The Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign – Part 1, The First Year

In a recent post, Graham Parks has laid bare the total lack of action by Islington Council to implement any sort of cycle-friendly infrastructure. It is a topic we have covered before, but our readers may be interested in reading this diary of the Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign, which started so well and was close to achieving real change.

November 2013

Andrea Casalotti (AC) proposes the idea of a traffic-light Boulevard from Old Street roundabout to the British Museum, as a bold implementation of one of the key routes of the Central London Cycling Grid. He sends the proposal to various activists for feedback.

Camden Cyclists writes that “of the Grid routes,  Bloomsbury Way – Theobolds Road routing [the Camden section of the Boulevard] is number 1 in our priorities”

December 2013

Proposal presented to Islington Cyclists. From the minutes:

“Andrea had discussed the scheme with Andrew Gilligan, specifically about limiting
bus speeds and getting TfL funding for traffic modelling. Camden Cycling
Campaign is meeting with their local officers about the grid but ICAG had
not discussed the grid with Islington officers.  Andrea to refine scheme
and keep promoting it.  One possible difficulty might be the number of
taxis that currently use the route”

Deputy head of London Cycling Campaign tweets:

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Peter Murray, Chair of New London Architecture states: “This is a great idea and fits well with our views about active transportation and the integration of walking, cycling and public transport.” This is a film he shot in 2011

TfL updates the Central London Cycling Grid map, with Note C referring to the Boulevard Route:

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Camden Councillor Julian Fulbrook writes:

“Clerkenwell Boulevard sounds very interesting!
Can I suggest we actually set up a meeting with the ward councillors, Phil Jones and Paul Braithwaite at the Town Hall to work on a ‘road map’ to achieve this?”

Camden Cyclists responds:

“Andrea makes suggestions about eliminating through journeys by private motor vehicles (i.e. just access allowed) which I think will be essential to making something safe and convenient for the masses of cyclists that use the route, particularly in the morning. The private motors would need to be reduced to a level where a single motor lane in each direction will allow for a reasonable bus service.”

Islington Cyclists responds:

“We (Islington Cyclists) are very keen on this scheme in Islington as well.  If you’d like to invite/involve Labour councillors further along the route, we’d love it.”

January 2014

Islington Cyclists meet Eshwyn Prabhu, officer at Islington Council and present the Boulevard proposal. Report:

“He’s concerned about

1. traffic diversion – how will it affects the currently being redesigned Old Street which he says has to be very carefully designed to avoid queue build up.

2. huge impact on local streets, therefore impact on local residents and therefore political ramifications.

He accepts that there will be traffic evaporation.

He thinks they (LBI) will make suggestions to TfL and they will be watered down (seems unlikely to me in current climate!).

He wants to approach Clerkenwell Road in a drip drip fashion over 10 or 20 years.”

Videos taken of the morning rush hour on Clerkenwell Road:

Presentation of proposal to Camden Cyclists; Councillor Phil Jones attended.

Blogger Alternative Department for Transport prepares some visualisations. Bidirectional tracks are one of the two options presented, the other being stepped tracks on both sides.

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The London Cycling Campaign is not enthusiastic about the Boulevard:

“Our view is that the Clerkenwell Boulevard should be taken on as a separate project – it is more of an exemplar of what a cycle superhighway route should be, providing for high volumes of commuter traffic. The separated cycle and bus routes and the major junction redesigns of the Boulevard put it into a different category of project. We don’t want the potential gains of the GRID delayed by the grand projects, including the central London Superhighways that TfL have included in the consultation. The Boulevard concept could also be applied to the Blackfriars road section of the NS superhighway, if they sorted access at the Elephant it would carry similar volumes of cycle traffic as Clerkenwell.”

Camden Cyclists responds by supporting the Boulevard:

“Seeing the extreme need for improvements for cyclists, CCC actually said that this link (Bloomsbury Way-Theobalds Road-Clerkenwel Road) had the highest priority. This was before anyone suggested Clerkenwell Boulevard.

Therefore on the evening at the actual meeting I was astonished to find that LCC’s Infrastructure Review Group were against supporting it. At that time and in subsequent emails Clare Neely (chair) was taking the line that LCC would not back it, but on the other hand wouldn’t mention it, therefore not specifically reject it. But Rik Andrew (deputy chair) spoke against it at the meeting and in later emails refused to have it in the LCC GRID and then suggested that LCC should propose that it be removed from the TfL GRID.

An important point is that the IRG is a small group assembled originally to discuss junctions and the mailing list was restricted because TfL’s designs were supposed to be confidential. The people at the IRG meeting were 5 of the core members. This is hardly a democratic way of deciding on what should be said to TfL.

Besides, the GRID represents a network of routes including QWs, CSHs and some others that fall between the two. This alignment should be on the GRID.

