Pedestrianisation in Hackney Central, London

This case study looks at lessons from the successful conversion of a narrow London street to a pedestrian and cycle-only area. The 'Narroway' in Hackney Central had historically forced cyclists onto the pavements to avoid a busy bus route, which itself created significant congestion issues.

Date added 25 May 2020
Last updated 4 June 2020

The narrowing of streets given to cars is a necessity for many urban areas where walkways are too narrow or littered with obstacles to allow for effective social distancing. As London embarks on its own new Streetspace plan to use temporary materials to widen footways and solve these issues across the capital, this case study is from one of its boroughs that has already had success with a programme of pedestrianisation on one of its narrowest streets.

This case study looks at the northern section of Mare Street in Hackney Central, also known as the Narroway. Its narrow section of road had historically forced cyclists on to the pavements to avoid a busy bus route which itself created significant congestion issues.

In a blog from Hackney Cyclist, the transformation of the Narroway to a pedestrian and cycle only zone is described, covering many of the tactical initiatives to address local concerns and opportunities:

  • Addressing objections from local businesses over fears of reduced trade
  • Fears of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists
  • Configuring the physical environment to allow considerate cycling and accessiblity
  • Seating and cycle parking
  • Signage

The rest of the article takes the perspective of a cyclist navigating from the Narroway to other destinations within the borough and identifying the various issues that are encountered that make this difficult.

While the development of the Narroway did require consultation, planning and a trial period, it provides valuable lessons for other high streets considering pedestrianisation or accessibility for walkers and cyclists as a necessary immediate tactic to support social distancing.

The physical limits of public space and how to reimagine them as central to many of the practical elements of the COVID19 Recovery Framework, adopted to help programme the High Streets Task Force resources and approach to supporting places.