Parks for People have informed us that they have postponed their socially-distanced protest calling on the Crown Estates Paving Commission to limit through traffic in Regent’s Park on police advice owing to the very large number of people anticipated. Further information on how you can make your views known at http://parksforpeople.org
Please do not go to the gates on Saturday, 12th September.
Hokman Wong (specialist brain injury solicitor at Islington firm Bolt Burdon Kemp) looks at road safety in Islington and making streets safer with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
Road traffic collisions are the main cause of severe traumatic brain injury in people aged 10 to 50.
Every day I work on cases involving brain injuries. I see the profound effect brain injury has on a person’s life and those around them. Knowing what I know about road traffic collisions and brain injuries, I realise the importance of improving road safety. Since I became a father two years ago, I’ve felt even more passionate about making streets safer for little ones, and big ones too.
Road Safety in Islington
Roads today are generally safer than they have ever been before. Over the last 15 to 20 years technology has been put in place to protect vehicle occupants. However, reduction of injuries to non vehicle occupants has been much smaller and there is evidence it may be rising.
fatalities fell from 2006 to 2010 and from 2010 onwards remained flat, with year on year changes explained by one off causes or natural variation; and
serious injuries declined from 2004 to 2010 and from 2010 onwards the decline continued but at a slower rate.
The overall trend is improvements in road safety have stabilised and any improvements are being made at a slower rate. There are concerns improvements are stalling.
Fatalities and serious injuries from road collisions in Islington have reflected the national trend, as can be seen in the table below.
Traffic volume in Islington all vehicles (million vehicles)1
Islington reported total number killed or seriously injured2
The figures for people killed or seriously injured in 2017 and 2018 are higher than previous years due to changes in the way police reported road collisions from September 2016. The previous reporting system was more subjective and is thought to result in under-reporting. TFL have adjusted pre-2017 figures to account for changes in reporting and prepared the graph3 below which shows Islington reflects the national downward trend of people killed or seriously injured in road collisions.
Continuing to Drive Improvements in Road Safety in Islington
With numbers of people in Islington killed or seriously injured in road collisions being relatively stable, bold progressive action is needed to ensure road safety continues to improve. This will be needed if TFL is going to achieve Vision Zero for London, that by 2041 all deaths and serious injuries will be eliminated from London’s transport network.
Historically Islington has taken a progressive approach to road safety. In 2002, Islington introduced its first 20mph zone. By 2009, 50% of roads in the borough were limited to 20mph. In 2010, Islington became the first borough in London to limit all residential roads to 20mph. In 2012, all roads controlled by the council were limited to 20mph. In 2018, remaining roads in Islington, controlled by TFL (for example the A1 and Camden Road), were limited to 20mph. As a pedestrian there is a massive difference being hit by a car at 20mph and 30mph. It is estimated at 20mph 1.5% will be killed and at 30mph 8% will be killed4.
In July 2020, Islington’s first Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) was put in place in St Peter’s ward. A Low Traffic Neighbourhood is an area in which “through” motor vehicle traffic is discouraged or removed. This stops rat running, improves air quality, reduces noise pollution and makes streets safer for people to walk and children to play.
Islington Council has plans to cover 1/3 of the borough with LTNs by the end of 2020. LTNs will be put into place on an experimental basis with both residents’ and users’ views being collected continually during the experimental period. Changes can be made, or the scheme re-thought, in response to observations at any time. After the 18 month experimental period a final decision is made. Using an experimental period provides for greater opportunity for consultation and views obtained are based on experience, rather than what a person thinks is going to happen.
Introducing LTNs across Islington is bold and progressive. Action like this is needed to make sure road safety continues to improve. Change is often met with resistance, but without change our roads would be no safer than they were 20 years ago. It is vital we show our support for LTNs in Islington to ensure they become permanent.
If you were able to go back to the central London of mid-Victorian times, there would be many surprises. Using the recent lockdown to do some research into the period, I found a few.
Perhaps most surprising was the existence of extensive measures to prevent rat-running. Our ancestors knew that if we were to enjoy our streets they were best kept free of through traffic.
An early example was in Queen Anne’s Gate built soon after 1700. Next to the blank facade of No 15 is a statue of Queen Anne. On this spot a wall crossed the street preventing carriages and carts from using the road to bypass Tothill St, then the main road west from Westminster (Victoria St was built in 1850 to provide speedier access to the new station).
While major streets in the City of London and East End were crowded with people and traffic, elsewhere new developments were built with barriers and gates. In 1879 it was estimated that there were 150 in London.
