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‘Yes, I want to stop Roman Road rat runs, even if I drive all the time myself’ Tower Hamlets councillor admits

PUBLISHED: 15:48 17 July 2020 | UPDATED: 19:10 17 July 2020

"I drive everywhere, all the time" ...a gesticulating Cllr Asma Begum tells Zoom meeting about Roman Road

Archant

‘A councillor has explained to her neighbours why she wants to get rid of “rat run” motoring through Bow — even though she drives herself all the time.

Hundreds sign petition objecting to traffic ban in Roman Road. Picture: Mike BrookeHundreds sign petition objecting to traffic ban in Roman Road. Picture: Mike Brooke

Cllr Asma Begum was invited to speak online to a Zoom meeting called at late notice last night to hear the public’s views after the weekend launch of a petition against Tower Hamlets Council plans to block through traffic from Roman Road.

“I haven’t been able to knock on doors because of Coronavirus,” she explained. “But a lot of people have spoken to me about Roman Road with a host of issues. We want to stop rat runs and make the air cleaner.”

The Bow West Labour councillor explained how the authority had used the lockdown to make “pockets of changes” like speed humps here and there, but not clean air or rat runs.

She preached the need for walking — but admitted driving herself.

“I drive everywhere, all the time,” she told the meeting. “People do need vehicles for longer journeys.

Traffic ban in Roman Road... one of 17 planned on Tower Hamlets mayor's check list. Picture: LBTHTraffic ban in Roman Road... one of 17 planned on Tower Hamlets mayor's check list. Picture: LBTH

“But this scheme isn’t ‘anti car’. We need to make short journeys easier to cycle or walk.”

Cllr Begum takes her children each day to their primary school in Mile End, less than a mile from her home in Old Ford Road, but didn’t make clear whether she drives or walks with them.

The journey would take them through Coburn Road under the railway bridge where the council wants a traffic barrier that would cut off Bow from Mile End on the other side of the tracks, where the school is.

But the scheme wasn’t set in stone, the meeting chaired by John White from Mile End Old Town Residents Association was told. A queue of 200 anxious people wanted to join in the meeting, but the technology couldn’t fit them all in.

Jacinda Corlett, the scheme’s designer, had to explain it all with just a map on screen because her camera wouldn’t switch on.

Map of Roman Road traffic scheme... only thing its designer Jacinda Corlett could show online when her camera wouldn't switch on.Map of Roman Road traffic scheme... only thing its designer Jacinda Corlett could show online when her camera wouldn't switch on.

“Nothing is set in stone,” she assured. “We want to hear people’s views.”

The objective was “getting rid of rat runs” with street closures, some on time limits, and a bus gate in Roman Road allowing only public transport through, either round-the-clock or at certain times like the rush-hour. It was all aimed at “removing 16,000 vehicles a day” cutting through the area.

The scheme also included permanently closing Skew Bridge over the Hertford Cut next to Victoria Park, which would block off Roman Road’s parallel alternative east-west route along the B118 Old Ford Road to Bethnal Green.

Meanwhile, closing Colburn Road on the other side of Roman Road would stop cars getting to and from the A11 Mile End Road, even car owners living there, all was aimed at “quieter streets” like St Stephen’s Road and Fairfield Road by Bow Bus Garage.

But householder Sean Edwards felt this would cause “a traffic ghetto to the west” if the railway bridge closure forces traffic elsewhere.

John White chairing online Zoom meeting about Roman Road, staged by Mile End Old Town Residents AssociationJohn White chairing online Zoom meeting about Roman Road, staged by Mile End Old Town Residents Association

“It’s the residents who’ll be causing rat runs because they have no other choice,” he warned. “The ‘rats’ are the residents themselves.”

He drives his children to school in Bethnal Green a mile-and-a-half away and would be forced to use other streets.

One mum, Sarah Gibson, worries about ‘rat runs’ appearing down Morgan Street, where her family has lived for several generations, if Coburn Road is closed to through traffic.

“We’re going to get pile-ups,” she fears. “Morgan Street will be a ‘rat run’ if you close off other roads.”

A neighbour echoing the sentiment suggested: “We are pushing the problem elsewhere. Measures to reduce traffic here pushes it to other areas like Hackney.”

Roman Road Market already closes to traffic during trading times. Picture: Mike BrookeRoman Road Market already closes to traffic during trading times. Picture: Mike Brooke

Sancha Briffa felt the real solution was to stop people driving to Mile End station where they park all day.

“That can be stopped easily,” she said. “That doesn’t need all this.” Any perceived problems in St Stephen’s Road and Tredegar Road was “a tiny problem” as those streets had little traffic apart from peak times.

The council scheme envisages some street closures at certain times to stop parents dropping off or collecting children from school by car.

That would, ironically, include motoring councillor Asma Begum if she drove on the school run.


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