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Health, environment and travel - we need better answers once the pandemic is gone

PUBLISHED: 15:57 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:57 27 August 2020

Cllr Adam Harrison was surprised at the unity between  between the government, Mayor of London and many local authorities this summer.

Cllr Adam Harrison was surprised at the unity between between the government, Mayor of London and many local authorities this summer.

Kareen Cox

This summer a surprising unity appeared between the government, Mayor of London and many local authorities. Despite our disagreements over the still-ongoing cuts to councils’ funding, boroughs agreed to make urgent changes. Why? To help residents get about while public transport capacity is restricted – and to avert a ‘car-based recovery’ of increased pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, and road danger.

To this end, Camden Council introduced the Safe Travel programme. First was to create extra space on high streets such as in Kilburn and Hampstead. Next was to remove rat-runs, often by installing a simple bollard, such as at Savernake Road in Gospel Oak ward, next to an important entrance to Hampstead Heath; and finally to bring forward pop-up cycle lanes, at Goods Way, York Way, St Pancras Way, Prince of Wales Road, and Chalk Farm Road.

We know walking and cycling are best for one’s health and for the environment. This was true pre-Covid and is even more pressing now.

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To assist this we are also installing new on-street cycle parking ‘hangars’, and will soon start rolling out ‘bays’ for dockless bikes, to stop clutter and encourage residents to use them (not least as these bikes’ electric boost can help on the steeps hills of parts of Camden).

Encouraging walking, cycling, and scooting to school can reduce the impact of the early-morning run. This autumn a Healthy Schools Zone covering five schools off Fitzjohn’s Avenue goes live, and new ‘School Streets’ restricting car use for drop-off and pick-up will join it in Fortune Green, Primrose Hill, and Kentish Town.

Parts of Camden have – sometimes for many years – enjoyed relief from through-traffic, such as the restrictions at either end of Gloucester Avenue. Learning from this, this autumn we are looking to bring in more ‘low-traffic neighbourhoods’. These are known to have many benefits, from reducing air pollution to making new space for children to play out.

Together, the Safe Travel in Camden changes touch on questions of health, environment and travel – all brought to the fore by Covid, but to which we need better answers once the pandemic is finally gone.


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