Lewisham Council is implementing a host of temporary transport measures to make it easier for people to walk and cycle, while social distancing safely, in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. 

The £460,000 measures, excepting what councillors described as a lack of “adequate” consultation with the public, were broadly welcomed by overview and scrutiny committee members last night (May 26).  

The plans, marked urgent as a result of the easing of lockdown, include widening footpaths and suspending parking, while the council has identified nine areas to work on first. 

These include widening pavements in Deptford High Street, suspending parking on one side of Luxmore Gardens, suspending parking bays in Coulgate Street, Sangley Road, Darthmouth Road, Staplehurst Road, Hither Green Lane, suspending loading bays in Foxberry Road, and removing all footway parking in Wells Park Road.  

The council plans to introduce modal filters – temporary barriers – in some streets to create “quieter and safer residential streets for walking and cycling”, aligning with proposals made before the Covid-19 crisis.  

All locations will have exemptions for emergency service vehicles and public transport services, according to the report on the measures. 

The council also plans to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists along key routes, which include the A21/A2209/A2210 corridor, including Deptford Church Street, Brookmill Road, Lewisham High Street, along with Bromley Road, the Lewisham Road corridor, Belmont Hill, Lee Terrace corridor, Brockley Rise, Brockley Road, Shardeloes Road corridor, Perry Hill corridor, Southend Lane, Downham Way corridor, Lee Road, Burnt Ash Hill, Baring Road corridor, and Ladywell Road corridor.  

The council is also planning to bring in school streets, which will be closed to traffic during drop-off and pick-up times. 

The report gives decision making powers to the head of highways and transport at the council, in consultation with the lead cabinet member.

Residents can use website Commonplace to give their views and make suggestions, but scrutiny members described this as an “inadequate” way to consult as it does not reach enough people.  

Cllr Juliet Campbell said she was “broadly in support of the principles of the report”.  

But she added: “I’m concerned that the [head of highways and transport] would also be able to make changes and additions on the workstream without any scrutiny or without anybody else having any input. 

“Louise did say we haven’t got time for consultation, but even the platform of Commonplace, it only really allows a certain cohort to access it […] in these times we’ve certainly realised that there’s a lot of digital poverty out there.”

Her concerns about consultation were echoed by a number of other committee members.

Louise McBride, head of highways and transport, said the urgency of getting measures in place as lockdown eases was behind the lack of consultation.  

“To respond to the emergency situation we do want to introduce these measures as soon as possible,” she said.  

Ms McBride said the council would look into other ways to reach residents to make up for the shortfalls of Commonplace, but that this needed to be balanced with the urgency of the situation.

Cllr Peter Bernards asked what criteria the council was using to select the areas, and said it would have been better if the public was involved in some of the decision making.

Ms McBride said a “range of information” had been used to inform the decisions. 

“We’ve had feedback from a number of stakeholders, for example Lewisham Pedestrians submitted a list of locations that they thought it was difficult to achieve social distancing, where the interaction of queuing for shops and narrow footways made that difficult to do,” she said. 

Officers also used traffic data from previous studies, while the measures along key corridors for cycling and walking were selected because TfL is only funding these measures “where it creates a strategic cycle network, low-traffic neighbourhoods, and more space for pedestrians and cyclists at town centres and transport hubs”.

The report states that a “predominantly car-based recovery is not a viable option as the road network would not be able to accommodate the required number of trips” and “nor is it desirable from a road safety, air quality, public health or economic perspective”. 

“People have already started to undertake more trips, which makes these measures increasingly urgent,” according to the report, which also warns that along with an increase in traffic, police have witnessed some people driving at twice the speed limit. 

Cllr Sophie McGeevor, cabinet member for transport and environment, said it was “vital the council takes these urgent actions”.

“Before lockdown only seven per cent of the journeys that could have been cycled in Lewisham were, with most of these journeys less than ten minutes long.

“However, during lockdown an increase in walking and cycling has been observed, showing that they can be a fundamental part of our daily lives.

“As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, there will be an increase in trips with people commuting and doing the school run again.

“We want to make these trips as safe and easy as possible.

“Due to social distancing measures there will be limited public transport capacity and if people use a car where they usually used public transport we will see huge increases in congestion, busier streets, and increases in noise and air pollution.

“We want to make sure that doesn’t happen and most households in Lewisham don’t own a car so simply isn’t an option for the majority.

“It is therefore essential that we take these bold measures to ensure that everyone in Lewisham can get about as safely and easily as possible,” she said.