Liveable Streets

Liveable Streets Bus Gate

What is the Liveable Streets programme all about?

Liveable Streets is a £15 million street and landscaping programme being rolled out across Tower Hamlets.

Planting and a cycle lane Roman Road
Planting and a cycle lane Roman Road

The aim is to “improve the look and feel of the area and make it easier, safer and more convenient to get around by foot and bike.”   Essentially its an anti-car proposal which generated hundreds of residents’ objections when it was implemented in Bethnal Green and Wapping.  Now it’s the turn of Bow.  The public consultation is online  and information packs were put through some, but not all letterboxes. The deadline for response is 29th July.  It’s essential that residents give their views. 

Four road changes combine to turn Bow East into a dead end

There are 7 separate proposals but the overall impact of the road changes is that cars travelling west to east will be blocked entering Bow East from Old Ford Road and Roman Road.  Buses and bikes will be allowed entry through what is called a bus gate at the junction of Roman Road and St Stephens Road.  Coborn Road may also be blocked partially or entirely and the Roman Road Market may become a pedestrian street every day, not just on market days.  The consultation acknowledges that residents will have to travel longer distances to get to the streets off Tredegar Road and Roman Road East .  The overall aim is to force traffic down to Bow Road.  If you go out in your car or take a taxi home you will have to travel along Bow Road and come up to the area via Fairfield Road or from the A12.

Reducing Pollution

Reducing pollution in the area is said to be the main reason for the proposed changes   According to the consultation about half the cars in the area do not stop in Bow and do not need to pass through it.  However is doubtful if there will be any meaningful reduction in pollution since the same number of cars will be passing through the area – just half a mile south on Bow Road, generating more toxins as they move more slowly and sit in traffic jams.  The rest of the cars – mainly local cars – will be increasing their contribution to pollution because they will be doing longer journeys.  

Impact of Coronavirus

Perhaps because the anti-pollution case is weak, the proposals now give a nod to coronavirus.  The streets are a bit more crowded than usual as people avoid public transport and more of us are working from home. But this is a temporary issue and shouldn’t be used to justify pavement widening schemes, pedestrianisation and the introduction of pocket parks.

What is a pocket park?

Derbyshire Street Pocket Park. The total cost of the pocket park was £120,000. Installation of the cycle lane and highway improvements to the remainder of Derbyshire Street (road widening) cost an extra £60,000. It backs on to Weavers Fields.

The proposal is not just about blocking vehicles. The model which is being replicated across the borough includes pavement widening, cycle lanes and landscaping which includes parklets or pocket parks.

Pocket Park Calvert Avenue Shoreditch
Pocket Park Calvert Avenue Shoreditch

In order “to attract more visitors to the area” in the Roman Road market area two so called pocket parks are going to be installed – essentially a bench, a couple of bike hoops and a planter or two.  All flowery and beautiful in the planning documents but inevitably full of weeds, cigarette ends and discarded gas cylinders a few months later.

Unloved green space. Junction Columbia Road and Hackney Road
Unloved green space. Junction Columbia Road and Hackney Road

To make room for the pocket parks the pavement is going to be widened and the road pedestrianised seven days a week instead of the current 3 market days.  It is naïve to suggest that installing two benches will attract more visitors to the area.  

And finally….. the Bow Walking Routes

All along St Stephens Road there will be continuous crossings at all side road junctions.  These look like pedestrian crossings but drivers can drive over them to access the main road.  In several areas pedestrian guardrails will be removed to allow pavements to be widened and new pedestrian crossings are scattered around.  Tom Thumbs arch may get new artwork.

Impact on Roman Road Market

Tower Hamlets Council has said it is committed to supporting the borough’s street markets, but Roman Road has become the poor relation.  The consultation suggests that the Bow town centre with its pocket parks can become a local destination and support the local economy to thrive.  At the present time the area is (just about) kept alive by the people who drive to it, do their weekly shop at Tesco or Iceland, then browse the market and local shops.  Yet, in order to introduce new landscaping some of the already limited parking at St Stephens Road is going to be removed.  The new traffic system will undoubtedly deter some people from coming to Bow and a bit of landscaping is not going to make it a destination area.  It is not fanciful to conclude that there is a risk the street will end up like other local shopping centres – a ghost town most of the time.

