London under lockdown has become a very different place from the one we were familiar with. The need for restricted movement and social distancing has already resulted in the postponement of a huge number of events including the launch of Transport for London’s Strategic Walking Analysis that we were due to host on 16th March.
While we are all struck by the damage that the virus is causing, we have seen a dramatic fall in air pollution as a result of the greatly reduced volume of motor traffic since the lockdown started. However, the need to maintain a safe distance has highlighted just how little of our street space is given over to walking. Narrow pavements and frequent obstructions mean that when we make our essential journeys we are often having to move into the carriageway to avoid passing close to other people. Even with less motor traffic on the roads, this can feel very uncomfortable and unsafe. Detective Superintendent Andy Cox of the Metropolitan Police along with his team of officers is doing a fantastic job to communicate that they have no tolerance for drivers who speed or break the law. We would like to see all authorities re-enforce this with a message that drivers should look out for people on the road and share the space cheerfully and with good grace.
The national Living Streets website has comprehensive advice on when and how to walk with support for those who are wanting to walk to make those vital daily trips.
The following letter appeared in The Times, 2nd May 2018
‘One of the best ways of addressing childhood obesity (letter, May 1) is encouraging children to walk to school. It is particularly unfortunate that the transport secretary plans to make this less likely by forcing utilities to dig up pavements not roads (News, Apr 30), creating a “hostile environment” for pedestrians. Should he speak to the Department for Health?’
The Evening Standard reports that Westminster’s cabinet member for Oxford Street, Daniel Astaire, has now told officials to stop working on the pedestrianisation plan for Oxford Street. At a full council meeting last week Mr Astaire said: “TfL and the Mayor are the main proponents of the changes to the street, but it belongs to the council and the decision rests with us.
Joe Irvin of Living Streets said
“Oxford Street has a horrendous casualty record and suffers illegal levels of air pollution. These problems will only be exacerbated with the additional 150,000 people expected to arrive via the new Elizabeth Line opening in December. We can’t afford to wait.
“We do not support any solution that simply pushes the problem onto neighbouring streets. That’s why from the start we have advocated for an area-wide approach that makes the whole area a safer and more pleasant place to walk, live and shop.
“Any delays to transforming Oxford Street will threaten the health and safety of everyone using London’s most iconic high street and the economic viability of the area.”
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence today published guidelines recommending that councils ensure footpaths and cycle routes are convenient, safe and attractive to use. Widening footpaths, repairing potholes and clearing pavement parking would mean improved routes for cyclists, pedestrians and other users, NICE says. It recommended that councils should restrict vehicle access, making more areas pedestrianised.
The Mail reported criticisms of the recommendations by the Taxpayers Alliance and the IEA with the headline: ‘Now nannying health chiefs say that roads should be NARROWED or even closed to force motorists to walk more.’
I was pleased to read Sir Nicholas Kenyon’s and the City of London Corporation’s plans for the Culture Mile [“The Culture Mile that will transform arts in the City”, Comment, March 16].
These must surely include improving pedestrian routes — in a sense reinstating those lost when the Barbican was built. There are remarkable opportunities for establishing better links at ground level from the City to the complex: along Wood Street and past the former Cripplegate.
By the present Museum of London, hidden by raised walkways and a car park entrance, are the surviving, but neglected, ancient City walls, which should form part of a magnificent public space next to the new music centre. David Harrison, London Living Streets