Editor’s comment: There is more at stake than parking spaces

Islington's first parklet, in Central Street, is launched with residents and (L-R) Austin Casey of O

Islington's first parklet, in Central Street, is launched with residents and (L-R) Austin Casey of Old Street District Partnership, Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council's executive member for environment and transport, and Bunhill ward councillors Cllr Phil Graham and Cllr Troy Gallagher. Picture: Em Fitzgerald - Credit: Archant

“If people don’t want advancements for cycling and walking, the reality is they need to wake up.”

Cllr Claudia Webbe is spot on.

There may be valid concerns about the positioning of the "parklet" directly outside a pub leading to anti-social behaviour.

But if the pub isn't concerned about its own security measures, and if it is genuinely the work of five minutes to move the parklet to a different parking space nearby, we should crack on with getting it set up.

I appreciate that some who drive will be unhappy about the loss of free spaces (although a pub probably isn't the number one location to reach by car).

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But as with the rather more high-profile projects to transform Highbury Corner and Old Street, it isn't a coincidence that parklets take space away from cars and return them to pedestrians.

There are some who believe Islington Council is not doing enough to improve air quality and change the way we travel.

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But it's worth noticing that, when it does bring in schemes like this, it encounters resistance from the people whose support is necessary to keep it in office.

We are at a crunch point: not just in terms of climate change, but of transport capacity and public health. Inaction on air quality and sustainable travel now will doom our children and grandchildren to famine, flooding, perhaps energy wars, certainly a much lower quality of life. But lessening our reliance on cars is a major structural shift that was started too late (by humans, rather than specifically by Islington) and is, lest we forget, being terrifyingly hampered by the efforts and interests of people infinitely more powerful than any of the Bunhill councillors. And moreover, people hate change.

The fact something is unpopular does not make it bad, and it takes brave politicians to stand up to that, especially when it would be such an easy win to side with the majority.

The problem with Highbury Corner and Old Street is not that they are poorly signposted, but that people are trying to drive round them - people who have other means of transport at their disposal. As Cllr Webbe says, we need to wake up.

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