Blackfriars & Kings Cross are symptoms of a wider problem
Last week a cyclist was killed in the confusing mess of roads which converge on Kings Cross. It is by no means the first cycling fatality at this congested blot on London’s roads system. It is an area in desperate need of a redesign and in 2008 I pushed for a Transport for London report to be commissioned in conjunction with local campaigners.
Kings Cross, like Blackfriars Station, was undergoing a major upgrade and there was plenty of money to spend creating a desirable public space in the surrounding area that pedestrians and road users could share. The report made recommendations, those have been largely ignored and the result is that more people will be injured and killed.
The similarities between Kings Cross and Blackfriars are clear. The death of the cyclist Vicki McCreery on Blackfriars Bridge led to both the proposal for a T-Junction design at the north end of the bridge and also to the production of the TfL report calling for London bridges to be made 20mph. However, both of these reports were quickly shelved when it came to spending the money.
The 2008 Kings Cross report advised reallocating carriageway space to the footpath where appropriate, installing traffic-calming measures, and enhancing the permeability and safety of the main roads by providing formal crossings at all necessary locations. The report stated "the key crossing at the southern end of York Way should be redesigned". Some of this has been included in the proposed redesign, but none of it goes far enough in shifting the balance between users of this congested space.
Anyone cycling in the Kings Cross area is only too aware of the appalling road layout which encourages constant lane changing by buses, large lorries and cars and leaves no "right place" for a cyclist to be. Action is urgently needed to reduce the number of vehicle lanes at the top of Grays Inn Road so that the lane changing occurs earlier in the approach to the junction and space can then be allocated for cyclists to access the proposed advanced stop lines. ASLs are useless without a (wide enough) cycle lane to access them. I have written to the Mayor asking him to join me in riding around Kings Cross and exploring ways it could be changed.
Much of the blame for Blackfriars has landed on the heads of TfL. However, the real problem is that campaigners time and expertise is wasted on individual schemes, if those efforts are sidelined when the over arching Mayoral direction is that the (motorised) traffic must flow and take priority. By inviting the Mayor to ride around Kings Cross I hope not only to get him to make a few local changes, but also to point out the need for a much bigger change. The mayor and Transport for London have bodged the redesign of Blackfriars Bridge because of their determination to put car drivers first. The same mistakes will be repeated across London if the Mayor keeps designing roads for a car dominated past, rather than building public spaces for a less polluted and calmer city where cycling and walking are the future.