Editor’s comment: Good job the Dalston ‘ringway’ never got built, but Hackney still faces tough transport questions

Detailed plans were drawn up for the motorway box junction, which would have stretched from Ridley R

Detailed plans were drawn up for the motorway box junction, which would have stretched from Ridley Road Market to Cecilia Road. Picture: London Metropolitan Archives - Credit: London Metropolitan Archives

It’s hard to believe Hackney came so close to having a motorway ploughed through its heart.

If you thought crossing Dalston Lane by Sainsbury’s was fiddly, imagine trying to contend with a six-lane underpass erupting out of the ground. Fed up with how dark it is at this time of year? Picture the permanent shadow of an eight-lane interchange in the sky above Ridley Road. Announcements at London Fields station too loud for you? Imagine the constant roar the ringway would have generated. Think of the smell.

Fast-forward to 2017 and no one is talking about building new roads; in fact, the council is considering closing some of the ones it already has.

Sure, the increase in traffic around the CS1 route (where I live) has been sparked by road closures – but only because the original scheme was too limited. Displace cars from one road and they’ll go into the next one; what is needed is a neighbourhood-wide or, better, a London-wide plan to cut vehicle numbers and divert the few drivers who really do need to use cars into the main roads.

80 years ago, the ringway was one answer to there being too much demand on the transport network. Today, the decisive answer to that problem is not more capacity for cars but more capacity for public transport, cycling and walking.

Because the issue is not that the roads are busy, but that people are getting less active and more overweight.

It is that the NHS is drowning in debt while Hackney’s kids are growing up with lower lung capacities than their parents.

It is that thousands of people are dying prematurely each year because the air around us is so toxic.

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Isn’t solving all that worth a bit of flexibility from all of us?

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