Henly’s Corner: A walker’s paradise?

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:

Take a hike: the footpaths are closed for a year

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:

Photos courtesy of the East Finchley Beth Din

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:

The A406 ramble? The Henly’s Trail?

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?

12 Responses to “Henly’s Corner: A walker’s paradise?”

  1. Chas Says:

    I don’t think TFL make life better for anyone. It’s just action for it’s own sake. I live in Battersea and they have been putting in ‘Super Highway 8’ which involves digging up kerbs and putting them back almost exactly as they are. It involves taking out ASL’s and putting them back. Little dashes of blue paint. Pedestrian killing crash barriers replacing pollution soaking plants. Ofroad bike lanes being taken out. Roads being narrowed so that buses will now block one lane – forcing cyclists and cars out, instead of being in a recessed bay behind a cycle lane. There are more pointless things – the road will be more dangerous to cycle afterwards, but during these 6 months of works the road has been lethal to cycle because of the road narrowings taking place which close down the cycle paths.

    When I talk to the contractors they say…”isn’t this stupid? What a waste of time and money”. You can see their hatred for cyclists in how the works are implemented. Have I ever seen a TFL inspection? Not likely.

    If they’d wanted a fast, efficient and safe route they could have picked one of three others. But they chose the A-roads because that is what they control. So they push cyclists onto the same road as lorries and buses. Genius.

  2. Henry Says:

    Those yellow lines are nets. To catch the people as they get run over.

  3. Dominic H Says:

    Hmm, at least they are adding pedestrian aspects and a four-way stop phase to the lights, both of which have been entirely absent before. It’s a junction of a particularly busy stretch of the North Circular (which also serves as the A1 for a short space here, too) with a major primary (but not trunk) route out of London – so what did you expect? At at least the aggressive “flower sellers”/involuntary “windscreen washers” to tend to frequent the junction now don’t feature in the idealised projection

    I lived a stone’s throw from Henly’s Corner for a couple of years – pedestrian footfall from the south to the north was all but non-existent. Precisely because the old set-up explictly discouraged it, as the new proposed arrangements do not. And from east to west there are pedestrian crossings nearby both north and south of the junction (and indeed, from south to north, in one direction, to the east, too). As much as anything the North Circular marks the divide between Golders Green (or rather, Temple Fortune and Hampstead Garden Suburb and Finchley; and it really is a divide, too. What is being proposed kind of goes some way to breaking down that divide.

    So all of that which is being proposed sounds to me to be eminently reasonable, in context. And certainly a vast improvement on what is there now. Yes, a wee bit of inconvenience *for a few people* now. But such is life.

    And I am no fan of Brian Coleman. And I don’t drive!

  4. Anthony Cartmell Says:

    They still don’t understand, or they carefully ignore, that you can’t reduce motor traffic congestion by allocating more road space to motor vehicles.

    Time and time again we’ve seen places, including London, where motor traffic congestion has reduced when roads are closed, and where motor traffic congestion gets worse as roads are widened to have more lanes. See also: M25, Detroit, etc.

    Motor traffic may well speed more quickly through this new junction, but what happens on all the surrounding roads? Are local people making short trips more or less likely to take the car when the junction is completed? We all know the answers, but do TfL – surely they must?

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