Last month, London’s Evening Standard charted the latest status of Exhibition Road, ‘the kerb-free road at the heart of London’s museum district.’
Exhibition Road is the apt name for the stretch of (now kerb-less) tarmac upon which the Victoria & Albert Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum all reside.
Previously a standard main road, it has now been turned into a ‘shared space’ for traffic and pedestrians with a 20mph speed limit after a £28 million redevelopment. In the words of the Standard’s Kieran Long:
‘Exhibition Road isn’t and never was anything like a London street: it is somewhere for us to go to be edified. Dixon Jones’s new carpet is a civilised and beautifully designed way to promote that ambition.’
Conceived with a view to accommodating the swathes of visitors that will be brought to London’s streets come the Olympics next year, Londoners have been quick to voice their views on the project in the wake of its trial opening recently as a dress rehearsal for the official opening next year.
Cycling blog As Easy As Riding A Bike have made their opinion perfectly clear with a scathing article slamming the safety regulations put in place on the newly-remodelled route. As well as launching an attack on the road signs (or ‘street clutter‘) put in place, we are spectators to several short handheld video clips documenting the relevant dangers:
‘If I had continued attempting to cross here, I would have ended up on the bonnet of this Peugeot.’
These videos aim to demonstrate that these roads, although specifically remodelled to cater for cars, bikes and pedestrians alike, are in fact still highly dangerous and potentially fatal.
The accompanying article undermines the ‘sharing’ ethos the new road is meant to encourage.
‘Having finally crossed the road when there weren’t any motor vehicles about – how I would have crossed the road anyway, in the absence of ‘sharing’ – I then crossed back.’
Lambasting the driver/cyclist relationship, the blog says they’re ‘not really sensing a revolution in driver behaviour here,’ clearly vexed at the lack of vehicles that ‘attempt to yield.’ The comments beneath the article make interesting reading too. Many are thoroughly disillusioned with London transport’s attitude to cyclists in general.
‘Along Tooley Street, westbound, near London Bridge, there are lots of signs saying “narrow road – do not overtake cyclists”. I doubt anyone pays any attention to those – if they wanna get past, they will!’
CB, who uses the ‘road as part of [his] daily commute from work,’ says that part of the problem is that ‘people on bikes are still seen as obstructive objects drivers have to overtake aggressively’ and ‘there is still a regime of car supremacy on Exhibition Road.’
Tom is disappointed by the changes to Exhibition Road – saying, ‘it is such a shame because it could – and should – have been a wonderful space, and it isn’t.’
Living in England have taken a very different view, though. They say what ‘used to be near suicide to cross the street in front of the South Kensington station’ is now ‘blossoming’ as a result of the new system. Adding further:
‘Now people will have to be convinced to go overground because the ambience is so nice and the shops so welcoming along the way.’
Obviously these view are only those of a select few: what’s your stance? Have you experienced the new Exhibition Road layout? Let us know what you think the future holds for one of London’s most significant cultural hubs.