Saturday, 4 July 2015

Should these streets be reopened to through motor traffic?

There have been two articles written in the past few days that are pertinent to Lambeth where a decision to undertake a six month trial on measures to prevent traffic rat-running in the Loughborough Junction area has been called in. The borough wants to be the most cycle friendly borough and has a lower level of car ownership but how can progress be made when there's hesitation to even trial a scheme?

The first article in the June edition of Highways Magazine outlines the benefits of 'taming' streets by closing them to through motor traffic. Access is retained for motor vehicles while calm, convenient and safe through routes are created for people of all ages walking and cycling. 

Within Kennington check out the little enclave of streets around Walcot Square; a child-safe place because motor traffic has been prevented from cutting through via Brook Drive. Likewise Cleaver Square is enhanced by a motor traffic barrier onto Kennington Park Road that prevents cars and vans cutting through to and from Kennington Road. 

The second article, 'Trying it out', on the As Easy As Riding A Bike blog, questions why Councils don't try temporary closures to help them decide whether a street can permanently have through motor traffic filtered out. Change is challenging for people and even a temporary experiment may lie beyond the comfort zone of some politicians.

But what happens when there are long-running temporary closures for other purposes? 
Can the politicians and the council use this experience to assess whether there are benefits in reopening the street to through motor traffic?

There are three of these long closures in north Lambeth and I really hope the authorities won't just reopen the streets without really determining whether doing so is beneficial.

Newport Street has been shut for at least two years for the creation of Damien Hirst's new gallery.

Newport Street forms part of the Missing Link, the green trail from Vauxhall to the Garden Museum by Lambeth Bridge - a continuation of the new Linear Park between Battersea Power Station and Vauxhall. Why re-open this to through motor traffic on a green trail when it's been shown not to be necessary for two years? After all, taxis and coaches can drop gallery visitors off at the Albert Embankment, rather than fouling up the green trail, leaving it fantastic for adults and children walking or cycling.

Nearby there's St Oswald's Place, a minor one-way street which could usefully be two-way for cycles except that there's a narrow part on a blind corner at the junction of Tyers Street. This junction been closed for months now as a building is constructed.

 It could be reopened as a two-way walking and cycling junction if motor traffic is filtered out. It's working now, why not keep this option? St Oswald's Place links to a useful Toucan crossing over Kennington Lane. A great improvement for cycling while retaining motor vehicle access.

Finally St Agnes Place / Bolton Crescent, at the back of Kennington Park, has been shut for over two years while some housing is built.

It is a quiet cycle route to Foxley Road and down to Loughborough Junction. There is an improved green walking and cycling link being created through Kennington Park just beyond the closure below. Why not keep the closure to motor vehicles, which wouldn't prevent access to the new homes but would stop drivers taking a short cut through this street. The two year closure shows this is practical, and the benefits for people wishing to get around on bikes are clear. Why re-open the street and risk the new residents not permitting their children to cycle to school?