Sunday, 25 January 2015

What's happening at Owen Street?

Everyone who cycles or walks through Owen Street from Goswell Road to St John's Street would agree that the conflict between cyclists and pedestrians is a ridiculous situation:  Cyclists are directed to ride on the pavement, causing alarm and distress to pedestrians, not to mention the occasional fisticuffs.  Why is this?

The problem is, when the Virgin Leisure Centre was built around 2000, the road that passes along by the building was private, and for some reason, the Council at the time (under the Liberals I believe) agreed that it should stay private, with the result that the pavement on the side of the road between Owen Street and Owens fields was the only part of the road that is public highway.  (I should add that once you bump over the awkward dropped kerb shown in the pic above, the rest of the roadway leading up to St John Street is all public highway.)

The consequence of this loopy legal arrangement is that the Council is unable to direct cyclists onto private property for fear of being held liable if an accident occured, and so was forced to designate the pavement as a cycle track, with the dangerous and scary consequences that everyone is familiar with.  

Since 2007 I have been making attempts to try and either get the road adopted, or get an agreement for cyclists to use the roadway, and every time I have been told that the owners of the property would not agree to it.  I persisted however, and finally one of the Council's senior legal officers discovered that we had been dealing with an agent for the residential properties on the site, and not the Freeholder.  Legal officers then managed to contact the freehold owners of the site, who I believe are The Brewers Company, who were much more amenable to the idea of improvements to the operation of the highway in the interests of public safety.  

The freeholder has I gather, now agreed in principle to allow the use of the private road by cyclists, legal documents have been exchanged, and lawyers are now working on the final details, such as who owns the drains, and where the water goes when it runs off the Council's pavements into the freeholder's drain, and whose responsibility the drain is as a result etc (yawn).  Once this is sorted, the Council will change the road and pavement layout in the area shown in the picture, so that cyclists have a straight run through, and the pavement will become pedestrian-only, as most reasonable people might expect.  

We might even see the work being done this year, which would be great.


John Stewart said...

Good work on this problem. Any update on progress?

Amy Erickson said...

Thanks for explaining this. I always wondered about the design disaster that is Owen Street. Has there been any progress in negotiations since January? It still looks the same as it has for years, and now there are reports on hackney-lcc that someone is blocking the semi-dropped kerb.