Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Exhibition Road

Kensington and Chelsea are spending a king's ransom turning Exhibition Road into "an elegant kerb-free surface across the length and width of the road. Pedestrians will have more space and vehicles will be limited to 20mph." They're paving it with granite, which will cost a fortune. Granite also tends to be slippery when wet, so dangerous for cyclists.

"We’re changing Exhibition Road from an area dominated by cars to one that puts people first," claim the Royal Borough. Designers have predicted a significant reduction in the number of accidents.
It's a shame this is the only street in the area where people are put first.  If you're actually putting people first, why not close the road to through motor traffic? That would reduce the number of accidents to zero. It's not like there's any shortage of parallel roads.

While the transformation work is going on, people are being put firmly last. Through traffic is being accomodated along a narrow section, making cycling more dangerous.  The east side of the road is largely fenced off, making crossing the road very difficult.

Having a kerb-free surface is not good news if you're blind. The Borough have fought off a legal challenge from Guide Dogs for the Blind, who say "They want to spend £42m on a street design that discriminates against large sections of the community. We want the plans altered immediately so that no-one is excluded and there are safe footways for all pedestrians. If people can’t tell where the road begins and the pavement ends, how can you feel safe?"

How exactly will "vehicles be limited to 20MPH" ? Where I live, the 20MPH limit is unenforced and routinely ignored. When I cycle along it at 20MPH on my road bike, I often get dangerously and illegally overtaken, usually by a white van that's unaffected by the speed cushions. Maybe the usual congestion will limit speeds during the day, but when traffic is lighter, it'll be a different story. And given the Tories aversion to speed limit enforcement, drivers will be able to speed with impunity.

"Motorists will drive more cautiously and slowly," claims the blurb. It should read: "Some motorists will drive more cautiously and slowly". Others will drive with the same lack of consideration they show on the rest of London's roads. Bear in mind London is so car-centric it will be an unexpected surprise to encounter a road where they don't have priority.

And here's the cherry on the cake: "We will...make it clear to drivers that pedestrians have priority". I hope that the Kensington and Chelsea councillors will be monitoring the effectiveness of this by regularly wandering out in front of cars. (It sounds like this function will be performed by blind people instead.)


  1. The worst thing is the traffic light sequence at the North end of Exhibition Road is completely messed up. There is about a 1 second period where the traffic going east on Kensington Road and coming south from the part of Exhibition Road in Hyde Park both have a green light!

    So far this hasn't been a problem when I've cycled through during rush hour, as there is enough traffic that the vehicles on Kensington Road are stationary so are able to wait for the middle area to clear. I dread to think what might happen if someone was approaching just as the light was changing, though. I suppose I should tell K&C about this, but last time I reported something on this road to them they denied all responsibility for it and nothing happened.

    Anyway, looks like we cycle in a lot of the same places. Wonder if we've seen each other. I'm the idiot that a lot of people notice because I cycle very badly with a big blue Sainsbury's basket bolted to the rear of my Specialized Globe. Say hello if you see me!

  2. My guess is Kensington Gore/Kensington Rd is a TfL road. I'll keep a look-out for you - ride safe!

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