Street Talk No. 2
Welcome to Street Talk
I am Councillor Hilary Gander and I’m Kingston Council’s lead councillor for Environment and Sustainable Transport in Kingston. Kingston’s streets are really important to me. I care passionately about the air we breathe and the streets we move around in every day. Whether it’s when we’re taking our children to school, cycling for exercise or just walking to the shops, it’s one of my priorities to ensure Kingston’s streets are safer and healthier for all of us.
In this second edition we’ll be giving some further context to the healthy street schemes we have been trialling and the rationale for introducing them. We’ll also shed some light on the type of information that we’re gathering to help us with our decision making at the end of the trials. I hope you enjoy reading Street Talk. Hilary Gander
Kingston’s Air Quality Action Plan
This month, we launched our draft Air Quality Action Plan for Kingston which sets out the actions we’ll take with partners and communities over the next five years to improve air quality across the borough. The work that we’re doing to repurpose our streets plays an essential part in this action plan. You can read the plan and make comments at kingstonletstalk.co.uk/aqap
Kingston is one of many London boroughs that is taking important measures to control pollution. Across London, the amount of protected space for cyclists has tripled since 2016 to 162km (101 miles) and the healthy streets programme is repurposing thousands of square metres of roads to make it easier to walk and cycle in our streets. In Kingston we have made a significant investment in our cycling infrastructure network, with Go Cycle aiming for another 30km of new protected cycle lanes.
Some people have suggested that we’ve used Covid-19 as an excuse to push through changes. The fact is that since Covid-19 hit, many people have taken to their cars in Kingston because they feel unsafe taking public transport. Transport for London reports that use of public transport is just 25% of the level it was a year ago. So this has given us the prompt to try out new things and make changes more quickly than we may have done previously.
Covid-19 will go down in history as the disease which altered our lives more than any of us could have imagined. For the past nine months we have changed the way we live. Many of us are working from home and spending much more time in our local neighbourhoods. Social distancing has become a necessity and we’ve had to find safe ways of carrying on with our lives until we can be sure the virus is no longer a threat.
In these extraordinary times, our streets have moved into close focus as the importance of our neighbourhoods and their communities grows. Kingston has over 1,200 streets totalling 344 km (214 miles) in length and a population of over 176,000. Our streets are for so much more than just moving vehicles around - safe streets and neighbourhoods support the community. We need to ensure that streets allow efficient movement for all of us, whilst not losing sight of their other functions as places of community.
Our solutions to help us adapt to change
Our Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) and School Street trials are part of our Streetspace programme to turn our roads into healthier and safer streets. Healthy streets which are pleasant spaces for people to exercise outdoors, to walk or cycle instead of taking the car or using public transport.
What are your views?
Thank you for your feedback following our first edition of Street Talk. We know these trials were introduced quicker than usual and not how some of us would have preferred. With your feedback, we want you to know that we are going to do the best we can to involve you as much as we can in our reviews of these projects and in the development of any further schemes.
We also know that some of you have to use the car to move around; public transport, cycling or walking just isn’t an option. That gives us further reason to keep traffic levels down so that those who do need to drive, are able to, on less congested roads.
To help reduce pollution on roads further, we are making more electric vehicle charging points available so that people who have to use their car can more easily make the switch to electric vehicles. Four new rapid chargers have recently been installed at sites around the borough in collaboration with Transport for London. This year we have also expanded the ‘Source London’ fast charger network and we are working to introduce charging from lamp columns by Spring 2021. By the end of 2021 we will have over 100 new charging points available for residents on our streets.
What constitutes the ‘decision making’ process?
Many of you have asked how we will decide whether to make the experimental schemes permanent or not.
People and their health are at the heart of our decision making and these schemes are for the long term benefit of Kingston residents. It takes time for us all to develop new habits and adapt to new environments and that applies to our travel habits too. So it will also take some time before we can say that our data is meaningful for the long term. We will be using evidence of people’s experience of their streets and how this is improving, or not, over time.
At this stage, about halfway through the trials, while we are not drawing any conclusions, we are sharing with you some of the data that we have gathered so far in the three LTN trials. It will give some insight into how our professional engineers observe the streets and shape the schemes that will make our streets healthier to move around in.
What are we measuring and why?
First and foremost, an important part of any consultation is how people are thinking and we are monitoring what you tell us very closely. This will be a fundamental part of our review process at the end of the trials.
Road traffic levels
Reducing the number of miles driven by petrol and diesel vehicles is one of the best ways to reduce air pollution and will contribute to our carbon neutral target for the borough by 2038.
We already maintain a network of permanent vehicle count devices which monitor traffic patterns on the main roads across the borough. So we have a lot of existing knowledge about traffic flows in the area.
When we introduce new schemes, we supplement the permanent network with temporary local vehicle count tubes which are installed in and around the trial schemes. These monitor vehicles entering and leaving the affected areas. In August 2020, we collected ‘before’ data, ahead of implementing the schemes. Halfway through the trials we have collected ‘during’ data and that is shown in the graphics which we are sharing with you at this stage. Towards the end of the trials we will collect ‘after’ data at the same locations again.
You asked about measurement and data
We have uploaded plans showing traffic data on the survey pages of our Let’s Talk engagement portal. These charts give an average of the number of vehicles passing through the roads before and after the barriers were installed at the three LTN sites.
We monitor traffic and air quality in the borough all the time. It’s generally acknowledged all across London that the air we breathe isn’t good enough. We already know polluted air is damaging to health but recent studies have also linked air quality to how Covid impacts us, particularly long Covid, so the emergency simply deepens.
Air pollution levels can be both modelled and measured.
In Kingston, we measure our air quality with a monitoring network of 40 nitrogen dioxide diffusion tube monitors and three automatic monitoring stations. We also have local diffusion tubes at key points in all of our LTN trials. These give a very good measurement of air pollution across the borough and around the roads surrounding the trials.
The way we ‘model’ the air pollution level is a little more complex. Each diffusion tube provides an air quality reading or ‘concentration value’ for that location. The reading taken can then be used to ‘model’ an average level for a wider area. When we compare the data gathered before, during and after the new LTN trials, we hope to get a picture of the impact of any traffic displacement during the trials. We will publish these results before taking any decisions on the future of the trials.
There are a wide range of factors that affect air quality - for example, local weather conditions and variable traffic situations including roadworks - and it may be difficult for us to isolate the impact of the trial schemes alone. But we are committed to sharing the data with you.
We are aiming to improve our air quality monitoring capability and we have purchased some additional air quality monitors that will improve how we measure particulates. We aim to use these on our future schemes.
What will happen after the end of the trials?
We are legally obliged to consider all representations to the consultations received during the first six months of the trial schemes. The quantitative data on air quality and motor traffic will be analysed and reviewed alongside residents’ views gathered from councillors, emails received and feedback submitted via our Let’s Talk engagement portal.
When all this has been taken into account, the council will be able to decide, from an informed perspective, whether the changes should be extended for a period of time (up to a further 12 months), made permanent or removed.
Air quality and traffic data is just part of the story, residents’ and users’ views are also an essential part of any trial, so that's why it’s so important that as many people as possible register on the Let’s Talk consultation portal and share their thoughts.
Your feedback is more important than ever. Even if you have already sent us comments, it may be that your experience has changed or you think of something else you would like to tell us about, so please tell us what you are thinking.
We will continue to keep you up to date with developments. This Street Talk update is one of the ways that we want to keep you informed, so please let us know what else you want to read about.
If you would like to tell us anything about our healthy street schemes, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you again for sharing your views.
The Highways and Transport team