Response to the Islington Council Air Quality Strategy 2019-2023

 

I’ve just sent in my response to the Islington Council Air Quality Strategy.  You can read the council strategy here.

The overview pulls out some key points and if you are really interested there’s point by point detail below that on the Council’s vision, three priorities and the action plans set out in appendix 4 .

 

Islington Green Party Air Quality Consultation response 2019-2023

Cllr Caroline Russell

Overview

Islington Green Party welcomes Councillor Webbe’s recognition that air pollution is worsening residents’ health and that the most deprived communities are bearing the brunt of the air pollution crisis.

We note the NO2 annual mean is still stubbornly 60g/m3 and has barely reduced since 2007. There is no data for 2017 or 2018 in the report, but the lack of progress in bringing down these NO2 levels between 2007 and 2016 is very worrying and suggests a step change in action is required across the borough.

We wonder why the council stopped reporting PM10 particle pollution at the sites in Foxham Gardens and Duncan Terrace. These both showed worryingly high levels of particle pollution and it would be helpful to understand if this is an ongoing issue.

There is no PM2.5 data. PM2.5 particles are the most damaging to health and the omission of this data is a concern.

There is no mention of reducing parking to make the roads more pedestrian friendly. We would expect to see parking spaces removed to enable people to cross the road safely and see and be seen by oncoming traffic.

We would also like to see the removal of parking spaces recently introduced close to junctions. These reduce sight lines for drivers and for people crossing and contribute to road danger.

There is no mention of parking fees as a means to deter car use and ownership. It should not be more expensive to park a bike than a car. EVs should pay a parking fee.

There is no mention of the council’s Roamer parking scheme. This specifically enables short car trips within the borough and is enabling and encouraging car use. If the council is serious about traffic reduction and reducing carbon emissions, the Roamer parking scheme should be ditched.

Islington needs to set modal share targets for staff as Hackney Council does. This will reduce car commuting to the borough.

Islington could transform the borough with a programme of Liveable neighbourhoods (filtered side roads) and borough main roads transformed into Healthy Streets with measures like extra zebra crossings and continuous footways across side roads (Copenhagen crossings) to improve the experience of crossing and walking along main roads.

We like the sound of the Canal side eco zone. Reducing coal, charcoal and wood burning has a huge impact on health as PM2.5 particles are very damaging and there is no safe exposure limit. This Ecozone should extend to all parks and open spaces. Further, temporary events and film crews should not be allowed to use diesel generators.

The list of abbreviations at the beginning of the strategy is helpful. It makes the document accessible to a non-specialist audience. It is also helpful to have the list of supporting policies and strategies and the contextual information set out on pages 6-9. Thank you.

We have set out our response to the vision, the three priorities set out on pages 12 – 21 and to particular points in appendix 4 in the following pages.

OUR VISION FOR ISLINGTON

The vision is right to prioritise reducing emissions, decreasing exposure and influencing change. The most important is reducing emissions as that automatically helps reduce exposure of all residents to harm from breathing the air in Islington.

PRIORITY 1 – Protecting the vulnerable

airTEXT is a good mitigation service. It is important that people with lung and heart health conditions know when pollution is high so they can take avoiding action on those days. But information isn’t protection its an alert to get residents to use asthma relievers and avoid main roads but doesn’t reduce the pollution at source.

It would be good to see the airTEXT service more widely promoted. This need not be expensive and is something the council could do more extensively than at present.

Awareness raising is helpful but could be far more extensive. There are huge networks of parents and pensioners in the borough and the council should be engaging with them more and harnessing their energy to spread the word about the need to drive less and never to idle an engine.

It is good to see the council working with schools. But it is unclear how projects are assessed for impact. There is no data showing levels of active travel to school by year. It would be useful to see this to assess whether interventions work or not. In particular, as part of STARS, hands up survey data of how children get to school should be made publicly available. Parents, teachers and pupils could then compare their school with others and see how their efforts are helping.

Anti-idling initiatives are helpful but could be far more widely publicised.

We welcome the implementation of School Streets. It is essential the council develops a strategy for schools on main roads and these should be tackled first as pupils at these schools suffer the worst exposure to air pollution. Some schools see cars double and triple parked and the council should clamp down on this with targeted camera or officer action.

