by David Harrison, Islington Living Streets and vice-chair of London Living Streets
London’s pavements have long been an obstacle course. It is hard to walk more than a few feet without encountering a post or box or something larger.
Some street furniture is, of course, useful: lampposts and benches spring to mind. Some is useful but poorly sited: we need bus stops, but not where their footprint dominates the pavement.
Utilities take up a fair amount of space. Phone boxes have been increasingly installed as advertising sites under permitted development rights – which Ministers have failed to scrap despite pleas from councils. Things might get worse. The press has reported that the Secretary of State for Transport wants utilities to dig up pavements, not streets, so as not to slow down motorists.
Indeed, most of the clutter on streets is associated with the motor car. Long ago it was decided not only that cars would dominate the carriageway and own the kerbside for parking, but that pedestrians would have to suffer all the paraphernalia thought necessary for driving: giant road signs, the endless posts which record parking restrictions, and the machines for paying for parking.
Recently a new and even larger impediment has been appearing all over London. Electric vehicle (EV) charging points (point is definitely a misnomer) are making life even more difficult for pedestrians, especially wheelchair users and wheelers of buggies.