View from the street: Critics need to offer air pollution soloution and not CS11 criticism

PUBLISHED: 12:00 19 July 2018


CS11 came to north London briefly, the world didn’t end

Apocalyptic sights of US military aircraft hovering over north London were the norm last week – because President Trump was in town. In London, he lodged at Winfield House in Regent’s Park, where a steel border fence was erected to protect him. The result of that, of course, was that for his visit a significant chunk of the Outer Circle of the park was shut to through motor traffic.

At the same time, as Simon Atkins points out, Avenue Road has been closed for Thames Water works. Of course, Avenue Road isn’t even currently set to be closed as part of Cycle Superhighway CS11. So the double-whammy should have caused carpocalypse, if the StopCS11 and Westminster Councillors opposed to the scheme on the basis of “traffic displacement” are to be believed. Yet strangely, twitter, social media, even the pages of this august newspaper were quiet.

To some, that’s no surprise. Most other walking and cycling schemes across London have faced what CS11 faces – protests saying it will cause traffic chaos, pollution, hordes of mutant bees, the end of times. Invariably, the results are more prosaic – traffic goes up a bit on some streets for a while, as drivers try and work out what to do, and then gradually settles down to approximately where it was before.

When the dust has settled, and traffic has “evaporated” (the technical term for this phenomenon), there might be a few streets seeing increases due to displaced traffic, but as this paper’s editor, Ramzy Alwakeel rightly suggests, the answer there is to go further – to “filter” other roads too. A bolder scheme with more area-wide consideration is something London Cycling Campaign would welcome – and would campaign for as needed alongside residents.

The unfortunate reality for those protesting a scheme that had strong support at public consultation, however, is their actions make such an approach less likely. Their opposition will lead to a “do less” attitude, not “do more”. But less would suit some of them.

If those so determined to “Stop CS11” were serious about pollution, walking and cycling and displaced traffic, they would propose and support measures to restrict through traffic in Hampstead, to reduce the school runs done by car, to ensure that motor traffic wasn’t the default choice in the area. Rather than being long-standing campaigners on this issue, or even proposing credible, constructive, alternatives, they simply say CS11 will be a disaster, an apocalypse.

Well, now we know it won’t be. And while CS11 won’t cause an apocalypse, we already face a slow one – as more and more people live in our city, inactivity levels are rising to the point they are majorly impacting an overstretched NHS, pollution kills near 10,000 of us early a year and congestion massively impacts our economy and lives. TfL is building new tube lines as quick as it can, and changing bus routes to maximise ridership and efficiency. Much more walking and cycling has to be the future, or we really will face those apocalyptic conditions some prophesise.

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