It is good to encourage people to be more active as this will reduce pollution if fewer people drive. However there needs to be a lot of council action to make streets safer for walking and cycling.

It is helpful to measure pollution at the borough’s schools but that data needs to be used to target action to cut car use.

PRIORITY 2 – Keeping Islington moving healthily

It is good to see that the council thinks it is important to reduce car use, but this is not clear in the title of priority 2 which should include “healthily” as “keeping Islington moving” implies business as usual car use rather than a reduction in traffic.

While some of Islington’s main roads are the responsibility of TFL many of the most polluted main roads are the responsibility of the council. The council must urgently develop a strategy to filter side roads creating low traffic neighbourhoods to stop rat-running enabled by Waze and Sat Nav and introduce measures on main roads to make them into healthy streets. This may include new zebra crossings, continuous pavements across side roads possibly zebra striped, protected bike lanes, bus stop bypasses and removal of parking spaces especially near junctions.

Car clubs should be pushed to be electric as fast as possible and more car club cars should be introduced to give people confidence to give up on car ownership.

The availability of Bikeability training is positive, however it is unlikely to get people thinking about cycling to start with. They already have to be most of the way there, or indeed have got on their bike and been scared by the traffic already. Actively making cycling easier and safer is needed.

What is the evidence that 20mph has reduced PM particle pollution?

Electric Vehicles are not a magic bullet but one part of the solution. The strategy over emphasises the difference that EVs will make. EVs contribute significantly to PM particle pollution so this needs to be taken in to consideration. It would be unhelpful if the mistakes made when everyone was encouraged to swap from petrol to diesel vehicles were replicated with a shift to EVs.
Electric bikes, cargo bikes, bikes, walking and public transport must be safe and convenient, so residents choose more active ways to travel.

While keeping Islington moving is important it is also crucial that people are able to easily stop along routes and use the shopping and leisure facilities Islington has to offer on foot and by bike. Areas like the Nags Head are currently suffering from decline with plenty of empty retail units depressing the area. Recent research from Living Streets shows that pedestrians and cyclists are more likely to stop and shop than people driving past. So TfL should be pushed to make Holloway Rd less traffic dominated, easier to cross and safe to cycle along.

We fully support the ULEZ extension to the North and South Circular, we would prefer it to cover the whole of London (to M25) for cars and vans as it will does for buses and lorries. We support any move by the council to push the Mayor to bring forward the implementation date and would like to see it brought in with a smart road pricing scheme.

PRIORITY 3 – Better air, better health, better environment

We welcome tree planting to improve the built environment but have questions regarding tree management. Is the effect on air pollution taken in to account when planning tree works, especially around schools and on major routes? Is the impact on air pollution levels considered when the council allows insurance companies to cut down mature trees in subsidence cases.

Why is only City Fringe mentioned for developing schemes to prioritise walking and cycling. This should be done across the borough.

Could cargo bikes be added to the ZEN initiative? good way to get businesses thinking about using them as an alternative and being able to try them out risk free.

The eco zone for Regents Canal should be extended to all parks and open spaces. No events should use diesel generators and no wood, coal or charcoal fires should be allowed.

APPENDICES

Appendix 4 (helpfully) lists all the actions that the council is going to take but there is no evidence base to indicate that they have been effective in the past or that they will be effective in the future. Projected costs are not shown (whereas they are in the LIP).  Value for money is also not assessed. Even if the money comes via a grant, there’s no point in continuing with activities that have insignificant results.

There is data to show that the Mayor’s T-toxicity charge has been effective. The council has tiered parking charges (item 15 in appendix 4). There is no analysis available about the efficacy of this measure. As an example, parking data could be analysed by registration number to check if diesel ownership is going down.

Appendix 4 detailed comments

1 – Good to see attention paid to school run traffic. The council should focus enforcement of parking on yellow zigzags and idling and ensure parents know that car use for trips to school should be an exception not routine.

2 – Audit all schools and prioritise the worst polluted for action.

3 – Low pollution walking maps – this is a great idea.  Would be great to see one Islington map with all clean air walking routes on the Islington website. Perhaps with links to Islington Museum with local history stories to get people curious about exploring the borough.

4 – Good active travel measures but need to measure and report on progress.

5 – Important to link walking and cycling to health outcomes. Reducing car use and making our streets healthier will improve resident’s health.