Impact on other local businesses

Cars travelling west to east facing road closures at Old Ford Road and Roman Road/St Stephens will get off Roman Road further west down Globe Road at the latest.  The shops all along Roman Road will be impacted through the road closures.  There is no sign that the businesses, much less the residents, have been involved so far in the detail of these plans but further restricting access to Roman Road is not going to help retailers already struggling to keep their businesses going.  What makes this a pleasant area to live in is the variety of local independent shops.  It would be disastrous if they were forced out of business.

How can residents engage with this.

Every household should have received an information pack and a form to respond along with a pre-paid envelope.  You can also respond online at  

Isn’t it a waste of time to object?

The overall project is not likely to go away.  A lot of people are protesting on the Facebook Group Tower Hamlets residents against the Liveable Sts Program. Even in this time of financial struggle Tower Hamlets Council still seems determined to spend £15million on this project so its important for us to get  Involved.  In both Bethnal Green and Wapping locals felt the schemes were over engineered and unnecessary.  Read the Battle for Columbia Road.

Tower Hamlets can be persuaded to listen.  Remember last year when Tower Hamlets decided to block the entrance to the A12 from the end of Tredegar Road and closed Coborn Road for a one week trial. The blocks lasted just one day as residents made it clear they were unacceptable. The new proposals are more measured but they can still be improved. The easiest way to respond is to complete the paper survey and post it but if you have internet access then it just takes a few minutes to do it on line.

Sheila Kelly

Read how the removal of hundreds of free car parking spaces killed off the once vibrant Roman Road Market.


  1. I live and own a business in the area and was not informed. I found the link to give my views online before the deadline which I must say some of the questions needed paragraph type answers which I can only imagine many residents weren’t able to give. It wasn’t representative of the many residents nor was it delivered correctly. Many reports suggests that residents living in estate flats weren’t being delivered these proposals for their views as the sheets were left at the communal areas or out by the front entrance to the blocks of flats. So the responses received are not representative of the area and many were not properly informed. This needs to be redone.
    We need to look at this further, it’s great that research has been done previously to explain the rat race and cut through issues that this area is currently experiencing but we must also be realistic. Skew bridge – old ford road experiences an hour or two at the most of slow moving traffic each day during rush hour like most parts of London. And to be honest if companies staggered their employee start times then traffic would be reduced and moving efficiently through out the day.

    For now For most part of the day traffic runs smoothly and not much of it. Old ford road is generally quiet.
    The repercussions of closing old ford road down during the first pandemic was disastrous, the truth be told it did absolutely nothing to serve the community but create divisions between the local residents.
    It caused more traffic on St Stephens road and Roman road was for most part of the day a gridlock. I witnessed a fire truck attempt a 6 point turn having entered old ford at the grove road roundabout and forced to make the manoeuvre once face with the planters. Speaking with local police offices – it was clear that they had not been made aware of the road closure and that it had been more of an hindrance and not welcomed.
    It allowed police cars to always use st Stephens road constantly with the sirens and moped joy riders to evade police through the planter gaps on skew bridge. It was a pain to witness for many and the reopening of old ford road -skew bridge was a blessing to many.

    I would suggest that when the pandemic is completely over and the country is predominantly back to work and back in action then and only then can you really evaluate the true outcomes of a trial.

    It would be interesting to first trial this but under realistic conditions when the country is back on track.
    A trial of a month would be adequate and should also be done when children are at school.
    The bus gate proposed on st Stephens road will make it extremely difficult for residents living on the bow east side. In order to leave the area these proposals state that a long detour is needed via hackney wick, Tredegar road, A12 and Bow Road.
    Going directly to Bethnal Green and the city in a short amount of time is no longer an option and this doesn’t serve the community. Residents and families who utilise their cars for household, personal journeys will find this a huge inconvenience. The majority of residents living in Bow east send their children to schools out of bow east, so this would make no sense at all and from my perspective it’s boarder line social cleansing. We all know the residents living in parts of Bow west that this would benefit the most are the ones sitting in their Million pound houses who never venture into the Bow East neighbourhood as their is nothing for them except the Tesco and even that is far stretched.
    But residents living in Bow east do always leave the area to access primary schools, secondary schools and other shopping areas all via Roman road and old ford road. Diverting the traffic to Bow Road would cause more slow moving traffic to build up on Tredegar road and St Stephens road. More pollution for the poorer part of bow known as Bow east but great pollution free roads around Chisenhale and Olga neighbourhoods. This is not representative of the area and the vast majority of residents that live in Bow east. These proposals only trap the residents and make their journey times longer and increase pollution in Bow east.

