Bus gate: why not let local residents through?

There are now over 2,100 signatures to the petition which, while being supportive of the LTN, calls for the bus gate to be opened for access to local residents only.

Our proposal for a better way of controlling traffic within the LTN makes it clear that the bus gate is essential to defending a safe route for walkers and cyclists, but we haven’t addressed why residents shouldn’t be allowed through or whether certain categories of people/vehicles should be given an exemption.

Rather than make a definitive statement that not all people may agree with, this post is going to ask a series of questions that will no doubt tease out a range of answers depending on your own circumstances and the degree to which you think you should be expected to make compromises.

High priority access

  1. How about allowing access to people who have to use a car because they are disabled?

Access for people who support the community

  1. Should we make it easier for people who need to drive to support the community? For example: community care workers, meals on wheels, doctors and nurses who visit people.

Delivery vehicles

  1. Can a case be made for registered last mile delivery vehicles?
  2. Should there be provisos such as they must be zero emission and be speed governed to 20mph?

Resident access

Let’s take an imaginary resident called ‘me’ who lives in Cypress Road.

I have to catch the train to go to work. I may need to reach the following stations: Crystal Palace (1.6km), Penge West (2.3km), Penge East (2.9km)
  1. Is it sensible to allow me to drive these distances in a big, heavy, low-occupancy metal box?
  2. Should I be made to walk/cycle/scoot?
  3. Will active travel make me healthier & fitter?
  4. Will my car frighten people who are attempting to convert to cycling?
  5. Will exempting me as a resident open up the road to all kinds of frivolous journeys?
I need to buy heavy shopping
  1. Am I entitled to drive the shortest route or does a slightly extended journey once a week make an appreciable difference?
I need to drive further afield
  1. Will it make any difference to journeys I make to the North, South or West?
  2. Will the extended durations for my journeys I make in the direction of Penge justify opening the bus gate for all?

That’s just one hypothetical me living in the Southern Peninsular. Other ‘me’s can write their questions below – time for reflection, we are not looking for quick fire answers at the moment.

8 thoughts on “Bus gate: why not let local residents through?

  1. I think residents of Auckland Road and the side roads off it should be given permission to use the bus gate. I am all for stopping it being a “rat run” for people who don’t live on the road or side roads but it’s now making it a nightmare for Those of us that do live there

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    1. If the other access points were more.. well.. accessible, would this still be an issue? That is, if you can get out at Penge Road *and* Howden Road, say, or Sylvan Hill and Hamlet Road if you live on the “north” side – do you need to be able to use the bus gate as well?

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  2. My concern with any kind of scheme that allowed residents full access would be a barrier to traffic evaporation. If it’s the short journeys that these schemes are trying to get rid of, by definition they are the journeys done by the locals. If it doesn’t lead to traffic evaporation, then the argument that it moves the congestion elsewhere is probably true.

    Allowing registered disabled drivers through the bus gate sounds like a good idea.

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  3. Sorry Daniel, we couldn’t post this as we are only publishing contributions that in some way address the issues of safety, pollution, the need for reduction in car usage etc. As you know, we do publish opposing views to the LTN, but there does need to be engagement with the issues that the LTN is trying to address.

    But to answer your question,see Barbara Browne’s comment at the bottom of: https://crystalpalaceltn.org/2020/08/25/bus-gate-why-not-let-local-residents -through/ We are not denying that the LTN has inconvenient consequences that affect supporters of the LTN as well. We would argue that they are a small price to be paid for the advantages offered. We hope that it will encourage people who could easily convert their journeys (walking 22%, cycling 38%), to do so. These ‘easily’ convertible journeys (identified by TFL) do not include people who are carrying heavy shopping, young, old, disabled people. We are talking fit people making frivolous journeys.

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  4. That’s a fair point Robbie. I think the issue is that there are many different questions here, with many different answers. So for example, let’s imagine a hypothetical “me” living in Warminster road.

    Should I (as a healthy 40 something bloke) be driving a car to the triangle – In most cases, the answer would be no. But this hypothetical “me” has a neighbour who regularly needs to drive to Balham and Clapham with a bunch of heavy tools and equipment to carry out a trade. Is it fair for her to have to spend an extra hour on the road each day (and as it stands, it IS an extra hour) as a result of the LTN, losing time with her children in the process. I’d very much say that all things being equal, it isn’t.

    And right there is the difficulty. Any scheme that restricts those “frivolous” journeys that should be discouraged will also cause difficulties for people making genuinely essential ones. And likewise, any attempt to address the issues of essential users will also open the door to the type of journeys you want to discourage.

    There isn’t an easy answer to that one, so I think in many ways it’s almost a case of trying to agree a set of principles for how you move forward. How much traffic is acceptable? (and I think its fair to say that “none” is not an OK answer to that one). What else can be done to minimise the use of the “blunt instrument” of closing road to vehicle traffic (and your proposal in the previous blog is a great start on that one!) ?. How do we balance the legitimate but sometimes conflicting needs of different groups (again, your proposal makes a good start thee to).