6 – STARS, as above – important to track effectiveness.

7 – Let’s focus on making it web accessible. Multi function displays that show walking, bike-use, car-use modal shares and other information as well as air pollution could be good.

8 – airTEXT is useful and should be promoted much more. People do not know about it widely.

9 – Anti idling, would be good to see this campaign give focus on people either using their phones while idling e.g. to insert their destination in satnav/google maps especially at the start of a journey or idling simply to charge their phones, keep the heating/cooling on because they are worried that they might flatten the very large vehicle battery.

10 – Islington should participate in Carfree day in September every year.

11 – Involving community and enabling people to run idling or walk to school campaigns should be a priority and needs constant review on progress and efficacy.

12 – Not just research. We need an assessment of what works and then do lots of it.

13 – Excellent to replace gas boilers this reduces green house gases as well as cleaning the air.

14 – Please report on progress on energy saving advice so residents can see what the council is achieving.

15 – Residents parking permits are far too cheap.  Bike storage is far too expensive. Residents’ cars block key cycle routes, parking needs to be removed (as per Gillespie Road trial). The Council has to tackle the parking issue head on. It must never be cheaper to park a car than a bike. Car parking that reduces sight lines for pedestrians trying to cross the road (at junctions) must be removed.

16 – Assess whether vehicle use is necessary. Could services be delivered differently. Do surveyors and repairs teams need a car or a cargo bike? Maximise cargo bike use by the council and cut car use.

17 – Good to see traffic reduction as a target. The best way to achieve this is to divide Islington into traffic cells bounded by main roads and filter all the side roads so all homes can be accessed but it is not possible to cut through residential streets from one main road to another. For this to be fair, the main roads must be healthy streets with Copenhagen crossing (continuous footway) across side roads, extra zebra crossings and protected cycling facilities.

18 – fully support FORS. This is essential for reducing road danger and adhering to Vision Zero. It must be a condition of procurement and should be a planning permission condition too.

19 – Fully support freight consolidation

20 – install bike hangars, drop the price and install more Sheffield stands.

21 – ‘Review all one way roads’.  No need to do this.  Extensive review completed around 2009.  What’s far more important is to actually make some one-way roads two way for cycling.

22 – Good for the council to stand up for residents and check TfL are improving public transport. Good to see a commitment to reallocate road space buried in this bullet point.

23 – EV chargers must not diminish the public realm. They should ideally be placed on a build out in a parking space not on the footway.

24 – Fully support more car club cars and vans. This is a good tool to help people give up on car use.

25 – The ULEZ expansion should be brought forward and extended to the M25 so no Londoners are left out of the clean air zone.

26 – Fully support diesel free London by 2025 so long as vehicles are available for all transport sectors.

27 – This should read ENABLE active travel not “promote”. The way to do this is through low traffic neighbourhoods and healthy street main roads.

28 – To focus minds, Islington needs to set modal share targets for staff like Hackney.

29 – Eco driving is a good idea. Insurance companies already monitor new drivers using black boxes. Many drivers don’t realise how poorly they drive in terms of fuel use. Suggest that the council encourages employees to drive with a mobile phone app (or equivalent) that measures acceleration and braking for their journeys and immediately provides vocal feedback directly back to the drivers e.g. ‘you accelerate quite quickly, you change speed quite often’ as well as uploading the results aggregated for all journeys. I think it needs to be real and competitive for the drivers and reward the safest drivers who save the most fuel.

31 – Highbury Corner to Archway. Active travellers will struggle to use side routes for this particular journey because they are longer and fragmented.  They need to be improved e.g. by removing parking on Hornsey Road especially adjacent to the flats and made safe and direct.

38 – Canal side eco zone sounds good. Reducing coal, charcoal and wood burning has a huge impact on health as PM2.5 particles are very damaging and there is no safe exposure. This Ecozone should extend to all parks and open spaces. Further, temporary events and film crews should not use diesel generators.

54 – Help businesses move to cargo bike delivery and transport.

57 – smoke free fuel should apply to BBQs in gardens and in parks. The council should supply electric shared use BBQs if it is considered essential to have the opportunity to cook while picnicking.

62 – Internal teams should work closely with residents, TRAs, parents groups, pensioner groups etc to involve community in monitoring progress and spreading the word about the importance of cutting car use to clean up our air.