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After decades of campaigning, Highbury gets its corner back

Traffic flows through new two-way road layout following removal of ‘dangerous’ roundabout

26 April, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Transport chief Claudia Webbe at the new road system following removal of the roundabout

AT 7am on Monday, Highbury Corner started its new life by welcoming two-way traffic for the first time.

Residents, councillors and MPs have campaigned for decades to have the roundabout removed and the area made safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Town Hall transport chief Claudia Webbe said she was “proud” to see the transformation, with new protected cycle lanes and the closure of the western side of the roundabout.

“It’s now actually a corner again,” she said, speaking to the Tribune at the junction on Wednesday.

She said she had “campaigned hard” for the changes with Transport for London and London Mayors Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan.

“It’s absolutely brilliant. You have a completely segregated cycle track on both sides,” she said.

“It was about tackling road danger. It was a dangerous junction. The changes were about getting more people to walk and cycle. If the dangers are taken away more people will do that and that will see better quality of air and reduced traffic.”

Residents will now be able to enjoy a previously hard-to-access green space in the middle of the junction, she added.

“What’s most import­ant is the ease at which pedestrians will be able to cross to the station without crossing a road several times,” she said.

The roundabout at Highbury Corner. Photo: Islington Local History Centre

Cllr Webbe said there were no plans to rename the area, as Archway Square was called Navi­gator Square following its transformation.

She pledged to “keep a close eye” on the new traffic system and is working to convince the Mayor “to restore the frontage of Highbury and Islington Station to go alongside the wonderful new public space that is being created”.

The roundabout was constructed in the 1960s in a bid to improve the flow of traffic coming from Hackney, Holloway and Angel.

Islington’s sole opposition councillor, Caroline Russell, who represents Highbury East for the Green Party, welcomed the new system but felt that it needed some “tweaking”.

“People need to learn how it works on foot, by bike and in a vehicle,” she said. “The bottom line is that children and novice cyclists will be able to get through in safety and once the scheme is finished people walking should have a less hostile and traffic-dominated environment.”

The long length of time people need to wait for the lights to change at the Canonbury Road crossing was a concern, she added.

Retired tour-bus company owner Michael Graham, from St Paul’s Road, said that the lack of segregated bus lanes was a “huge flaw”. “If cars and buses are in the same lane and going at the same speed, there’s no incentive for people to get out of cars and start using buses,” he said.

There had been an increase in congestion down St Paul’s Road following the changes but he felt this may be due to “teething problems”.

A TfL spokeswoman said: “People walking, cycling and driving in the area are encouraged to take extra care now the switchover is complete, because traffic may be coming from a different direction than previously.”

TfL is planning a launch party for later in the year once all works are finished.

 Relationship drama also starring… roadworks

Joe Bini and Maya Hawke: ‘Brexit analogy’

THE endless roadworks at Highbury Corner played a leading role in a film screened at the Institute of Contemporary Arts over the Easter weekend.

Editors Joe Bini and Maya Hawke – a film royalty couple who are both long-time Werner Herzog collaborators – moved to Highbury two years ago after falling out of love with Los Angeles. The film, Little Ethiopia, uses photographs and video clips to probe the complexities of their relationship and themes of love, sexuality and gender in a uniquely personal way.

At a screening on Friday, Mr Bini – who edited We Need To Talk About Kevin and worked on 27 films with legendary director Herzog – was on stage with Ms Hawke as she presented a new strand to the film to him for the first time.

Ms Hawke, who is related to Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, describes herself as an “interactive fiction/non-fiction social media video novelist”.

She said the length of the roadworks at Highbury were a “strong analogy for Brexit” but also summarised the emotions and artistic blockages in her life and work.

The film features workmen digging in the street in the dark and rush-hour traffic jams. Little Ethiopia is a district of LA where the couple lived before moving to Highbury.

The film was screened as part of the annual Frames of Representation festival at the ICA in The Mall.

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