Stoke Newington’s one-way system will be torn up and Seven Sisters Road improved for cyclists, mayor vows

Stoke Newington High Street being dug up in December after a flood wrecked the road surface. Picture

Stoke Newington High Street being dug up in December after a flood wrecked the road surface. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Stoke Newington’s one-way system is a step closer to being ripped up and Seven Sisters Road will be made safer for cyclists and pedestrians – one day.

Stoke Newington High Street, pictured, is largely one-way, with southbound traffic diverted to the e

Stoke Newington High Street, pictured, is largely one-way, with southbound traffic diverted to the east. Picture: David Holt/Flickr/Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) - Credit: Archant

They were a pair of announcements made by mayor Phil Glanville to kick off Hackney’s sixth annual cycling conference, which was at the town hall today.

Mr Glanville described Seven Sisters Road as “what feels like an outer London motorway going through one of our communities” and vowed crossings would be made safer and vehicle speeds cut.

How to convince people to leave their cars at home was among the central topics discussed by campaigners, transport bosses and commuters.

More than 200 people filed into the newly refurbished council HQ to listen to talks by the likes of celebrity statistician Dr Ben Goldacre and Hackney’s transport chief Cllr Feryal Demirci.

Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier was meant to give a presentation too – but General Election rules stop councils giving a platform to candidates while they campaign. She wasn’t there at all in the end, but Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott made a fleeting visit before dashing off to a vote in Parliament.

Questions for the panel came from Rosalind Readhead, who ran for mayor of London last year on a “ban private cars” ticket, and campaigner Brenda Puech. Ms Puech was a vocal supporter of the ambitious London Fields road closures scheme that was largely scrapped last summer after a public outcry.

Bicycle markings in Stoke Newington High Street. Picture: Mark Hillary/Flickr/Creative Commons (CC B

Bicycle markings in Stoke Newington High Street. Picture: Mark Hillary/Flickr/Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) - Credit: Archant

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Hackney had planned to block 13 roads as a trial to stop cars using them as a cut-through – but more than 1,000 neighbours opposed the plans and the council instead agreed to trial the much more pedestrian option of narrowing only Middleton Road.

Dr Goldacre, author of Bad Science, and Lucy Saunders from TfL’s public health team had both talked about the importance of reliable evidence in transport planning.

But Ms Puech lamented: “It’s all based on politics.

“Decisions are overturned because the people who bother to vote say they don’t want them even though there’s lots of evidence they would benefit the local population.

“We don’t say: ‘Let’s use a better cancer drug, then let’s have a vote on it in a small room of people.’”

She said it was wrong to “subject evidence to arbitrary consultations where a small group are allowed to overturn the huge evidence-based need for interventions that benefit the community”.

“Otherwise we’ll never get anything done,” she continued.

“People have a car and they want to use it so they ignore evidence. A vote is the only thing that matters. Evidence doesn’t matter.”

Ms Saunders delicately told her: “Public health professionals need to try hard to convince people to do things differently.

“I think democracy is a great thing but needs to be coupled with the backup of a public health professional so they can say: ‘We’re doing this for the benefit of the population.’”

Ms Readhead asked whether it would be appropriate to sue town halls who failed to improve health by reducing car use, but the strongest response she got was a half-hearted encouragement to make a nuisance of herself from Dr Goldacre.

The theme of “lessons learnt” also informed a talk by Cllr Demirci on CS1, which was built through back streets instead of down the A10 where it was originally planned.

The route has come under scrutiny for not containing segregated cycle routes. But Cllr Demirci concluded it would cost £20million to get the A10 up to the same standard as the existing route, part of which would involve stripping out the gyratory.

“The gyratory is on its way to being removed,” she said, echoing Mr Glanville, “but we are still talking to TfL.” She had hastily corrected herself after appearing to say she was “fighting” TfL.

Of any future plans in Stoke Newington High Street, she added: “If you’re going to improve conditions for cyclists, segregation is a must.”

Cllr Demirci, quizzed about fears that road closures would simply shift cars into other streets, said: “Two areas of CS1 are heavily filtered so you’re moving traffic off residential streets, which shouldn’t have that level of traffic in the first place.

“So they’ve got to go somewhere else to start off with.

“Some of that evaporates because we’ve made it more difficult for drivers to drive in the area, and some does move onto main roads.

“I’m happy to have traffic on the busier roads as opposed to residential roads.

“But also where displacement occurs, it’s not a reason to remove what we’ve done – it’s a reason to do more.”

The somewhat right-on tone of proceedings had been set by Mr Glanville in his opening speech to the conference, in which he praised the Gazette’s editorial coverage of the “safer streets” scheme that will clamp down on the school run.

“I’m pleased to bring the conference back to the town hall, which is a living wage employer,” he said, “unlike the Picturehouse, I’m afraid.”

The conference was at Hackney Picturehouse over the road last year, but staff are still embroiled in a battle over wages with their bosses.

Picturehouse, owned by Cineworld, says it pays its staff more than the minimum wage and gives them a range of benefits, but workers say many are forced to live with their parents because the cash isn’t enough.

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