[January 2008] saw local residents and King’s Cross St Pancras station users walking the streets of King’s Cross giving their feedback to a report for Transport for London (TfL) on how it feels to be a pedestrian here. Conducted by Living Streets, these street audits were thoroughly cathartic, giving us the opportunity to get our concerns heard by the people that could really make a difference..
Please make contact with our Greater London Assembly Members (GLAMs) and ask them to press TfL into putting King’s Cross walking routes at the top of their priority list by:
1. Publishing the Living Streets report as soon as possible; 2. Consulting on a detailed Walking Plan for King’s Cross immediately after the Living Streets report is published; and 3. Implementing the results of the report and consultation without delay.
As we now know, none of the above actions occurred. There were subsequent studies including one by Buchanan. The 2008 report was eventually released under Freedom of Information.
The main issues raised at the King's Cross Gyratory Review consultation meeting, as I understood it, were 1. Participate and engage properly (with at least two weeks' advance notice, with clear scope and with commitment to follow-up meetings) so that stakeholder participation is transparent, genuine and valued. (Noted by Claire Alleguen - Consultation Delivery, Surface Transport, Transport for London)
2. Ensure current professional urban realm design principles are applied in King's Cross; (priority to vulnerable street users, deterrent to polluting, heavy or fast vehicles - traffic evaporation principle), see Manual for Streets 2, TfL Valuing Urban Realm Toolkit, Living Streets pedestrian environment audits, etc. (Noted by facilitator Andy Firman AECOM, Camden Transport Planning officer Antony Holloway and Islington Transport Planning officer) 3. Heed, review and update previous research including King's Cross Place Plan (LB Camden and LB Islington), TRL Living Streets Audit 2008, Buchanan 2009 (cycles and pedestrians omitted), Neighbourhood Plan (in progress). Gather thorough objective evidence on pedestrian and cycle environments and safety existing and planned when setting clear, measurable, achieveable objectives for the redesign of the area - twelve mixed use streets and 16 junctions and other places around motor routes A201, A501, A5202, A5203, A5200. 4. Assess pedestrian routes and journey time reliability for the entire surface transport interchange (for example between Bus Stop H and Bus Stop M) 5. Camden Transport Planning Officer Antony Holloway is leaving soon and will hand over to a colleague. He was unable to provide minutes of the July KX Gyratory objective-setting meeting with TfL and Islington, but believed no objectives were set, and that TfL would make public any information on objectives of the review developed in future... The end of the review, it was suggested, would run beyond July 2013. The facilitator (Andy Firman, AECOM) undertook to transcribe and distribute the findings of the session.
Meeting Transport for London today about the King's Cross gyratory review, we will ask to discuss 1. Validity of terms of community consultation and participation in the mayor of London's 'Gyratory Review' (Aarhus Convention), in relation to local plans (Kings Cross Place Plan etc) [ie how and why do we participate]
2. Tall Buildings and streetscape issues on the streets on the five routes and two bo
roughs which form part of the gyratory in question [streetscape]
3. Evidence basis for review and (re)design / regeneration of pedestrian facilities and public realm on sixteen junctions and twelve roads and streets forming parts of the gyratory system (PERS evidence, TfL Valuing the Urban Realm Toolkit, Manual for Streets 2, etc.) [public realm]
4. Evidence basis of vehicle speeds, modes and volumes in order to balance with pedestrian accessibility on the links and places which are part of the gyratory system [balancing link and place]
Neighbourhood Forum (Camden Town Hall 14 November)
Tobias, Hermann and I, and other King's Cross Local Group members helped run two launch events with the Neighbourhood Forum for King's Cross. There was a great deal of interest in what a neighbourhood forum may be able to do under the new Localism Act 2011 to improve King's Cross.
The talks with barbecue, bonfire and fireworks at Alara Camley Street on Saturday (10 Nov) were followed by an open evening, discussion and workshop at the town hall on Wednesday 14 November with a visitor from Spacehive and a community participation expert.
