The A105 cycle lanes have they passed the test?
Experimental adj.: The Oxford Dictionary Definition: "based on untested ideas or techniques and not yet established or finalised."
This definition (of a word we are all familiar with) postulates that if something is the subject of an experiment, then it is monitored and then evaluated to determine whether it has been a success or failure.
Turn back the clock to to 6 July 2016, when David B Taylor Head of Highways at the London Borough of Enfield posted notification of changes to road traffic acts to be undertaken along the A105 (Green Lanes) in The Gazette, the official journal, in which Road Traffic Acts are logged, which included the following statement:
"Waiting & loading restrictions and designated disabled persons parking places will be introduced on an experimental basis
as part of separate proposals at various locations in Green Lanes N13/N21, Ridge Avenue N21, Village Road EN1, Park Avenue EN1 And London Road EN2
(between Ecclesbourne Gardens and Cecil Road"
To consult adj.: The Oxford Dictionary Definition: "seek information or advice from (someone, especially an expert or professional)".
What followed was a three week Statutory Consultation over the school holidays (timed to minimise participation?), whereby streets in close proximity to Green Lanes received a leaflet describing the proposed scheme as a project which "is about transforming our high streets and town centres. Its about improving our health. Its about creating safe cycle routes for everyone"
More than 1600 people lodged objections to the proposed cycle lane scheme, in particular the changes to parking and loading; because of the impact this would have both on local businesses and people's homes. This was an unprecedentedly high number of objections for a local highways scheme.
Local residents were enraged but LBE was not deterred. Instead they had the audacity to authorise the start of building the A105 cycle lane project during this statutory consultation period.
As a result of the huge opposition from most residents, businesses and community groups and churches, Save Our Green Lanes, a local campaign group, sought an injunction in the High Court. Save Our Green Lanes (SOGL) were calling for a public inquiry into the viability of the project, in the light of fierce opposition and the somewhat suspect conclusions arising from the Council economic impact modelling, traffic & air quality projections and the lack of consideration of the impact of the proposed changes on the least able, including blue badge holders and those residents with limited mobility who rely on local parking and convenient places to cross the road.
The injunction to halt construction was unsuccessful primarily because Mr Taylor, through his barrister informed the Court that as the changes to parking, waiting and loading as a result of the building of the cycle lane scheme was being undertaken under an 'Experimental Traffic Management Order'. This meant that the proposals could not be challenged and even if there was opposition there was no requirement to hold a local public inquiry.
The 'Experimental' nature of this scheme had also been explained to councillors by Mr Taylor and recorded in the Minutes of an LBE Council meeting held on the 8th September 2016).
David Taylor stated that the waiting and loading restrictions would be introduced on an experimental basis to enable them to be modified in the light of feedback and operational experience. As this is an experimental order there was no requirement to hold a public inquiry".
So what exactly is an Experimental Traffic Management Order?
Here is an explanation put forward by a highways expert:
"Experimental Traffic Orders (ETOs) are part of the decision-making process and therefore allow us to trial things in a "live" situationand is the key part of the consultation process. In short, rather than the consult then decide approach of the permanent process, the experimental process is the implement and see what people think and gather data on this approach".
The law states that Experimental Traffic Management Orders (Section 9 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) can only stay in force for eighteen months before the council must decide whether or not to make the changes permanent.
It is not possible to lodge a formal objection to an experimental traffic regulation until it comes into force.
Once it is in force, objections may be made to the order being made permanent and these must be made within six months of the day that the experimental order comes into force.
Now leap forward to July 2018, when most of the construction of the cycle lanes and junctions had been completed. Mr Taylor posted notices in the local press, on lamp posts along the A105, announcing that the Road Traffic Management Orders relating to the A105 cycle lane scheme were to be made permanent.
However, strangely, Mr Taylor seems to have 'forgotten' to mention that an Experimental Traffic Management Orders had been used to push through this deeply unpopular scheme and that there are significant differences in the procedures for making of the Orders for Experimental and Permanent schemes, including the notification to be given to people in the local area.
* So where is the evaluation of the A105 cycle lane scheme?
* Why haven't people been given the opportunity to say what they think about the 'Experimental scheme'?
* Where is the data that should have been systematically gathered to evaluate the 'Experiment'?
Key considerations which might need to be evaluated could be the impact of the very many changes to the highways introduced by the council which includes:
* Alarming congestion which is now commonplace through the heart of Winchmore Hill and Palmers Green; especially between Bourne Hill and Station Road due to the installation of two new sets of traffic lights, outside Sainsbury's the biggest destination in Winchmore Hill and Palmers Green and also the Station Road and Fords Grove junctions.
* Extended bus journey times.
* Rat running by drivers to avoid the area.
* Poor air quality.
* Significant rise in accidents and falls as a result of the cycle lane infrastructure.
* An alarming downturn in trade experienced by many local businesses.
* Reduced accessibility for emergency services.
Has the law been broken?
That question has been put to LBE's Director of Law & Governance, Jeremy Chambers, who has failed to answer this question for more than three months.
Now the question is "what should we do next?"