It is time for a Low Emissions Zone in Reading

Well, what a really environmentally focussed minister we have got in Michael Gove! He has seen so clearly the problems of air pollution in our towns and cities that he wants to ban the manufacture of any petrol or diesel cars. Full marks for this environmentally friendly thoughts that brought this on.

Only one minor problem with this new policy – what about the 40,000 people that die annually from the effects of air pollution between now and 2040. That is some 920,000 UK residents who will die of causes associated with air pollution between now and 2040 when the ban comes in to effect.

How is it possible to understand the problem bur let the odd million people die before doing something about it? Has it anything to do with big car manufacturing companies that might find their profits curtailed if they have to switch to electric cars any time sooner than 2040?

We need Clean Air Zones NOW, in all our town centres where we regularly exceed European limits on poor air quality.
We know what the problem is – Internal combustion engines.
We know what to do to clean up our act – implement Clean Air Zones either charge for polluting cars to enter them or ban them entirely from entering.
Why should we wait any longer before acting to save the thousands of people who suffer from poor air quality now?

We have been proposing a Low Emissions Zone (Clean Air Zone) for Reading town centre for many years already but our Labour Administration is too full of the Mass Rapid Transport scheme for East Reading which will have zero effect on air pollution but allow buses to get to Heathrow 10 minutes quicker (until the rail connection to Heathrow is built).

Our residents are suffering from asthma and other chronic diseases resulting from air pollution so what we need is action now on the Low Emissions Zone. Will Cllr Page (Labour’s lead Councillor for Transport) ever realise that peoples’ lives are at risk and they are more important than even good bus connections.

20 mph across Reading

Yesterday evening I heard yet again the same old story from Labour councillors about the need for 20mph limits in one particular estate in Reading. They do keep popping up with the same idea, namely that we can create a patchwork of 20mph areas across Reading, but they absolutely refuse to take the bull by the horns and implement 20mph limits on ALL residential roads in Reading. Do they really think that a patchwork of some 20mph alongside some 30mph zones makes much sense? Drivers need to know and understand traffic regulations and zipping between 20mph and 30mph zones does not make it easy for the driver to know which zone he is driving in.

What is so wrong with doing a big promotion across the town, engaging with residents (in a referendum, if necessary, next May) and going for 20mph limits across ALL residential roads in Reading. Why is it good for Dee Road Estate all of a sudden but not for Elvaston Way (where we asked for a 20mph zone six or seven years ago).

There is no logic to a piecemeal approach when almost everywhere you ask people they all want 20mph zones by a large majority.

Wake up Cllr Tony Page, smell the coffee, and move to implement 20mph along all residential roads across the whole town.

20 is Plenty for all of us! Visit the website at

20s Plenty

Yet another smash in Mayfair

Mayfair smash 4 Aug 2014 cropped

I am losing count of the number of smashes in Mayfair since the council stopped residents parking on their own driveways. Today’s smash (see above) is the fourth or fifth involving cars running in to parked vehicles or drivers causing accidents whilst reversing out of their driveways between parked cars.

I am not sure how long it takes for this Labour council to recognise that stopping residents of Mayfair from parking on their own driveways is not just nonsensical, it is also downright dangerous.

Tilehurst residents overwhelmingly support the experimental ban on verge and pavement parking but the council’s pigheadedness over Mayfair is causing huge concern over the whole scheme.

New crossings for School Road

Council officers have revised the plans for School Road that I reported on in December. The plans now call for 4 new pedestrian refuges along School Road instead of the 5 in the original plan and the bus stop in The Triangle is staying put. The plans can be seen here:

TTMS 004

Even better news is that the works are due to start next week (from Monday 24 February) after the Transport Management Team re-arranged their works schedules in the light of recent flooding.

School Road will soon have 4 new crossing points making crossing the road much easier and safer along with a new 20mph speed limit and a new guard rail outside the library (thanks to my colleague Meri O’Connell who led a campaign for the guard rail). All in all this is a good response to a number of accidents along School Road involving pedestrians. It also means that parents with children in tow and elderly residents can use the new crossings to avoid the particularly dangerous crossing of Westwood Road at its junction with School Road.

