Work begins today on 'beautifying' and simplifying the Camden Town streetscape. Railings and bollards will be amputated. Maple trees will replace moribund signposts. Crossings will be expunged and pavements shall be widened. One of the most haphazard pedestrian environments in London may even become pleasant. Or that's the theory.
The £1.6 million scheme is described as a 'real-world trial' by a transport advisor, meaning that no one really knows if this will work or not. Clearly, something has to be done with Camden Town. The markets pull in anywhere between 10 million and 30 million people a year (depending who you read) and some of the pavements are dangerously narrow. According to the Times, around 10 people a year are badly injured on the high street. If there's a case to be made anywhere for extreme decluttering, it's Camden Town.
The scheme has attracted the usual array of critics - the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association want to retain proper kerbs, while wheelchair users want rid; and a Panglossian local trader sees the current situation as 'perfect'. On balance, it seems the vast majority of visitors can only benefit from wider pavements and decluttering. It's going to be hell over Christmas, though, while they build this stuff.
Image by Buckaroo Kid from the Londonist Flickr pool.