A new ‘low emission neighbourhood’ in Walworth to help encourage cycling and social distancing during COVID-19 has divided residents.
As the News reported last week, Southwark Council’s consultation into which temporary measures should be put in place across the borough’s streetscape yielded thousands of suggestions.
The first key changes have now been implemented in Walworth, East Dulwich and Bankside for over a week.
Along with segregated cycling routes and widened pavements, a network of streets have been blocked off or designated for no right turns across Walworth.
But not everyone is buoyed by the decisions – expected to be in effect for at least eighteen months.
Family-run businesses Lynnes Electrical, which supplies NHS equipment, and MCQ Entertainments Limited, have come out against the move saying they are losing customers due to parking restrictions and congestion.
Dighton Court resident Chloe Hill told the News she and her neighbours had no idea about the changes before they happened.
On July 2 she contacted the paper, saying drivers including emergency services had been caught out by the new layout with a police car, ambulance and refuse collection truck all finding themselves stuck.
“Amelia Street was blocked off yesterday using planters, which block the western access in and out of the police yard.
“There was no road signage in the surrounding area yesterday apart from one sign, ‘Road Ahead Closed’, which was on the corner of Amelia Street and Walworth Road.
“It’s impossible to see if you are driving northbound and difficult to see if you are southbound. It actually beggars belief.”
But others have praised the changes saying Southwark Council has shown bravery with the wholesale changes.
Walworth resident Jeremy Leach backed the changes, saying walking was going to be a lifeline for many shops people would otherwise avoid due to pavement crowding.
“As the lockdown eases we are seeing much more through traffic on streets like Browning Street, Wadding Street, Amelia Street, Penrose Street, Manor Place and Penton Place,” he told the News.
“The shops on the Walworth Road have been a lifeline throughout the crisis and local people need to be able to walk to them safely.
“I strongly support the council’s plans to make Walworth’s streets as safe and as healthy as possible for us all to walk and cycle around our area.”
Southwark councillor Richard Livingstone has said the consultation included speaking with police and other emergency services.
Last Friday he tweeted that a traffic filter would be moved from Manor Place to Kennington Park Road’s junction after listening to concerns from residents.
This week, Guy’s and St Thomas’ published a letter in support of low traffic neighbourhoods in Lambeth, saying reducing air pollution and keeping staff walking and cycling to work was a key priority.
On Friday, the council announced that Rye Lane would also now be closed to traffic from Monday, July 6, on a temporary basis. Extra loading bays have been added to Bournemouth and Cerise Roads for traders to trolley to and from their shops.
Allan Dunsmore, from Bikes for London, described it as a ‘Great move’. “Hopefully this will become a permanent closure. Cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians don’t mix well on this street at the best of times,” he said.
Meanwhile, a tweeter writing under the name ‘Mrs G’ said: “This was a pain in the arse today.
“Buses were diverted and the driver didn’t know why neither did they make an announcement. It would’ve been nice to have seen signs.”