Kingsbury Bridge closure – a timeline
Kingsbury Bridge in Mildmay ward has been closed to motor traffic for more than fifty years and has become a critical artery in London’s cycling network. Until recently, the bridge was safely carrying large numbers of people on wheels (and foot) every day and for several years was part of Cycleway 1 – one of the most popular routes in the capital. However, things changed abruptly just before Christmas last year when the bridge was closed to the public on 19 December 2022 by Network Rail – at very short notice – due to safety concerns.
The bridge had been slated for replacement anyway from 2024 but an inspection found that it was in such poor condition that something had to be done immediately and it was decided that it should be closed with no time for community engagement. Five months on and sadly that engagement is still lacking despite it affecting the entrance to a school. It is disrupting the lives of most residents in the area who don’t own a car, as well as affecting all the people who cycle through the area as a gateway to the city centre.
The so-called diversion
A ‘diversion’ has been in place from the start, which was devised by Network Rail and approved by Islington Council. Will Norman tells us it has since been the subject of many meetings with Islington and Hackney council officers and leaders, with TfL and with Network Rail. From our perspective, it’s simply unsafe and not fit for purpose. We’ve gone from a traffic-free bridge and a segregated track (that took five years to deliver) to fending for ourselves along King Henry’s Walk – a traffic rat run – and making two right turns in the middle of the busy Balls Pond Road (one of which is an illegal manoeuvre!). Oh, and good luck trying to spot the signage. Trains, however, continue to run under the bridge.
Our concerns and suggestions for a different diversion route have not been taken up and no alternative solutions have been proposed by Network Rail. We would like to see a shorter and safer route through the estate on Burder Close and Kingsbury Terrace (making it easier for estate residents too), returning to safe segregation on Balls Pond Road. Some remedial work would be required but this could be quickly delivered at minimum cost. The other option we looked at was a two-way cycle path on Balls Pond Road to King Henry’s Walk but we feel that this would be more expensive, more complicated due to being on a bus route and take longer to deliver than our first option, ie via the estate. We note that Islington council is currently drawing up plans for a new Liveable Neighbourhood in East Mildmay which could incorporate and improve any necessary route diversion but to date, no firm plans have been announced and time marches on.
On 16 March 2023, Islington and Hackney cyclists met a rep from TfL to show them the dangerous route; everyone present agreed that the basics just weren’t there either on the signage or on the carriageway. On 22 March 2023, a woman reported being injured while cycling along the diversion “I was in tears. My face was bloodied and I was limping”. There has been limited remedial work on some of the potholes on the road however, with up to a year until the bridge is replaced, Network Rail’s reaction to criticism of their own mis-management of the roads around their bridge has been suboptimal. They have a duty to provide a safe alternative. We have heard that Network Rail won’t reopen the bridge until it is replaced.
Cyclists and pedestrians have put up with this for five months and we have a long long wait ahead until a new bridge is in place, scheduled for March 2024. What we have now is just not acceptable in a city that is striving to do all it can to make cycling and walking safe, easy and convenient so that we can breathe cleaner air and tackle the climate emergency. The cycling diversion is dangerous, not fit for purpose and inadequately signed. Or as a parent told us recently: “The current diversion is unsafe for cyclists. I cycle it four times a day with toddlers and it’s always a gauntlet of potholes and overcrowding on the road, particularly dangerous after dark on King Henry’s Walk”.
Help us to get action
We are ramping up our campaign to get this fixed and we would like to hear of your experience of this part of Cycleway 1:
- Do you try to follow the diversion?
- Have you found another way round it?
- How is it at night?
- Do you avoid it entirely?
- What would you like to see happen?
The more experiences we can share with the authorities, the more we can spell out how ridiculous this situation is. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you !