Radical plan to solve Hampstead traffic hell

RESIDENTS groups, cyclists and school-run parents have joined forces to come up with an innovative plan to slow down cars on a Hampstead 'racetrack'.

Marc Mullen

RESIDENTS groups, cyclists and school-run parents have joined forces to come up with an innovative plan to slow down cars on a Hampstead 'racetrack'.

Farokh Khorooshi, chairman of the Fitzjohn's Avenue Residents Association, together with local councillors, representatives from the School Travel Action Group (Stag) and the Camden Cycling Campaign have drawn up proposals to stem speeding traffic on the road.

The revolutionary idea would see safe cycle lanes and 'echelon' parking on alternate sides of the road to create chicanes to slow cars.

Mr Khorooshi has taken his ideas to the town hall where they were well received and officers are now investigating them further.

"These plans will mean a safer environment for residents parking and crossing the road and for cyclists who will be separated from the traffic and pedestrians by a kerb," he said.

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"By making it safer for schoolchildren, it will reduce the amount of school-run traffic and so ease the noise level and pollution.

"This is a model for a future streetscape in Camden. The existing streets were designed by Victorians, who did not have anywhere near this amount of vehicles in mind.

"Why don't we design something for today's people, to deal with today's problems?"

The echelon parking, where cars park nose-first at 45 degrees to the pavement, would also increase the number of spaces.

There will be cycle lanes the length of Fitzjohn's Avenue in both directions, with kerbs separating cyclists from both pedestrians and motorists.

Charging points for electric cars, sustainable lighting and some parking spaces reserved for the council's car club are also part of the plans.

And to stop cars racing up and down the road outside rush hour, cameras would be introduced which measure average speeds.

Belsize ward councillor Alexis Rowell said: "There has been a very positive gathering of people who haven't necessarily seen eye to eye in the past, who worked together very well to produce a radical yet practical proposal.

"There has been widespread support from residents' groups, parents and schools. We are very hopeful we can take this forward."

A final report will be presented to the council's executive on March 19 as part of broader proposals by the transport task force.

Hampstead councillor Chris Knight, who also worked on the plans, said: "Trying to get safer routes to school has been one of our main priorities. The plans clearly make a lot of sense.

"There is the financial situation to overcome. There will certainly be the chance to get some funding from Transport for London because of the number of schools in the area.

"Hopefully that will be enough. The beauty of it is that it isn't a major operation."

Mr Khorooshi added: "Fitzjohn's Avenue is a very wide road and has very specific problems. Parents, cyclists and the councillors all got together to come up with some blue sky thinking and I hope it is taken forward."