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Archive for the ‘King's Cross’ Category

There was a very useful and serious meeting tonight at the town hall as the Scrutiny Review for Road Safety in the borough heard evidence on how to improve safety on Camden’streets. The meeting has been prompted by an extremely concerning spate of road deaths in Camden and particular concern around the Kings Cross/York Way junction that recently claimed its second life this year.

The Culture and Environment Scrutiny Committee heard evidence from Camden Cycling Campaign’s Jean Dollimore, the ‘cycling champion’ councillor Paul Braithwaite and Tom Kearney, a resident of Hampstead who had first-hand experience of a serious traffic incident. The councillors present were clearly sincere and keen to address the problems the borough faces; let’s hope the other bodies they will need to work with can step up with the same vigour.

Jean Dollimore’s extremely useful presentation laid out some simple facts. Road speeds kill. Compare the 90% death rate of collisions at 40 mph with the 2.5% rate of those that take place at 20 mph – a direct argument for reducing the speed of traffic in Camden. Jean explicitly talked about rolling out far more 20 mph speed limits to protect cyclists, pedestrians and, yes, drivers.

It’s difficult not to get angry when you hear that Transport for London (TfL) has made commitments to improve the danger spots in Camden since 2004 and yet no action has been taken. Indeed the Kings Cross junction looks set to become more dangerous rather than less unless public pressure can prevent the dangerous proposed changes.

The specific junction at York Way/Gray’s Inn Road has a high average speed and heavy traffic use and yet not only is there no cycle lane the road lay out gives room only for two vehicles side by side and then forces them to merge mid junction – of course it’s dangerous! Simple measures, like forcing the merge well before the junction and the introduction of a cycle lane would cost almost nothing but would immediately make the junction safer for cyclists.

Councillor Linda Chung made an impassioned plea that “one of the problems is the police and how they work” with a very strong statement about how the Metropolitan Police is falling well short when it comes to investigating deaths and serious incidents on Camden’s roads.

Councillor Braithwaite made a number of very useful points in his presentation including the lack of safe pedestrian crossing along Euston Road (which can take an age to cross), the lack of action on the ten most dangerous junctions in London, the cycle super highway (or blue paint on the road to you and me) and also the fact that the Kings Cross area has had a new college, a concrete blocking plant and is building new housing in the area and yet there has been little to no action on road safety despite the fact that they are coming under more and more pressure.

Braithwaite declared he had real sympathy with those who called for TfL executive members to be charged with corporate manslaughter for the “carnage” on the roads.

Finally Tom Kearney made a very moving presentation on the very real personal cost of TfL’s road safety statistics. He powerfully stated that if TfL’s roads were a factory then the death rate would have had them shut down years ago.

He made particular reference to the way the school run for the private schools in the borough created a Grand Prix situation on the roads with parents driving their 4x4s like mad things to drop off the kids making the roads too unsafe for all the kids. He suggested a school run tax to be levied on private schools to force them to deal with the issue. It’s a nice idea – I wonder if it’s possible?

Certainly these parents don’t seem inclined towards walking buses or cycling with their kids to school making the roads more dangerous for everyone – we need new ways to encourage better behaviour. In his words they pay for their 4×4, they pay the school fees, well they can pay for danger they pose on the roads too.

Well said.

Sadly one negative theme was the difficulties people were having working with the police and TfL. We need to find more leverage where staff can’t or won’t help us improve safety.

The committee meets again on December the 5th and it was very pleasing to see how seriously the councillors concerned took the issue. Let’s hope that we can collectively pressure TfL to help us make our communities safer.

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There’s lots coming up…!


Parks’ Day, Saturday March 19
: These are joint efforts between Camden parks officers and groups of volunteers in each of the parks. You’re welcome to attend to help, or just to admire the parks and see what is happening… (information from Camden council) Map of the parks.

St Georges Gardens WC1
11am – 1pm Improvements to this naturalistic park will include adding some colourful native flowers to one of the borders in the centre of the park. Four hundred new plants need to be planted so all help most welcome.

Cantelowes Gardens
1pm – 3pm
Join the friends for a fun day in the park involving some spring cleaning, graffiti removal and planting whilst meeting new people.

Maygrove Peace Park NW6
10.30am – 1pm
Wildflower planting in the children’s playground and planting in the raised planters outside Sidings Community Centre

Montpelier Gardens NW5

2 – 4pm
Enjoy some free salads courtesy of Greater London Farms, bring some seeds along to swap (an activity being run by Transition Kentish Town), check out the new community food growing areas in the park being run by Kentish Town Community Centre. Families are welcome and there will be face-painting together with drumming and singing workshops.

Russell Square WC1
11am – 1pm
Help our friends plant up 21 planters outside the café with new permanent plants for a splash of colour in the spring

St Martins Gardens
NW1
11am – 1pm
Give Camden’s wildlife a helping hand adding 600 new wildflower plugs to the meadow in the nature conservation area and find out what else the friends get up to in this hidden space in central Camden Town.

(And if you’ve got some garden space that you’re interested in sharing, please email gardenshare@transitionkentishtown.org.uk.)

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Enjoyed a lively and passionate “Question Time-style” debate at lunchtime today attended by some 160 students at Westminster Kingsway College. It left me feeling very positive about the likelihood of younger people really stepping up into politics and fighting for their generation’s future. (Hopefully we’ll see a great turnout at the NUS march tomorrow.)

One of the issues I highlighted was the ending of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) – the £30 a week that is paid to 16-18-year-olds remaining in education. It got a strong reaction – not surprising when a teacher noted that about half of students at the college currently receive it.

Another was the fact that under the former Labour government FE colleges were getting £1,000 of funding less per pupil studying A levels than were schools (and school pupils get free school meals while FE students don’t), and the Condem coalition is planning to cut this by a further 25%.

Tuition fees at university were also unsurprisingly the subject of strong reactions (particularly for the Lib Dem councillor in the debate). And there was a lot of interest in my explanation of the fact that the Green Party would abolish tuition fees. (As Caroline Lucas recently highlighted, an alternative to tuition fees would be a business education tax levied on the top 4% of UK companies.)

But the interests in the debate weren’t narrowly focused on the practical interests of students.

There was a strong feeling in the room that the current economic system is fundamentally and hopelessly broken, that markets don’t have the answers, and an entirely understandably angry focus on executive pay (and that of top level civil servants).

And I was pleased with the anger and compassion in the question (and the audience response to it) about the fate of Mit Singh Chopra, an Afghan student of the college who was deported in the middle of his studies.

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The latest round of UKCMRI exhibition has produced a new image of how the proposed lab would look, taken from the British Library looking up Ossulston Street:

UKCMRI

My first thought was that this is clearly a building that belongs on an industrial estate, not on top of a residential area. That was also my second thought…

I also took the chance to take another close study of the model – now adapted as promised to be more “see-through” at the point where the arms of the “Y” shape meet, a very small visual improvement, but no real reduction in the bulk of the building.

It is only too clear how much it will dominate the area. Seen below from the north…

UKCMRI

… and here from King’s Cross station.

UKCMRI

A local resident I was talking to later raised the interesting question about the effect on air quality of that great wall of glass facing St Pancras station, with all of the slow-moving taxis grinding their way along Midland Road.

He told me about a highly relevant upcoming meeting of the London Forum at 6pm for 6:30pm on Thursday 15th April at the Gallery, 75 Cowcross Street EC1, near to Farringdon station. The speaker will be Simon Birkett, Founder of the Campaign for Clean Air in London.

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