Old Bethnal Green Road (OBGR) in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) was identified as a vulnerable area due to high volumes of air pollution, the fifth worst in London. It was chosen for improvements through the LBTH Liveable Streets Programme.
The key aim of the OBGR scheme was to strengthen and improve the connection between the neighbourhood green space and the local parade, thereby redefining the area as a place for people. This connectivity was achieved by removing traffic (approx. 8300 recorded daily) and providing infrastructure for sustainable travel modes. Key to this placemaking is the provision of greening and tree planting to enhance the natural characteristics and encourage the use of the local services and amenities. The public realm design incorporated SUDS to eliminate drainage issues, defined placemaking through seating, greening and provision of cycle facilities, and effectively reduced traffic, leading to the area’s transformation. Ongoing communications and engagement throughout the process secured a shared vision between stakeholders and the project team.
The design has transformed the street from being car dominated to a naturalistic, spacious, and safe route for locals. The provision of outdoor seating and public space will promote local spending and enable community events. The rain gardens will decrease flooding liability, increase biodiversity, and improve air quality. In the long term, improved air quality and increased active travel will improve the health of the local community.
Our design team was given the go-ahead to progress the preliminary and detailed design stages just before the first lockdown. The team met for the first time at a Teams Meeting in early April 2020 and was expected to deliver the construction package in three months to enable start of construction in early July. We made that deadline, working remotely through the hardships of the pandemic lock-down period to collectively deliver a full technical package to the client’s term contractor. Construction started on time in July 2020 and the scheme is now complete and fully appreciated by the people it has been built for.
Hackney Cyclist on Twitter: “Old Bethnal Green Road used to be a terrible rat run filled with motor traffic racing through to avoid the traffic lights on Hackney Road or Bethnal Green Road. What a transformation, Tower Hamlets Council have done a superb job.”
This project saw the full extent of our multi-disciplinary team including traffic engineering and engagement. To support and create spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, a wider traffic movement study was undertaken to define one-way systems and road closures to allow efficient and improved use of the streets and spaces. Key stakeholders such as the emergency services and equality groups were consulted to ensure the proposed traffic changes and road closures did not impede necessary movement requirements.