View from the street: Only when our leaders admit there is a problem can we reduce the reliance on cars

Haringey Cyclists' Jim Bewsher does not think the 'active travel' funding Haringey was awarded was spent wisely.

Haringey Cyclists' Jim Bewsher does not think the 'active travel' funding Haringey was awarded was spent wisely. - Credit: Archant

Back in May Catherine West MP set out in these pages the need to urgently give Haringey residents alternative ways to travel when lockdown eased, while public transport was restricted.

Haringey received a high level of funding for emergency “active travel” measures, but four months later you’ll struggle to spot results: a few stretches of wider pavements and upgraded cycle lane, not much else.

Unsurprisingly, we’re now seeing a surge in car traffic, with Haringey’s communities bearing the brunt of council inaction. Residential streets and main roads are filling up.

Why is Haringey doing so little compared to neighbouring boroughs including Hackney, Islington and Enfield? The council seems to always defer to the car. Across London there is a shift away from unrestrained car access, because of the consequences for everyone. Elsewhere in London, modest restrictions to through routes for motor traffic and swapping car parking on main roads for bus lanes and cycle tracks is unleashing a huge untapped demand for walking and cycling. So why are Haringey’s leaders stuck in old ways that keep residents dependent on cars and active travel only for the fit and foolhardy? Why don’t they recognise that most households don’t have access to a car and reflect the needs of our diverse and vibrant communities?

The funding Haringey was given seems to have been spent so poorly it’s unlikely we will get more from TfL (Transport for London), with further consequences for us all. We are hearing of near misses on traffic-choked roads outside schools and from NHS workers horrified at the conditions encountered when cycling to work. A tragedy is only a matter of time, while we are all already suffering from more congestion and pollution. Meanwhile Haringey acts as if a slight delay to car journeys is more important than keeping kids safe outside schools.

Maybe it’s not too late? Our councillors need to admit they have a problem and work with campaigners to change the borough for everyone. All we are asking is for mums to feel safe scooting to school with their kids and pensioners like me to be able to cycle to the shops without risking our lives. Is that a lot to ask?