Clawing bigger bits of green back from the asphalt

Parklets, plus.

Lots of people are doing parklets these days – re-purposing a single on-street parking spot as a garden or seating area, usually right in front of their own home or business. But what about places where roads or parking spaces are whittling away larger existing green spaces? You can, unfortunately, find examples of this almost anywhere – here are a few from the London borough of Haringey.

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This bit of Oulton Road (above) cuts diagonally across what would otherwise be a green square, within a densely populated residential area and just behind Seven Sisters Primary School, London N15. A completely unnecessary piece of tarmac, there’d be space here for more trees, a basketball court … lots of options for better use.

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This little patch of trees is Graham Green (above), a short way from the Turnpike Lane underground and bus station (N22). It’s got parking on all three sides, with parking permits extended to nearby businesses as well as residents. Replacing the parking with planting could extend the green area by a couple of metres on each side – a lot for this small green. Nearby parking structures have surplus space – business parking could move there.

Going now to the other side of the tracks: on Crouch Hill (N8), we find Crescent Road. The road is filtered – bollards preventing through motor traffic to or from the A103. The great walking/running/cycling route of Parkland Walk sits on one side; on the other are one end of Coleridge Primary School and of the strip of greenery between the school and the A103. Joining up green areas can be important for biodiversity – surely this is a bit of tarmac and spaces that could be sacrificed for trees.

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A short way off, at the other end of Crescent Road, we find Avenue Road Common. As the name suggests (and see map), it’s more road than common: a tiny bit of grass and trees, paved footpath and then parking all around.

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The UK government’s CO2 target calls for far more trees than the country is actually planting; too many street trees, squeezed between footpath and roadway and close to houses, are smallish ornamentals which are anyway not allowed to grow big (and thus not allowed to provide shade or impound carbon) because insurance companies fret about foundations. It is time to join with those who would make London the first “national park city“, by seizing on places like those shown here to push back the asphalt, and let the trees advance.

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OECD’s bad news on carbon tax is hopelessly optimistic

Layers of bad news: OECD says carbon pricing is far too low to fight global warming – an 80% shortfall! But peel back the layers and the story is much worse. The cost of carbon they use for that calculation is seriously low-balled, so the real shortfall should be much higher. And then, deep in the OECD report, we learn that the benefits of motor fuel tax are double-counted – it seems we already needed that money to pay for costs of traffic congestion, local air pollution, and people run over by cars, so there’s little, if anything, left for carbon pollution. Then, following up the OECD’s sources for that double-counting calculation we see that this, too, is understated – it completely ignores the multiplier effects of driving & damage from chasing pedestrians and cyclists off the road. And, finally, if we pay for all that environmental damage with fuel tax, who pays for the roads themselves?

The carbon pricing report is undoubtedly put together by people with a great concern about global warming and effective climate policy, and they’re delivering some bad news. Yet it is hard not to see it as an example of what Kevin Anderson (@kevinclimate) has described: that most of the policy and advocacy and even the science of climate change is presented in colossally over-optimistic scenarios. Let’s peel back the layers to see how that works. Continue reading

Municipal food markets: why Cagliari but not Wood Green?

I’ll begin with my conclusion: municipal markets – daily indoor markets with a core of stalls selling fresh produce, meat and baked goods – should be at the centre of “regeneration” plans for town centres.

In April this year I was in Cagliari, Sardinia, working (life in the academy is tough, I tell you). I was fortunate to be staying near the San Benedetto market. At 8,000 square meters it is the largest of Cagliari’s four municipal markets; the city’s tourist information claims it’s the largest municipal market in Europe. Continue reading

Finsbury Park: cycling and safety

Strictly of local interest: this is from my response the Friends of Finsbury Park consultation on park safety. You can give your own response the consultation at this link.

The park safety plan should address the need for selected cycle routes after dark.

After-dark closure of park gates is superficially attractive, but in my twenty years of walking past this park there has never been a time when people weren’t able to get in through gaps made in the fence. Maintaining that fence must be a lot of work! So the question is not whether people who want to be there can get in, but whether people who are in the park (whether through a hole in the fence or because the gates are kept open) are safe.

And, note also needs to be taken of the role of the park as a hub for active transport, both walking and cycling.

When the park gates are open and passage through feels safe, communities on different sides of the park are connected for people travelling by foot or bike. When the park is closed, the connections between those communities are severed, as if on opposite sides of a motorway. Consider here the Oxford Rd/Stroud Green side of the park and the Manor House/Woodbury Downs area, well connected when the park is open, very far apart when it is closed.

The park is also an important hub for cycle longer distance cycle routes, with heavily travelled routes radiating from the park in several directions. Many of the roads bordering the park have heavy motor traffic and insufficient space for safe cycling. This makes the park a useful place to pass through on a bike – and also, for many, it feels like a much safer place than on a road like Endymion, Green Lanes or Seven Sisters in the sections where those roads border the park. When days get short in autumn and winter this leaves many cyclists without safe routes through or past the park.

The present heavy use of the park for cycling through-routes persists despite that fact that the locations and design of entrances, and the paths through the park, are often not well set up as cycle routes: there is no route paralleling Green Lanes, the Oxford Rd bridge is too narrow, there is no good connection from Wightman Rd, and so on. There is good reason to think that cycling provision in the park can, should, and will be improved. For instance:

  • The Mayor and TFL have identified Seven Sisters Rd as a part of a strategic cycling corridor (Tottenham Hale – Camden); unlike many parts of that corridor, the segment of Seven Sisters adjacent to the park is not wide enough to accommodate both cycle lanes and bus lanes. To achieve a continuous bike corridor without compromising bus service, a route through the park seems likely. To shut such a route at night would entirely defeat its purpose.
  • An entrance to the park from Alroy / Wightman roads, to accommodate the substantial cycle traffic coming down Wightman, is proposed in the final report of the Haringey Council’s Green Lanes consultation.

For these reasons, the safety plan for the park should include a small number of well-lit, all-hours routes for both cyclists and pedestrians.