Mixed reaction to Camden’s social distancing road changes from councillors, cyclists and residents

Kentish Town Road. Picture: Camden Cyclists

Kentish Town Road. Picture: Camden Cyclists - Credit: Archant

Camden Council is altering its roads as a result of Covid-19 – but the leader of the opposition says many changes aren’t wanted – or needed.

Well Walk. Picture: Cllr Oliver Cooper

Well Walk. Picture: Cllr Oliver Cooper - Credit: Archant

The town hall says the traffic and road changes will boost walking, cycling and social distancing as lockdown restrictions ease.

But Camden Conservatives leader Cllr Oliver Cooper has challenged the council over whether residents’ concerns are being considered.

Cllr Cooper said: “Camden has barely consulted with residents anywhere in the borough about these changes, with community after community waking up to see radical changes foisted on them overnight without any say.

“Whether in Hampstead, Highgate, or Primrose Hill, ordinary residents have been left out of the loop.

“Some of the changes will mean more gridlock and pollution and hurt local businesses without benefiting public health, because Camden has not considered factors that only local residents would know.”

Changes are being made across the borough including in Clarence Way and Hartland Road, Chetwynd Road, Constantine Road and Savernake Road, Hampstead High Street, Kentish Town Road, Kilburn High Road and Millfield Lane.

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Other streets impacted are Prowse Place, Red Lion Street and Dane Street, Sandall Road, Swain’s Lane, Well Walk and Wilmot Place.

In Well Walk, the pavement has been widened using temporary barriers which the council says protects pedestrians from cars.

A pop-up cycle lane in Goods Way. Picture: Camden Cyclists

A pop-up cycle lane in Goods Way. Picture: Camden Cyclists - Credit: Archant

This has been implemented between Gainsborough Gardens and Christchurch Hill outside The Wells Tavern. As part of this change, parking bays have been removed.

Hampstead resident Gila Wacholder said: “It has always been difficult to find a free parking space, especially on Sundays and in the evenings.

“Now we can’t find parking space during an ordinary day too.”

Ken Pyne said the use of “hideous plastic, very ungreen barriers” have made living in Well Walk a “nightmare”.

He said they have actually made social distancing more difficult by creating a bottleneck in the road while also causing traffic “chaos”.

In Swain’s Lane, concerns have been raised over the street being used as a rat run.

As a result, Camden Council is installing signage to ban a right turn at the street’s northern end – from Swain’s Lane into Bisham Gardens, and into South Grove Place.

John Chamberlain, Camden Cycling Campaign’s coordinator, said the changes “don’t go far enough” in addressing another rat run on the south east side of Swain’s Lane via Chester Road.

Well Walk. Picture: Cllr Oliver Cooper

Well Walk. Picture: Cllr Oliver Cooper - Credit: Archant

However, overall he said he was “pleased” to see Camden’s wider roads’ response to coronavirus.

John said: “As people return to work cycling and walking will be a critical part of the journey; public transport capacity will be drastically reduced and we cannot permit the congestion and pollution that would be the result if everyone used private cars.

“The pop-up cycle lanes that Camden and TfL are putting in will make a significant difference to people’s ability to safely use the highways.”

John added: “All of these measures must be seen in the wider contexts of climate change and health; we must give people alternatives that enable us to move to a low-carbon economy.”

Improved cycling facilities including new and widened bike lanes are being introduced in Goods Way and Gray’s Inn Road.

In Prince of Wales Road, parking bays are being removed between Haverstock Hill and Grafton Road.

Mahmud Khan, from Prince of Wales Road, said residents see the changes as a “forced intervention”.

He said they were being “penalised” for having a car as no alternative parking arrangements had been made – which he called “disgraceful” – and that “anxious” residents were having to park 10-15 minutes away and then walk back late at night.

Cllr Adam Harrison, Camden Council’s environment lead, said the town hall is continuing to make changes to make public spaces safer, given the need for distancing.

He said: “Over 1,600 comments have been received from residents and business across Camden suggesting locations where changes could be made, including a number of comments on Well Walk – a popular route for accessing Hampstead Heath – where we have temporarily widened the narrow pavement to make it easier for people to maintain a physical distance while using the road.

“Ward councillors’ views were sought on the Well Walk proposal before the council proceeded with implementing it.”

Cllr Harrison said the council was “routinely reviewing these temporary measures”, giving “careful consideration to feedback received once the measures are in place”.

For more information on Camden’s road changes click here.