Dear Islington Councillors, we have a problem

We agonised over this letter for the last three days. People that have long given up on Islington Council and for that matter Cycle Islington said it’s a bit restrained. LCC advised constructive engagement.  It was difficult.

Thanks especially to Chris Kenyon and Christian Wolmar for their input at the CI September meeting. All of the CI committee apart from the uncontactable Simon I were involved in the drafting of this letter. Thanks to LCC’s Simon Munk for his wise counsel and Stop Killing Cyclists for putting Nov 8th into the calendar.

Read Cllr Webbe’s response


2nd November 2017

Dear Cllr Webbe and Cllr Watts,

I’m emailing on behalf of Cycle Islington to reiterate our frustration with the limited progress on improving access to cycling, including creating safe cycle routes, within the borough. We would like to find constructive ways forward to unlock the potential for active transport –  walking and cycling – in the borough, among a wide range of people.

We acknowledge that TfL Cycling Program money is being spent by the borough, but this is not translating to meaningful physical improvements which will increase safety for people on bikes or attract more people to use their bikes for trips in or through Islington.  

On Wednesday 8th November, a London-wide campaign group called Stop Killing Cyclists are holding a demonstration and vigil outside Islington Town Hall to coincide with the inquest into the death of Jerome Roussel who was crushed (see Note 1 below) by an HGV on Pentonville Road whilst cycling earlier this year.

Their reason for targeting Islington Council is outlined on their event page:  They wish to “expose Islington Council’s woeful record on installing protected cycling infrastructure, with hardly a metre of protected cycle lanes installed since 2010 and insistence on building inadequate Quietways, clogged up with parking and rat-runs. Islington council has full legal powers over almost 95% of roads in the borough. The London Mayor has powers over only 5% of its roads.”

We wish to make it clear that no one in CI has initiated or asked for this action. However many CI members will support it, and we recognise and understand the need for it. There is a widespread belief among CI members and cycling activists- on social media and across London- that there is not a strong, proactive agenda for traffic reduction, cycling and walking being pursued in Islington. This issue has long been identified by the wider cycling community, many of whom travel to or through Islington on a bike. We have previously publicly defended the council’s actions, in the anticipation our regular meetings would help  the council to adopt a more proactive approach to investing in infrastructure to enable cycling. Yet sadly, our regular input and advice is still rebuffed rather than incorporated into a strategy for improvement. Progress on the ground has never extended beyond minor tweaks, in contrast to more ambitious work in other boroughs – Islington has fallen behind its neighbours.

Here are some of the issues we have repeatedly raised at meetings:

Main road tracks and modal filters – our requests for protected tracks on main roads and traffic reduction (modal filters) on Quietways have been either fully rejected or not implemented to date.

Quick wins and minor schemes  Cycle Islington have repeatedly provided ideas for “quick wins” or minor schemes for LIP funding. To date, none of these have been acted on or even made it into next year’s Local Implementation Plan.

Secure bike hangars – Whilst other boroughs were securing TfL funding to install large amounts of secure residential on-street cycle storage, Islington council did little. Other councils are now topping up provision annually with LIP funds and charge around £30 to £40/year, but Islington has only two on-street hangars to date and is planning to charge users £104/year per bike, which exceeds the parking permit cost for a 1.3l engine car. (https://www.islington.gov.uk/parking/parking-permits/parking-permit-costs-table).

TfL roads and cross-borough routes – it is our view that Islington Council has repeatedly been a source of inertia on such issues, rather than providing solutions or embracing ideas for improving cycle infrastructure for example Balls Pond Rd on CS1 and Nag’s Head Gyratory. We do recognise Islington’s sustained support for improvements at Archway, Highbury Corner and Old Street roundabout, but these schemes have all been pursued primarily by TfL and while they have moved forward, little else has.