We welcome the new crossings and look forward to a safer Tilehurst. We will continue to campaign for 20mph zones across the whole town to make our residential streets safer for all users.

People Power in Mayfair

One of the nice things about being a councillor is being able to help people and for me the really special times are when you help people to take action for themselves. A great example of this has been the protest by residents of Mayfair about the bizarre actions of traffic wardens to ticket residents for parking on their own drives.
Mayfair parking
I was first approached by a resident after one of his neighbours visitors was ticketed. I queried this with the council but officers took the view that the land in question was public highway and even thought the ban was aimed at cars parking on grass verges or blocking public footpaths and the Mayfair residents did neither of these things, just parked on the long driveways in front of their houses, traffic wardens took no notice of protests and gave out tickets to cars parked on the driveways. This seemed a bit of nonsense so I queried it with Tony Page, the Lead Councillor for Transport, but he also declined to do anything. So we took the story to the press and, after asking for a meeting between Cllr Page and the residents, we were invited to put our case to a meeting of the Traffic Management Committee.

Mayfair residents then organised themselves, called a meeting, appointed a spokesperson, gathered over 50 signatures from other residents of Mayfair. Dave Penn was the man who presented the case and was given some rousing applause by the 8 or 9 other residents who attended the meeting to support him. I have been able to work with residents all along the way but for me the key thing was to see people doing things for themselves and standing up to the council. It has been great to see and to be involved with. So well done to Wayne, Dave, Pat and Ray and all the others who have given their support.

The result of pressure press and a strong presentation of their case has been a promise to respond to the issue at the next Transport Management meeting.

Potholes, potholes and more potholes

Walnut Way 20130414b
This is clearly a subject that concerns a lot of folk in Tilehurst according to our recent residents’ surveys. We also get a number of pothole reports coming to our monthly surgeries. Since the council has put in considerbly more effort to fix potholes over the last few months I thought I would share with you some figures that were presented to the recent Traffic Management committee in November.

Since 29 July the council has fixed 540 out of 885 potholes reported, which is 61%. This includes all those on major (A and B class) roads. Having fixed the major roads they are are working down the list of priorities and should complete the vast bulk before Xmas and the inevitable bout of colder weather that will, no doubt, open up another load of potholes.

Do spare a thought for the gangs who spend their time out on the roads fixing potholes, its a job that never ends.

Why we need blanket 20mph zones across Reading

I am often accused by the Labour Administration in Reading of wanting to impose 20 mph zones on the whole population where they want to achieve something similar area by area. Well let’s get the democracy question sorted first. Yes I want to see 20 mph zones across all residential areas of Reading but only after we have made the case to residents and got their support. I believe that the case for reclaiming our streets with blanket 20 mph zones is overwhelming both in terms of reducing traffic casualties and of encouraging more people to walk and cycle.


Labour’s slowly slowly approach has meant that only the one area, in Newtown (where they hope to take the seat off the Greens next May), is currently being targeted for a 20 mph zone. Other councils have taken a much more proactive stance and gone ahead to consult with residents over whole towns and cities. These include Portsmouth, Brighton, Islington, Warrington, Liverpool, Wirral, Lancashire, Oxford, York, Cambridge, Waltham Forest, Newcastle, Hackney, Bristol, Middlesborough, Bath, Camden and Darlington.

For years Tony Page and his Labour colleagues have prevaricated on the issue of 20 mph zones whilst all these other places have grasped the nettle. We need action now over the whole of Reading and we need to make the case to Reading’s population about the need to reduce car speeds in residential areas. Actually I am sure that most Reading residents will take little convincing as whenever I have asked people about it there is almost total agreement.

So stop shilly-shallying and let’s have 20 mph zones across Reading

Road closure in Tilehurst over half-term week

There will be a major road closure in Tilehurst next week. The council will be closing the roads at the junction of Corwen Road and Walnut Way to work on drainage issues and to improve the footway crossings. The junction will be closed entirely to undertake the works.

