Battle over Gridlock Britain amid surge in roadworks

Battle over Gridlock Britain: Motorists are facing delays caused by more than 1,300 roadworks as councils build cycle lanes and widen pavements to get people off public transport during pandemic

  • Motorists are battling more than 1,300 roadworks across Britain post-lockdown
  • Councils build cycle lanes and widen paths to get people off public transport
  • But a growing fightback has seen hundreds of protesters take to the streets
  • ** Has your area been hit by roadworks in recent months? Please email your pictures to: [email protected] ** 

Motorists are battling more than 1,300 roadworks across Britain as councils build cycle lanes and widen pavements as they aim to get people off public transport.

Local authorities are using cash from a £250million Government fund to create pop-up bike lanes, bigger pavements, safer junctions and cycle and bus-only lanes.

The emergency active travel fund aims to get more people to choose alternatives to public transport amid unprecedented levels of walking and cycling across the UK.   

Pavements are also being widened so people have more space to social distance to relieve the pressure on buses and trains amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But a growing fightback has seen hundreds of protesters take to the streets in Islington, North London, over the past few weeks in opposition to the council’s plans.

Angry residents in Crystal Palace, South London, protest against road closures last weekend

There is also growing unrest over the changes to street landscapes in other areas such as Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Crystal Palace in South London.

AA data shows there were 1,331 roadworks across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland this afternoon – including 125 within the M25 in Greater London. 

Islington Council intends to turn a third of its roads into ‘people friendly streets’ by the end of 2020 using bollards, no entry signs and cameras to close ‘rat-runs’.

But protests – which have brought traffic to a standstill – have been attended by Loose Women panellist Linda Robson and Hi-de-Hi actress Su Pollard. 

At one rally, Pollard said: ‘I really want to show my support to all the residents that have probably quite rightly objected.

The plans have led some residents in Crystal Palace  to claim they are now all but cut off by road – calling themselves ‘the Prisoners of Auckland Island’ as they live in Auckland Road

‘A lot of the side streets that we need, without telling us, the council sadly have made a decision to close all these off, so therefore we have to go miles around now.

‘And what do you do if you need an ambulance for people who aren’t well? It is just curtailing, in a way, of freedom and sense of responsibility and being. I just urge the council to really think again.’

Responding to claims the road closures were ‘anti working class’, Islington Council leader Richard Watts tweeted: ‘Car ownership in inner-London is linked to income.

‘The richer you are, the more likely you are to own a car. Truth is we’re stopping affluent people polluting working class communities.

‘The protests on Upper Street are being coordinated by an outside group and many of the attendees aren’t Islington residents.

AA data shows there were 1,331 roadworks across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland this afternoon – including dozens within Central London (pictured above)

‘I welcome that in shutting off the street to traffic they’re showing how nice traffic free streets can be.’

** Has your area been hit by roadworks in recent months? Please email your pictures to: [email protected] ** 

He said Islington Labour won a strong mandate to implement the changes at the local elections two years ago and insisted they are actively consulting residents.

Mr Watts said emergency services were also consulted about the changes, adding: ‘What slows them down is traffic-clogged streets.’

Thousands of people have signed petitions opposing the closure of three hills in Crystal Palace – Sylvan Hill, Foxhill and Stambourne Way – to through traffic.

But the plans have led some residents to claim they are now all but cut off by road – calling themselves ‘the Prisoners of Auckland Island’ as they live in Auckland Road.

Eliska Finlay, an organiser of a campaign against the ideas, claimed changes have displaced traffic to the already-congested Crystal Palace Triangle area.

Residents protest in the Upper Norwood area of Crystal Palace in South London last weekend

The 45-year-old mother-of-two runs a backpacker hostel in Shoreditch and owns a car she only uses once every couple of days.

‘This is a very strong Labour constituency,’ she said. ‘People are being singled out and targeted for having cars.

‘It makes people feel like they have to be against the environment and I think that is extremely unfortunate.

‘People are using it as a way to make environmental points. I think there is a culture war. Unless you look at the subtlety and nuance of it it’s going to blow up.’

Ms Finlay said she does not oppose low-traffic neighbourhoods in principle, but claims people are now taking longer car journeys, creating more pollution.

Residents protest about the changes on Auckland Road in Crystal Palace, South London

She also said new barriers in Auckland Road separate elderly, disabled and vulnerable people living on one side from the nearby church and GPs’ surgery.

London-wide Assembly Member Caroline Russell, who is also the Green Party’s transport spokesman, said: ‘Public transport capacity is drastically reduced by the ongoing need for physical distancing to stay safe from coronavirus.

‘So if even a fraction of the people that normally catch the bus get in a car, we’ll just have a gridlock and pollution spike.

‘The government is rightly giving funds for councils to reduce short car trips by making local journeys safer on foot, mobility scooter and by bike.

‘Low-traffic neighbourhoods make it a bit less convenient to drive by disrupting sat nav enabled rat-running.

Roadworks on London Bridge are pictured on May 18 as the lockdown began to be eased

‘You can still access every home by vehicle but you can’t cut through from one main road to another.’

Elsewhere, more than 1,500 people signed a petition urging Cambridgeshire County Council to scrap an Experimental Traffic Orders road closure in Mills Road.

And campaigners in Oxford are also at loggerheads with the county and city councils over proposed temporary ‘bus gates’ in the centre of the city.

Councillors plan to install two bus gates in central Oxford in September which will operate from 7.30am to 6.30pm seven days a week.

Bus gates only allow buses, cyclists and emergency vehicles past during the specified hours.

A spokesman for the Reconnecting Oxford campaign group said: ‘We’re opposing the bus gates because they stop a very large percentage of Oxford residents and businesses from being able to drive a short distance across town, to where many of the city’s out-of-town retail parks, builders’ merchants, supermarkets and car rental places are based.’ 

** Has your area been hit by roadworks in recent months? Please email your pictures to: [email protected] ** 

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