Sunday, July 22, 2012

Better Barkingside?

I shall start this post with an anecdotal tale.

There is a local group of ‘Ladies wot Lunch’ who meet on Fridays. They have been going to the Redbridge Sports Centre by car for years but last Friday they could not. The RSC is closed to the public for the Olympics and locked down tighter than a victorian corset. So they went to the High Street by bus. They gathered in McDonalds (don’t say anything) and then thought, let’s go shopping. They bought some clothes and some art supplies plus a few bits and pieces from a pound shop. They ended up in Rowans before getting the bus home laden with bags of stuff. Next week they are going to the Fairlop Oak, by bus, and I expect them to do some more shopping, something which they did not do when they went by car. Whether they go back to the RSC after the Olympics remains to be seen.
The point of this tale is to illustrate that People who arrive in the High Street on foot or by public transport spend more. That is the conclusion not of opinion, anecdote, gossip or heresay but of empirical scientific research. I cannot give a link to the papers because they are behind an academic paywall and I can’t give you the relevant extract because it’s copyright. You’ll just have to take my word for it, or ask to borrow the paper of which I have a copy.

So we come to two reports presented at Area Committee 3 last Wednesday.

Barkingside Town Centre Health Check (PDF 74Kb)

Better Barkingside - Progress on the GLA Funded Public Realm Project (PDF 59 Kb)

What none of the councillors mentioned is that part of the GLA grant is to improve the Town Square (the area between the Library and the borough’s ONLY Swimming Pool) such that the hard standing can accommodate vehicles and therefore Markets. The problem here is that the existing markets in the borough are closing down ….. because Redbridge Council has put up the rents. (Left hand, right hand)

UPDATE Monday 23rd July: In the second U-Turn of the day Rents are put on hold until further notice.

What they did mention was the tired and discredited business as usual approach to car parking. The problem, it was said, is that Barkingside has Pay and Display whereas the shopping parade in Manford Way and Wanstead High Street do not. Further that the Transport for London “improvement” works a few years ago had made the situation worse. That is correct, but not because of the reasons that were stated.

That programme was to improve traffic flow through the High Street and was paid for by TfL because they wanted their buses to run on time. What happened was that all the good elements of the original scheme, which would have improved matters for buses, pedestrians, shoppers and traders, were thrown out because of pressure from the blinkered car lobby and the Traiders of the Lost High Street. They were replaced with measures to increase parking on the High Street, something that the council don’t seem to mind because they get revenue from it. One councillor even complained about the kerb build-outs saying they should be removed because cars stop in the middle of the road to back into a parking space and hold up all the traffic. But they would still have to do that if the space is between two already parked cars. AND the kerb build-outs were put there to INCREASE parking on the High Street. Otherwise the Highway Code would have to be enforced – no parking within 10 meters of a junction – with double yellow lines because it is a bus route.

The ONLY way to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion is to get rid of the parked cars – period! That is what car parks are for, funnily enough, and we have a perfectly good and underused one in Craven Gardens! And just look at the footfall you get when there are no parked cars or moving traffic on the High Street.

People go to shopping malls and places like Lakeside because they are traffic free. They can walk from one shop to another without fear of getting hit when a 4x4 door opens unexpectedly or having to dodge boy racers, and they don’t have to worry about the kids getting run over when crossing the road.

People are quite happy to walk miles in a Supermarket or at Westfield, even in high heels, we need to create the conditions where they are happy to do that in Barkingside High Street. Look at Wanstead High Street. There is not that much vehicular traffic. The shops are mostly on one side of the road with very wide pedestrian friendly pavements, which could have been given over to parking, but which very sensibly have not.

If we want to revitalise Barkingside High Street we have to ...
Think Pedestrians NOT Parking.


  1. I remember the days long ago when there was no parking allowed in Barkingside High Street because it would create congestion in the flow of traffic.
    Suddenly, this congestion problem was forgotten when pay and display was introduced!
    I also remember how useful it was to park in the Sainsbury's car park, and use the alleyway for a superb access to the high road. Two reasons were given to stop that convenient system: a few crooks did use this system to escape or enter the supermarket area and, also, the safety brigade was concerned that, despite the existence of narrow pavements, people might get run over by delivery lorries and,... sue, or whatever.

  2. dare i say it but i have thought for years that a big one way system would work..........

  3. Pleased as punch about the parking plan being abandoned. It was going to be nothing but chaos. I do hope they get rid of the High Street parking as I see it being much better if they do. The High Street feels like a place for cars and traffic rather than shopping.

  4. Hainault Commuter11:07 pm, July 24, 2012

    Please remember that not everyone has the mobility or the ability to walk even moderate distances, or negotiate public transport, and for those close parking is necessary to access services or shops.

    1. Of course, and we have covered these issues on this blog - see the label Disability.

      There are things like mobility scooters and Blue Badges but much more needs to be done for Public Transport to be accessible for all.

  5. According to the health check "Barkingside also has a low number of food and drink outlets" not sure that anyone who uses the High Street would agree with this.

    1. Obviously done by those Science Grads who didn't do Maths.