'It's disappointing': transport groups on Haverstock Hill cycle lanes call

Camden Council's decision on Haverstock Hill has drawn mixed responses

The decision on Haverstock Hill has drawn mixed responses - Credit: Polly Hancock

Transport groups in Camden say they are “disappointed” with the halting of the Haverstock Hill cycle lane scheme – but campaigners opposed to low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) welcomed the move. 

The council’s withdrawal of the project's experimental traffic order followed a ruling by the High Court – currently under appeal – that the guidance of TfL’s Streetspace scheme was unlawful.   

Camden Cycling Campaign, and West Hampstead Amenity and Transport (WHAT), pointed to the merits of Streetspace schemes which encourage cycling and walking.

However residents from the Campaign Against Camden Road Closures backed the High Court ruling and claimed that LTNs have been imposed without “proper” consultation.

John Chamberlain, Camden Cycling Campaign’s coordinator, told the Ham&High: “Camden Cyclists are disappointed with the decision to delay work on the Haverstock Hill cycle lanes.

“The lanes are a key part of Camden’s transport strategy to encourage walking and cycling and tackle obesity and climate change in the long term, and we were pleased to see them being prioritised in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, following government guidelines.   

“The lanes have a lot of support including from the Royal Free Hospital and are key to helping the adults and children of Belsize Park and Hampstead as well as visitors to cycle safely up and down the hill.   

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“No alternative route is available to serve the same important travel destinations in the borough.”  

On the High court ruling, John Saynor, chair of WHAT, said: “Streetspace has allowed a lot of improvements for pedestrians and cyclists to be made without the usual lengthy and costly planning processes.   

“That said, there have been negatives and lack of flexibility on the part of TfL. Closure of traffic lanes on key routes has caused regular traffic jams (at least pre-lockdown) which have delayed not just motorists but buses as well – and indeed taxis.” 

Local traders opposed the cycle lanes over reduced parking

Local traders opposed the cycle lanes over reduced parking - Credit: Polly Hancock

John called for greater consultation from TfL with local residents. He said the Streetspace scheme in Finchley Road - which closed general traffic to a single lane to widen the pavement - has caused “massive” traffic jams and increased congestion.  

“As a group, we are campaigners for better public transport and better pedestrian safety, but we concluded that this particular scheme was a step too far, and we continue to call on TfL to rethink,” he said.   

“All that said, Streetspace overall is a very good thing and we continue to support it.” 

Adam Joy, founder of the Campaign Against Camden Road Closures, said that LTN schemes are “hugely unpopular” and called on the council to suspend them “immediately”. 

“We’ve long argued that the imposition of LTNs by Camden Council without proper consultation is discriminatory against the disabled and elderly and only serves to increase congestion and pollution on surrounding roads,” he said.  

“LTNs also impede access for emergency vehicles and we have seen numerous cases of ambulances, fire engines and police cars getting stuck in the LTN maze.” 

Local traders opposed the cycle lanes over reduced parking

Local traders opposed the cycle lanes over reduced parking - Credit: Polly Hancock

Camden Council said it is considering the High Court ruling but that it is “toon soon” to comment further, amid TfL’s appeal.  

On the Haverstock Hill cycle lanes scheme, which was subject to legal challenge, a town hall spokesperson previously said: “We have brought in over 100 emergency transport schemes across Camden in response to Covid-19 to make our streets as safe as possible and to encourage walking and cycling.  

“We’ve had to do this at unprecedented pace as that’s what the government asked us to do, but despite this pressure, none of our many schemes have been challenged, with the exception of Haverstock Hill.  

“These schemes will also make a huge contribution to our efforts to improve air quality in Camden and tackle the climate crisis. 

“When we made the decision on the Haverstock Hill scheme we did so to the published guidance at the time. However, since then we have looked again at how we introduce these emergency transport schemes and included further public engagement in the process. 

“Due to a minor technical error in the order for the scheme, we are looking at the Haverstock Hill plans again. This will allow us to follow the new engagement process, focus on all of our schemes and concentrate on fighting the pandemic without the distraction of the litigation, irrespective of its merits.”