The text from the TfL consultation says the following:

East of here, the Theobald’s Road – Clerkenwell Road – Old Street corridor from Holborn to Old Street roundabout is one of the most heavily-cycled routes in London (more than 50 per cent of the westbound traffic in the morning peak is bicycles, and 64 per cent at the western end).However, it is busy with other traffic and there is no quiet side-street to use as an alternative route. Fully-segregated cycle tracks will also be difficult here because of the narrowness of the road and the large numbers of bus stops along it.
The three councils responsible for the area – Camden, Islington and Hackney – and TfL will undertake a study into how cycle facilities can be safely implemented on this corridor and to address the impacts of traffic. No options have been ruled in or out.

I don’t think that’s the same as ‘too hard to solve’.

February 2014

Two Camden officers want to commission Urban Movement to make a visualisation of Clerkenwell Boulevard.

Camden Cyclists prepares a presentation supporting the Clerkenwell Boulevard:

Two boroughs, one boulevard

CCC and ICAG would like to see a single design team

  • e.g. we hear Islington has started a study of filtering whereas the entire route needs to be studied as one
  • in the later stages this will be even more essential
  • to get a consistent look and functionality throughout as in Royal College Street
  • and to grasp all possible opportunities for inserting “extras” in an interesting way

A picture gallery is presented:

Campaign Clerkenwell Boulevard, Theobalds 6

March 2014

Andrew Gilligan attends Islington Cyclists meeting. He is briefed about the Boulevard. His comment: “Something bold needs to be done because there is no practical alternative route”

Movement for Liveable London organises a Street Walk along the length of the Boulevard. Participants provide ideas and feedback on all the junctions.

BiwybMyIEAArGkN

April 2014

At a meeting with Camden Council officers, AC points out that given the number of people killed at the Holborn Gyratory (Alan Neve and Francis Golding died in the previous 12 months), the Council had a duty to introduce safety features as a matter of urgency. The response of the Officers was to ask Camden Cyclists not to invite AC to any further meeting. AC responds:

It is the duty of all of us to ensure that no one else suffers the end of Francis Goulding, and Alan Neve. The Clerkenwell Boulevard needs to be implemented as speedily as possible.

The Council has to stop putting the convenience of the few above the safety of us all. Let me assure you that the Clerkenwell Boulevard will be immensely popular with the majority of people: everywhere in the world when similar schemes have been introduced, they have been met with overwhelming support.

I give you the benefit of doubt that you probably were just the messenger. You seem to say that Council officers were not pleased that I pointed out that:

a. Coroner Hassell is “very concerned” at Camden Council’s lack of action in the six months since the death of architectural expert Francis Golding. That is why she is issuing a PFD report.

b. The Metropolitan Police witness at the inquest stated that ” redesign ought to be reconsidered ”

c. Alan Neve was killed in Holborn because the safer route was blocked by Camden Council for several years, in spite of the Camden Cycling Campaign repeated requests of letting people cycle on the Bloomsbury Way Bus Lane.

d. Half measures don’t work. Andrew Gilligan is very clear that TfL money is available only to schemes that satisfy the soon-to-be-published Standards.

Can someone in the Council please explain in writing why you think that the person most knowledgeable about the Clerkenwell Boulevard should not be present at future meetings.

Camden Cyclists is concerned and sides with the Council:

Andrea was rather more confrontational that we (CCC) ever would be. Our way of working with officers leads back to the days of our predecessors and it has always worked very well. Following that meeting, [the officer] Sam Longman called me mid afternoon to discuss the problem.

The part in the email above that I have emboldened is to my mind totally unacceptable, particularly the sentence. “The Council has to stop putting the convenience of the few above the safety of us all”. This is so patently untrue about Camden Council as to be ridiculous. To them, it is insulting.

I feel that I misjudged inviting Andrea to a meeting with Camden officers. Although I will be very happy to continue to work with him and others in ICAG, I will avoid involving Andrea in meetings with Camden officers.

In the run-up of the Local Elections, Islington Labour responds to Islington Cyclists ward asks:

The Council has received ICAG’s proposals for the Clerkenwell Boulevard and will consider these proposals as part of a full feasibility and design study of the route that is currently being carried out. The Council will develop proposals for public consultation and has requested TfL fund this route for delivery by March 2016.

June 2014

Sustrans prepares a proposal for temporary measures on sections of Clerkenwell Road affected by the road closures as a result of works on the Old Street Roundabout in 2015. Islington Council rejects the proposal.

For six months St. John Street, which crosses Clerkenwell Road, has been closed to through traffic because of Crossrail work. AC proposes to Islington Council to keep the street filtered, as the quality of life on it was markedly better, and the diversions have had no negative effect. The Council rejects the proposal:

Taking these matters into consideration, the Council considers reopening St John Street after Crossrail have completed their works to be beneficial to all residents, businesses and visitors in the Farringdon area.

IMG_20140717_212953

AC feels insulted by this obvious lie and doesn’t mince his words:

You are either an incompetent fool or an arrogant liar.

