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Hackney Council is planning to implement measures to combat rat-running along residential streets during the coronavirus lockdown. In common with other parts of London, Hackney has seen a considerable reduction in traffic levels, but reckless drivers have taken advantage of clearer roads, and as a consequence average speeds on 30mph roads in the capital have risen to 37mph - the faster speeds common overnight are now occurring during the day.

Hackney will use low-cost planters and bollards on selected streets to allow walking and cycling through trips, and access to key workers and emergency vehicles, but prevent people driving through – a process known as filtering. This is the same principle that Enfield Council is proposing to employ for low traffic neighbourhoods/quieter neighbourhoods, eg in the Fox Lane area. However, there will not be a drawn-out consultation process - Hackney will just implement the changes immediately.

filtered street in hackney

One of many residential streets in Hackney that are already filtered to stop drivers cutting through.

Hackney's cabinet member for the environment, Cllr Jon Burke, says that the "temporary liveable, healthy streets" will reduce pressure on green spaces when people are maintaining social distancing: "If we heavily restrict the vehicles on the public highway people will be able to walk in the middle of the road safely."

While the lockdown continues the council will treat the changes like an “ongoing event”, and afterwards they will ask residents if they want the changes made more permanent.

The council is currently shortlisting suitable streets on the basis of suggestions from residents on social media. Decisions will be made on 20th April.

Hackney's determination to take action stands out by comparison with other local authorities in the UK, but on the international stage it is the UK that stands out because of its inaction - as the Guardian reports, "From Berlin to Bogotá there are new footpaths and bike lanes – but not in London". Dr Rachel Aldred, reader in transport at the University of Westminster, says the UK could learn from other countries. “It feels like they are treating [cycling] like a proper mode of transport and we are just fumbling around. There’s no guidance from the government … I think if they can manage it in Bogotá, which is a very complicated megacity with a lot of issues, you could imagine London doing similar."

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