Our second case study: Finchley Road

Post by Dr Sadie Boniface

Another site we have visited is Finchley Road in the London Borough of Camden. Many of us on the Street Mobility team agree that the part of the road close to Finchley Road underground station is an obvious barrier to pedestrians due to the speed and volume of traffic, with physical barriers reinforcing this – a textbook example of community severance.

The section of Finchley Road we are interested in is roughly from Finchley Road & Frognal station in the north to Swiss Cottage in the south (boundaries TBC). At the moment, we are undecided as to how to define the edges of our case study area to the east and west. Our challenge here is how do we define ‘the community’ of pedestrians who may be experiencing severance in the absence of a specific population or clear geographic area (as there was in Woodberry Down) to study?

Google map showing approximate boundaries of Finchley Road case study area (boundaries TBC). Click the image for the full map
Google map showing approximate boundaries of Finchley Road case study area (boundaries TBC). Click the image for the full map

In this case study we would be mainly looking at the effects of the road, although there are some railway lines that may also be of relevance to Street Mobility. Finchley Road, like Seven Sisters Road (in Woodberry Down) is six lanes wide and very busy, with around 37,000 vehicles a day (based on 2012 data, though using the same data for 2011 there were 54,000 vehicles).

Public transport provision is good, with the underground and several bus routes. There are many shops and restaurants on both sides of the road, and a number of these have signs, seating, or items for sale out on the street. However, in terms of other features along the street, there are few trees or benches. Along Finchley Road barriers have been put in place as a safety measure to prevent pedestrians crossing the road away from designated crossings (‘informal crossing’).

Finchley Road looking North. Note the barrier at the side of the road.
Finchley Road looking North. Note the barriers at the side of the road.

According to the 2011 Census, some parts of the area have a high proportion of older people, while other parts have a lower proportion. The Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010 data suggest that – as in many parts of London – there are relatively deprived and relatively affluent parts of this area coexisting side by side (maps here).

Members of the Street Mobility team hope to meet the borough’s public health team soon to discuss the area as a case study. This area is a very different case to Woodberry Down which as we saw in an earlier post is undergoing extensive redevelopment. This presents us with different opportunities to speak to an established community about whether severance issues affect them, and new challenges in making contact with this community which will be led by Mapping for Change. We are looking forward to investigating whether and how community severance affects this area, and will post updates about our workshops soon. Please come back soon or follow us on Twitter @StreetMobility.

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2 thoughts on “Our second case study: Finchley Road”

  1. Finchley Road is a fascinating choice, given its transformation over the past half a century, from a tree-lined avenue to the urban thoroughfare it is today. It is still (just) surviving as a local high street, but worth comparing and contrasting with how it was from the 1930s onwards, as can be heard in the BBC’s recent Radio 4 programme: Journeys Down my Street: Ode to Finchleystrasse, which told of recreating Viennese Kaffeeklatsch in Finchley Road: transporting the social life of the old country to the new: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01s09k1

  2. Thanks for sharing that link. Paraphrased- you see they put a barrier down the road…it was lined with beautiful trees and they cut them down and widened the road… it was so sad when they cut the trees down because it was a beautiful avenue prior to that and it just became a normal high street after that.
    I always wondered if the road had been at all pleasant in living memory. A case of traffic/road planning killing off the community and desirability of a place surely; what estate agent would call a house on either side F Road now- as opposed to Hampstead?

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