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Pregnant mum feared she might deliver baby on the street ‘because of congestion caused by Hackney Council’s road closures’

PUBLISHED: 14:50 09 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:48 09 October 2020

Sabrina DaSilva, who had to ditch her car in a traffic jam to walk to Homerton Hospital's antenatal unit. Picture: Sabrina DaSilva

Sabrina DaSilva, who had to ditch her car in a traffic jam to walk to Homerton Hospital's antenatal unit. Picture: Sabrina DaSilva

Sabrina DaSilva

A heavily-pregnant mother who thought she might give birth at any minute had to ditch the car and walk to hospital when she got stuck in a traffic jam she claims was caused by Hackney Council’s new road schemes.

Sabrina DaSilva, 31, thought her waters had broken on Friday, and midwives told her to come straight away to Homerton Hospital.

But as her uncle drove her from her home in Seven Sisters Road, Manor House, they hit a traffic jam in Amhurst Road, Dalston, and got stuck in the same spot for 35 minutes.

Sabrina thinks the congestion was caused by the council’s low traffic neighbourhood scheme, which has seen 20 roads closed to through-traffic to prevent them being used as rat runs.

Eventually Sabrina, a mother-of-one who is 35-weeks pregnant, decided to walk the remaining 25-minute journey to hospital, despite being in pain.

“I was thinking ‘oh my God, I’m going to have a premature baby,” she told the Gazette.

“I was feeling really panicked and I also had spasms, so I thought I was contracting. I was worried I might have the baby on the street in the rain.

“I couldn’t walk very fast, because even that is physical, as my tummy is heavy. I was scared to say the least but I was trying to put a brave face on for my mum and she was doing the same for me.

“It was a false alarm in the end but I was really panicked at that point.”

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She added: “Now I worry what will happen when I do actually go into labour and I have that extra stress of how I am going to get to the hospital to consider.”

Planters, bollards and cameras are used as “traffic filters” in low traffic neighbourhoods, which were implemented under new powers created by the government in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

They aim to promote walking and cycling and to encourage social distancing while public transport capacity remains low.

The council does not think its scheme was solely to blame for the congestion Sabrina faced, however.

A spokesperson told the Gazette congestion is higher now in some parts of London than before lockdown, because more people are using their cars - and this combined with TfL and Thames Water roadworks at Cambridge Heath, on the A10 and in Upper Clapton Road has exacerbated the situation.

The council’s eco chief, Cllr Jon Burke, said: “As widely reported in the press, London has seen a significant amount of cars return to the roads in recent weeks, in some places exceeding pre-lockdown levels, and that can’t be dismissed as the principal factor in increased congestion.

“As with any changes to roads, there is some disruption while drivers get used to our changes and sat nav apps adjust. We expect this to reduce over the coming weeks, but would urge residents to have their say on these trial measures online so we can make changes where necessary.

“At our request, TfL has already changed traffic signal timings on Graham Road to alleviate congestion there.”

A consultation on the low traffic neighbourhoods will take place in 2021, a year after they have been operational.

While some have welcomed the initiative, including eco-conscious, cycling enthusiasts and some of the 70 per cent of Hackney households who do not own a car, others are angry, and the Facebook group Horrendous Hackney Road Closures has organised protests attended by hundreds of people.

To comment on the scheme see rebuildingagreenerhackney.commonplace.is.


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