If ever evidence was needed to support the claim that London’s streets were paved with gold the place to find it would be Exhibition Road. This three-quarter-mile long road is undergoing a transition that in the words of Nick Paget-Brown, Kensington and Chelsea’s Cabinet Member for Transport will transform it into ‘the most beautiful road in London’.
Unable to source enough granite locally the Tory council has obtained enough stone to match the colour required from China and by using a slow boat from China the council claim the ‘carbon footprint’ is much reduced. An alternative supplier in the north of England would presumably have parachuted in the granite sets by a gas guzzling Tornado jet. The total project is estimated to cost £29 million which equates to £22,000 per yard; truly London’s streets are paved with gold.
When completed both drivers and pedestrians will share the same space in what is termed a ‘transition zone’. The most recognisable characteristic of shared space is the absence of street clutter, such as conventional traffic signals, barriers, signs and road markings. This according to the council encourages motorists to slow down, engage with their surroundings and make eye contact with pedestrians – resulting in a higher quality and more usable street area, with enhanced road safety.
When writing last year I described Kensington and Chelsea’s attitude to both pedestrians and vehicles sharing this road as:
For most of us who use London’s roads encounter inappropriate speeding, overtaking on the nearside, rude and careless drivers, and a complete disregard of pedestrians and cyclists.
But it would appear that The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s roads department don’t populate the world that I live in (or most accurately the world that I drive in).
Their world is akin to Camberwick Green when everybody is aware of other road users, greeting them with a cheery riposte, and continuing on their journey unimpeded. They help little old ladies cross the road and slow down for children.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind have been objecting to the plan since its inception even resorting to 150 blind and partially sighted people campaigning outside the London Assembly. The western side of Exhibition Road is used by 19 million pedestrians a year visiting the many attractions in the area, surely there is still time to ban vehicles for most of the day and let everybody enjoy the space of ‘the most beautiful road in London’.