In summary, given the Mayor’s strong desire to encourage active travel (walking and cycling) over other modes of transport and to reduce motor traffic and pollution across London, Islington Labour must support this by developing a clear and public, wide-ranging strategy of how this will be achieved in the borough. It has shown little desire or ambition collectively thus far to achieve such a shift in approach.  Present execution painfully lags both the Mayor’s and the NHS’s visions for encouraging active travel and healthy streets.

There should overarching leadership of this strategy both at executive level within the council and at senior officer level, with a major shift in approach and ambition, and progress should be regularly reviewed.

Cycle Islington remains very much committed to acting as a critical friend, and working constructively alongside a proactive, forward-thinking council which strives to take every opportunity to make Islington’s streets healthier and safer places to be.

On behalf of Cycle Islington.

Tabitha Tanqueray

10-Nov-2017  Note 1. Since this letter was sent, the inquest revealed that Jerome Roussel was not crushed by an HGV but cycled into it.  He was recovering in hospital but he died of an E.Coli infection seven weeks later.  We apologise to his family and Cllrs Webbe and Watts for this inaccuracy.

  • Cllr Claudia Webbe

    Hi Tabitha,

    Many thanks for your email and letter on behalf of Cycle Islington.

    I acknowledge its contents and will provide a much fuller response shortly.

    In the meantime it would be helpful if you could clarify which cycle Islington suggestions have not been progressed or put forward by Islington Council, you refer, for example to the Local Implementation Plan programme but do not mention the initiative or scheme put forward.

    As you know I meet regularly with Cycle Islington, which is something I introduced to enable Cycle Islington to liaise directly with the Leadership of Islington Council.

    To be clear Islington is fully committed to Cycle Superhighway One (CS1) and to schemes involving Balls Pond Road. We have also asked the Mayor of London and TfL to secure cycle and walking improvements and safety on its roads that pass through the borough. Our deepest condolences go out to those pedestrians and cyclist whose lives have been lost on dangerous TfL roads like City Road, Pentonville Road and Camden Road.

    Without the campaigning efforts of Islington Labour improvements at Archway would not have been realised. Equally without Islington’s sustained efforts, planned improvements would not have been realised or prioritised in relation to Highbury Corner, Old Street and Kings Cross. The funding for all these schemes are held with the Mayor of London/TfL but they have been led and designed in partnership with Islington. For example, we fought hard for full segregation at Old Street. The only Gyratory Removal scheme that we have not yet won support for is the one at Nags Head. Our success on securing Gyratory improvements far exceeds all other boroughs. We are campaigning hard for cycle, waking and safety improvements at other major dangerous hotspots like Holloway Road, Pentonville Road, Camden Road and City Road.

    Equally , as you know I am fully committed to the removal of traffic on Old Street covering my own ward of Bunhill leading through to Clerkenwell Road.

    Islington is fully committed to enabling more space for walking and cycling and we work closely alongside our neighbouring boroughs, which like ourselves are Labour run. Equally we also work closely with the Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and meet regularly with the Mayor of London’s Commissioner, Will Norman and with the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross.

    Islington helped shape the Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy to date and is fully committed alongside the Mayor of London to active travel, healthy streets and reduction in motor traffic and tacking pollution across Islington. I do not accept that Islington Labour have shown little desire or ambition to address cycling and walking improvements across the borough. As and when the Mayor’s Transport Strategy is approved and the new London Plan agreed we will detail a new Islington Transport Strategy which will more readily define, our strategy in respect of walking, public transport and cycling and update all of our existing strategies. It is precisely because of our actions, strategies and policies why Islington has the lowest car ownership as compared to the whole of London and indeed nationally. When car ownership has gone up elsewhere Islington continues to go down. Equally, Islington has called on the Mayor to implement a diesel-free London by 2025 and Islington was the first borough to implement a 20mph on all borough roads and remains the only borough to have this enforced by the police. Islington has introduced a significant number of HGV/Lorry bans. There is always more that we can do.

    Whilst I acknowledge the vigil and demonstration being held by the London-wide campaign group called ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’ being held outside Islington Town Hall to coincide with the inquest into the death of Jerome Roussel on Pentonville Road, it is not true to claim that Islington has control of Pentonville, it does not. The road is entirely controlled by the Mayor of London/TfL.

