City Corporation making transport safer and healthier

Catherine McGuinness

The City of London is the most accessible part of the Capital, served by 15 Tube stations, seven Tube lines, eight mainline stations, multiple bus routes and a fast-evolving bicycle network.

Understandably, with a working population of 513,000 and home to over 8,000 residents, delivering modern transport infrastructure changes to historic Square Mile streets is uniquely challenging.

So it was disappointing to learn during public consultation that our residents, workers and visitors do not feel entirely safe when crossing the road.

That is one reason why the City Corporation’s most senior decision-making body, the Court of Common Council, last week voted to approve bold proposals that form a 25-year draft Transport Strategy, setting the framework for future investment in our streets. This means a variety of things. The most drastic change will be that the Square Mile will become the first area in the UK with a 15mph speed limit, subject to government approval.

But in the same vein, projects such as ‘Lunchtime Streets’ will be rolled out across the City. This March we partnered with City businesses as part of the Active Travel Network to trial ‘Lunchtime Streets’.

Taking advantage of planned road works, we transformed St Mary Axe over a lunchtime period with food stalls, bike safety stalls, and pop-up seating for people to enjoy their lunch in a safer and more pleasant environment.

As a cyclist and pedestrian myself, I know how important it is to act with consideration for other road users. We also know, however, that more interventions that favour pedestrians and cyclists are needed.

The number of vehicles using the Square Mile’s streets has halved in the last 20 years, while cycling has increased by almost 300%.

So both simple and radical changes are needed across London, and as people’s travel habits change, how we serve residents, workers and visitors must change too. Such changes will only help to improve air quality, which we know to be a silent killer.

In the last few years we’ve seen air quality improved at Bank Junction, following the implementation of a scheme which transformed the area into a place that people now enjoy spending time.

The regeneration of Aldgate Square played a major role in improving air quality at nearby Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School, where last year we revealed air pollution at the school fell below the legal annual limit for the first time since 2003.

And it doesn’t stop there. The Transport Strategy includes proposals for a Zero Emissions Zone, and making the most efficient use of street space by significantly reducing motor traffic, prioritising the needs of people walking, and delivering a world-class public realm.

While I recognise that these are uncertain times, we must continue to invest in improving our physical environment to ensure people can enjoy walking, cycling and travelling in a safer, less congested and healthier London.