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The debate about the "Mini-Holland" cycling improvements along Green Lanes has so far been pretty polarized:  on the one hand, advocates of cycle lanes along the whole street, on the other some fierce defence of the right of drivers to park in Green Lanes close to the shops they want to visit.  Cycle lane supporters claim that there is evidence to suggest that reducing car parking would boost shop sales, those defending the interests of local businesses dismiss this argument as contrary to common sense.  The row started up again last week on the forums of Bowes and Bounds Connected, sparked off by the news that Enfield Cycling Campaign are planning a "cycle cash mob" in Palmers Green on 5th July..

Wednesday 30 July 7.30pm

Public Meeting: Mini-Holland and alternative approaches to revitalising Enfield Town Centre

Conference Room,  Civic Centre, Silver Street, Enfield EN1 3XA

Come and help shape the changes to Enfield Town Centre

Hosted by Enfield Town Conservation Area Study Group (ETCASG).

The speaker will be Ben Hamilton-Baillie, Transport, Traffic and Urban Design Consultant, who was consultant on a notable street scheme which has been completed in Poynton town centre. The streets have been redesigned with an informal central median strip, with courtesy crossings and extended pedestrian areas, unified through a common paving pattern.

 

In fact, opposition to "Mini-Holland" started not in Palmers Green, but a couple of months earlier in Enfield Town, when it became known that Enfield Council's proposal was to completely remove private cars from Church Street, where the carriageway would be divided into a bus lane running west-east and cycle lanes in both directions.  Other traffic would use Cecil Road, converted from one-way to two-way.

Shared Space

In Enfield Town too the argument has been between advocates of cycle lanes and those who resist any restrictions on cars.  However, it appears that a third, more radical, approach is about to be proposed - "shared space" - and ideas for how it could be implemented in Enfield Town will be described and discussed at a public meeting at the Civic Centre on 30th July, organised by the Enfield Town Conservation Area Study Group.

The main speaker at the meeting will a leading authority on "shared space" - Ben Hamilton-Baillee, who played a leading role in redesigning the town centre of Poynton in Cheshire (see the video clip below).

 The principles of shared space are a complete contrast to conventional road design, where motorists, pedestrians and (sometimes) cyclists are assigned their own particular confined spaces, which they do their best to move along as fast as possible.  Conflicts between different flows of traffic and people are controlled by lanes painted on roads, pavements, traffic lights, roundabouts, give way signs and pedestrian crossings, a source of irritation to everyone concerned.  Such an arrangements creates rivals of different types of street user and of motorists driving in different directions.  Shared space does away with all these controlling elements and changes the relationship between street users from one of rivalry to one of collaboration, making the whole experience less stressful and more enjoyable.

On the face of it, it seems unlikely that shared space could work as described above in a country where a culture of embattled rivalry between different users of the street has built up over many years.  But the Poynton Regenerated video provides strong evidence that a well designed scheme can transform an unpleasant, traffic-clogged main road into a pleasant environment for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike - and all without causing any traffic delays on a major road.

What about Palmers Green?

Though the invitation to the public meeting in Enfield Town does not mention it explicitly, the involvement of Ben Hamilton-Baillie strongly suggests that the "alternative approaches" will be based on the shared space concept.  It will be interesting to see how it could be applied in a London town centre with a much higher population density and more crowded pavements than a Cheshire village.  And the question naturally arises as to whether it might be a better solution for Palmers Green town centre than the conventional approach of segregating motorists, cyclists and pedestrians and making them wait impatiently for traffic lights to change.  And might it make it possible to create a safer environment for cyclists while retaining the current level of on-street parking provision?

Shared space was in fact proposed for Palmers Green back in 2010 by the pressure group Improving Our Place, who drew up a number of options for improving the town centre in general and the Triangle in particular.  The suggestions made at the time can still be viewed on the Improving Our Place website, though the website itself has not been updated for three or four years.

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