Q&A on TCPR western extension
Q: Surely closing all the roads to the West of WBR will make traffic on WBR worse.
A: It’s counter-intuitive but the science clearly indicates that it won’t. This is because traffic is not a constant size but changes over time. For the moment it is actually bigger than before Covid. Over time as car owners return to using public transport and road access is squeezed, traffic evaporates as car drivers choose alternative means of transport. What IS important is that the “carrot” – the alternative types of transport – is in place at the same time as the “stick”. Hence why WBRA is pushing for improved pedestrian/cycling/bus access.
Q: What is the TCPR? Is it an LTN?
A: Sort of but not quite. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTN) are not new, either in London or elsewhere in the world. It simply refers to a road(s) that have been closed off to through-traffic in order to favour walking & cycling and to stop rat-running. There are some very successful examples here in Fulham, notably all the roads between Fulham Palace and the river which has led to Fulham Riverside being such an attractive area. The Stevenage Road/Holyport Road/Rainville Road is definitely one of the best family friendly cycling routes in the city, making getting to Hammersmith from South Fulham by bike a real pleasure (and only 20 minutes).
The TCPR is different because no road is actually closed off to traffic. No barriers are erected. All the roads within a TCPR are accessible by car but unless the vehicle is local (by which is meant is registered in the borough) they will have to take a round-about route to access certain areas or else pass through a camera and receive a fine. The cameras are placed in strategic spots designed to prevent rat-running. Locals can pre-purchase access for their guests/tradesmen using the RingGo app. More info on LBHF website.
After a lot of teething problems last year the TCPR in Sands End appears to have settled down. The Resident Associations on the west of WBR have been working with council officers to identify the best spots for cameras on the west side to stop the rat-running onto WBR.
Q: Aren’t we just pushing the traffic jams elsewhere and making other areas suffer?
A: Traffic is not static, a defined number that remains constant. It varies by hour, day, year. However cars (ie us the drivers) will use all available space and with the arrival of SatNavs that now includes every back-alley, residential road and lane.
The overall objective for cities around the world is to reduce the volume of traffic in order to reduce pollution, improve health and tackle the climate crisis. This is actually achieved by reducing the overall space available for cars, leading to the drivers making alternative transport decisions. This is known as Traffic Evaporation. However where a scheme is not well designed the incentive to change is not there – either because the changes are too small or because the alternatives (cycle lanes. public transport etc) are not in place. In that instance we see Traffic Displacement instead of Traffic Evaporation.
In South Fulham we have seen some Traffic Evaporation but a lot of Traffic Displacement. We believe that this is because the scheme is only half-done. Today the incentive, to not drive through Central London and as Londoners to not drive at all, is not great enough – so traffic merely moves streets.
A holistic scheme would discourage through-traffic from coming here and encourage local traffic to swap the car for the bike/scooter/bus/feet. That is why WBRA is pushing for the western TCPR extension AND the changes to the WBR to happen in parallel.
Q: How does traffic evaporation work?
A: The easiest way to understand is to give an example: Joe works in Westfield and lives in Wandsworth and drives to work. (5 miles). This takes him between 45min/1 hour each way. He crosses Wandsworth Bridge, cuts through Carnwath rd, Peterborough, Munster to get onto Fulham Palace Road. (He can’t use cut-throughs on the roads on either side of Fulham Palace road as they are already protected by LTNs). On the way back he rat runs down Perrymead or Clancarty to get back onto WBR.
With the west extension in place he will have no choice but to travel up/down WBR, Harwood Road, Fulham Broadway adding significant time to his journey and no he cannot use bus lanes. But buses can – the 295 does the journey in 40 min or he can catch a train, 35 min, or best still he can cycle it in 30 min and save on gym membership.
Traffic evaporation occurs because the rational decision is to no longer drive a certain route. (If Joe is still wedded to his car he will naturally move to the main TFL strategic roads). This is not fanciful thinking it has been proven time and again in innumerable studies right across the world.
Q: WBR will always be busy as it leads to a Bridge.
A: The geography of South Fulham is certainly challenging and yes, as one of the crossings over the Thames, the road attracts traffic. BUT 85% of that traffic is not local. They are not choosing Wandsworth Bridge v Putney Bridge, they are choosing to drive through the city rather than around. The remaining local traffic is often making very small journeys that would be much faster and healthier for all if they were made on foot/bike/scooter/bus!
Q: Won’t this make it worse for buses?
A: A real concern: If we want Traffic evaporation to occur than there must be genuine, safe alternatives to cars for local use; this is why WBRA is so insistent that significant changes to the geography of the road occurs in tandem with the extension: improved cycle lanes, pedestrian crossings and bus priority. We are in discussion with LBHF & TFL to put a bus lane into the New Kings Rd between Harwood Road and WBR and also to redesign bus & cycling space allocation at the bridge end. In addition we are pushing for bus boarders that will create space on the road for buses to stop and go without being held up by traffic having overtaken them.
Q: The road is too horrid to cycle down, I feel safer in my car.
A: We understand. The infrastructure for cycling on this North/South cycle artery is actually recognised by TFL as one of the most dangerous examples of what not to do! If we want local people to swap the car for the bike/cargo bike/scooter there has to be safe space to travel in and we are campaigning very hard with LBHF to address this urgently as part of the redesign of the functionality of the road. (for more info see cycle section of High Street for All bid).
