Protest and petition: Bow residents protest against the council’s desire to reverse liveable streets

Hundreds of residents voice their concern at the council’s proposal to reverse the Liveable Streets schemes.

Bow residents took to the streets on Monday morning to protest against the mayor and his cabinet’s proposal to reverse the Liveable Streets schemes.

Over 100 residents joined the protest, walking the length of Tredegar Road, and then making their way down Antill Road. Their walk was against the removal of the Antill Road traffic filter, which was installed in February of this year. This is the one scheme reversal for which no offer of consultation has been given, despite it having been positively received by most locals.

The protestors’ main concern is that the removal of the Antill Road filter could encourage cars, who would normally use the A12, to use the residential Tredegar, Malmesbury, Coborn, and Antill roads for access into and out of central London. This practice of using residential side streets or any unintended shortcuts is known as rat-running. For residents, car access can be maintained by paying a £20 charge annually. 

The protest was timed for when the cameras were taken down, at 7.30am on Monday morning.

Chants of ‘Whose lungs? Our lungs,’ and ‘We are not a rat run,’ were heard, alongside placards of ‘Bow is not your drive thru.’ 

One protestor, Ian Hall from Antill Road, said that the council, led by Mayor Lutfur Rahman, has a public health duty to its residents to advance Liveable Streets. 

Hall, who works as a consultant psychiatrist for people with learning disabilities, said that Liveable Streets is there to benefit everyone and that he has seen a difference between pollution levels before the filter was installed and now. 

He also added that there is a ‘safety angle’. He said fewer cars on the road make it safer, particularly for children and those with disabilities. 

a large group of protestors golding up placards saying 'save our safer streets' on Antill Road, Bow, East London
Image courtesy of David Lilienthal

Coborn Road resident Jaz Cummins, while against the reversal of the filter, said she understands both sides of the argument. Cummins’ son goes to Olga Primary School and they walk there and back, and wants to keep the roads safe, with less pollution, for their short walk. Although she owns a car, Cummins said she tries as much as she can to walk or cycle.

But, she said, she knows that her childminder supports Mayor Rahman’s wish to reverse Liveable Streets as she uses her car a lot in and around the borough.

Alongside the protest, an online petition to keep Antill Road’s filter in place has garnered over 550 signatures. This petition will be presented at the council Cabinet meeting on 27 July.

However, the debate over Liveable Streets is contentious, with other residents and locals welcoming the proposed reverse. 

An employee of Roman Road’s long-standing interiors shop Abbotts Interiors, Matt D’Urso said he is ‘totally against Liveable Streets’.

D’Urso, who lives in Plaidstow but has family in Bow and drives to Roman Road for work, said that while he ‘doesn’t want rat runs, it blocks all the roads and that’s then making the main roads, like Bow Road, more congested with cars and vans just sitting creating traffic and even more pollution’.

Chris Rawlins who lives on Aberavon Road said he does not support Liveable Streets due to financial concerns. He said: ‘Ideologically, I cannot support a scheme which requires residents to pay to use a public road. That is what council tax is for. Sure, I have £20 but some people do not and I feel strongly that they should not be excluded for financial reasons.’  

Green Party Councillor for Bow West and on the protest’s leads, Nathalie Bienfait, said that while this protest applied to the Antill Road filter, it represents a wider concern amongst residents about the potential removal of the scheme elsewhere in the borough.

Councillor Bienfait said: ‘The mayor may believe he has a democratic mandate to remove low traffic measures, however, the rationale for these policies hasn’t gone away.’ 

She added that the borough has high asthma rates among children, low car ownership rates, and the issue of rat-running still prevails. She said: ‘These issues are serious, and we won’t stop fighting until the Mayor puts forward real concrete solutions to them.’

If you liked this article, then read our piece on the history of Tredegar Square.

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