Safety for all at Kings Cross: 1 – a crisis in the making

Satellite_site-access

Satellite image of the site with the development areas are highlighted in green. Yellow arrows show access points.


Most Londoners and many visitors will have seen the architecturally-impressive redevelopments of King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations, but few have been aware of the new urban area that is being developed nearby on land that was formerly a railway goods yard and warehouses north of the stations. The development is a huge project occupying 67 acres and comprising more than 50 new buildings including homes, public squares, a university and a shopping street in addition to the inevitable preponderance of office space. *  The developers have done a fine job of planning for active travel and good air quality on the site itself – if the implementation lives up to what is promised it will be a pleasant, safe environment for cycling and walking, with good public spaces. But the site is bounded on two sides by impenetrable rail embankments. All access to the site is from the other two sides from roads (Goodsway and York Way) that are unsafe for cycling and pose dangers for pedestrians. Euston Road constitutes a further major obstacle for people approaching the site from the south. It is a thoroughfare that has amongst the heaviest traffic flows and worst air quality in London. Its junctions with York Way and the other two roads adjacent to the stations are designed with scant regard for the needs of people on bicycles or on foot.

IMG_2838

The Euston Road/Gray’s Inn Road//York Way junction is a major hazard for cyclists and pedestrians. Deterring many from cycling or walking to the site.

The most recent DfT traffic count data (2012) shows about 3,500 people on bicycles passing Kings Cross on Euston Road every weekday and about 1,000 each on Gray’s Inn Road and York Way . These figures will have risen since 2012. Those numbers of cycle commuters cannot be accommodated on ‘quiet routes’, nor can measures such as advance stop lines achieve the required level of safety on main roads. Segregated routes with safe junctions are needed.

  • Three people have lost their lives while cycling to and through the area in the past decade and many others have suffered very serious injury.
  • The crossings are very dangerous for people on bikes, especially at the Euston Road/York Way junction and the Euston Road/Midland Road junction.

But the ‘crisis in the making’ referred to in this post’s title is more acute than because:

  • A huge increase in the number of people cycling into the area is certain as 50 large new buildings are completed on the Kings Cross site, including businesses such Google, Camden Council, Waitrose and others, 2,000 homes, a university and public facilities including many shops and public spaces. The developer’s projected occupancy is 30,000 workers, students and residents on the site by 2016 and 45,000 by 2020. All of those occupants are likely make at least one trip to or from the site each day.
  • Let us add a conservative 10,000 trips to account for the casual visitors to the many shops and leisure outlets planned for the site. That gives a total of 40,000 (i.e. 80,000 journeys) trips in 2016 and say 60,000 (or 120,000 journeys) by 2020.
  • Recent surveys have indicated that 9-10% of commuting and other utility journeys are made by bicycle in this part of inner London. The site’s design aims to discourage private car use and the demographic is likely to be to be biased towards youth, both of which are likely to increase the use of bicycles. So we can expect at least 8,000 journeys by bicycle to or from the site each day by 2016 and 12,000 by 2020.
  • Most trips not made by bicycle are likely to be by public transport using the train, tube and bus services that terminate at or near the two mainline stations. I.e. more than 100,000 pedestrian journeys will be made to or from the site every day.

What must be done

  • Fully protected road space on the Dutch model will be needed to ensure that those who are likely to choose to travel by bicycle are able to do so safely. Cycles are sometimes seen as in conflict with pedestrians, but this is largely a product of the extremely poor provision for both modes of travel on London’s roads. No such conflict exists in other European cities where proper space has been allocated to both modes.
  • Getting rid of cars down Midland Road to make it easier for visitors to reach the British Library and the Crick Institute is a potentially short-sighted proposal that could produce worse problems elsewhere. What is needed is slower traffic and more safe crossing points on Midland Road and possibly a restriction to busses and taxis only on both Midland Road and Goodsway.
  • Here are the relevant figures: We are told that the BL receives about 1 million visits a year. That equates to 2700 visits/day. The Crick institute will have 2000 employees and let us say they will receive an equal number of visitors. That equates to about 4000 visits/day. So we have a total of about 7000 visits, or 14,000 crossings of Midland Road per day to access the buildings on Midland Road.

* The project and the new urban area that will result from it are somewhat confusingly called by the same name as the station – King’s Cross. For clarity I shall call it ‘the King’s Cross site’.