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Pub landlord promises to superglue his face to Archway Road in TfL gyratory protest

PUBLISHED: 11:25 22 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:29 22 February 2017

Chris Sparks, landlord of the Charlotte Despard pub in Archway Road, at the bus U-turn junction where a motorcyclist crashed on Wednesday. Picture: Polly Hancock

Chris Sparks, landlord of the Charlotte Despard pub in Archway Road, at the bus U-turn junction where a motorcyclist crashed on Wednesday. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

In December, TfL snubbed popular opinion to change Archway’s bus system. Last week, this led to a sickening smash between a motorcyclist and bus. The Gazette spoke to an enraged pub landlord who was first on the scene.

As landlord of the Charlotte Despard pub in Archway Road, Chris Sparks has more to say on Transport for London’s (TfL) new bus system than anyone else.

He is also prepared to act further than anyone else.

“I’ve told police I’m going to superglue my face to the road,” he tells the Gazette, “and bring London to a standstill for three days. I’m so angry, I can last it.”

In December, TfL pressed ahead with its changes to the bus system in order to make the roads two-way and pedestrianise Archway town centre. It now means 50 buses an hour U-turn outside Mr Sparks’ pub – after termination points moved from nearby Vorley Road.

The decision was made despite angry public opposition, which included 100 protesters staging a roadblock one year ago (no faces were glued to the road). Out of 818 people in a consultation, 75 per cent were against it on grounds of road safety and pollution.

And road safety was back on the agenda last Wednesday afternoon. A 390 bus performed one of the regular U-turns in a system controlled by traffic lights. But a motorcyclist in a separate lane was unaware of the bus’s manouvre across the carriageway as he travelled through an amber light.

What resulted was a sickening collision – caught on the pub’s CCTV system. Mr Sparks heard the crash, and was one of the first on the scene. He held the man’s hand and called his wife.

Chris Sparks, landlord of the Charlotte Despard pub in Archway Road. Picture: Polly HancockChris Sparks, landlord of the Charlotte Despard pub in Archway Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

The motorcyclist, in his 40s, was taken to hospital. Fortunately, his injuries were not life threatening or life changing.

But Mr Sparks believes it is only a matter of time before someone is killed – something he is enraged about.

At one point during the Gazette’s conversation on Tuesday, he ran on to the road and chased a bus performing a U-turn, slamming his fist on the doors.

“It nearly f****** killed him last week,” he said. “I run a pub. I don’t want to be a first aider. Do you know how f***** I felt when this guy’s leg was snapped?

“I told TfL before they even laid down concrete that this would happen. Cyclists will be killed on this road, too. These bosses who run our town are hurting people, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

“It’s not just the U-turns. It’s the pollution. And it’s the hundreds of kids coming down the hill from St Aloysius College. They are walking backwards, play fighting, when 50 buses an hour are coming past.”

Ultimately, Mr Sparks, of East Finchley, is furious at being ignored: “I’m here at this pub a lot. My business partner and I put everything into it. So why are we paying thousands of pounds, through taxes and business rates, for this?

Work to overhaul the Archway gyratory and pedestrianise the town centre led to TfL's scheme for buses to terminate and U-turn in Archway Road. Picture: Polly HancockWork to overhaul the Archway gyratory and pedestrianise the town centre led to TfL's scheme for buses to terminate and U-turn in Archway Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

“Every day, I feel like I’m being hit in the face with a cricket bat. I turned 50 last week. I shouldn’t have to be caring about this s***.”

In response, Tony Akers, TfL’s head of bus operations, said: “Major improvement work is underway at Archway to transform the town centre into a safer and more accessible area for pedestrians and cyclists. When complete, Archway will benefit from a welcoming new public space at the centre of the community.

“We have rerouted buses and relocated many of the bus stands that serve the area as the necessary road layout changes are made. The new U-turn facility on Archway Road has been thoroughly assessed by TfL, the bus operator and the police to make sure there is sufficient space for buses to turn, while also ensuring the safety of pedestrians and road users.”

‘INSANE’

The Charlotte Despard’s battle with TfL is continuing in another row over plans for an “insane” loading bay.

It used to be in Archway Road – but was removed without warning when the bus U-turn system was implemented.

Now TfL is consulting on a replacement loading bay right next to the pub in Despard Road, currently a cul-de-sac. It would make Archway Road accessible from Despard Road, and involve trucks exiting onto the carriageway over a pavement and cycle lane.

“Unsurprisingly, all of our delivery people are horrified by the idea,” the pub said. “They say they will not use it, therefore it is pointless.

“We do need a loading bay, but not at the expense of the community and safety. This is not the answer.”

TfL’s consultation, which runs until March 10, says: “Our aim is to provide more convenient loading arrangements for the businesses.”

Islington Council will have the final decision. To have your say, visit consultations@tfl.gov.uk

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