Dezeen Magazine

MP calls for pedestrianisation of Exhibition Road amid dispute over accident figures

A war of words has broken out over the "shared space" design of London's Exhibition Road, with local politicians at loggerheads over whether the layout has improved or worsened accident rates in the popular museum district.

Emma Dent Coad, the member of parliament for Kensington and Chelsea, claims injuries to pedestrians have leapt sevenfold since the street was redesigned by architecture firm Dixon Jones in 2011, which involved removing the separation between cars and pedestrians.

But councillor Gerald Hargreaves says the street is a "huge improvement" on the layout in previous decades, and has helped to reduce accidents.

MP calls for major review of safety on Exhibition Road

The row broke out following a car crash earlier this month, which injured 11 people. As a result, Dent Coad is petitioning to have the area completely pedestrianised.

"In 2011, before the redesign, there was one pedestrian casualty on Exhibition Road," she said, citing the CrashMap website. "In 2016, there were seven."

The MP, who is also an architectural historian, is now calling for a major review of safety on the road, which connects the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the V&A.

"My personal preference is to have the road fully pedestrianised," she told Dezeen. "I have never liked the current design and think it is out of place in Albertopolis – it is not the Ramblas of Barcelona, as it was intended to be."

Councillor says accidents on road have fallen by 27 per cent since 2011

Hargreaves, who is Kensington and Chelsea Council's lead council member for planning, transport and highways, said Dent Coad's figures were incorrect.

"In fact, since the single surface design was introduced in 2011, the number of road traffic accidents in the road has fallen by 27 per cent," he said.

Hargreaves described the redesigned street as a "huge improvement" on the previous layout, which was "essentially a dual carriageway with narrow pavements on either side".

Street design should be rethought after recent terror attacks, says Dent Coad

While the car crash was confirmed as an accident, the increased threat of vehicular terror attacks in London means layouts that see pedestrians and vehicles sharing the same road surface need to be rethought, according to Dent Coad.

"Clearly with the current threat of vehicular attacks there needs to be a major review of these schemes in city centres," she said.

She added that the area's heavy traffic makes it unsuitable for the shared space design: "My understanding is that shared space was never designed to be used in streets with a high volume of traffic, and should always be used in conjunction with strict rules on traffic calming."

"Neither of these elements prevail in Exhibition Road, and I do think it was a mistake not to incorporate this if they wanted to give shared space a fair try."

Exhibition Road was one of London's first experiments in the removal of separation between cars and pedestrians, and in the lead up to its completion London's Department for Transport issued its first guidance on the creation of shared spaces.

Hargreaves said there was no evidence to suggest that the road layout played a role in the accident, and that police have advised that the driver of the Toyota Prius responsible for the accident on Exhibition Road earlier this month appeared to lose control while moving from a parked position.