Christmas carols and traffic sewers

I had an interesting week in early December (okay, it was probably only interesting for me).

I spent the Tuesday evening walking along the North Circular. I was with London Cycling Campaign’s Simon Munk and a group of Bowes residents whose narrow residential streets are used as unofficial bypasses for drivers avoiding the North Circular. We were looking at how the street design could be improved (spoiler alert: by making sure that North Circular traffic stays on the North Circular). That may not sound like a fun evening to most people but I went home buzzing – though of course that may have been the fumes.

The Wednesday evening I spent at a meeting on a rat run in a different part of Enfield with another group of residents. We sat in a resident’s kitchen sharing hopes and dreams for a bit less danger and pollution on their heavily trafficked street.

On the Thursday, I thought I’d do something for myself and go to a carol concert. Time for some spiritual, uplifting choral music, I thought. Give streets a rest and have some me-time and God-time to kickstart the Christmas season, I thought.

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Good idea. Except the carol concert was in a church on Euston Road.

It doesn’t matter how magnificent your church pillars are (and they were) and how beautiful your singing is (and it was) when the traffic is raging past your door on one of the most polluted streets in London. I had to go out at half time and cross this abomination to Euston Station to get some cash.

Then near the station I saw this sign which annoyed and distracted me so much from the task in hand, I walked away from the cash machine leaving the bank notes hanging out of it. I had to go back and get more money out two minutes later.

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Don’t get me wrong – this is no doubt a very useful walking route. But it’s not the solution, is it?

It’s not as if the pollution on Euston Road is some sort of natural disaster, like a chasm opened up in the earth’s surface overnight and sulphurous fumes began spilling out! No, it’s man made. It’s there by design. It’s a multi-lane highway built exclusively for motor traffic. So of course it generates tons of traffic every minute – with all the accompanying fumes and deadly threat to anyone walking or cycling.

But rather than sort the problem out at source, so it’s more sustainable and fit for human use – maybe turn a couple of driving lanes into cycle lanes? – instead, a route has been devised to encourage people to go the long way round.

Oh this makes me so angry.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, the city of Utrecht is turning an urban motorway back into a canal (the canal bit starts at 10:52, but the whole video is worth watching)…

Utrecht: Planning for People & Bikes, Not for Cars from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

I managed to enjoy the second half of the carol concert with the help of a large glass of red wine. Good thing we were celebrating the birth of someone who promises to bring peace on earth, which surely includes getting rid of all motor traffic. I just wish we could make a bit more progress towards that while we wait…

Happy New Year everyone. And if you want to make a difference this decade, you could do worse than support this campaign to make London’s roads zero carbon by 2030.

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