Protest action at Farringdon Bridge, with newly elected Islington Councillor, Caroline Russell, Camden Councillor Sian Berry and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett

in_content

Islington Tribune:

The cyclists, including Islington’s newly-elected Green councillor Caroline Russell, converged on the 20m by 3m stretch of raised concrete at Clerkenwell Road, close to the junction with Farringdon Road, during on Monday evening.

The cycle path was installed by Camden Council 10 years ago at an estimated cost of £30,000, and then quietly abandoned before it could be finished.  
The path should have continued into the Islington section of Clerkenwell Road and towards Old Street. But Islington Council also failed to take up the initiative.”

and Camden New Journal

“Camden’s environment chief Councillor Phil Jones confirmed that the hope had been that Islington would have continued the cycle path along their stretch.

“We are now working with Islington and Transport for London to bring about much-needed improvements to this route,” he said.

“The old cycle path could still be integrated into a new system or could be scrapped and replaced by something new. I’m only sorry that all this is taking such a long time.”

Campaigners believe a safe boulevard would almost certainly have saved the life of architectural heritage consultant Francis Golding, who was killed in a collision with a coach at the Theobalds Road end of the route last November.

Claudia Webbe, Islington Environment Chief responds:

“Islington Council is working closely with Camden Council, Hackney Council and Transport for London to prepare designs for improvements to Old Street and Clerkenwell Road.

“We propose to create high-quality cycling routes running across the south of Islington, including Clerkenwell Road, that link in with our neighbouring boroughs’ plans for new routes.

“It’s essential that residents and businesses have the chance to have their say on any planned improvements, and there will be public consultations when the proposals are ready.”

July 2014

Islington Council Executive Committee accepts a grant of £2,000,000 from Transport for London to deliver three cycle routes in the South of the Borough. Of the total £900,000 is allocated to Clerkenwell Road and Old Street, i.e. Islington section of the Boulevard

Christian Wolmar tweets:

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August 2014

Guerilla action to expose the absurdity of the layout at Farringdon Bridge

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Presentation at London Cycling Summit

September 2014

AC meets Islington Council and is told that the contracted designers will present proposals in a few months.

Claudia Webbe writes to the Islington Tribune:

IN the coming months Islington Council will be undertaking public consultation on proposals for new cycling facilities on Clerkenwell Road, alongside two other cycle routes planned in Islington – all delivered under a £2m programme the council has secured from Transport for London. TfL has agreed that improvements to the Farringdon Road and Clerkenwell Road junction will be in place early in 2016.

We need to make sure we carefully design proposals that minimise conflict between the most vulnerable road users and traffic in this very busy part of Islington. The design process is likely to take a few months, and once it is complete the council will begin public consultation so residents can have their say.

October 2014

Preparation work for leaflets to be distributed in the area and an online petition on a major platform.

Website launched.

November 2014

Islington Council presents draft plans for Old Street / Clerkenwell Road to Islington Cyclists.

f49f8-2015-07-13_1711

Old Street / Goswell Road Junction

The drawings, prepared by Project Cenre, show a mixture of mandatory cycle lanes and protected sections at junctions (such as the above). The initial response is positive: this is much better than any Local Authority had done in London. Islington Cyclists prepares a detailed response with five key areas of improvement.

Joint action between Islington Cyclists and Client Earth’s Healthy Air initiative, to map NO2 levels on the Clerkenwell Boulevard and side streets, some of which are notorious rat runs.

Campaign - Clerkenwell Boulevard, Lifting Tubes, Andrea Lee and tree

Results (published in January 2015) will show that average NO2 levels on Clerkenwell Road exceed legal levels.

icag-air-pollution-results-map-687x576

December 2014

An avoidable tragedy” At the St. John Street junction a lorry turns left without looking crushing Victoria Lebrec. The Air Ambulance crew undertakes an heroic operation on the tarmac and saves her life; but she does lose one leg. Ten years earlier, Harriet Tory was not as fortunate: she was killed in exactly the same circumstances at exactly the same spot.

cyc1

Camden Cyclists sends a formal complaint to the Board of the London Cycling Campaign citing comments made by AC regarding CCC’s collusion with Camden Council in having him expelled from negotiations (see April 2014). Mustafa Arif seeks to mediate.

At a private conversation, a Council Officer tells AC that Andrew Gilligan has promised to top up the £2m already promised if the Clerkenwell Boulevard plans are good. The date pencilled in for taking the proposals to consultation is Summer 2015.

AC consults with members of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, AsEasyAsRiding and RantyHighwayman, on Islington Council’s plans and provides further feedback to Islington Council.

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So one year after the start of the campaign we had achieved a lot: some bold plans by Islington Council, backed by serious money from TfL to transform Old Street and Clerkenwell Road to probably the best throughfare for cycling in London (at the time, work on the Embankment tracks had not started). The Council had planned to put the plans to consultation in six months and Islington Cyclists was getting ready to prepare an engagement campaign to ensure public support for the plans

It didn’t happen.

Actually nothing happened, and almost three years later people are still riding in the same distasteful conditions exposed above.

In these three years of inaction

In a second article we will look what happened to the promising Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign.

 

 

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