    There has never been any suggestion by either the Mayor of London, Will Norman or colleagues in neighbouring boroughs that Islington is not doing its part to contribute to improvements in walking and cycling. Indeed in recognition of Islington’s work and progress and forward vision in terms of such initiatives like healthy streets and help in shaping the Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy, Islington’s Archway Improvement was featured on the front cover of the Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy and also it’s summary documents.

    As you know the funding for cycle improvement is not held with boroughs and instead is held by the Mayor of London. The funding formulae introduced by the previous Conservative Mayor significantly disadvantaged Islington as it was based on road size/length, we are working hard to get this overturned so that Islington can access its proper share of funding to secure the necessary improvements for cycling and walking. Under the existing funding formulae, Islington is the smallest borough and consequently receives the smallest pot of funding.

    In the meantime, we are delivering what we can within our limited budgets and constraints. In terms of bike hangers we prioritised our delivery of secure, covered, lockable cycle storage to Council Estates to meet those who are more vulnerable and in greatest need of support. Following a sustained campaign by Cycle Islington and others we agreed the delivery of Bike Hangers on our highways, roads and streets, removing where necessary car parking places and to be implemented as and when funding became available. Due to the slow supply of external funding we recently consulted with Cycle Islington about running an in-house ‘Bike Hanger’ self-funded system allowing the Council to more quickly roll out Bike Hangers to meet demand. We made clear that in order to do so we would not not be able to subsidise the scheme in the way other boroughs were able to do so.

    I will arrange a more fuller response but hope the above is helpful in the interim.

    I have also copied Amanda Russell who looks after my diary so that we can organise an extra and additional meeting with me to discuss the very important issues raised in your email and letter.

    Many thanks

    Cllr. Claudia Webbe
    Executive Member for Environment & Transport

    London Borough of Islington
    Labour Councillor for Bunhill Ward

    Town Hall
    Upper Street
    London, N1 2UD

    Email: claudia.webbe@islington.gov.uk
    Mobile: 07973816885
    Direct Line: 02075272665

  • Anita Frizzarin

    It is rather sad that Cllr Claudia Webbe appears to be using her post as Transport Exec in Islington as the launching pad for her political career. She is now National Executive member in the (Momentum) Labour Party, and that is what she is focusing on. She is kept in place by the Labour Party machinery, and however incompetent will not be removed.

  • Andy Clarke

    Seems Like Cllr Webbe and the Council in general are fully committed to being fully committed…..meanwhile people die….

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  • avlowe

    You might ask (through FoI) after LB Islington’s delivery of the mandated duty under Section 39.3.a RTA 1988 – to investigate crashes, and request the report on the crash in which Jerome was killed, and any further reports on crashes at or near this location or with similar/identical causal factors which they have also been required (by law) to investigate. Tom Kearney (@comadad) Andrea Casalotti (@V0LDN) and Stewart (@beztweets) may be able to assist in their logging of fatal and serious bus & HGV crashes to provide a parity (and competence) check on the material delivered by an FoI request

    I’m planning to be at Freight in the City (Ally Pally 7/11) should anyone fancy a discussion

    There is a second element to Section 39. S.39.3.b the investigations shall inform the roads authority (ie LBI) on changes required on existing roads to prevent any future crashes plus s.39.3.c details to be included in designs for new roads plus s.39.2.a the delivery of road safety messages. Now that is the big question, such as I would pose to LB Camden especially, where 2 identical fatal crashes have occurred within 5 years at the same location (Vernon Place – Southampton Row – left turn by less than 2% of the traffic) yet the readily deliverable ban on left turns (an alternative route is available) has yet to be promoted.

    Happy to discuss – meantime (perhaps just over the Borough boundary one might ask what risk assessments have been done for the bus service that makes a U turn (at the end of route) across the 6 lane dual carriageway at Manor House – every 6 minutes for the peak service frequency…