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Mixed response as Highbury-to-Finsbury Park cycle route is revealed

£1.7m scheme ‘will not prevent rat running’ and ‘continental junction’ deemed ‘unnecessary’

25 October, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

An artist’s impression of the proposed cycling route

CYCLING campaigners have celebrated the announcement of a new route through the north of the borough, but some believe the authorities should have gone further.

Islington Council rubber stamped plans to construct a cycle route between Highbury and Finsbury Park on Thursday in a bid to make journeys on foot and bikes safer – a move welcomed by the campaign group Cycle Islington.

But residents around Highbury Fields say the council and Transport for London, who will fund the £1.7million scheme, should have taken the opportunity to tackle rat-running around the Fields as cars, lorries and vans try to avoid congestion at Highbury Corner.

Several parking spaces will be abolished to accommodate the new cycle tracks.

Finsbury Park resident Chris Kenyon, a spokes­man for Cycle Islington, said: “This is a big leap forward. Walking, scooting and using a bike in Highbury West is about to feel a lot safer for everyone in the ward.

“This benefits everyone, especially older residents and children excluded from active travel.”

The cycle route will include new crossings, wider footways and more greenery and seating along Gillespie Road, Martineau Road and Benwell Road.

More than 80 per cent of 803 members of the public who responded to the council’s consultation said they were in favour of it.

There was also support for “protected cycle tracks”, but the council said it could not construct this along the whole route as some roads are too narrow to accommodate them.

David Harrison, a spokesman for the Living Streets group who campaign for city infrastructure that benefits pedestrians over cars, said: “Any plans which seek to reduce motor traffic on residential streets and hence create a better environment for pedestrians are welcome, but I am unhappy with some aspects.”

He criticised what the council had called the “continental junction” by Benwell Road and Drayton Park as “expensive and unnecessary”.

He added: “Just close Benwell Road to motor traffic here. The scheme should also take the opportunity to prevent rat running across Highbury Fields, which is such a problem for residents.”

Fieldsway Crescent resident Andrea Michell, a co-founder of the Highbury Fields Association, said: “This does nothing to alleviate traffic circling the Fields, or relieve the rat-run traffic down Fieldsway Crescent.

“This nest of streets needs a plan of action – we would really like the council traffic planners to talk to us, and many of us have written to them.”

Islington environment chief Councillor Claudia Webbe said: “This high quality, new Cycleway rebalances our roads to create a much better, safer, quieter and more direct cycle route between Finsbury Park and Highbury Fields.

“By providing the infrastructure and supporting measures to make cycling easier, more accessible and more attractive, we can work together to reduce the number of unnecessary car journeys, lowering levels of air pollution and congestion and helping to tackle the climate emergency we all face.”

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