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Southwark's Plans for Bermondsey Street

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Friday 26 October 2007 11.30am
I was astonished by the anti-democratic snow-job perpetrated by Southwark at last night's meeting to discuss the Council's proposals for Bermondsey Street.

Two plans were presented which were virtually identical, with both featuring a two-way traffic flow with varying pavement/cycling arrangements and abolishing all parking all the time (except disabled) on BS. Participants were then given free rein to discuss the merits and flaws of these two plans. And yet neither addressed the main concern of the clear majority of the people who attended meeting : the 24-hour use of BS as a high-speed conduit for large vehicles.

The illusion of being given a "choice" of two similar plans is a classic deception. No scheme was offered with a one-way traffic solution (the status quo before the Thames Water works now mercifully blocking the street), nor a partial pedestrianisation, which also seemed a popular topic for discussion from the floor.

When challenged, the consultant said that they had pointed out to Southwark the close similarity between both schemes, but were told that Southwark had decided as a matter of policy to make BS two-way. There has been no credible consultation with residents to arrive at this conclusion (the 22-person walkabout organised on a mid-week mid-day by Southwatk earlier this year cannot be assumed to be a basis for policy for the whole street!) and it smacks of shabby manipulation to then spend half of the meeting discussing the details of the two schemes then answering questions about preferences just betweeen these two schemes and admitting no other topic. Scheme 2 gained most "votes", and so no doubt will be judged the "winner" in a non-contest.

The most chilling fact to emerge from the meeting was that the average speed of a car in BS EXCLUDING THE FASTEST 15% OF THE SAMPLE is 23 mph, while the average speed of a London car journey in the rush hour is 6.8 mph ( OK, so BS is not in permanent rush hour, but it is a busy street and there are a lot of heavy trucks making up that speed statistic - bottom line : traffic flow is extremely fast on BS. By the way, I would also like to exclude the 15 % of speedsters of all shapes and sizes from MY sample (especially when asleep), but unfortunately I can't, since I live in the real world, not in Southwark's Planning Department

My view is that prevention of high speed through-traffic by non-resident heavy vehicles is (a) a road safety issue, (b) 24-hour noise nuisance and (c) highly detrimental to BS's "village" character. I believe that we should be concentrating on these issues, which were clearly uppermost in people's minds last night, rather than voting on hair-splitting non-issues, such as which scheme would provide a superior feeling of "personal space" when alking on BS.

Whatever your views, I would urge all BS residents to actively make their priorities known to Southwark, rather than be railroaded into a Council-knows-best miasma of loopy priorities and anti-democratic spin.

For the sake of fairness, here is Southwark's website address for this issue :

and the next meeting to discuss this is on Saturday 27th @ 11am-2pm at Central Hall 256 Bermondsey Street.

If you cannot go, then you are encouraged to contact the project leader :

David Moffat
Senior transport planner
Tel: 020 7525 52295

I think that as many voices as possible should be heard - and Southwark should start listening to its taxpayers !
Friday 26 October 2007 11.53am
Thank you for your detailed posting about this very important matter.

I really hope we can achieve a positive outcome. Two way traffic would be a nightmare. As it is, crossing BS at the junction of Morocco Street and Tanner Street is difficult enough.

Can Southwark Council ever get anything right?
Friday 26 October 2007 12.07pm
Perhaps the local councillors would care to comment?

I would love to know whether they are also being railroaded (or ignored) by other council parties, or are they in favour?

If the latter then please let us know so that we can remember this at the next elections...!
Friday 26 October 2007 1.10pm
It seems the council is determined to ruin a unique street.

I also would be interested in the Councillors names ...
Friday 26 October 2007 1.26pm
email to Mr. Moffat. This is what I wrote:
Dear David,
As an ex-resident of the street I was shocked to learn that there are plans to make it 2 way for traffic.

This is an awful idea - I can see no merit in it whatsoever.

From living there I know how noisy it was 24/7 with 1-way traffic; 2-way will really harm the residents.

I urge you to reconsider this plan - in the interests of residents of this important Southwark street,

Best Regards, Kevin
Friday 26 October 2007 2.45pm
I don't live there but know the street well, a friendl lives there. It does sound like a bit of a whitewash although I have to point out that the report by Mouchel Parkman on the council website actually says that 85% of cars travel at or below 23mph. They are expressing the 85th percentile speed. This is very different from saying that the mean has been calculated without the fastest 15%.

The mean speed is not presented nor is the maximum - which keeps the report a bit ambiguous. The council will in turn interpret the report in the way they want!

The road noise will partly be a result of the poor road condition along with speed of traffic so there may be a solution.

Southwark do not seem averse to installing one way systems elsewhere or even blocking off entire streets. So I don't know why they are keen to make Bermondsey Street two-way.

I live in Falmouth Road. Trinity Street is completely blocked off from Great Dover Street, which along with the blocking of right turns off New Kent Road, means there is only one route I can access my flat from the west, none from the north, none from the east, and one from the south. It's not like I use my car much but they have made the area almost impregnable!

You definitely need to involve your councillors and do not waste a minute about it. They will definitely take up your case. Try your ward councillor but also the planning committee members.
Friday 26 October 2007 3.22pm
How on earth can Southwark think this is a good idea? Surely the road is too narrow for two way traffic especially give that there are so many business on the street. How will they get deliveries? Any vehicle stopping to make a delivery will cause chaos.
Friday 26 October 2007 4.36pm
I'm surprised. I would have thought the street would be too narrow to be two-way. It will certainly make the street much busier and I can't imagine its character or appearance will not deteriorate as a result.
Friday 26 October 2007 4.54pm
I understand the worries here, but making a narrow street two-way can actually make things much safer.

One a one-way street, car (or HGV) drivers know there will be nothing coming the other way, so speed with (perceived) impunity and lack of awareness for others.

On a two-way street, car drivers have to negotiate their passage much mroe by eye contact and thus in general take more care and go more slowly.

Conversion to two-way traffic shoudl also reduce the attractiveness of the street to HGV drivers and should (if properly designed) encourage them to use other more suitable streets.

Southwark should have been able to provide reassurance on this: turning one way streets two way with the objective of reducing accidents is something being applied quite widely in London, not just Southwark.
Friday 26 October 2007 5.11pm
I love B'Street; it, and especially the Honest Cabbage (RIP) were one of the main reasons I moved here in 2000.

I appreciate that speeding heavy goods traffic currently make bermondsey street less than ideal. After years of living on Long Lane I wanted to move to Bermondsey street but my partner would not allow it due to the rumbly traffic. However,I just wanted to add two thoughts to the post.

I just wonder if the rationale of making the street two way is to stop it being a one-way speedy rat run?

If you make it 2 way, with the inevitable 'parked' (loading) cars this means that traffic will be greatly slowed and psychologically everyone will know they need to go more slowly. It could be one of those counter-intuitive road safety things where apparently making things more dangerous (e.g. removing all road markings) makes everyone drive more carefully.

Secondly, doesn't closing off some roads make all the others more dangerous/undesirable? As with Trinity Church Square and environs, it seems that the already gorgeous parts of the borough are made more desirable by traffic control measures, whilst the shonkier parts are made more horrible. Is this a case of: Those who have shall be given more, and those that don't have, even what little they have shall be taken from them?

Now, if you wanted to make 'The Blue' (Southwark Park Road) into a pedestrianised paradise; preserving the old but maybe turning one of the 6 or more chemists into a cocktail lounge, another into a Monmouth; and a third into a reincarnation of the Cabbage - then I would be wholeheartedly with you.
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