A lively group of local people squeezed into Sweet Tree Café after it closed last Saturday afternoon to discuss that topic of perennial interest in the neighbourhood – traffic! (The neighbourhood that is the subject of this project is the clearly demarcated triangle of roads bounded by the railway, Alexandra Park, and Albert Road Rec.) All those who had ticked the box on the questionnaire (see last summer's neighbourhood survey) saying that they would like to be involved in the project were invited to the meeting. 23 people were able to come along, and we were also pleased to welcome two ward councillors, Nick da Costa and Alessandra Rossetti. It was a very constructive meeting, with everyone so deep in conversation that they ignored the tea that we had provided!
Kevin Stanfield, chair of the local Resident's Association, introduced the meeting, explaining that the neighbourhood survey had flagged up speed and volume of traffic as the neighbourhood issues of most importance to local people, together with the related issues of air quality and the safety of children and pedestrians on the roads ('promoting the success of local shops' was also rated highly, but that is not an 'issue' in the same sense!). We would therefore focus on these issues in the meeting, and as much as possible on measures that would help the whole neighbourhood rather than just individual streets (because what helps one street may impact on another).
I then gave a brief overview of the results of the survey, before the meeting broke up into 5 groups of 5 people each (who as far as possible did not live in the same street) to explore everyone's concerns about traffic in the neighbourhood, and discuss the 5 categories of traffic-calming options that the Council had presented us with. These options were very general, and not tailored to our neighbourhood – specifically, speed humps, one-way streets, restricted access (which prevents traffic from outside the neighbourhood driving straight through it), banned traffic manoeuvres (such as 'No left turn'), and road narrowing (including tree build-outs and large planters as well as building out the pavement). Examples of these were pictured on display boards, together with lists of what the Council considers to be the pros and cons of each (there were some disagreements about these!). Each group also had a map of the neighbourhood, with current traffic-calming measures marked on it.
Very ably facilitated by Alex Papworth (who lives in Victoria Road), the meeting lasted the scheduled 1.5 hours, and concluded with the notetaker from each group (who was chosen by the group) summarising the main points that they had come up with. We did not expect conclusions since we did not have a traffic expert there, and the meeting was clearly a work-in-progress. These interim deliberations have shed light on how we might take these issues forward to a larger meeting of the whole neighbourhood, which will be publicised to every household. A traffic engineer will be present to give input to our discussions.
Just before the meeting broke up, various people proposed further actions that could be taken by working groups before we all get together for a larger meeting. One idea was to monitor air quality in the neighbourhood, another was to create a cycling group encouraging unconfident cyclists, and a third was to count the number of vehicles travelling straight through the neighbourhood, and the direction from which they come/go. Please get in touch if you would like to be involved in any of these initiatives, or have others to suggest (email@example.com). All local residents are welcome to take part.
Many thanks to those who have expressed their appreciation of the meeting. We would welcome feedback from all participants, and they should shortly be receiving a feedback form.
Apologies to a small group of households in Victoria Road which did not receive the flyer notifying them of the survey – we apparently ran out of flyers, but will print more next time!
Many thanks to Vida for letting us use her café for the event.
As has been said before, residents of neighbouring areas are welcome to use our questionnaire for their own neighbourhoods (will need a little tweaking).