Plans have been unveiled to link the East End and West End with London’s first “healthy street”.
London Cycling Campaign is calling for a radical transformation of the so-called “London Boulevard” route from Old Street to Oxford Street via Clerkenwell Road and Theobalds Road.
It wants to transform the “third busiest” cycle route in central London into a safer and less polluted two-mile stretch, with a “cafe society” al-fresco atmosphere to and make it more attractive for pedestrians.
An estimated 7,000 cyclists use the east-west route each day – with more than 1,000 during the morning rush hour – despite high levels of traffic and high collision rates.
The LCC believes its vision fits perfectly with Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Healthy Streets policy, which seeks to improve air quality, reduce congestion and make public spaces more attractive for residents and businesses.
It would also link with long-standing proposals for Old Street roundabout, which would convert one of London’s busiest gyratories into a two way lay-out, enabling the centre of the roundabout to be transformed and boosting the area’s status as “Tech City”.
Simon Munk, LCC’s infrastructure campaigner, admitted there was a “long way to go” before there were spades in the ground, but said the aim was to provide support for schemes from Transport for London and Camden and Islington councils.
“This is an area of London that has a huge amount going for it, but a huge amount of problems,” he said. “Tottenham Court Road station is being transformed by Crossrail and there is the Mayor’s pedestrianisation of Oxford Street to come.
“This [route] is one of the busiest roads in London but it’s incredibly polluted and insanely noisy. The knock-on effect of pedestrianising Oxford Street is going to be huge. There is a huge opportunity to look again at the streets east of Oxford Street.”
The plans were welcomed by Victoria Lebrec, 26, who lost a leg after being run over by a skip lorry as she cycled to work on Clerkenwell Road in December 2014. She only survived when London Air Ambulance medics performed a pioneering procedure to stop her bleeding to death on the roadside.
She said: “It’s really exciting to see the plans. So many people have lost their lives or had catastrophic injuries on this route and I’m so pleased something is being done about it. At peak times it’s used predominantly by cyclists and the road should cater for them. I just hope that they’re implemented sooner rather than later because the longer it’s left the more people are going to lose their lives.”
The Mayor has yet to decide if cyclists will be allowed to use the pedestrianised Oxford Street. If cyclists are banned, LCC wants a high-quality parallel route.
At Old Street, TfL proposals first consulted on two years ago – to create a “peninsula” in the centre of the junction by closing the roundabout’s north-east side – are understood to be moving forward.
The London Boulevard route is believed to be behind only the East-West and North-South cycle superhighways in terms of the number of daily cyclists. The LCC says it has a vital role in helping to keep the city moving.
Ashok Sinha, LCC chief executive, said: “We know that over the next decade and a half, we are going to add the equivalent of the population of Birmingham to the number of people living in this city.
“The number of people working in the centre of town is going to increase by 40 per cent. How are we going to keep people moving? What if we were to transform that stretch into a clean, green corridor that links the two parts of the city.”
Ben Plowden, director of surface strategy and planning at TfL, said: “We welcome any ideas that could improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians while also improving the air quality and feel of London’s roads. We’d be interested in hearing further from the local authorities and key stakeholders.”
The Mayor‘s spokesman said: “As we continue with our ambitious plans to get more Londoners walking and cycling, we will look closely at the details of the London Boulevard plans. The use of innovative technology to bring ideas to life will also help engage more people in thinking about the future of our transport network.
“We are pushing ahead with our bold vision for ‘Healthy Streets’ in the heart of central London and extended cycle routes connecting key parts of the city are an important part of this. We continue to work with the relevant boroughs and key groups like the London Cycling Campaign to ensure improvements are the very best they can be.”
- An edited version of this article appears in today’s Evening Standard