In recent weeks cities the world over have begun to dedicate greater amounts of street space to pedestrians as a result of social distancing. London and other UK cities have been conspicuous in not doing so.
This is often due to a convoluted mess of who manages streets. There’s a lack of strategic overview and planning. The current situation simply exacerbates long-standing problems of pedestrians long thought of as an afterthought and wedged into narrow spaces – which excessive street clutter exacerbates further.
When thing return to normal the issue of limited space for those on foot will remain. In many cases, it will increase. With the current situation merely highlighting existing problems, let’s look at some planned developments which will increase problems rather than improve the situation.
A major development planned at the current Woolwich market pound which was submitted last year doesn’t plan to leave much space for paving alongside a busy road.
Here’s a closer look. There’s so little apparent space between tnew buildings and the kerb that a segregated cycle lane cannot be accommodated, and so they will still dice with traffic and buses pulling into stops.
Next up is another Woolwich site just east named Woolwich Exchange a.k.a Spray Street. These are revised plans revealed earlier this year:
The area currently has ample pedestrian space. Perhaps not for long?
The market is now listed and will be retained and extended onto the street if plans approved. This is another busy area comprising bus stops, shops and in future towers including hundreds of homes.
Recent plans for new flats at Achilles Street in an area of high footfall beside New Cross station, shops and bus stops again shows pavement space narrowed.
Somewhat unusually in London there’s currently ample space for those on foot. This is a legacy of post-war design which sought to increase space for pedestrians. That now looks to be removed:
A new building featuring shops and a Travelodge hotel in Lewisham currently rising doesn’t leave much space:
For busy areas in major town centres pavement space is often pitiful in London. Far, far less than would be seen in many European and north American city centres where wide avenues are the norm.
There was no Haussmann in London as in Paris, no Eixample district as seen in Barcelona which was designed by Ildefons Cerdà, no Hoddle Grid as in Melbourne (though those designs are not without problems) and it’s not easy to rectify medieval streets but many new-builds do very little to improve streets particularly alongside roads, or even take it away revealing the relative unimportance of pedestrians in London and the UK.
There’s ample examples of recent developments depriving pedestrians of space. A block opposite Charlton station containing Sainsbury’s juts out from the street building line leaving a narrow strip of paving despite being an area of high footfall:
That leaves minimal pedestrian space:
What we continue to see again and again is commercial drive for maximising space taking precedence over pedestrians – and little apparent opposition. I’ve highlighted land grabs in previous posts. I can’t recall many politicians saying a thing.
On top of meagre space allocated to pedestrians we also regularly see street clutter placed onto narrow pedestrian space. Naturally, some authorities are worse than others.
Even during the current lockdown Greenwich Highways are installing more random bollards. The authority is broke, stretched and Highways still can’t resist.
But let’s end on a positive. One such example is Trafalgar Road in Greenwich. Pavement space is extremely limited and made worse by too much clutter. Much have now gone and the street is all the better for it.
Unfortunately only large scale projects seem to feature improvements. Day to day management by Greenwich Highways is still stuck decades in the past.
Yet even on Trafalagar Road the fundamental issue remains. It’s very cramped given the level of pedestrians. What’s the solution here? Be radical and close to general traffic? Or is this as far as it can realistically go?