Q: Isn’t this just a money-making scheme for the council?
A: The objective is to discourage through-traffic. If you are not coming to visit South Fulham then we want to discourage you to drive through it. Ultimately the only cars coming through the side streets should be either residents or their visitors/tradesmen for whom residents have purchased access. So ironically the better the TCPR scheme works the less fines there will be.
Q: Why do we want 20mph? The road is constantly jammed.
A: 20mph on WBR is very important for two reasons:
- Safety: Yes the average speed for vehicles in London is 7mph (15mph for a cyclist) and the road is often gridlocked, but when it is not, it is a straight road with no traffic calming measures at all. Consequently cars, buses and HGVs roar past our homes at speeds well in excess of 30mph. This makes homes shake and should there be a collision with a pedestrian or cyclists it is sadly likely to be a fatal one!
- SAT NAVs: As most of the surrounding boroughs make their roads 20mph (K&C, Westminster, Wandsworth, etc) SatNavs take into account the speed limits on roads when identifying routes. As the only road leading onto a bridge still at 30mph the SatNavs favour WBR above all other options. (We ran a series of scenarios on various apps using a wide ranging set of routes across London at different times of the day – and WBR was the route of choice for crossing the river in all instances.) We believe this in part explains the noticeable rise in HGV traffic passing through.
Q: WBR is a main road and has to have traffic on it.
A: Not really. TFL has a network of “main” roads, known as the Strategic Road Network (SRN) which it controls and which are the roads dedicated to moving traffic around the city. WBR is NOT on the SRN. It is a local road maintained by the local council. Of course it has to be able to serve as an access point for local businesses but it is not a London through-road.
Q: Stopping people from coming will kill the High Street.
A: Actually quite the opposite. Research shows that the vast majority of shopping done in a local high street is done by local residents, not those driving past. In addition where the pedestrian experience has been improved footfall increases by 20-35 per cent, increasing local sales by 30%. Cars sitting in queues on WBR are not coming to use our shops but are trying to get through our area to other destinations, often as far as Brighton and Watford on a daily basis.
The best way to support our shops is to make WBR an inviting shopping and dining destination to be reached on foot/bike/bus. This is at the heart of our vision for Green Clean WBR and the High Street for All Bid. After all it is people who shop/eat not cars!
Q: Why are you not campaigning to re-open the East rather than close the West?
A: Re-opening the roads to the East is not addressing the pollution and congestion in South Fulham since that existed before any action was taken. It is scientifically proven that increasing road capacity increases congestion (& vice-versa) so going back does not address the problem.
Our contention is that the council has only done “half the job” by tackling only one half of South Fulham and not the other (the West side including WBR mitigation). Only once the whole area is under a controlled TCPR will we be able to judge the success of the scheme for reducing pollution and congestion.
Q: How will the western extension help the WBR?
A: It is counter intuitive but once the roads to the west are restricted it is easier to control the flow of traffic on WBR itself.
Think of the road as a water-pipe where we want to control the volume and the flow of water in the pipe. At the moment the “pipe” is full of minor connecting pipes (the roads to the West) so any attempt to control the volume & flow is thwarted by the pressure of water coming into the pipe at each connecting point. However once these connecting pipes are largely removed (as they have been on the East) it becomes possible to effectively put taps at either end of the main pipe (the WBR) to control the volume of water (traffic).
Today the TCPR is only half-done. This means that it is not properly achieving its objectives and the traffic instead of being controlled & reduced has to some extent merely shifted to the other side of the road. This is known as Traffic Displacement as opposed to the objective, which is Traffic Evaporation.
The WBRA supports the western extension of the TCPR alongside the protective measures on the WBR itself, as this will complete the scheme (close the pipe).
Needless to say if the completed TCPR does not materially reduce pollution on the road the WBRA will campaign for further traffic control measures to be taken.
The objective for everyone is clean air & a thriving high street – and until that is achieved we will always be pushing the council for more action.
Statistics that make us think
Nearly 50% of car trips made by London residents could be cycled in around 10 minutes.
1/3 of all car trips in London could be walked in under 25 minutes.
In 2019, there were 3.9 billion more miles driven on London's roads than in 2009.
Short Term protections for Wandsworth Bridge Road
As proposed by LBHF traffic engineers (introduced prior to or simultaneously with the western extension as part of the experimental traffic order):
- 20mph speed limit on WBR – coming March 2022!
- Re-painting of road markings including all crossings.
- Greening of WBR by with Tree planting at key locations.
- Mini Parklets on specific adjoining side roads.
Long Term protections for the Wandsworth Bridge Road
In line with our High Streets for All proposals these include:
- How best to manage traffic volume coming onto WBR such as competing traffic lanes at New Kings Road junction and southern approach from Wandsworth Bridge to reduce capacity and traffic density.
- Additional pedestrian crossings.
- Improvement of cycling provisions along WBR.
- Cyclists crossing incorporated at pedestrian crossing at Hugon / Stephendale Road.
- Public realm improvements.
Our TCPR Related articles
The update below comes following the latest developments with the South Fulham TCPR (Traffic Congestion and Pollution Reduction scheme) and its expansion to the west.