London’s streets and roads are in the middle of a revolution: with measures to tackle congestion and pollution, new cycling and walking infrastructure, and plans for road tunnels and driverless cars - what does the future hold?
This film was produced as part the series ‘Streets Ahead: The Future of London’s Roads’ coinciding with the major NLA exhibition.
London streets and roads are the veins and arteries of the capital through which goods and people flow. Roads make up some eighty percent of public space in the city and much of our daily lives have played out upon them. Four out of five of all trips in London are made entirely by road that's including journeys by buses, taxis, cycling and walking and over 90% of all freight is transported by road. At the same time private car use is falling. When they work well roads bring activity and essential services to our environment, but when clogged up and overcrowded they can damage the health and economy of a city.
Over the next five years London is expected to experience an increase of 1 million journeys every day, the design and management of our roads and infrastructure will be key to ensure we keep the city moving and improve the quality of urban life. In central London four out of five people arrive by rail or tube during the morning peak. Employment growth will place huge pressures on the streets within the central area as people continue their journeys by road. The influx from new Crossrail stations and potential future projects like High Speed 2 will put extra pressure on already congested streets and footways. Servicing and freight activity is increasing, much of it due to internet deliveries. In 2015 alone an estimated 192 million deliveries were made to London homes. As well as supporting this increase in movement streets has to be designed to enhance the character of London's distinctive places.
Working with the boroughs and developers we're creating new public spaces like Trafalgar Square, Holburn Circus, and the area around King’s Cross and the streetscape improvements you can see behind me on the cut here we're taking out gyratories like the Elephant and Castle northern roundabout and Aldgate gyratory and all over outer London the boroughs are creating new public spaces like in Waltham forest where there's now a thriving street market, part of a bigger programme great new spaces for the whole community.
Encouraging more active travel which means combining walking and cycling together with public transport could have a huge impact on Londoners health, improve air quality and make better use of our limited road space. By 2041 one walking journeys are expected to increase by 30 percent resulting in a total of 47 million journeys by foot every day. Cycling trips are also expected to grow from 600,000 journeys a day to 1.5 million by 2026. To do this it is essential to improve perceptions of safety.
Current plans to deliver better cycling infrastructure include the construction of the north-south and east-west cycle super highways as well as a network of quiet ways. In Outer London the mini Holland program aims to encourage suburban cycling and make outer boroughs as cycle friendly as their Dutch counterparts. Meanwhile, investment in the bus network will see new connections between areas of growth in town centres and major public transport hubs. Consolidation, where deliveries are made to a centre outside London and then put onto a single vehicle for delivery will reduce the number of vans on the roads. This is common in other cities and has been trailed successfully by the Crown Estate in Regent Street.
The air quality on London's roads continues to be very poor it is estimated that 9500 deaths are caused by pollution every year. From 2020 the ultra low emission zone will require all vehicles in the congestion charging zone to meet new exhaust standards. Traffic management, pedestrian and cycling priority measures and cleaner buses will all contribute to a reduction in pollution. By 2020 London will have the greenest bus and taxi leads of any world city.
So what are the major challenges that lie ahead? At the moment congestion costs London some four billion pounds a year and unless we do something about it that's likely to rise by 60% in central London, and 15% in Outer London. Key traffic routes like the inner ring road present a physical barrier to growth cutting through many of London's major regeneration areas, radical solutions such as road tunnels are already being considered. These could reduce severance caused by the roads and give more room for walking, cycling, public transport, green space and housing while maintaining critical capacity on the road network. The A1 Riverside tunnel at Barking and decking over the A3 Tolworth could increase development opportunities which in turn can help fund the road improvements themselves. Other cities have done this successfully including Seoul, Madrid and Boston.
A number of sites are being studied for new river crossings including three road crossings in the east of the city these aim to unlock development in areas such as Thamesmead, Bexley and Barking and Dagenham. They will address congestion and the Blackwall tunnel and improve cross river connectivity. The use of new technology will transform the way we manage our roads controlling traffic lights using active travel management can help to keep the traffic moving the Iber system allows buses to act as sensors, soon they will be able to assess the condition of roads, identify traffic congestion and give passengers better information on seat availability.
New technologies could allow for a different approach to road pricing based on the time and places that people drive. Autonomous or driverless vehicles can provide the opportunity of improved road safety, better use of road space and extended access to mobility, yet they also risk attracting more private cars onto our roads. So how enthusiastically should London adopt the autonomous vehicle, that is a key question that City Hall needs to answer sooner rather than later.