Saturday, 14 June 2014

A breath of fresh air

Thanks very much to all who came to the meeting on Wednesday; it was good to see familiar as well as new faces, and a range of people interested in working together to address local concerns. 

Ian McInnes, Chair of the Dulwich Society, introduced Ben Addy who spoke about some of  Sustrans' successes elsewhere in transforming streets, encouraging walking and cycling, and 'putting people first'. 

Sustrans is already working in Dulwich via Tim Warin, delivering an inspiring range of events and activities to encourage families to leave the car at home for the school run including fun in the street this week.  The 'Bike-it' post is only funded until November, but if you agree with us that Tim Warin is doing a valuable job, please let Southwark Council know; we hope that Southwark will see the benefit of continuing to fund this important role.

In addition, we want to reconsider how we use our road space in some areas. We briefly discussed what makes a good place to live - Herne Hill and Dulwich tick most boxes! But there was shared anxiety about the exceptional traffic due to the unique density of popular schools (some of which have large catchment areas), patchy public transport in some parts of Dulwich, and many feeling dependent on the car. Concerns raised by people at the meeting included:
  • the challenge of thousands of children on the move at peak times of day, and the growing number of new schools and bulge classes,
  • dangers, disruption and pollution caused by large vehicles (including nearly 30 school coaches carrying more than 1,000 children), 
  • crowded pavements with not enough dropped kerbs and too many people in a rush on bikes or scooters, 
  • congestion and poor parking during school rush hours, and rat running and frightening traffic speed at other times.
Parking was raised as an issue. Some felt that it is essential to restrict parking in some way to ensure residents a car space when they need it, another thought that controlled parking was not a good idea, others pointed out the 'commuter cars' left all day in unrestricted parking zones near Dulwich stations. 

Several people were concerned about air quality and we discussed whether monitoring pollution levels on particular streets might give useful evidence to inform measures to restrict or reduce some types of traffic. Pollution is a particular concern because of the very large numbers of children travelling to and through the area. 

Ben spoke about the DIY Streets method which involves short term temporary interventions which can be trialled for a few weeks or months and adapted, adopted, or rejected - as a way of tackling problems while reassuring residents about the potential effect of any changes on their streets. College Ward Councillors Helen Hayes and Andy Simmons explained how the Dulwich Community Council might be able to support small pilot projects.

There was general agreement that there are many residents' groups and others across Dulwich and Herne Hill who are concerned about congestion, pollution, parking and safety and are looking at related issues in their street. Some of the challenges are related to complex movements and junctions, and it would be sensible to work together to look at the area as a whole. Please join the Dulwich Society, come along to meetings of Dulwich and Herne Hill Safe Routes to School, talk to us on the street or connect with us via Twitter, Facebook or email - so we can work together to coordinate and prioritise.