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What shall we do with the junction of Old Street and City Road?



The meeting point of Old Street and City Road should be an inviting gateway linking two of inner London's most lively boroughs with the bustling periphery of the City of London. Since 1967, though, it has been blighted by a huge roundabout which destroyed the original frontages to create a hostile environment for walking and cycling, and a generally unattractive place to be in and pass through.

Fortunately there is momentum for change here, driven partly by the desire for better conditions for walking and cycling, and partly by the area becoming a hub for Internet-based innovation.

The changes currently being contemplated by the relevant authorities (Transport for London, which controls the tube station, the eastern section of Old Street and the northern section of City Road; and the London Boroughs of Islington and Hackney, which are the planning authorities) are based on the 'peninsularisation' of the roundabout.

Peninsularisation would mean stopping up one corner of the roundabout, and making the remaining carriageway two-way. This would be an improvement on the current roundabout from the point of view of walking and cycling, but it would still result in a complex, confusing layout and a sub-optimal use of space, both for movement and development.

We think that a crossroads layout would provide the best opportunities for active frontages, coherent connections, and human-scale streets. After all, it's what was there before, and it's how most junctions are configured in cities everywhere.

We have heard various objections to the crossroads idea over the years, initially centred on capacity for motor traffic, and latterly on the location of sewers and potential new station entrances.

These worries can and should be overcome, given enough ambition. First, design the sort of place that people will want to come to and be in. Then let the engineers do their magic to make it work.

Here we present a very preliminary visualisation of how a restored crossroads might look. We hope this will be the start of a fresh discussion of the future of this crucial location.

As well as being endorsed by our LCC colleagues in Islington Cyclists Action Group, the aim of recreating a crossroads at the Old Street / City Road junction is also supported by the local groups of Living Streets (the pedestrian lobby) in both Hackney and Islington, as well as by both boroughs' leading amenity groups, namely the Hackney Society and the Islington Society.

We hope for your support too.

2nd July 2014: Is property development behind TfL's reluctance to return Old Street / City Road to a crossroads?

Is TfL planning to exploit property development opportunities above Old Street station, and could this be a factor in its refusal to make a full evaluation of the option of returning the Old Street and City Road junction to a crossroads? We have today sent TfL a freedom of information request asking for information from all reports, correspondence or communications relating to such potential development.

28th July 2014: TfL refuses our request for information, but lets the cat out of the bag anyway

The freedom of information request we made on 2nd July has been refused by TfL. The grounds? It has such a huge amount of information on the subject of property development above Old Street Station that it would cost too much to retrieve and release it all! TfL says, for example, that an email search has brought up over 3000 emails mentioning Old Street over-station development, and that there are plentiful meeting minutes with various designers and contractors on the subject. It would be great to have the detail, but at least we now know that TfL is working as hard as it can to make sure that its proposed new peninsula is used not for public space, as Islington Council's draft 'Old Street Roundabout Draft Development Strategy' suggested it should be, but for money-spinning property development. We still don't know how long TfL has been looking at over-station development, but we suspect even more strongly than we did before that the lure of big bucks has influenced its decision to reject the crossroads option.

7th August 2014: We issue two more FOI requests

The first of today's two information requests is a simple one to Islington Council, asking it to publish the 'Old Street Roundabout Draft Development Strategy' which it adopted in 2008. We link to a 2006 draft above, but, despite several requests to officers, the adopted strategy has not (as far as we can find) been published. We would like to see whether there were any significant changes that may have allowed TfL to pursue its property development ambitions.

The second request is to Transport for London, asking it to release any reports containing evidence upon which its decision not to progress the crossroads option at the junction of Old Street and City Road was based. The public explanation given by TfL so far amounts to a few sentences about junction capacity and the location of sewers and lift shafts. Let's see whether they actually have anything more substantial.


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