At War With The Motorist
Our correspondents’ dispatches from the front
Westminster Council have been playing games with the mayor, putting improvements for walking, cycling, public transport and one of our greatest parks in jeopardy. It’s time for Sadiq Khan to get a grip and deliver, before it’s too late.
In December 2016, Sadiq Khan announced construction of CS11, from Swiss Cottage to the West End, would start in 2017. Since then, nothing has happened — and now the whole project is in danger.
CS11, for those unfamiliar, should provide some desperately needed improvements to north London neighbourhoods in Swiss Cottage and Primrose Hill, and even more so to Regent’s Park. Nominally a “Cycle Superhighway” scheme, most of the improvements it makes are somewhat mediocre for cycling — like “semi-segregated” cycle lanes on Avenue Road, and cycle tracks on Portland Place that would probably prove too narrow and soon need upgrading.
Really, CS11 is a set of important improvements to the general environment of the places and neighbourhoods along the route, and that’s where its value lies.
In Swiss Cottage it will remove the vast gyratory of speeding traffic that severs neighbourhoods and suppresses the potential of this local hub. It will transform the public transport interchange here, and provide bus priority to cut journey times on most of the bus routes.
In Primrose Hill and St John’s Wood it will halt the otherwise relentlessly rising tide of ratrunning traffic that is taking over residential streets.
And most importantly of all, in Regent’s Park it closes the gates on the habitually speeding motorists that race through this place of recreation, destroying the peace and polluting the haven of our parkland.
This is a scheme which has huge benefits for residents, park users, public transport passengers and cyclists — for everyone except the drivers who think they should be able to take a short-cut through parks and residential streets. Which is why so many people supported it in the first place, during the consultation stage.
Time is running out and Sadiq Khan needs to get a grip
I have no party allegiances. I’m not anti-Sadiq. He got my (second preference) vote. I like a lot of what he says. And he’s not even the villain here.
The Conservatives of Westminster City Council are the villains. They’ve been playing games with CS11 — and playing games with the Mayor. They’re causing trouble, muddying water, in order to introduce delays until time runs out on the project.
Westminster have introduced an alternative proposal for Regents Park, watering down the changes to the point where they become entirely useless. They suggest closing a token couple of gates for token couple of hours a day, leaving it no less full of speeding traffic and pollution.*
Their proposal is a wrecking amendment: it is obviously useless, and therefore obviously unacceptable to all the other stakeholder organisations at the table. But it will tie everybody up arguing about details it until it’s too late.
Because it seems the rest of the route is now on hold until the park question is resolved. And I’m told that if work doesn’t start on the northern sections of the route soon, it will be too late to complete it before other major construction works are scheduled to begin nearby. Fixing the ever-growing problems blighting the people of Swiss Cottage and Primrose Hill will be off the cards for years.
A walkover in the park
But on this important issue, it’s Sadiq Khan who is not delivering on his pledges and not showing the leadership of the mayor of a great city.