Word on the street: Gyratory redesign welcome news for all


- Credit: Simon Munk

The redesign of the dangerous, polluted Swiss Cottage gyratory is worth celebrating in itself.

This snarl of junctions is a major barrier to walking and cycling and blights shops and homes. The new scheme improves it hugely – and TfL modelling shows it won’t cause apocalyptic conditions for motorists.

Of course, there is a far bigger potential for this scheme. Connecting an improved Swiss Cottage to a Regent’s Park where through motor traffic isn’t encouraged, should (say the Mayor, TfL etc) enable far more people to cycle and walk.

There are many current local car journeys which could easily be made on bikes – if only people felt safe enough cycling in London. TfL estimates there are millions of journeys across London daily that are driven, but could be made cycling. Switching even some would prevent huge amounts of congestion, pollution and boost people’s health. CS11 is a small part of a long-term plan by TfL to enable people to make that change, improving London for everyone, including those who drive – because the evidence shows that as cycling levels go up, congestion does go down.

Which is the opposite of what some naysayers predict, of course, about CS11. But then, such schemes are always controversial – every bit of London to get a cycling scheme has faced predictions of the end of western civilisation from some. And as with those other schemes across London, those who would fight CS11 on pollution grounds are strangely absent from any longer term or broader campaigning on air quality.

The reality for us all, but particularly those who oppose CS11 and the changes coming on the basis it’ll supposedly cause pollution and congestion, is that given the issues around not just tailpipe emissions, but brake particulates etc, the only way to make sure we are all breathing healthier air is to make sure more people get around by more sustainable, active and healthy modes, and get out of their cars. And that means safe cycling routes, spaces where it’s nicer to walk, and yes, restricting some car cut-throughs.

If you listen closely to the loud voices against the scheme, their alternatives basically boil down to “do nothing”. Do nothing, when nearly 10,000 Londoners are dying early from pollution, when congestion is spiralling (and not due to cycling schemes), when inactivity is becoming an NHS-crippling crisis, should not be an option.

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Feeble alternatives proposed by those who hate CS11 are designed not to inconvenience any driver ever (and particularly not their car journeys). But this is to prioritise their convenience over all of our (and our children’s) health. The work starting at CS11 will be temporarily inconvenient. But it heralds the start of a better, long-term deal for everyone in the area.

Because all that happens when you make driving the most convenient, easiest option is, surprise, lots of people drive lots.