6th of May 2021 is mayoral election time.
The community at Kings Cross will have to consider its options, as to which mayoral candidate is most suitable for the area. In the past a vote for Labour was a given here. But has the Labour mayor delivered better for Kings Cross than his predecessor, who once sprayed the roads with a sticky liquid to deal with air pollution?
Now, with the motor-vehicle traffic returning following the peaks of the pandemic, speeding cars and polluting vehicles are also back.
For those unaware, the Gyratory continues to be an Air Quality Focus Area. In TFL’s own definition “these are locations that not only exceed the EU annual mean limit value for NO2 but are also locations with high human exposure.”
Just before the last mayoral election in 2016 Sadiq Khan promised to keep Kings Cross on his mind, for forthcoming changes. There were in fact concrete plans for Kings Cross, which had already gone through full consultation.
Our clear expectation was that these would have been implemented. Five years have past since, and nothing much has changed, except a small area of the gyratory roads falling into the UELZ.
First, on the excuse of needing truck parking spaces for the controversial HS2 project, the improvements were kept on hanging, rather than being implemented. But even when the requirement for such truck parking spaces subsided, Kings Cross was left behind.
New cycling infrastructure, part of the cycle highway schema, omitted the gyratory area.
In the latest twist, we saw pandemic related cycle lanes in some areas created by the mayor. Some local authorities independent from that calmed traffic, with Islington even creating a new LTN zone. But Acton Street, Swinton Street,Kings Cross Road, Pentonville Road, Gray’s Inn Road,Pentonville Rise and Caledonian Road as TFL Red Routes remained largely untouched (with the exception of Southern parts of Gray’s Inn Rd, incidentally, just before the Kings Cross gyratory begins). There was no priority list on which areas need to be served first, in one email, I was told this was “due to furloughed staff at TFL”. All this in spite of pollution maps being available now and indicating that in deed Kings Cross is one of the most air-polluted areas of London.
In autumn 2020 Mayor Sadiq Khan was asked on my request in a Greater London Assembly meeting, if he could, at the very least, extend the 20 Miles speed reduction to these streets, given that you need only a few signs to do so. Sadiq Khan’s answer on record was “a yes, but”.
He argued it depended on money forthcoming from central government. In other words. TFL did not have the cash for a few street signs with the number 20 on it, or to remove the fews that currently say 30..
The Inquest on the case of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah advised on further reductions in air pollution and that, “there are no safe levels of pollution.” Many streets at Kings Cross house families with young children. Their choice to move elsewhere is limited, due to the fact that the majority of flats are social housing units.
Kings Cross was also the site of several cycling fatalities in collisions with cars and trucks.
The Kings Cross community asks simple questions:
Where is the overdue action to transform the gyratory streets of Kings Cross into safe streets? How many more years do we have to wait?
London mayoral and London assembly candidates need to be aware that there are three things that need to happen at Kings Cross, regardless of who wins the forthcoming elections:
- Deliver on the changes for Kings Cross promised in 2016 and make sure this delivers lower pollution and increased safety for local residents, pedestrians and cyclists.
- As a first step, implement a 20 miles speed limit on all gyratory roads at Kings Cross.
- Ensure that all roads of Kings Cross are part of the UELZ by October 2021 at the latest with no Red Route exemptions at the gyratory.