Community activists call for Hampstead pavement widening to facilitate social distancing

PUBLISHED: 12:54 04 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:29 05 May 2020

Finchley Road, a congested street in the borough.

Finchley Road, a congested street in the borough.


Activists are calling for pavements around Hampstead and Highgate to be widened and pedestrians prioritised in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the NW3 Green School Runs group, Alessandra Giuliani, Yoni Jacobs and Valeria Pensabene. Picture: Polly HancockMembers of the NW3 Green School Runs group, Alessandra Giuliani, Yoni Jacobs and Valeria Pensabene. Picture: Polly Hancock

In a study released on May 1, The Bartlett School of Architecture’s research group, named ‘_Streets’, revealed two thirds of London pavements are not wide enough to facilitate the two-meter social distancing rule.

Valeria Pensabene, director of NW3’s Green School Runs, said risky areas could include outside shops, on the London Underground, in offices and near schools.

Pavement widening could be realised by coning off parking spaces, allocating sections of road for walkers, or restricting residential streets to through traffic, she suggested.

“Outside schools, where the pavements are normal width, are fine for a normal afternoon - but when kids are going to school, it is packed,” Valeria said.

Linda Chung has joined calls for pavement widening. Picture: Nigel SuttonLinda Chung has joined calls for pavement widening. Picture: Nigel Sutton

“You have to squeeze past parents and children and it is a good place for coronavirus to spread.”

Former Hampstead councillor Linda Chung said any new measures should consider the whole area and not be implemented in a “piecemeal” road-by-road manner to avoid a knock-on traffic build-up elsewhere.

She said: “Hampstead High Street is not a particularly wide road and [during the lockdown] people have got used to walking in the road in smaller places. That is quite dangerous when traffic starts coming in and the lockdown is gradually lifted.

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“Generally we have allowed cars to dominate our lives, but we can see that traffic and congestion can be reduced if there a will.

“If we are going to think long term about pollution, all these things should be considered.”

The _Streets study found 46 per cent of roads in Brent are wide enough, 41pc in Camden, 33pc in Hackney, 31pc in Islington and 47pc in Westminster.

Only 28pc of streets in Haringey allow enough room for social distancing, one of the lowest percentages in London.

Haringey Council has already temporarily widened the pavement at some locations, suspended some parking bays and moved bus stops.

Affected streets include Grand Parade on Green Lanes and Hornsey High Street.

Cllr Seema Chandwani, Haringey Council cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: “Our dedicated highways team will be assessing various spaces across the borough and monitoring our high streets to identify new spaces and investigate spots residents are concerned about.”

Camden Council cabinet member for sustainability, Adam Harrison, said he is exploring the issue at various places, including on Kilburn High Road, and Brent’s environment lead Krupa Sheth said the issue is “complex”.

Westminster Council was contacted for comment.

Green School Runs was set up by group parents to tackle pollution outside local schools, and became a registered charity in April.

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