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View from the street: Delivering cleaner streets will save lives

PUBLISHED: 12:30 08 November 2018

Archant

What would make Crouch End a more pleasant place?

Would you like less-congested streets, where anyone can walk, cycle or get the bus, without dodging the traffic? How can we make this happen?

Here’s a golden opportunity. Last year, the Mayor of London and TfL announced that Haringey had been awarded £5.8m for a “Liveable Neighbourhood” in Crouch End. A chance to “make walking and cycling a safe, enjoyable and convenient option for many more Londoners - supporting small businesses by making our high streets cleaner, safer and more enjoyable places to spend time”, according to Sadiq Khan. But since that announcement, very little has been heard.

There’s one lesson to be learnt from more progressive boroughs on how to deliver successful schemes which reduce car use and that’s public involvement. We all need to support this. If Haringey genuinely wants to tame the snarl of cars snaking through Crouch End, the borough’s leaders must get to grips with creating healthy streets for all.

What we don’t want is wishy-washy consultation exercises with no clear direction. These would just end up with a hodge-podge compromise designed to appease everyone, including those wedded to their cars. Such a scheme would not achieve the goal of enabling active travel, and would risk losing TfL’s funding and jeopardise chances in the future.

What we do want is Haringey’s political leaders need to start a long-overdue debate about the future of our streets. Town centres in neighbouring boroughs are being transformed into places where people linger and where the air is cleaner, and where young and old alike can choose to travel healthily on foot or by cycle. And there would be fewer bus delays.

In Haringey, the damaging effects of 1960s-style transport decisions are all around us, with roads designed primarily for motor traffic, most of which is just passing through - often single-occupancy cars coming from outside the borough. With low levels of car ownership, Haringey’s residents deserve cleaner, safer streets. Strong leadership is needed to show that Haringey can prosper with streets designed for people, not cars.

Why does this matter? If Haringey’s future population continues to travel as it does now, we are heading towards even more air pollution, more inactivity-related illness, with once-prosperous local businesses suffocating in traffic-choked streets and more climate change.

Recent research by King’s College London has shown that reducing motor traffic and enabling more walking and cycling saves lives by improving air quality and encouraging active travel. Children in parts of London where through-traffic has already been reduced will live longer than children in Haringey, unless the council acts now. It’s a life-saving decision!

Two other local councils, Enfield and Waltham Forest, have gained awards and won elections by delivering schemes in their boroughs. They were determined to provide clean, healthy, calm streets. Who has the political will to change things for the better in Haringey, and literally save lives?

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