Meanwhile the local group will participate in a consultation session with Transport for London on 20 November in Kings Cross.
Fix my Transport Is a living street actually part of the transport system, the environment, or the public realm? That seemed to be part of the misunderstanding, when Deputy Mayor for Transport, Isabel Dedring was questioned about the King's Cross area on 17 October at Camden, and mentioning the project to review the gyratory, (the one-way traffic system of red routes in King's Cross) she spoke only of "roads". There was no mention of the public realm function performed by important routes (despite the existence of 'TfL London Streets' and Better Streets 2009) in the town centre of King's Cross:
A501 Pentonville Road, Gray's Inn Road, Acton Street, Swinton Street
A5203 Caledonian Road, Wharfdale Road
A5200 York Way
A201 Penton Rise, Kings Cross Road
A5202 Pancras Road, Midland Road, Goods Way
http://j.mp/MfS60seconds)There was also confusion about whether and how pedestrians are counted in street design. Safety at junctions took precedence in the discussion over wider notions of public space like environment, business vitality, and legible and walkable streets. Transport people (even keen cyclist Isabel) often think of transport systems as being mainly for wheeled transport. What will become of the public realm functions of these routes in King's Cross? Will the street environment (air, noise, trees etc.) - and its shops, offices, entertainment business es, and places to walk through and talk - be considered? (see Manual for Streets 2 http://j.mp/MfS60seconds) http://j.mp/fixmytransportkx Space Hive Will TfL and its consultants talk to the users (11 months, no word yet) and will they think beyond wheeled traffic flow? https://spacehive.com/kingscross
Living Streets King's Cross is a small local group which is campaigning
in a strategically important inner area of London (with two local
authorities) and works closely with the Living Streets London network for support. We recently
had a walking meeting in Argyle Square, Argyle Street and Britannia
Street with Tom Platt (Living Streets London Coordinator) and saw some work being done by residents to make Britannia Street more liveable.
Our local group has attended campaigners meetings in Wentworth Street
over the last few years. During that time we have seen part of our area
adopting a 20mph speed limit and - despite the government cuts - improving liveability of some of our local streets for walking and cycling.
Greg (chair) Photos by courtesy of Leah, local resident
The Mayor of London, responding to the GLA's challenge prior to this year's election, has through Transport for London committed to investigating the potential redevelopment of
the road layout around Kings Cross. This is promoted as being to improve safety especially for
pedestrians and cyclists, increase pedestrian permeability, enhance the
urban realm, and reduce the traffic dominated ambience of the area. This
includes the possible conversion of the one-way system to enable part,
or full, two-way traffic operation. The roads which form part of this study can be divided into three distinct one-way systems: - A501 Pentonville Road, Gray’s Inn Road, Acton Street, A201 Penton Rise, King’s Cross Road. - A5203 Wharfdale Road, Caledonian Road, York Way. - A5202 Pancras Road, Midland Road.
(King's Cross Environment)
It will be critically important to involve local people who live and work in the area - for example through a neighbourhood plan being developed under the Localism Act 2011 - to ensure that this development is one which regenerates the urban public realm. There are tunnels already aplenty here from the last three centuries - the Fleet River, Metropolitan Line, the Piccadilly Northern and Victoria Lines, and the recent Northern Ticket Hall under the Western Concourse. Urban regeneration in this transport hub area, Kings Cross town centre, would be the ultimate wider benefit of this ostensible 'technical problem' of traffic management. Another road tunnel like that at Euston Circus to the west (or Munich City Ring) would be environmentally "regrettable". A cleaner, walkable and more pleasant urban hub area and streetscape will be economically and socially stronger (enhancing, not harming, the station tenants' businesses). Balancing use of the public realm between motorised users and non-motorised users might be done by slowing all movement to walking pace, restoring the urban and civic value and appeal of the area.
(Emerging from continental Europe to King's Cross in 2020, one will simply walk across to 'Play 2 Win' for a game of billiards at 1 Euston Road through gaps in the trees, between cafe tables in the sun and crawling traffic on the square!)
