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Haverstock Hill: New cycle lanes will force us to close, warn businesses

Will cyclists want to use steep uphill segregated lane?

13 October, 2020 — By Richard Osley

BUSINESSES in Belsize Park and Hampstead have told the Town Hall they will be put at risk of a closure if a new cycle lane is built over the car parking spaces used by their customers.

Camden has drawn up plans for the new safe space for bikes on both sides of Haverstock Hill as part of its redrawing of the borough’s roadmap amid the Covid crisis.

But last night (Monday), councillors faced a joint deputation from a restaurant, a hair salon, a dry cleaners and a dental clinic, who together said some of their customers relied on coming by car.

Leading the appeal at an all-member meeting, David Levin, who owns Tish, said: “My restaurant is my life. Please don’t destroy us. Please don’t do this thing to us.”

The new segregated cycle lane running on both sides of the road would start at Prince of Wales Road and run up to Pond Street, and will involve the removal of several parking bays will be removed.

“Local businesses are unanimous in our strong opposition,” said Mr Levin. “Several shops are empty due to Covid and by removing the car parking, this scheme will close many more and destroy Belsize Park and Steeles Village and the jobs and services they provide.

“Talking of parking in the back streets is simply not viable. Perkins Dry Cleaners’ customers, for example, use the parking to collect dry cleaning, which is often bulky and hard to carry. Freshly-cleaned, ironed clothes are not easy to take by bike. If customers can’t park they won’t come.”

Describing the plans as “existential for us”, he added: “The guests of my restaurants, Tish, overwhelmingly come by car. We aim to be the best kosher restaurant in London and so a fair proportion of diners aren’t actually local. Reflecting the Jewish community, we have a lot of older guests and young families. They find it harder to walk cycle or use public transport and they rely on using the parking bays and the single yellow lines after 6.30pm.”

“We never had anybody come to us by bicycle for dinner. In part, this is because of the steepness of the hill, which makes it difficult to cycle up. In fact, Haverstock Hill’s steepness is referred to by HG Wells in the War of the Worlds. If it was obvious to him, it should be obvious to the council.”


SEE ALSO CAMDEN CYCLING CAMPAIGN: LONDON NEEDS NEW WAYS FOR PEOPLE TO TRAVEL SAFETY


Lisa Hauck, who runs a hair salon, said she was a regular cyclist herself, but said some customers needed to be able reach the salon in a car.

“We have clients who just can’t walk class or just can’t cycle. I have a high percentage of clients within the salon who have to come by car. I have lost clients because they said they basically said to me they can’t park,” she told the meeting.

There were also questions raised by Conservative councillor Steve Adams over whether cyclists would really flock to use the uphill cycle lane.

Ms Hauck said:  “Even though I only have to cycle up a little bit, it’s incredibly hard and because of this people think twice:  do I want to go there? Or should I go somewhere more convenient where I can park my car.”

Businesses are looking for a pledge that the changes will not be installed before further discussions with them, a “guarantee” that Liberal Democrat councillor Luisa Porritt also called for at the meeting.

“I think there is a legitimate question as to whether the size and scale of this scheme is appropriate, because it’s not just a standard residential road. Haverstock Hill is a high street and these changes will massively affect businesses that have already been hit hard by the pandemic,” she said, adding that ward councillors in Belsize had not originally been told of the proposals.

Camden’s environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison said: “The plans will be reviewed as we go along, particularly with the businesses. We are looking to work with them to draw up a phased action plan so we can design a scheme with those needs in mind.”

He added: “It’s an important principle that everybody should should be able to drive everywhere if they need to need to, and this will be the case: Everybody will be able to drive to the Haverstock Hill shops and businesses. In the current plans, there is actually anticipated extra disabled space planned for the area, which may give reassurance to some people.”

And Cllr Harrison said the project was “also an important pedestrian scheme as well”, adding:”there are four new Zebra crossings being added, and there is one push button crossings being added as well.”

On the issue of the steep gradients, he told the meeting: “It can be slow down cycling up a hill and and that’s why we need to create space for people who are slower, who have less confidence. We don’t want to be having to compete with the traffic you need to take that time. once you start to create space for people in that situation, you start to bring different people into cycling to what we have at the moment.

“One of the criticisms of the moment that people cycle in London is too white and too male. That’s true, we need many more women cycling for example.

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