A large chunk of N16 is set to be transformed by a radical traffic
reduction plan popular in Northern Europe. The proposed Windus Streets for People
Zone stretches from the middle of Alkham Road to the end of Lymouth Road, taking in
parts of Lampard Grove and Osbaldeston Road. Its supporters claim it will free local
streets from noise, pollution and danger by prioritising pedestrians and cyclists over
cars. However, motorist groups are concerned that the project is anti-car.
The £490,000 scheme backed by the council and the local residents association
is currently in its consultation phase. All those involved are eager to insist that
the redesign will be community driven. The consultation project manager, Tom Cohen,
believes the success of the zone depends upon the input of local people. Amy Erickson,
from the Cazenove Area Action Group, points out that it is quite different from council
led projects because it is community run. Already everyone in the proposed zone has been
visited and a planning day is organised for early October. Nevertheless it should be
remembered that experts will draw up the final plan. It is perhaps unavoidable but
the danger is that residents will perceive it as top-down process.
The zone is inspired by Dutch efforts to reclaim busy streets for local communities by
introducing speed restrictions; priority for pedestrians and beautifying the urban
environment with benches and trees. These woonefts as they are known
have proved successful and durable. The Dutch claim that amongst other things
accidents involving children have dropped by up to 70%. But it remains to be seen whether
British drivers will respond in the same way as their European counterparts.
The Automobile Association whilst not openly opposed to the scheme argues
that car drivers are often unfairly blamed for road accidents and deteriorating air
quality. They believe road safety depends on good road design and that buses and trucks
produce far more pollution than private cars.
The suggestion that Windus Streets for People Zone is anticar is roundly
dismissed. The local councillor responsible for transport, Vincent Stops, explains it is a
question of street management rather than punishing car drivers.
In deed, it is difficult to understand the AAs concerns: the redesign is about
motorists sharing street space with the rest of the community children, families
and the old. To a cynical ear the AAs objections sound a bit like the carping of a
Locally, there is little visible opposition and plenty of posters supporting the
scheme. Already four other neighbourhoods in Hackney have expressed an interest in
redesigning their streets. Of course, as Tom Cohen freely admits, problems will inevitably
emerge as the project develops. In South London a similar scheme dragged on for years,
beset by disagreements. However, there are also many successful examples around the world.
Local campaigners insist the risk is worth taking because the alternative is rising
congestion, pollution and road accidents.
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