Editor’s comment: A cautious take on the CS11 debate

An artist's impression of CS11 at Swiss Cottage. Picture: TfL

An artist's impression of CS11 at Swiss Cottage. Picture: TfL - Credit: Archant

I’m a novice when it comes to the Ham&High’s perennial favourite, the CS11 debate.

So I’ll try and restrain myself from making any snap judgements about it just yet. I know it has both passionate advocates and fierce opponents, and I think it’s our job to give both those sides a platform.

But what I will say is this: doing nothing is not an option.

I’ve encountered similar rows, albeit on a smaller scale, during my time on our sister paper the Hackney Gazette because Hackney has a somewhat maverick approach to reducing traffic.

Whether we’re talking about controlled parking zones or schemes of road closures, the arguments against have been similar: vehicles will be displaced into residential streets and people will suffocate or get run over.

And the answer has to be: if that’s the case, we need even more ambitious schemes. If traffic is going to be forced into smaller roads, those roads need to be filtered too. We have to keep going with both the carrot and the stick until it is so inconvenient to make unnecessary car journeys, and other modes of transport are so easy, affordable and accessible, that cars cease to be worth the hassle.

I might be new to CS11 but I’m intimately familiar with the Swiss Cottage junction, having tackled it by bike every day for two years. It is a dangerous mess that is very difficult to navigate if you aren’t in a car. The Finchley Road itself is lethal: I had more near misses even over the few hundred yards up to our old office than I can count, and I consider myself conscientious.

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So far as I can tell, as an outsider, those opposing CS11 have a fair bit in common with those backing it: they want safer, cleaner, quieter streets. No one is campaigning to get more cars on our roads.

Nor does anyone want thousands of lorries squeezing past schools. At present our economy relies on goods vehicles, and if they belong anywhere it is on roads like the A41. But there is too much space on our streets for motor traffic and not enough for everyone else. If CS11 won’t address that, we need an even bigger scheme that will.