THROUGH TRAFFIC v LOCAL LIVES. Because Camden is an inner London borough, many of our local high streets, where we shop, catch the bus or tube to work, or walk our kids to school – are also through routes for the full range of traffic that travels in and out of central London each day.
Kentish Town Road on a rainy Saturday
This is a toxic mix, and citizen science pollution monitoring has recorded some of the highest NO2 pollution levels in Camden on local shopping high streets like Kentish Town Road, Highgate High Street, Haverstock Hill in Belsize Park and Junction Road in Tufnell Park – with the north end of Kentish Town Road a real pollution hot spot, at 93ug/m3.
Streets like these present real pollution challenges
- They carry large volumes of through traffic
- They generally carry several bus routes.
- Delivery vans to shops up and down the road slow traffic and cause congestion and pollution. And refrigerated supermarket delivery lorries often have engines running – to keep the refrigerators working, we are told – adding to air pollution still more.
- They are routes for local tradesman’s vans travelling around to local jobs, or heading to contracts in central London, and a growing feature in the mix of congestion and pollution in our streets.
- HGVs totally unsuited to inner London streets, nose their way through to local industrial sites, like the one on the railway lands at the top of Kentish Town Road.
- These are streets where local people shop and like to gather in cafes and pubs – and outside cafes and pubs when the sun shines.
- And they are often walking routes to local schools, where parents with young children walk alongside the busy road, and breath polluted air that slow moving diesel and petrol driven traffic is pumping into the air.
We need to reclaim our local high streets for local people
We need to start up new conversations that involve local people, local businesses and local schools, surgeries and health centres; together with those who take decisions about development and traffic management, like Neighbourhood Forums, local government and Transport for London. And we need to work together to clean up the air to make local high streets safe and enjoyable places to shop, meet and walk along.
- We need to put local people before through traffic..
- We need Camden, the London Assembly and Transport for London to work together on solutions for these through roads that are also local hubs for local lives
- AND for the ‘authorities’ to partner with local people on local solutions.
- We need short term and long term solutions running along together.g. creating back street walking routes, and shop and café developments off the main street. Or putting the cleanest buses on the most polluted routes while the whole fleet is being upgraded – but without abandoning our long term vision and without allowing the long term goal of zero emissions transport to be delayed by short term fixes that come to be seen as ‘good enough’.
- Simple solutions that make a difference, like Close the Door! While we are working on reducing pollution on our high streets we need local businesses to buy into campaigns like Close the Door!.Closing shop doors stops shops from heating and cooling the street, and improves air quality inside for store staff and shoppers. See http://www.closethedoor.org.uk/
- Smart thinking on re-stocking deliveries to local shops. Following the lead set by Camden and other London boroughs, of establishing a ‘consolidation centre’ in outer London where HGVs decant supplies into smaller electric vehicles for deliveries in inner London locations. Or limiting delivery times to outside the general working day.
- We need REAL action to reduce and deter through borough traffic. The expansion of the ULEZ to the North circular may help. More Park & Ride schemes to protect inner London boroughs by reducing through traffic into central London. Lower bus and tube fares. And a cultural shift in attitudes to how we move around our city.
- Clean fuel buses, bikes and walking becoming the main ways to get about. With high streets providing safe and convenient facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. And even shopping trollies enjoying a renaissance and design make over?
- And we need major investment – including Government money for a diesel scrappage scheme to make it happen in the time frames public health demands.
For Camden Council’s clean air action plan – see www.camden.gov.uk/airquality
For the Mayor of London’s proposals to clean up London’s air – see https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/pollution-and-air-quality/your-views-how-can-we-clean-our-air
For what the experts at Kings College London say about problems and solutions – see http://www.londonair.org.uk/LondonAir/Guide/MyActionsForOthers.aspx