In my post last week about shared space, I made the assertion that Simon Legg was apparently in favour of a ‘shared space’ solution on Euston Road – the A501 – based on a comment of his that appeared to express approval for ‘mingling’ users on that road.
My attention has been drawn to a prior comment of his – one I was unaware of – that proposes a quite different remedy for Euston Road, and which suggests I should have treated the comment of his I used with rather less seriousness.
There’s no real way in which the A501 serves the parts of London it bisects. It’s a smelly stop/start canyon, stripping the street frontages to either side of pleasure.
Now the irony is that billions are being poured in to Crossrail, which will, some time in the future (the latest date is 2017), take passengers from Paddington to Canary Wharf or Stratford. For a small proportion of that, and in a fraction of the time, the A501 could be civilised, could be carrying trolleybuses or bendybuses and could have a wide continuous red-tarmaced lane to give cyclists the same opportunities they enjoy on the A24 or the A13. The Kings Cross/St Pancras area could be re-jigged to give pedestrians half a chance of crossing the road without feeling as if they’re venturing in to a warzone.
The reduction of private car and taxicab traffic along the A501 would make London a nicer place. It would cut carbon emissions. It would be not wildly expensive. It would, almost by accident, make cycling to and from six railway termini less unpleasant. It would, critically, increase the capacity of the road.
I find little to disagree with here. Reducing capacity for private motor traffic in urban areas, and reassigning that space to public transport, walking and cycling, is what I am all about. Dare I say it, Simon Legg’s proposal for Euston Road – with wide, continuous, red-tarmaced surfaces for bikes – sounds rather… Dutch.
Take Potterstraat in Utrecht, which forms the central section of the main east-west thoroughfare in that city. In the 1960s, it looked like this (picture courtesy of Mark Wagenbuur) –
A dual carriageway for motor vehicles (albeit with cycle tracks alongside).
The parallels with Euston Road are far from exact, given that Utrecht is a far smaller city, and Potterstraat is rather narrower than the A501 – but it is instructive to see how this stretch of road looks today.
(Streetview here). The space has been given over entirely to public transport, walking and cycling. The ‘road’, or what remains of it, is now only used by buses, and the pavements and cycle paths on either side have been widened. It’s still a busy street – busier than it was in the 1960s photograph. The journeys along it are just being made by different – quieter, more pleasant, and more efficient – modes of transport.
I think it’s highly unlikely that we will see the complete removal of the private motor vehicle from even a short stretch of Euston Road in the foreseeable future (perhaps something to dream about, nevertheless). But we should certainly be aiming to greatly reduce private motor traffic along it, and to reassign the space that it currently takes up to public transport, and to vulnerable users.
So I’m happy to agree with Simon Legg, and to set the record straight.