London was almost turned into an LA-style road hell by 1960s city planners

I was surprised at how little I knew about London’s mid-century plan to raze large swaths of the city center to build elevated highways – the same kind of urban redevelopment madness that has destroyed cities around the world, especially in the United States. But the plan for London was so ambitious – several “Ringways” ringing off the city centre, the suburbs and finally the whole conurbation – that discussion continued well into the 1970s, and by then it was obvious that it was a bad idea and only the furthest circuit survived to become the beloved M25. In London’s Lost Ringways, Michael Dnes writes of how incredibly lucky the city was to avoid its fate, but also the price paid: an unrelenting NIMBYism that to this day limits Britain’s ability to plan its infrastructure.

As for Peter Stott – the head of the GLC’s transport department and London’s answer to Bulldozer Bob – he was a timid engineer who seemed painfully aware of the damage traffic was doing to London. As early as 1969 – long before it was fashionable – he was trying to convince his counterparts at the Department for Transport that the best use of London’s expensive new computer-controlled traffic light system would be to slow traffic rather than speed it up. accelerate. , in order to balance the flow of traffic throughout the city. He was even so worried about exhausting the national supply of trees suitable for roadside planting that he convinced the council to buy his own nursery. If these men weren’t monsters, why did they come up with such monstrous works?

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