The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) held the official launch of its Love London-Go Dutch campaign at the Design Museum yesterday evening.
As outlined in the January 19 issue of Cycling Weekly, the campaign aims to commit the next Mayor of London – whoever that turns out to be – to pursue a more liveable, cycling friendly city, inspired by the Dutch approach to urban planning.
Amidst a series of rousing speeches from supporters of the campaign, the showpiece of the launch was the unveiling of a new people friendly design for Parliament Square.
The mock-up of how the area might look if pedestrians and cyclists were given the same consideration they might be afforded in the Netherlands is nothing short of utopian. The concrete barriers that currently sit outside the corridors of power to deter ram raid terrorists are not depicted. The protesters camped out opposite have also gone. So, too, have 50 per cent of the roads that currently make this symbolic square a repulsive, scary and best avoided gyratory system.
Instead, two sides of the square are closed to motorised traffic and the space in the middle is rightfully reclaimed as public park. What remain of the roads have been given a Dutch-style makeover, each with Euro-width cycle paths down either side and advance stop areas, separate light phases and channelling at junctions.
Whichever direction a cyclist wants to head in, their space on the road is clearly defined.
Of course, this design is nothing but speculative. Essentially it’s a PR tool to attract interest to the campaign. It’s something tangible to illustrate what LCC is striving for. No local authority has commissioned it; no one has said they’ll take action on it. But could they? How realistic is it as a proposition? Or perhaps the question we really want to ask is: why the hell not?
You can almost hear the shouts of the motoring lobby and the nay-saying politicians immediately. Soothing traffic flow has been an obsession of Boris Johnson ever since he took over the Mayor’s job. Won’t fewer lanes mean more congestion? Doesn’t more two way traffic mean longer light phases? Won’t it take longer for MP’s to get to work? (You can imagine where that will land such plans.)
Not according to traffic planner Richard Lewis who came up with the designs for the LCC.
“There’ll be a couple of months of congestion and chaos when they dig the place up,” he conceded. But his argument continues that there is quite strong evidence that when you reduce the space for traffic, the traffic evaporates. People only tend to drive where there’s space to go.
In LCC’s magazine London Cyclist, Matt Cavenett looks to the people friendly conversion of Trafalgar Square in 2003 by way of example. “No one in their right mind would dare suggest all this should be ripped out and the congested highway put back in one of the city’s best loved public spaces,” he wrote.
Leicester Square too was also once a busy junction. Now it’s a hub of pedestrian activity. And no one seems to be complaining about not being able to drive through there either.
Given a little research, there is in fact very little logic in not pursuing designs like this one. The difficulty is in mobilising the political will to make it happen.
And that is exactly what the LCC’s campaign is all about gaining. Should it get enough support, maybe the Parliament Square plans are not so unlikely after all.
Support Love London-Go Dutch at http://lcc.org.uk/pages/go-dutch .