No entry! Backlash at plans to shut off Judd Street to cars
Residents warn polluting traffic will be diverted into residential streets by King's Cross changes
29 July, 2018 — By Richard Osley
COUNCIL chiefs have been warned that shutting off one of the best-known roads in King’s Cross to cars and lorries will backfire, increasing pollution in side streets and sending traffic to an accident blackspot.
Camden is preparing to block off Judd Street – the road the Town Hall is on – to all traffic apart from cyclists, opening up a new front in the see-saw conflict between frustrated drivers behind the wheel of a car and those travelling through the borough on two wheels.
Black cab drivers have already raised concerns about the changes, while in reply the London Living Streets campaigners say Camden is right to prioritise access to pedestrians and cyclists over polluting vehicles.
But residents in King’s Cross and Bloomsbury insist they will be the big losers in the row, predicting that heavy traffic serving King’s Cross will be diverted into their streets, and then towards Dukes Road – the scene of a litany of “near-misses” and the death of Mark Welsh, a 55-year-old who was hit by a lorry turning left last year.
More than 60 residents were at a public meeting at the Lumen Church in Tavistock Place, called by the Bloomsbury Residents Action Group (BRAG), on Tuesday evening, Most raised concerns about a spiralling route that car drivers – and ambulance services – may be left with to get through the area. They also complained about what they say is a lack of meaningful consultation by the council, but said they feared being unfairly branded as anti-cyclist.
The row has echoes of the CS11 row in Swiss Cottage, where residents say attempts to improve safety for cyclists will only turn their roads into rat-runs. That dispute saw a placard confrontation between supporters and opponents of the new cycle superhighway outside Hampstead Theatre as rival demonstrations met head on.
Council leader Georgia Gould approved the Judd Street changes last month, but objectors have now resolved to try and persuade her to think again and undertake a new consultation survey on the proposals.
John Hartley, from London Living Streets, said the changes would “open up the area” to people who cycled, improving air quality, and John Chamberlain, of the Camden Cycling Campaign, said the scheme would be the “final missing link on the route from Kentish Town to Elephant and Castle”, adding: “It will reduce traffic levels and therefore improve air quality in the area south of the Euston Road.”
But Debbie Radcliffe, chairwoman of BRAG, said: “There is a persistent argument that the removal of motor traffic improves air quality. But the pollution doesn’t go away, it just moves somewhere else. And the more you slow traffic down, the more pollution levels increase.”
She added: “We applaud the council’s transport policy to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists in the hierarchy of movement. But these same pedestrians and cyclists will be exposed to the increased pollution that is displaced elsewhere.”
Ray Allesson, an RMT trade union officer representing the black cab trade, said access to Judd Street was “vitally important” because taxi drivers often ferry people between Bloomsbury’s hospitals, and the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
A council spokesman said: “The new space at the top of Judd Street will make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists to cross Euston Road. There will also be a new pedestrian crossing outside the British Library.”
He added: “Anybody who has tried to cross Euston Road at Midland Road/Judd Street junction will know how difficult this road is to get across – this is a key reason for deciding to make these changes. This will also improve cycle links between Euston Road and central Camden by introducing raised cycle lanes along Midland Road.”