The 'High Street Camp' at Willesden Library last week suggested that public realm design in the town centre could be regenerated and revived. This might be done with (old and) new ways of facilitating social interaction and (safer, slower) use of the high street.
The day brought together street design and regeneration interests from all corners, and Mary Portas popped in to chat. (It was suggested to her that the built environment was under-emphasised in her Review) Government 'Communites' funding has been announced for ('riot-stricken') Croydon as the only 'Portas Pilot' project in London.
A presentation by Living Streets' Jack Skillen suggested that economic vitality in streets was a key factor in making them work well, but also the activity and transparency of 'good' shops make a conducive built environment. In the case of the centre of King's Cross, for example, we might say that the Post Office (17 Euston Rd) and Megaro (23 Euston Road) - with their active frontages - contribute more to the street and public realm than 'Play 2 Win' at 1 Euston Road, or William Hill opposite.
Here is my response to the feedback request from High Street Camp:
1 Overall, what was your impression of the event?
It was a lively, well-organised day, allowing a useful exchange of case studies and a diverse range of interests and networking contacts. 2 What, for you, was the highlight of the day?
The highlight for me was visiting Queens Parade to see a regenerated street frontage accommodating pop-up small enterprises including a print shop, vintage shop and juice bar. 3 What could we do better if we were doing another High Street Camp?
I found the balance of my time about right and the flexibility of participation appropriate. I can't think of any improvement, apart from holding one in future in my neighbourhood of King's Cross.. (13miles by cycle eastward on the Regent's Canal) 4 Could you pick one idea from the event that you hope or plan to follow up?
Its ambitious, but would like to get develop the idea of high streets' roles in urban regeneration of King's Cross Town Centre in our Neighbourhood with local Boroughs (Camden and Islington) and Transport for London Streets!
King's Cross Neighbourhood Forum will form by the end of this month- this was agreed last night by about twenty people who live and/or work in the King's Cross area, who met at Camden Town Hall with KXDF. Each member of this new steering group was willing to outline their interest in collaborating in planning for this distinctive and complex mixed-use area in central London. The Neighbourhood Forum would develop a Neighbourhood Plan for the future development of the newly defined King's Cross Neighbourhood Area, which incorporates an area of about a mile radius around the stations with about 20 000 residents (see below).
The Neighbourhood Form, once approved under the Localism Act 2011, would have powers to guide the local Boroughs of Camden and Islington and develop the area according to its own five-year Neighbourhood Plan. The emphasis would be on planning by residents, local workers and people who run small and medium enterprises and who use the area on a day to day basis. The Forum would make use of local resources and local professional services (eg. like this).
The main appeal to me is that the Neighbourhood Forum would be funded and supported by central government to work hyper-locally with the boroughs. The relationship of the Forum with relevant local Ward Councillors and with other authorities like Transport for London would need to be carefully managed. The new Forum's Neighbourhood Plan would be able to incorporate or guide some of the work being developed by the boroughs like the Caledonian Road Scheme (Cr Convery) and the King's Cross Place-Shaping Scheme (Cr Hayward) and the Kings Cross Site Allocations 1-8 just released. Local planning may even affect Transport for London ... (see note 456)
A meeting today decided to form a King's Cross Neighbourhood Forum, which would be authorised to develop a 'Neighbourhood Plan' under the Localism Act 2011. This Neighbourhood Forum, once approved, would develop a vision for the future of the King's Cross area covering the same area as the 'Placeshaping Area' of King's Cross - across the Boroughs of Camden and Islington and TfL roads, focusing on the transport hub at King's Cross-St. Pancras.
The chair of the King's Cross Development Forum undertook that his coordinating group would submit a bid under the new Act to form a resourced Neighbourhood Forum for King's Cross, with a constitution and with at least 21 local members who live or work in the area. If you live and work locally, please feel free to join the forum and make yourself known to me or Hugh at KXDF.
