Some 11.5 million visitors amble along Exhibition Road as it passes several of London’s most important museums. At peak traffic hours, up to 700 vehicles an hour also use it.
It’s a situation that administrators in the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, the City of Westminster, and London’s Mayor Boris Johnson have been trying to alter since 2004 by implementing an ambitious plan to turn 800 meters of Exhibition Road into a single-surface roadway.
A narrow channel down the middle would allow vehicle traffic, while the rest would be given over to pedestrians. The design, according to Sarah Rubinstein at Dixon Jones, the design firm for the new roadway, features a dark-and-light granite block design that runs from building line to building line, interrupted only by black cast iron drainage channel covers and strips of ridged “corduroy” paving.
The single-surface idea was conceived in particular to recognize the needs of people using wheelchairs, motorized carts, and strollers, as well as the elderly and partially sighted who have a hard time negotiating curbs, according to the famed thoroughfare’s website.
Ironically, however, 28 disability groups led by Guide Dogs for the Blind Association have objected to the design, and want to keep some form of curb in place, arguing that guide dogs will be confused without a curb at which to halt.