    It’s an easy observation and is quiet plain sight. Anyone objecting hasn’t clearly listened to reason.
    My views are to give it a go by implementing only temporary measures that can be removed before spending millions on redoing the roads and layouts.
    Do planters at skew bridge, bus gate signs at Roman road and pedestrianised Roman road market and see what happens during the trial but under realistic circumstances I.E when kids are back at school and lockdown restrictions have been fully lifted.

    No I don’t agree with Liveable streets but I’m willing to agree on some more research and trials before anything is further decided. I think most residents would be more likely to agree with me also.

  2. Wow. Shocked at the misinformation within this terribly written article.

    The proposals will greatly benefit the majority of Bow residents. Its about time our streets saw council funding for improvement. Why would you dismiss their investment?

    Suggest you fact check before blogging in future.

  3. I think this is a really negative and pessimistic piece. Not balanced at all. Do you know anything about the area? There are heaps of community groups that would look after the greenery and keep the place looking nice given half a chance. Friends of Meath Gardens, Friends of Viccy Park, Friends of Mile End Park, Cranbrooke Community Garden the volunteer community planters etc, etc. This article sounds like it’s from a right miserable couch potato. Get out of your car and discover the beauty of your community around you!

  4. There are a few inaccuracies in the write-up here.

    “There is no sign that the businesses, much less the residents, have been involved so far in the detail of these plans.”
    On the contrary, there was a series of workshops at the end of last year which informed these plans.

    “…some of the already limited parking at St Stephens Road is going to be removed.”
    Seven spaces, yes. The council had people observe how full the car park got and it only ever got half full. There is room.

    “At the present time the area is (just about) kept alive by the people who drive to it”
    The vast majority of shoppers in the area get there on foot, a fact confirmed by Roman Road Trust in 2018, when they asked not just shoppers but businesses themselves. In any case, parking remains in the aforementioned car park and on side streets around Roman Road for blue badge holders. And only around a third of households in TH have access to a car – we need to make the environment better so that people come in to linger whether by car, foot, bus or bike.

    “However is doubtful if there will be any meaningful reduction in pollution since the same number of cars will be passing through the area – just half a mile south ”
    An analysis of dozens of these schemes found an average reduction in traffic of around 15%, when including both the filtered and perimeter roads. In Walthamstow, traffic on perimeter roads notched up a small amount after the scheme was completed, but that was more than outweighed by a reduction in the whole area of 10,000 car journeys per day. This is a drop in pollution worth fighting for.

    Overall, the proposal is not so much anti-car” as “pro-people”.

  5. Wow. Could you be any more pessimistic? The proposals will make Bow safer for everyone, but especially for our children and the elderly.

    Not only that but they’ll help make Roman Road a leading shopping destination for locals who might otherwise have driven to a supermarket – pedestrianised streets are some of the busiest and most profitable in the world.

    All residents will keep access to their properties by car. I honestly can’t understand anyone who actually lives in and cares about Bow voting against this.

    As for the money – it’s a grant from the Mayor’s Office. No scheme, no money. So you’re campaigning against having money spent in your local area, that’s madness.

  6. What a badly informed article. The scheme is very well thought through, and there have been all sorts of opportunities for people to engage, including businesses.

    If you don’t know about or understand issues like air pollution (which is actually hyper local) and how similar schemes have actually improved air quality, footfall at businesses and ease of getting around for the majority (75% of tower hamlets households don’t have a car) then perhaps you’re not very well placed to write about it?

  7. Approximately 40% of households in Bow own a car, so the majority of residents aren’t going to be bothered by driving restrictions, indeed they might find walking and cycling more pleasant.

    That’s not to say all the proposals are good ones, and there may well be a detrimental economic impact, so responding to the consultation is really important.

    But the proposed outcome isn’t all bad, especially for the 60% of us who don’t drive.

    1. Thanks for writing in. I remember the time when people drove to the Roman Road market from 5-10 miles away on Saturdays to shop. If you remove the spend from elsewhere shops become less viable, and if they close it does affect the non-drivers. We don’t drive to the shops ourselves, but we used to be able to walk to a big Safeways. It’s gone, and was replaced by a much smaller Tesco.

  8. Tower Hamlets Council was given a grant by the mayor of London which is paying for the scheme.

    I think the scheme will decrease pollution, decrease noise, improve life for the vast majority of residents, reduce rat running, improve the lung health of children in the area (currently our children have around 10% less lung capacity than the national average, encourage children to walk to school ( tackling childhood obesity).

    The scheme is really cheap compared to the amount spent on retarmacking roads.

    I look forward to a much more pleasant area.

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