They were particularly common in the parish of St Pancras where there were 29 in 1866, including at Oakley and Harrington Squares, now part of grim gyratories just south of Camden Town. Residents on the Bedford Estate were protected by five key lodges and gates—in Upper Woburn Place, Endsleigh Street, Georgiana Street (later Taviton Street), Gordon Street (originally William Street), and Torrington Place.
A heyday of walking
Records also show that the first half of the 19th century was a heyday of walking. Dickens is famous for his long walks and fast walking. He estimated his pace at 4mph. In 1854 he wrote the following to a friend ‘if I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish’.
Around 50 years earlier, architect John Soane often left his London home in Lincoln’s Inn Fields at dawn to walk to Pitzhanger in Ealing for breakfast and a spot of fishing with his friend JMW Turner. That was almost a three-hour walk for most of us, 2 hours 15 minutes at Dickens’ speed!
Of course, not everyone walked this far but an enormous number of people did walk to work. Figures are very hard to find, and even specialist transport books rarely have a reference to walking in the index (they are much more interested in developments in public transport).
One exceptional nugget of information comes from the catchily entitled ‘Report of the Select Committee on Metropolitan Communications, 1854-5. The evidence given to the Committee provided the following astonishing statistics, including the remarkable fact that 400,000 people walked into the City of London every day.
The 400,000 who walked far exceeded every other means of travelling into the City. This was after the arrival of trains, though before the Underground.
Making sure the traffic flows
However, from the second half of the 19th century conditions changed. Seeking to increase the speed of traffic and demolish the housing of the poor, the Metropolitan Board of Works smashed through new roads, demolishing many historic buildings.
The roads included Faringdon Road (1840s to 60s), New Oxford Street (1847), Northumberland Avenue (1876), Clerkenwell Road (1878), Charing Cross Road/Shaftesbury Avenue(1887) and Rosebery Avenue (1892). The culmination came in the early 20th century with the greatest destruction of all. In the construction of Kingsway and the Aldwych, several ancient streets were demolished as well as 600 properties and thousands lost their homes. About all that has survived from this historic quarter is the Old Curiosity Shop in Portugal Street.
The end of the Low Traffic Neighbourhood
Despite the creation of so many new roads, the determined improvers of late Victorian London were not content. The barriers had to come down too. The Metropolitan Board of Works led the agitation against them. The Metropolitan Cab Proprietors’ United Association complained about the great ‘inconvenience and annoyance’. The Prime Minister, the Marquis of Salisbury, was outraged that the gates slowed down his journey to King s Cross.
The end of peaceful residential streets came soon after. Two Acts of Parliament in 1890 and 1893 authorised the newly formed London City Council to remove the barriers and gates. The residential calm, particularly of Bloomsbury, was destroyed.
The 20th century car city
The scene was set for what was in effect an all out assault on pedestrians in the 20th century, as central London was redesigned for motor vehicles: notorious gyratories were created, major roads turned into what were in effect urban motorways, for example along Park Lane and Lower and Upper Thames Street, involving the destruction of yet more historic buildings and leaving others isolated.
New estates such as the Barbican, much praised for the quality of its architecture, involved the theft of a large number of public streets. Pedestrians who did not know about, or could not negotiate, the labyrinthine high walks were condemned to walk beside the dual carriageway on London Wall or through London’s most polluted street, the Beech Street tunnel.
The development of motorised bus services and the spread of the Underground were probably the main determinants of fewer people walking into the centre, but unpleasant conditions cannot have helped.
The 21st Century: relief
Fortunately, the 21st century has brought significant changes. The congestion charge in 2003 marked a significant change in approach, though increasing numbers of PHVs and van deliveries mean congestion has returned. Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy aimed to mark a significant break with the past, and inner London boroughs have followed suit.
Central London is being transformed: Bank Junction, Aldgate, the West End Project, Brunswick Square, the proposed Strand Aldwych scheme have or will produce great new public spaces and end over 100 years of traffic domination. Islington has announced an extensive network of low traffic neighbourhoods
The consequences of Covid 19
The terrible impact of Covid 19 means that public transport will be carrying far fewer passengers for a considerable time. Even if many people continue to work from home, there will still be large numbers entering central London who will need an alternative to bus and tubes. If they attempt to arrive by car or taxi or PHV the upshot will be gridlock.
Fortunately, TfL and the boroughs are well aware of this and are taking powerful measures to support active travel. Even pre-Covid, walking was the most important form of transport in inner and central London, but walking trips tended to be short. We must be looking for the return of the 20-30 minute walk.
This can take you really quite a long way in central London: in particular, from most mainline stations into the heart of the centre. Waterloo to Covent Garden is 20 minutes, to Bank a little longer. The Underground is not much quicker, and without the huge health and other benefits of the walk.
