New London Architecture

London set to bloom with active travel wands

Tuesday 10 August 2021

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David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

Pitman Tozer Architects and landscape architect Xanthe Quayle have won the competition to create light segregation towards safer cycling with proposals inspired by tulips and sustainable urban drainage, respectively.

NLA curator in chief Peter Murray announced the result following judging by high profile cycling proponents including David Byrne of Talking Heads and Jeremy Vine at the Active Travel conference. An honourable mention went to Bamboo by McCoy and Muchemwa, praised for the way it used the material in segregating cyclists from other traffic.

Bamboo by McCoy and Muchemwa sketches
Following the event, Clyde Loakes of Waltham Forest offered to host the successful finalists’ prototypes – ‘Blooming London’ and ‘Slow the Flow’ – on the borough’s mini holland network as a trial. And Cycle Hoop said it will work to develop a prototype and assist in bringing a product to market.  

William Bradley of The GLA began the active travel summit with a presentation on London’s progress on cycling schemes and the fact that some 22,000 square metres of carriageway space have been repurposed during the pandemic. ‘It might have taken a year to plan and deliver in normal time’, he said, ‘but this actually just kind of happened overnight’.

Slow the Flow © Xanthe Quayle
Bradley also presented data on London’s controversial programme of installing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, with 80 still in place from the 100 created. ‘Really, what’s most exciting about low traffic neighbourhoods is what they do for place.’ Finally, Bradley said that it took crises to push Copenhagen and Amsterdam to adopt better cityscapes – oil and the economy, principally; perhaps London could emerge the better after Covid. ‘We have been through one almighty crisis, and this is actually something positive that can really come out of that’.  

Rachel Aldred of the University of Westminster, meanwhile, showed data on LTNs both in Waltham Forest and across the capital generally that proved that they were not adversely affecting the emergency services in terms of access. But they also contribute to good placemaking. ‘These are schemes for areas’, Aldred said of the LTNs, ‘they’re not just a flagship route.’ More research and evaluations, however, are needed into LTNs and other interventions, Aldred added.

Over in the City, the period had represented ‘an opportunity to really rethink how our streets work’, said Bruce McVean of the authority’s response to Covid 19 and subsequent recovery, revealing an artist’s impression of how Bank Junction at Threadneedle Street will look with more vehicle restrictions and additional public space. Not only do we have to make physical changes to our streets, however; we must be ‘much more active in curating those spaces as well’.

Nina Patel of Transport for London presented key achievements and schemes completed across the year – such as 100km of trial cycling routes and 322 School Streets delivered across 23 boroughs. And, during discussion, Peter Heath of Atkins repeated the call for more data to help explain and communicate design changes.  Rachel O’Donnell of AECOM agreed, saying we ‘are quite a way off fully articulating the environmental benefits of active travel’ and LTNs even if progress had been made in not returning to the car following lockdown, something that needed to be capitalised on. But Heath had a useful reminder for everyone when thinking about active travel issues. 

‘Everyone who uses any kind of vehicle is also a pedestrian at some stage’, he said. 

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David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly


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