    Once you can get some broad buy in on those principles, then you can start looking at specifics. So, for example, I think it was Angus on the proposal thread who mentioned that 2,000 cars a day was the maximum that was compatible with the aims around active travel. One way of looking at things might be how much you can open things up while remaining comfortably within that limit. Alongside that you could (for example) put some proper speed cameras on the road to address compliance, and look to improve the bus service so that more journeys that aren’t suitable for active travel are done by bus instead.

    There’s lots of detail that would need to be worked out, and the discussions here are a good start. Different people will of course have different views on what the “right” balance is, but the key is finding something that addresses the key needs of as many people as possible. Some of the questions being asked here are a good part of that process

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    1. I could not agree more with Jason’s comments. As a family with two small children and two elderly parents in the area, needing to carry shopping, do hospital trips, etc., etc., I do not think you can call a journey frivolous just because it is short.

      I am completely in agreement with the idea of trying to reduce non-essential vehicle usage and encourage walking/cycling, however, “essential” usage is specific to each household’s individual circumstances, the needs of which will vary with each trip, and in frequency from day-to-day, week-to-week. Say for example, one of our parents who does not live with us developed cancer (heavens forbid) and we needed to drive them to hospital every day. I would argue that is not a frivolous trip, but the current road closures and proposal on this website, would make the journey inordinately long, time-consuming, wasteful and stressful. What if “me” had a third new born child? In those circumstances I would argue for the first 12 months (or at least 1 winter), most journeys would probably be done by car and none of these would be frivolous.

      Controlling usage is an extremely tricky exercise, which goes far beyond locals and their roads. It touches on tax policies, provision of good, frequent and safe public transport, personal independence, and natural geography (this is one of the hilliest places in London). My starting point therefore, is that closing any road is a bad idea as it ignores the “individual” and doesn’t address the other factors above. It is too blunt, too arbitrary, with the cost and impact falling too randomly and essentially unfairly.

      The issues of rat-running, volume of cars, speed of vehicles, frivolous use, essential use, and safe roads for walkers/cyclists, are a tightly overlaid ven-diagram. As local residents we probably fall into one or more of these categories, journey by journey. Local residents must be given priority in this conundrum though, firstly as we are the primary users of these roads, as cyclist, walkers and drivers. Secondly, the costs fall primarily to us (and on some of us more than others). Thirdly, its the democratic thing to do.

      Whatever iteration of the next proposal is put forward, assuming there is some form of gate/toll/barrier – a registered permit based system will be required, exempting 1 nominated vehicle for all households with more than two people in it, for the reasons laid out above.

      Daniel

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      1. It’s difficult to respond to stories of personal situations without it coming across as a personal critique – which is not my intent at all – but at the same time, bear in mind there are surprisingly many people with similar circumstances to your own for whom driving simply isn’t an option – either for medical, financial, disability reasons.

        My wife (who can’t drive) & I raised three kids through those early years without recourse to owning a car. Which is not to say we never drove, used taxis or caused vehicle trips to be generated (think deliveries). But we very much use cars (and taxis, minicabs etc.) as a last resort, and have been able to cut down massively compared to most – it wasn’t actually anything like as difficult as a lot of people might think.

        So much comes down to “living within means” – if you expect short car trips to be convenient, and they become less so, it’s absolutely understandable that adapting to new circumstances will hurt. At the same time, I’m of the view that a lot of the traffic problems in the area are a result of short car trips being -too- convenient compared to other workable alternatives.

        I believe it’s possible to design a suitable system without permits – enforcing the “access only” requirement (which is the fundamental building block of LTN) through a network of cameras rather than residents’ permits – but there are questions about cost and legality.

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    2. Thanks Jason. Let’s first of all state that Auckland Road is currently a much safer road to walk and cycle along. And the reason for that is the bus gate which not only stops rat-run traffic but also local residents. Is it inconvenient? Yes, but for most people, not particularly so.

      Most people do heavy shopping once a week and at most times of the day, the LTN adds only 2 minutes to journeys to the triangle (the greatest cause of traffic is the collapsed building in Church Road).

      Q: should EVERYONE be allowed through the bus gate to save a few minutes once a week for SOME people?

      Some people like myself do all their heavy shopping on foot and it is enjoyable walking through a quiet and beautiful neighbourhood. A fair proportion of residents don’t own a car.

      Q: why should we not be protected, rather than let EVERYONE through the bus gate?

      You might have noticed the capitalisation of EVERYONE! You have probably noticed on all the social media platforms that there are a great number of people pointing out that disabled people, social care people, emergency services are all disadvantaged by excessive traffic or longer journeys. Or that pollution is increasing. They have only one solution. Scrap the LTN, or in our case here, allow everyone through the bus gate.

      Q. why not construct a scheme that addresses the needs of these small minorities, not just let EVERYONE through?

      The biggest elephant on the road though is – what is going to happen when everyone goes back to work. TFL have calculated that, due to public transport not being able to cope with the volumes of passengers experienced pre-Covid-19, if we cannot convince people to convert their journeys to walking & cycling, there will be TWICE as many cars on the roads. This will lead to gridlock. The whole point of rushing in LTNs all over London is to provide people with a safe environment to try out cycling.

      The only ANSWER you will get from me on this post: the bus gate provides that safe environment.

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