The side streets of Bengeo have for a number of years been used as an alternative to primary routes, leading to congestion, damage to parked cars, road rage incidents and near misses with pedestrians.
This has led to a campaign by some local residents to discourage traffic from using Nelson Street, Wellington Street, Byde Street and connecting streets.
This has led to the proposal and implementation of a number of schemes to alleviate congestion in the area.
Byde Street Closure
Local Councillors agreed in 2008 to trial a closure of Byde Street in response to pleas from local residents.
However, this was delayed so that the measure could be included in the wider Hertford & Ware Urban Transport Plan, the first draft of which was published in 2009. The draft includes a proposal for a trial closure of Byde Street once the effects of the new Sainsbury's supermarket have been determined.
Tower Street and Cross Road
In January 2008 traffic restrictions were imposed on Tower Street and Cross Road in a bid to ease congestion in Bengeo. These restrictions prohibited right-turns into Cross Road from Bengeo Street and made Tower Street one-way in the direction of Dumcombe Road to Bengeo Street. Waiting restrictions were also introduced in Byde Street and Balfour Street.
A later survey by Hertfordshire Highways showed that as a result of these restrictions, traffic in Cross Street dropped by 72 per cent, whilst traffic in The Avenue went up by 123 per cent.
The Bengeo rat-run was first identified as an issue in a report by Hertford Borough Council in the 1970s. However, the focus at this time was on Port Vale, which was eventually closed off 1979. Around the same time, an HGV ban was imposed on Lower Bengeo.
The closure of Port Vale led to an increase in traffic using an alternative route that took in Tower, Cross and Duncombe Roads, together with Farquhar, Nelson, Wellington and Byde Streets. To address this, in 1989 East Herts District Council proposed a ban on right-turns into Tower Road and Cross Street, although this was rejected by local residents.
The introduction of traffic lights at Old Cross in the town centre exacerbated the problem as motorists tried to avoid the resulting queues. As a result, EHDC imposed "Access Only" restrictions in 1997, although police were unable to provide much enforcement.
The matter was compounded by householders who had no alternative to on-street parking, making passage difficult at peak times, especially as there is little room for two-way traffic.
In June of 1998, The Bengeo Traffic Campaign was founded by local residents after police said they could not enforce traffic restrictions imposed by the local authority. Following this, in July 1999, the Highways Partnership, who work with the local authority, agreed that the area should become a Green Zone under The Lea Valley Package.
In 2001 a questionnaire was sent by the District Council to everyone living in the affected area setting out a number options and inviting feedback. 49% voted for a barrier in Byde Street, 37% voted for traffic-calming measures and 14% voted for no action. 67% of the questionnaires were returned.
The traffic calming proposals included the introduction of a one-way system in Wellington Street and Balfour Street, seven speed tables, changes in priority, road narrowings and a right-turn ban into Cross Street.
However, to the dismay of residents, the council decided to take no action due to a lack of a clear majority for any specific action. At this point the authority seemingly walked away from the issue.
Four years went by before matters progressed an further. In 2005, the first meeting of the Lower Bengeo Residents Association took place and was attended by 130 people. The Association came about after Hertfordshire Highways had written to local residents urging them to unite. The following year residents were asked to comment on any scheme they would NOT object to. This led to the introduction in 2008 of traffic restrictions in Tower Street and Cross Road, together with parking restrictions in Byde and Balfour Streets.