Editor’s comment: What would a good old Old Street look like?

Old Street roundabout as it was. Picture: TfL

Old Street roundabout as it was. Picture: TfL - Credit: Archant

The point of redesigning Silicon Roundabout (no longer a roundabout) and Highbury Corner (quite frankly not a corner) wasn’t to make them easier to drive around.

Nor, come to think of it, is increasing road capacity the intention behind most large-scale transport projects.

The point is to make the roads safer. Collisions aren't the only threat to life and health from the way our roads are laid out at present, though they are a real and present one (three women have lost legs while cycling at Old Street in recent years) - it is also (self-evidently) too easy to make private car journeys, which still largely means harmful emissions, and always means inactivity.

You probably won't get Transport for London saying this in as many words, but if Highbury Corner and Old Street had been teflon-coated, free-flowing havens for traffic (anyone who's ever used them will know this wasn't the case) there would have been even more reason to rip them up.

We not only have to make it cheaper, easier and safer to cycle or walk short distances (both with and without young families, both with and without luggage, and certainly both with and without disabilities) - we must make it harder and most costly to make those journeys by car except where they are necessary.

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It is imperative that we do not leave those less able to be active out of the transport vision of the future, which is an argument I see frequently meted out against the use of (a tiny fraction of) transport budgets for cycling infrastructure.

But in fact it means we need more public health projects, not fewer: pedestrian-friendly public spaces with frequent rest stops; an accessible and affordable network of cargo bikes and pedicabs; and much more accessible and sustainable public transport. That means 100 per cent accessible stations; it means accessible electric buses that do not get snarled up in poor road layouts and queues of private cars.

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The era of motor vehicles dominating our transport and public spaces is ending. Just like the new layouts at Old Street and Highbury Corner, the change will take some getting used to and will initially appear less convenient to people who were favoured by the old, less sustainable status quo. But success at those junctions doesn't look like free-flowing traffic. It looks like less traffic.

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