Central London Footways: a network of walking routes and a beautiful new map
At London Living Streets we think many people prefer to walk along an attractive and relatively direct route, even if it takes a couple of minutes longer than going along the main road (and often the attractive route is as quick).
This is what we are providing through Central London footways, an extensive network of routes linking key destinations. Thanks to TfL funding, a hard copy of a beautiful map of the network is being created by Urban Good (creator the National Park City Map) will be launched in September, and we are delighted that the transport authorities are making the routes ever more enjoyable to walk by closing roads to through traffic.
In a sense, we are returning to the peaceful streets of early 19th century Bloomsbury, and extending them to the City and East End. Hopefully, the longer walk will also return.
In 1854, nine years before the arrival of the Underground, 400,000 people walked into the City of London every day. These walks weren’t the final leg of a journey from a mainline station, or within the centre: they were the entire commute.
Londoners still love to walk, of course (two thirds of all trips are walked in the Square mile). But we walk much shorter distances than our predecessors. Currently only 5% of commuter travel to the City is on foot. The average walk-all-the-way trip across London is less than 1km, according to TfL’s Strategic Walking Analysis.
This has got to change and fast. Walking more and further is critical to tackle our health, pollution and climate crises. It is also critical to avoid contagion and relieve pressure on roads and public transport as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
In September, London Living Streets and Urban Good, with funding from Transport for London, will launch Central London Footways: a printed and online map and information resource that will prompt Londoners and visitors to walk longer distances on everyday journeys. Check out the routes below and at https://footways.london.
The map illustrates a network of routes, devised by London Living Streets, that connects London’s mainline train stations, popular destinations and green spaces with the city’s most welcoming, appealing and accessible streets. This is about getting people from A to B, but in the most enjoyable and healthy way possible.
For journeys under 30 minutes, the walking journey is just a few minutes longer, or about the same time, as a journey on a train or taxi. It takes just 20 minutes to walk from Euston to the British Museum, compared to 17 minutes via the tube and 18 minutes in a cab. A walk from Waterloo to British Museum is slightly longer at 28 minutes, but this is only 10 minutes slower than the Underground or eight minutes slower than a taxi.
And any minutes lost are easily made up for in terms of health and wellbeing. A 20-minute walk burns 80 calories, adds 2,400 steps to the pedometer, clears the mind, promotes creative thoughts, reduces depression, helps digestion, lowers blood pressure and generally makes us feel fantastic. Walking has been described as a superpower.
A walk from Waterloo to the British Museum also gives Londoners and visitors the best experience of the city, passing some pretty amazing places including Somerset House, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Camden’s new transformation of the public space at Princes Circus.
Given all these perks, it is a pity that more than 3,000 people took the tube between Waterloo and Tottenham Court Road, near the British Museum, every day before the Covid-19 lockdown.
This is all about to change as a result of the changes TfL and boroughs are making in order to find more space for people walking and cycling as we emerge from the coronavirus lockdown. TfL, as part of its Streetspace for London plans, is widening pavements and councils including Camden, the City, Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark and Westminster are creating low-traffic corridors by closing residential streets to through-traffic. Footways will make sure Londoners make the most of these transformations.
Footways is the culmination of 18 months of work by London Living Streets who have walked the streets with residents, businesses, cultural organisations, councillors and officers to find the most efficient and attractive network. The work is supported by London’s inner London boroughs and a number of other organisations listed here.
The Footways map and design concept is by Urban Good and will be distributed for free from September.
In the meantime, take a look at the routes on Google My Maps, share your thoughts, let us know if you’d like free printed copies and start using them on journeys within and to central London.
Following a very lively and well-attended launch event in May, Walking@Tea-time is back to discuss what we know about the pedestrian pound.
Active travel campaigners know that pedestrian spending is very important, and that an attractive public realm brings people in. Major landowners know this too. But many shopkeepers believe their trade depends on the passing motorist. There is now a considerable body of evidence on the subject both in the UK and internationally. We are delighted to welcome two speakers perfectly placed to discuss this evidence: Stephen Edwards, Director of Policy at Living Streets, and Anne Faure, President of Rue de l’avenir. They will also be well-placed to discuss developments post-Covid 19, and (with Anne’s insights) we will consider the likely consequences of Mayor Hidalgo’s recent election triumph in Paris.
Walking@Tea-time, is hosted by Tom Cohen and is supported by London Living Streets and the Active Travel Academy at University of Westminster. Co-ordinators: Tom Cohen, Emma Griffin and David Harrison.