The independent London newspaper

Post lockdown, beware the dangers of traffic in the city

08 May, 2020

• FOR the month of April it was great to enjoy truly traffic-free Camden streets and to witness daily increases in cyclists.

Today, there are thousands more Londoners biking, many with their young children and it’s a delight.

If we look around Europe’s cities like Paris, Berlin and Milan, almost overnight they’ve made hugely bold strides with new protected pedestrian/cycle lanes and dedicated roads viz three kilometres across the very centre of Paris’s Rue Rivoli.

Why did they take such bold action? Because they are fearful of the consequence for air quality and grid-locked traffic as, post lockdown, commuters returning to work will shun the underground, trains and buses and choose the apparent safety of the bubble that is their car.

We’ve been hearing lots of promising words (or is it hot air?) from mayor Sadiq Khan and his cycling and walking tsar, Will Norman, but where is the action?

This is a golden opportunity for Camden to establish leadership initiatives currently being energetically pursued in Hackney and Lambeth.

All I’ve noted so far in Camden is 30 metres of railings removed from outside Lidl, Kentish Town, and some token new barriers being slowly put up on the east side of Camden High Street – a street that isn’t particularly problematic for cyclists.

Of course, I may be wrong and bold plans are afoot, with exciting experiments that the current crisis avails to making residential neighbourhoods with streets being made access-only, as has happened in Croydon.

We’re heading for a perfect storm: the confluence of thousands more vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists competing daily for space with back-to-work commuters who will shun public transport and drive.

Bring back the ultra-low emission zone and congestion charge pronto. Close arteries, why don’t we? Prospective air quality deterioration and the increase in danger doesn’t bear thinking about.

Come on Camden, please lead the way!

Bartholomew Villas, NW5


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