Editor's comment: Islington must keep project's critics in check
PUBLISHED: 15:30 20 March 2019
“A lot of changes done to the roads to benefit cyclists disrupt the roads for such a long time, which only serves to anger other road users, who blame cyclists, which adds to the general air of distrust and anger amongst everyone who uses the road.”
Poignant words from Sarah Doone, who knows more than most the cost of poor cycling infrastructure: she was run over by a cement mixer last year and lost a leg.
Sure enough, within moments of the announcement about the Old Street corridor, that “air of distrust and anger” was in evidence on social media with little regard for the hundreds injured in collisions there.
“Compulsory cycle training would save lives,” offered one reader, apropos of nothing.
“How do people who live there and pay Islington benefit from this?” asked another. A third feared it would “cause more pollution and congestion” and was simply “more stupid ideas from idiots trying to justify their jobs”.
Change is rarely popular across the board, especially when livelihoods and lifestyles depend on the thing under threat. And one problem with projects to improve road safety and cut pollution is that they are wrongly characterised as for cyclists rather than for everyone – an open goal for anyone who wants to mobilise opposition.
That’s why the authorities behind projects like these must be transparent to a fault about the assumptions and mitigations that lie behind them, and how the interests of different groups have been considered. It’s a lesson TfL learnt to its cost when the High Court kiboshed CS11 a couple of miles to the west.
Islington Council’s (overdue) announcement rightly focused on the urgent need to prevent death and injury, but its lack of detail gave plenty of ammunition to naysayers. Saving lives and cutting pollution is of course laudable, but the skill lies in steering goals like these through consultations and elections.