Caroline Russell of Living Streets writes:
Islington Council have commissioned consultants, Colin Buchanan to develop a Movement and Public Space Strategy for the Kings Cross area, aiming to recommend improvements to streets and public spaces across the area.
Islington Living Streets, along with Kings Cross community campaigners, the police, representatives of Sense (who campaign on behalf of deaf blind people), and local residents attended a walkabout and stakeholder workshop last month looking both at movement through the area and the nature and type of public spaces around Kings Cross. The organisers wanted to find out what we felt were the key issues and our aspirations.
We gathered at the Canal Museum, off Wharfdale Road, and set off in two groups. Both groups were struck by the speed and volume of traffic, in particular the number of huge lorries, as we emerged from the museum on to Wharfdale Road. Despite being a residential road it acts as a fast moving section of the Kings Cross gyratory system. One group explored North of Copenhagen Street, taking in the Bemerton Estate while the South route looked at the area south of Wharfdale Road and East of Caledonian Road.
Access to the station from Islington was a key concern. The current pedestrian access at the junction with Wharfdale Road, alongside the taxi entrance, will be closed and all Islington residents will be expected to circle the station to enter on the South West Corner. The current arrangement is popular because it offers an escape from fast traffic, deserted narrow pavements and poor lighting on York Way which is like a high sided canyon funnelling speeding traffic north alongside the station. An active campaign to create an East-West footbridge inside the station to create access for Islington residents, which Living Streets wholeheartedly supports, has started – see below the petition to No 10 for opening up access to the station for Islington residents.
The gyratory system was perceived to contribute to the unfriendliness of the area and much discussion about whether a 20mph zone would mitigate its worst effects – it might even keep traffic flowing more effectively than at present. An alternative strategy would be to abandon the gyratory, returning the streets to two-way working. This might reduce opportunities for pavement widening, but would reduce vehicle speeds and reduce the community severance caused by the wall of traffic flowing through the area. There was consensus that, while pavement widening was desirable, the improvements resulting from a return to two-way working might be preferable.
Walking through the residential streets, we were struck by the lack of formal or informal crossing points despite pedestrians needing access to schools, library, transport etc. There was much scope for improving the legibility of the streetscape adverse effect on traffic movement). The representatives from Sense were concerned about Toucan (cycle/pedestrian crossings) on Penton Rise and the unreliability of the rotating cone function at many crossings to signal when it is safe to cross.
The next step will be for the consultants to work up proposals, with a further stakeholder meeting in two months. A list of priorities for a five to fifteen year time frame will be presented to South and West Area Committees and hopefully over the years ahead we will see some positive changes.
Whatever else happens, if we are to keep an entrance to the station from Islington we need to campaign for it now. That is why the Living Streets committee is lobbying the politicians and we would like your help. You can sign the petition, you could lobby your councillor or write a letter, see the Getting Involved section of kingscrossaccess.com.