At the meeting, I also saw plans drawn by (film educationist) Jeremy Ross, former Stanle Building resident, which demonstrate how to remove the King's Cross One-Way Traffic System (the 'Gyratory'), which will be of interest to Bikes Alive and other local groups and activists. Jeremy kindly offered to make copies of the plans for us in future.
From the meeting: Audioboo soundclips from Meeting Room 2 at Camden Town Hall tonight:
For the Gyratory-lovers, a sound clip from Monday evening...
King's Cross Development Forum is a long established local group which is considering becoming officially constituted as a Neighbourhood Forum under the new Localism Act 2011. Planning structures are changing and resources are scarcer, and local government capacity is increasingly challenged under the new funding regime. A process of working with KXDF may be one effective way to work locally for safer and more pleasant streets where we live and work in the King's Cross area.
Advantages may be
- a better more cogent and more traceable line of communication on local issues.
- the appearance, at least, that local groups are better heard or more comprehensively and responsibly consulted by local government.
Disadvantages may be
- a tendency for local government skills and capacity previously used in responding to change being transferred to the voluntary sector - ie unpaid/retired/voluntary interests usurping the work (and expertise) of skilled council officers.
- a possibility that resources are not available to carry out well-intentioned community improvements.
Meanwhile, David Engwicht posits some DIY tools and strategies to bring the environment back to being a social space:
Wave to motorists. (Shaking your fist just tells them to go faster.)
Put something intriguing in the street.
Encourage local businesses to connect with the street by placing an activity or linger node outside their premises.
Kings Cross Town Centre, largely known for the King's Cross Traffic Gyratory System, is composed of a mix of transport, commercial, residential and other uses with public spaces and highways. The town centre straddles two boroughs and contains public highways (streets for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport) which are part of strategic Transport for London motor transport routes (TfL Red Routes and TLRN roads) also used by greatly increased numbers of pedestrians. King's Cross town centre is made up of streets with an important public realm function, where local and travelling people (from across London, UK Europe and the world) all use streets to walk, live, shop, access amenities and entertainments, and to access and interchange between transport modes.
The Mayor says 'his' TfL gyratory system cannot feasibly be improved without major investment, and yet some of the largest redevelopment projects in London - like King's Cross and St Pancras International stations, King's Cross St. Pancras Underground Northern Ticket Hall, Regent's Quarter, and even the recent Gaylord's proposed Hotel at 1-11 Euston Road - all directly face these streets. The developers of King's Cross Railway Lands have built a huge private boulevarde. To date, investment in the public realm has been in the form of consultant reports, (including an ignored 2008 pedestrian safety audit), and some minor changes to three road junctions, still in construction. The public bridge across the station has become private. Tenants in the town centre on the gyratory seem disenfranchised or disinterested - how could the centre be regenerated to better suit the needs of the people who use this area?
Living Streets KX is a local group, working closely with Living Streets Islington, and with other local groups like KXDF and FoAS to try to make Kings Cross streets safer and more pleasant places to live, work and play.
The Go-Slow action was organised by Bikes Alive. (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you’re on Twitter, you can keep up to date by following Living Streets KX at @livingstreetskx and @BikesAlive or look for Kings Cross / Go Slow / #friendsoftheformergyratory...
After the first Bikes Alive event (which involved around 200 people, including pedestrians), the organised wrote on their wordpress site:
"We need to make it clear that the current lethal priorities of Transport for London will not be tolerated, and if the only way an existing road system can be made safe is to take it over and exclude motor vehicles – at least for an hour! – so be it" The police presence was as friendly and accommodating as it was on the previous occasion.
The organisers at Bikes Alive wrote: "we’re expecting pedestrians (including many Kings Cross locals, who also suffer from the current road system in the area) to be part of the action. So please don’t be too cycle-centric, and be prepared to move – or not move – at a pace which suits them too! Since we’re trying to change the balance on our roads to a more human and more humane one, do come with a smile on your face, and in good voice."
examines the planning and development history of the area around King's Cross station on the northern edge of central London(pdf) now in Punter ed. 2010 Urban Design and the British Urban Renaissance (London: Routledge) Chapter 11