Residents and businesses will need to access The Triangle, Walnut Way, Tyle Road, and Tree Close from St Michaels Road and the ‘No Entry’ restriction on the junction of Walnut Way and St. Michael’s Road will be suspended to allow this.

The road closure will be for five days from 28th October between 09.30 – 16.00 (School Half-Term). Letters are being sent out to affected residents.

Reading Buses have been notified, and will be diverting their affected services.

The New Thames Bridge

Now that the Planning Committee has made its decision to go ahead with the current ‘shared use’ design I can finally make my own views public.

Let me say from the outset that all parties agree on the need for a new bridge over the Thames to serve pedestrians and cyclists and we are all comfortable with the chosen position near the end of Fry’s Island.

Last night I criticised the Labour and Tory view that cyclists and pedestrians could share the new bridge without any separation. My only support came from Melanie Eastwood, the Green councillor and from a band of Reading cyclists who also objected to the current design.

Leaving aside the fact that the bridge design was partly based on a cycle and pedestrian count carried out last July on Reading and Caversham bridges which clearly caused some consternation as it differed widely from Reading Cycle Campaign’s own figures. The council did another count very recently and came up with figures that were double the originals and much closer to RCC’s.
My view is that pedestrians do not feel safe walking in amongst cycles, not all pedestrians are fully mobile and the mixed use would deter them from using the bridge. This will be made much worse as at the southern end of the bridge, cyclists have to make a 900 turn as they come off the bridge on to the ramp. This will cause conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians and the officer’s response that cyclists would all slow down for pedestrians is simply not very re-assuring to people wanting to walk over the bridge with push chairs, toddlers, etc.

The bridge needs to be a little wider and to have a narrow raised kerb to separate the cycles from the walkers. Otherwise we need cyclists to dismount as they are forced to do when using the new subway underneath Reading station.

When it came to the vote the Tories sided with the Labour Administration and only Melanie and myself opposed the planning application.

Slower speeds through wide 20mph limits is the top child protection measure

Children and families are big winners from slower speeds. Wide 20mph limits help parents and children to get around locally. Less danger or parent ‘taxi-duty’ and more walking and cycling means happier, healthier families with extra money to spend.

Child protection should focus more on slower speeds because crashes are the top
avoidable cause of early death or injury for 5-35 year olds. Some children are not allowed to go out without an adult because of fears of being run over. Leading expert Professor Danny Dorling says “roads imprison richer children at home, denying them the freedom to move and are the main sites of killing of poorer children”.

Changing adult driving styles does work. Signing drivers to obey a 20mph limit improves safety – especially if most roads are included. The World Health Organisation say wide area 20mph limits help protect walkers. Public Health body NICE advises 20 mph limits near children. At 20mph the risk of death is 7 times less than 30mph . There is extra time to get out of the way or brake. Just 20% of child casualties happen on school journeys. Yet until recently transport officials had focused on engineering slower speeds with humped, school zones. But, humps are costly. They result in confusing limits. Zones only protect a few hundred metres near schools (about 17% of a school trip). Zones encourage parents to drop off in the “safe area” and then remind them to speed up on leaving it. Wide 20mph limits are better because people who walk or cycle the journey enjoy a 20mph limit throughout the majority of their route. Noise levels fall by 50% too, plus its popular and good for the environment.

The results of protective parents stopping children from going about by themselves are all too clear. Very overweight child numbers are rising. 22% of London’s year 6 children (10/11 year olds) are obese. Body fat is controlled by eating fewer calories and exercise. Exercising one hour daily is recommended for kids, yet with most not allowed to walk or cycle alone due to mum’s and dad’s concerns, few are active enough. Also the focus on obesity is masking rapidly reducing child fitness levels. Nearly half of year 11 pupils (15 year olds) are unfit. This raises the risks of many other health problems such as heart disease.

From 20’s Plenty For Us which campaigns for a 20mph default speed limit in residential streets without physical calming. Web