First published in the Clerkenwell Post
Dutch architect/planner Jan Gehl’s triumphal appearance at the Hackney Empire in January following the showing of his film The Human Scale must have given heart to the thousands of cyclists who commute through Clerkenwell: maybe it is possible to envisage a city where the streets aren’t dominated by the deadly automobile.
Biking through London’s creative capital is at record levels - but you wouldn’t know that from the infrastructure. In Theobalds Road bikes make up 64 percent of vehicles in the morning peak, in Old Street it’s 49 per cent but the non-segregated bike lanes are scrappy, discontinuous and junctions are dangerous.
“Something must be done” said Andrea Casalotti, biking activist and former owner of the Velorution bike shop who can regularly be seen putting his vintage bikes through their paces on the Clerkenwell Road. So Andrea is campaigning for a 'Cycling Boulevard' from Old Street roundabout to Bury Place in Bloomsbury. The 2.7 km through-traffic-free boulevard would be mainly for bikes, buses and pedestrians.
It will be safer for people walking and cycling, faster for cyclists and bus passengers, air and noise pollution will be reduced and we will enjoy a much more pleasant environment. It will also be good for businesses - research in New York has shown that such changes are a boost for shops and restaurants
I was in Seville not long ago looking at their excellent cycling infrastructure. There, the central shopping street has been turned into a similar style boulevard - except they have trams instead of buses. And it works: the Avenida de la Constitucion is pleasant to walk in, bikes and pedestrians happily coexist and cafes line the street. One day perhaps Clerkenwellians will be able to enjoy a coffee in Look Mum No Hands and experience the same quality of life and place as the Sevillianas.