TfL have always been in favour of walking. Rarely do they release a marketing publication without several paragraphs explaining how pedestrians will benefit from the newest scheme designed to maximise the amount of traffic on London’s streets.
The current “improvement works” at Henly’s Corner in Barnet are, it seems, primarily being undertaken in order to “improve crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists”. This is a populous, residential area sitting roughly at the centre of a trapezium bounded by the following tube stations: East Finchley, Golders Green, Brent Cross, Hendon Central, Mill Hill East and Finchley Central.
The works have been running from February this year and are set to continue until February 2012 (details on p76). Let’s take a look at how TfL has left the conditions for their darling pedestrians during this time period:
Fair enough. Pedestrians are already selfless enough to choose not to use their cars. It’s a safe bet they’d be willing to go several hundred metres out of their way to assure the convenience of their neighbours taking the Range Rover to Waitrose.
(Well, either that or they don’t actually own cars, in which case they’re obviously alfalfa-eating freaks with no political clout who TfL and the Mayor would be wasting their time on anyway.)
Let’s have a look at how the junction on the map manifests itself in reality:
Note that the “You are here” sign on the above map is on Finchley Road. This picture is taken on the south side of Falloden Way, travelling west. From this direction, there is no warning for pedestrians that the footpath stops dead (or for cyclists – this is a shared use path).
Well, maybe it’s all worth it? What’s a year of being unable to walk or cycle if at the end of it a sustainable transport utopia is produced? Will the A406/A598 junction become the new Camino de Santiago?
Here is TfL’s CGI projection of what the completed junction will look like:
Ah. Let’s see:
- Bus lanes: 0
- Cycle lanes/paths: 1 “shared use” path running east-west (i.e. pavement with a white line down the middle) which disappears as soon as there is a conflict with an actual road. 0 running north-south.
- Buses: 1
- Goods vehicles: 6
- Cyclists: 2
- Cars: 25
- Pedestrians: 5
And remember, this is the marketing image – the aspiration for this £8m junction. The reality is that no one who can avoid it is going to walk down this 8-lane turbohighway which requires pedestrians wishing to cross the road to do so in four separate stages.
So who is to blame for spending twice the entire budget of the Biking Boroughs entrenching infrastructure so deeply hostile to anyone not in a car?
In 2002, then mayor Ken Livingstone was pushing plans for this junction to be redesigned, with bus lanes and cycle lanes. However, Barnet’s then Cabinet member for the environment, Brian Coleman, led the council’s effort to block these plans under the premise that they were “inadequate to deal with the issue of endemic congestion.”
As we know, Ken was ousted by the Conservative contender in 2008 and true-blue Mr Coleman went on to become the mayor of Barnet in 2009. The bus and cycle lanes were subsequently removed from TfL’s plans, which were then agreed with Barnet, and as you can see the work is now underway.
Never let it be said, however, that Mr Coleman has forgotten the little people. He, too, is unhappy about the way that the works are being carried out. Writing to the mayor earlier this month, he complained that,
These road works are chaotic, causing huge problems for motorists and massive tailbacks.
So, while underway the works are causing problems for pedestrians, cyclists and apparently motorists. When completed, as far as pedestrians and cyclists are concerned, they won’t be much better.
So why go to all this trouble?
The important works at Henlys Corner will bring huge benefits to all road users along the A406 North Circular Road, and deliver smoother traffic flow along this key arterial route. - David Brown, Managing Director, TfL’s Surface Transport
Sounds remarkably familiar.
Whether it’s at Blackfriars or Brixton, Fulham or Finchley, Marylebone or Mitcham, TfL’s current priority remains the same: make travelling in cars easier and quicker at the expense of all other transport.
Except, in outer London, the situation is considerably worse. While people who opt not to drive are numerous and vocal enough to make a difference on Blackfriars Bridge (how much difference remains to be seen), cycling modal share in the outer London Boroughs currently sits at 1%.
Or forget modal share: TfL’s recent Analysis of Cycling Potential calculates that 250,000 trips a year in Barnet could be made by bike. How many of just those quick wins are actually cycled? Around 3% (page 27).
It suits TfL and the outer London boroughs to pay lip-service to cycling and walking while continuing to build motorways in the middle of residential areas (while closing bus lanes, cycle lanes and footpaths).
Will cheery copy and self-satisfied soundbites be enough to persuade the residents of Finchley and Golders Green to take a pleasant stroll or cycle through the new Henly’s Corner?