Cllr Danny Adilypour is the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Transport, Environment and Clean Air (job-share) and a councillor in Streatham South ward.
In December, the council published its intention to make the Railton and Oval to Stockwell low traffic neighbourhood schemes permanent.
These projects have been transformative for their areas, with the Railton LTN alone, for example, leading to almost double the traffic reduction that the Mayor of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone has had across London. Studies have also shown that the LTNs are equitable too, being disproportionately beneficial for Lambeth residents who live in parts of the borough where the deprivation level is in the top half for London.
LTNs were a core part of our Transport Strategy published in 2019 following over a year of public and stakeholder engagement. But when we first introduced LTNs it was as part of our emergency transport programme and it was at the height of the pandemic. We needed to find a way for everyone in Lambeth to go about their daily lives safely. With stringent restrictions on public transport – the tube only operating at something like 15% of usual capacity for example – it was incumbent on us as local leaders to make getting around by foot or cycle much safer for those who don’t have a car – often people on lower incomes for whom car ownership is simply unaffordable.
The decision taken to make these schemes permanent followed months of monitoring and a consultation period which included street stalls, specific engagement with young people to hear their views, organised walkabouts with local tenants and residents’ associations and street audits conducted by pan-impairment disabled-led organisation Transport for All. All in all, these efforts saw well over 7,000 people engage with the consultations, sharing their views on how they feel the projects work and what they’d like to see on their streets in the future.
Sadly though, the consultations also saw concerted attempts at manipulation with blatant efforts to stop the council from really hearing people’s views by swamping the consultations with over 1,800 fake responses. This is something that has been seen repeatedly in consultations for active travel schemes across the country, as Newcastle City Council for one can testify.
One example of this saw the Railton consultation receive over 600 responses submitted one after another from 3am until 1pm on one day – around one a minute for ten hours straight, all with identical formatting in the free text box asking for the first line of their address and no email address provided.
To make matters worse, those responsible were apparently intent on distorting and misrepresenting the opinions of under-represented non-white and LGBTQ+ Lambeth residents, as they had recorded these fake responses as being almost entirely from people whose ethnicity was not white and who identified as LGBTQ+.
It is therefore crucial that councils scrutinise the data that they get to make sure it is robust, because it is incumbent on us as elected representatives to make sure decisions are made on a sound basis and for the benefit of our local communities, rather than being based on fake data driven by ulterior motives. This is why in Lambeth we appointed an independent third party to review the responses received to the consultations. As part of their due diligence process, they developed criteria to ensure that such duplicate responses were flagged and recommended that these were excluded to ensure the overall results were not skewed by fake responses.
Getting rid of the status quo and reshaping our neighbourhoods so that they are places for people is about beginning to overturn decades of transport planning policy centred on travel by car. It’s also about reversing the disastrous impact on public health, equality and society. It’s also driven by our core beliefs as a Labour Party about building a more equal society – where we make our streets safer and refuse to accept it as simply inevitable that you are around four times more likely to be the victim of a collision with a motor vehicle if you are a disabled person or that thousands of Londoners will die early because of our city’s toxic air; where our streets can be places that help to protect us from the extreme weather that a changing climate will bring, and where we take action to bring about a more equal, inclusive and connected society for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Cllr Danny Adilypour