my children to and from school along Homerton high street every day. This has always been a highly polluted road – however, with these new school closures, it is even worse. Yesterday on the way back from school – the fumes were unbearable.

I’m all for protecting our planet and would have an electric car myself if the infrastructure was there. However, as it stands these road closures are just increasing pollution on the main roads. I’m beyond angry and upset with the situation.”

Save Hackney Roads, a Twitter page dedicated to reopening the roads in Hackney, posted a video of an ambulance being unable to get through evening traffic, claiming that the closures are now risking peoples lives.

These low traffic neighbourhoods are described by London Living Streets, as safe and healthy places for people, not cars.

Hackney Council have been approached for a comment but had yet to respond.

Earlier Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm, said of the programme: “We know that 70% of people in Hackney do not own a car, yet there is a clear risk that as lockdown eases and public transport use remains low the number of cars on our roads will increase. In a borough with the highest number of cycling and walking road deaths in London per 1000 trips taken, and one of the highest premature death rates from air pollution, any increase in motor vehicle traffic is likely to be deadly. It is my duty to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

“We are acting quickly to close roads and widen pavements to support walking and cycling, protect people from increased traffic, and prevent the secondary effects of coronavirus from exacerbating existing road safety issues, deadly air pollution, and the transport emissions that are driving the climate emergency.”

The Council’s plans to rebuild a greener Hackney with less traffic, cleaner air, quieter neighbourhoods has not gone down well with Hackney residents as two weeks ago, they protested these road closures by marching from Old Street to Islington Green. With many residents claiming that the roads were becoming more polluted and even more dangerous.

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