1. February 2019

  2. Should Bank junction be pedestrianised?

    14 February 2019
    Anyone who regularly walks around the Bank area must have noticed the drop in car numbers over the last few months. The trial restriction on road traffic through Bank junction has made a noticeable impact on both the level of noise and accidents, resulting in the City of London’s recent approval of pedestrianising the junction over the next few years.
    It's been a real pleasure being on foot in this part of the City since September, away from the usual experience of perilous skits across the street through long lines of traffic, or the ever-present threat of toppling from the kerb into the path of oncoming vehicles. And with more entrances to Bank station opening up and with increased numbers of pedestrians using both the station and narrow pavements, things clearly need to change.

    So could Bank junction go the way of nearby Old Street Roundabout? The City's northern gateway is set for a major transformation that will turn the iconic, manic and occasionally lethal gyratory into a new and altogether more civilised public piazza.

    Pedestrians and cyclists will certainly favour a shift in priorities away from cars and onto people – shared spaces like Lennard Street in Shoreditch have shown how workable this is – and we can see the delight in a carefree amble through one of London's most extraordinary collections of heritage buildings, free to stop and admire them without the risk of injury.  

    The makeup of the City is changing like never before, with places like The Ned, Puttshack and Bloomberg Arcade bringing new types of places and spaces, so could this extend to a more - dare we say it - European-style pavement culture?

    An increase in pedestrian traffic could well have a positive impact on the hundreds of coffee shops, cafes, restaurants and retailers, but they will have concerns over access for supplies. Experience tells us that simply expecting all deliveries to happen before 6am doesn't work for every business, but perhaps an answer lies in how they will do it at 22 Bishopsgate. This 61-storey skyscraper hosts multiple food and leisure operations, all of whose supplies are handled by a single fulfilment centre just outside the M25 and amalgamated into a pair of daily delivery trucks.

    There is also public transport to consider, with numerous bus routes and plenty of taxis currently passing through. Whether the junction could or needs to be liberated from every type of vehicle remains to be seen, but if buses and cabs were the only traffic during the day, then we are looking at a remarkable new future for one of the City's busiest intersections. 

    It's worth noting that there is a campaign, principally from the taxi trade, to have the scheme significantly changed or abandoned, citing a generally detrimental impact on City business from the exclusion of cabs and that many businesses are against it. In truth, there has been very little reaction from the business community. 

    It should also be said that the idea of darting about the City in cabs is somewhat dashed by the reality of the traffic, with even the shortest journeys often beatable by walking - so pedestrianisation wins on the wellbeing front. And with the arrival of Crossrail at Moorgate, journeys through the middle of London are already set for a major boost.

    Whichever side of the argument somebody takes, the benefits of lighter traffic, fewer accidents and better air quality are universal, so we look forward to seeing the next phase of plans around mid 2019 that could signal a new era for Bank junction that works for everyone.

    The Author

    Oliver Hawking