London’s arterial roads are some of the most important in the city. But too many are underdeveloped, polluted, ugly and unpleasant. None strategically make sufficient use of express buses, trams or light rail to improve transport into the city centre. All are too polluted. None provide sufficient homes given their location. How do we tame traffic to improve the air we breathe whilst also keeping the crucial arteries of transport and movement pumping?
Over the last few years Create Streets has been encouraging and supporting a partially community-led programme for the populist beautification and intensification of London’s arterial roads with a range of beautiful, popular, medium-rise developments with pre-set designs agreed by local communities to permit faster, higher development of more homes. We have encouraged and supported more trees and an enhanced system of express buses and (whisper it) trams to cut journey times, reduce pollution and return London’s historic arterial roads to their true breadth of purpose and potential for beauty.
We have worked with neighbourhood groups in Holloway Road, Clapham Road and Grove Park to propose schemes which provide more homes, easier transport and better places with more trees. If we want them to be, many of London’s arterial roads could be just as beautiful and busy as those of Paris though (probably) in a more cluttered and idiosyncratic London way.
One exemplar project which we worked up was for Euston Road, where we imagined the use of the Euston Arch (more properly the Doric Propylaeum) not as the entrance to a distended new Euston Station, but as a tram stop on a new Euston Boulevard tram line with trees and strips of grass turning one of London’s most unpleasant places to one of its most attractive. It would be perfectly possible. We just need to want to do it.
The good news is that this issue is firmly climbing the ladder of political relevance. Since Create Streets began its occasional campaign in 2016, the related issues of air quality and the role of streets as pleasant places to walk and cycle as well as being purely efficient conduits for cars have become ever more relevant. We are delighted to see the Greater London Authority and Transport for London increasingly pick up their agenda though there is hugely more to do. One of our exemplar schemes, Grove Park with HTA Design, has won funding. And Create Streets’ work with the architects’ JTP on another Create Boulevards project (Holloway Road) has also led to the creation and co-publication by JTP and Create Streets of the Healthy Streets for London toolkit for participatory urban planning and placemaking. We are increasingly finding that our work with neighbourhood and community groups involves work on improving and taming streets.
There is hope that our towns can and will become easier places in which to move and breathe. Maybe one day we will even turn Euston Road into Euston Boulevard.
Let us hope so.
Team: Create Streets, Francis Terry and Associates, Alexandra Steed Urban.