For greener Green Lanes: radical traffic reduction

(Mostly of local interest in a small part of north London)

Until September, there will be no through traffic on Wightman Road.

Many of those who live on Wightman, or on the Ladder roads which normally act as rat-runs between Wightman and Green Lanes, are very happy with the reduction in traffic:

It’s because of a bridge repair, but it raises this question: should it be a temporary measure on just one road, or should Haringey take it as an opportunity to begin seriously to cut through traffic and pollution by private motor vehicles, and a shift to more foot, bicycle and bus travel?

It’s not easy to travel down Green Lanes, either in Harringay or in Wood Green.

In case you’re wondering, the vehicles in the picture aren’t moving very fast. And most of the people travelling that route – at least if you exclude those walking – are going by bus, while the overwhelming majority of vehicles are not buses, and that’s why the buses go so slow. Some would blame the Wightman Road closure for this, but it’s actually been a problem many years. Anyway, Green Lanes traffic is not the whole problem: traffic everywhere, with every street a Waze-enabled rat-run; toxic air; parents afraid to let their kids walk or cycle to school; and retail business models that fill superstore carparks while draining the blood out of high streets. Can we break the cycle of traffic addiction?

The temporary closure of Wightman Road to through traffic is an opportunity. Now let’s double down.

Here’s a simple plan – not a comprehensive fix, but an experiment that could be put in place relatively quickly, leveraging the Wightman Road closure into a scheme that will improve conditions for bus riders, walkers, cyclists – and, in fact, anybody who breathes in the area. The details of such an experiment would need some planning; thorny problems of cycle routes also need to be addressed.

• Modal filters (usually, this means bollards) at selected locations to cut off through motor traffic, except buses, on Green Lanes and other North-South routes in the area between the High Road in the east and the mainline railway in the west. All of this would apply roughly from Manor House to Wood Green. For example, you could drive north on Green Lanes from Manor House, but wouldn’t be able to get past (say) Mattison Road; you could approach Green Lanes from the east via St Ann’s Road, but from there wouldn’t then be able to drive far up or down Green Lanes.

• Along bus routes, the filters would not be physical – they would be cameras, with a stiff penalty for motor vehicles other than buses and emergency vehicles passing through.

• Enforce a 20 mph limit on Green Lanes – including buses – so that other road users are safe.

• On Green Lanes between Wood Green and Turnpike Lane (or more precisely, Carlington Road, which is just south of the Turnpike Lane bus station), buses should be the only motor vehicle traffic allowed, except for deliveries at restricted hours.

• With less motor traffic on Green Lanes, the signal timing and lane priorities outside of Sainsbury’s/Arena Shopping Park can be adjusted to let buses flow freely there.

Try it for six months. My prediction: buses – on Green Lanes, and all the routes feeding in to Green Lanes – will sit far less in traffic, so more people will ride them. With fewer cars on the road – and, especially, fewer drivers cutting through in a hurry – more people will feel safe walking and cycling. More people will opt to trade locally, rather than driving to a superstore.

Or, if you prefer, just go on breathing dirty air – maybe speed bumps and unenforceable 20 mph limits on side-streets will solve your problems.

What we need is a borough-wide, non-party initiative to bring pressure to bear on the Council for this sort of action – one road at a time is not enough.

P.S.: we can get help with this.

• a plan like this should be appealing to TFL, which struggles to make buses run on schedule. The Council could probably bargain for bus service improvements in return for engaging in the experiment.

• in certain boroughs, the Mayor of London has funded “Mini-Holland” programmes, which are in the same spirit of what is proposed here but go far beyond it, with some substantial investment. Existing programmes (from Boris’s second term) are in Waltham Forest, Enfield, and Richmond; Sadiq Khan has just announced additional mini-Holland initiatives for Croydon and Westminster. If the Haringey Council shows some interest, it can get help with this.

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