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Old Street and Clerkenwell Road could be shut to through traffic as Islington plans improvements to notoriously unsafe corridor

PUBLISHED: 17:49 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:41 18 March 2019

Old Street is notorious for crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians. Picture: Google Maps

Old Street is notorious for crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians. Picture: Google Maps

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Old Street and Clerkenwell Road will be shut to through traffic if ambitious new plans to make the area safer for cyclists and pedestrians go ahead.

Victoria Lebrec, who lost a leg when she was hit by a truck in 2014. Picture: Victoria LebrecVictoria Lebrec, who lost a leg when she was hit by a truck in 2014. Picture: Victoria Lebrec

Islington Council’s surprise announcement today comes ahead of a protest planned for tomorrow night along the infamous corridor, along which three cyclists have lost legs in crashes since 2015.

It is not yet known where Islington plans to redirect the traffic, or what work will be done to connect the new cycle route up to neighbouring boroughs – Hackney in the east and Camden in the west.

Cllr Claudia Webbe said: “In the 60 months up to February 2018, there were 193 collisions along the corridor, resulting in 210 casualties, of which 24 were classed as serious and 186 as slight.

“Consequently, it is necessary to significantly reduce the number of vehicles driving along the corridor so that journeys along the Old Street and Clerkenwell corridor prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.”

Sarah Doone lost a leg in a crash on July 25. Picture: Friends of Sarah Go Fund Me pageSarah Doone lost a leg in a crash on July 25. Picture: Friends of Sarah Go Fund Me page

Buses will still be able to use the route, but car drivers would not be able to drive through it.

It comes five years after Islington was awarded £900,000 of TfL money to deliver a cycle safety scheme between the Farringdon Road junction and the Old Street roundabout.

That delay is the reason activists will tomorrow form a “people-protected” bike lane along the two roads.

Old Street and Clerkenwell Road are part of one of the busiest cycling corridors in London, with an estimated 1,000 riders an hour at peak time.

Julie Dinsdale, who lost a leg in a 2016 crash at the junction of Old Street and Central Street. Picture: Keith BontragerJulie Dinsdale, who lost a leg in a 2016 crash at the junction of Old Street and Central Street. Picture: Keith Bontrager

The demo is the work of commuter safety organisation Active Travel Now and Cycle Islington. A similar “human bike lane” protest took place in Penton Street in December 2017, leading to a council commitment to make the cycle lane there safer.

Last year photographer Sarah Doone was cycling at the Old Street roundabout when she was hit from behind by a cement truck and dragged eight metres.

She suffered serious injuries to both legs, which resulted in her left leg being amputated following eight hours in surgery.

Ms Doone said separating vehicles from cyclists is important, but also feels there is a lot more that is needed to tackle the problem.

She said: “There has to be better communication between borough councils, the mayor’s office and all road users.

“I strongly feel a lot of changes done to the roads to benefit cyclists disrupt the roads for such a long time, which only serves to anger other road users, who in turn blame cyclists, which adds to the general air of distrust and anger amongst everyone who uses the road.”

Victoria Lebrec was run over by a truck at the junction of Clerkenwell Road and St John Street in 2014. Like Sarah, she lost a leg. She said she expected changes would have been made to protect cyclists in the five years since.

She said: “The suffering I went through was awful, and it pains me that nothing was done to make the road safer after my crash.

“Delays translate to deaths and horrific injuries.”

Two years after Victoria’s crash, NHS midwife Julie Dinsdale was hit by a Tesco truck in Old Street and Central Street in 2016. She too lost a leg. Before her accident, she had regularly competed in marathons.

Sean Howes, a spokesperson for Active Travel Now, said: “Too many have been harmed on Islington’s roads and unless [transport chief] Claudia Webbe and Islington Council act, more will be.”

A timetable released with today’s announcement shows Islington is currently at the stage of “highway designs and testing”, with a consultation set to begin in September and construction potentially complete by December 2021 – more than seven years after the funding was awarded.

Active Travel Now said in response to the council’s commitment: “While we welcome this move we are concerned the timeline shows work starting in 2018 when first plans were proposed in 2014.

“We are also cautious as after our last demo in 2017 the council made commitments to move forward but quickly returned to inaction. We hope this time will be different and that Cllr Webbe is finally committed to delivering health streets.”

Cycle Islington struck a more conciliatory tone, saying: “We are delighted that Islington Council have committed to a timetable of action to reduce traffic danger on this street.

“Since 2014, when around £1million of TfL money was committed to this project, we have been waiting to see plans brought to consultation, but they have been stuck in the design phase for years, whilst further appalling collisions have taken place.

“Cllr Webbe has now revealed a bold vision, with high aspirations for a low-trafficked street.

“We hope that local councillors, residents and businesses will support her in achieving her aim of eliminating deaths and serious injures on this road. There must be no further delays to the timetable for action.”

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