Planters appear in Hackney streets to block traffic and aid social distancing

Planters installed in the borough. Pic: Meristem Design

Roads in Hackney have been closed off by using special planters to cut off rat runs to motorists, to provide people with more space for social distancing measures and improve road safety for walking and cycling.

As part of the next stage of emergency road safety measures inclusive of the lockdown and social distancing measures, Hackney Council has had to close roads such as Barnabas Road and, as an experimental measure, the road linking Wick Road and Homerton High Street.

They said: “Barnabas Road in Hackney is set to be closed to through-traffic as part of the next stage of emergency road safety measures to provide people with more space for social distancing and improve road safety as they walk and cycle”. 

“The road, linking Wick Road and Homerton High Street, is a key route for residents using Homerton Station, workers at Homerton University Hospital and cyclists using protected lanes on Wick Road. It will be closed under an experimental traffic order, with planters installed to prevent through traffic”.

“The Council is therefore continuing to identify sited for the introduction of other additional measures to protect walking and cycling, and has also begun adapting its borough-wide traffic survey to investigate the potential impact of easing restrictions on traffic levels”.

Planters being installed to cut out rat runs. Pic: Meristem Design

Habib Khan, sales and marketing director at Meristem Design – the company that installed the planters in the borough – said: “The councils have a major challenge to increase walking and cycling due to COVID 19 and in avoiding the use of public transport, the more permanent cycle segregated routes can take years in the planning. Our planters create a barrier within weeks of ordering them. They also look much better than the temporary road closed barriers which are also easy to move by drivers wanting to get through”.

At the moment the planters have been placed for a indefinite amount of time, but will likely be removed after the lockdown is lifted, as the primary cause for them are the social distancing measures.

Khan pointed out that if a council decides to remove the planters after the Covid-19 lockdown is lifted, these can be “re-used in polluted schools as they are perfect dimensions to use with our green screens”.

He said local residents have been having an, “overwhelmingly positive” reaction towards the planter barriers, even more than they initially expected.

Khan added: “There are many clusters of roads where the majority of the drivers are passing through during rush hour to save time from the major roads. These drivers also tend to drive faster and with less regards for the locals”

The planters cut out the section where the drivers have been quickly passing through and as he says, it gives back the roads to the locals to enjoy in peace.

He said: “When the planters are used by low level pre grown green screens they can also reduce pollution by around 40% according to a recent Defra report”

Restaurants and coffee shops have applied to the councils for the instalment of parklets outside their businesses.

After the business’ successful application with the councils, the design company’s final project is the installation at restaurants and coffee shops in Hackney, and a few neighbouring boroughs.

Social distance parklets. Pic: Meristem Design

Khan said: “Finally we are about to install Parklets for use outside coffee shops and restaurants to provide additional space seating. Often there is not the pavement space outside the premises and the pavement needs to be kept clear for wheelchair access, therefore the road space is given over to Parklets with an open deck to provide their own seats and tables. 

“Our COVID-19 Parklets allow them to use the road space to provide extra seating for their customer taking social distancing into account, as many people prefer outdoor seating and covers will be lost inside. We use living pre grown green screens with Perspex sheeting in-between each booth to try and keep a solid segregated separation during the social distancing measures”.

Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm, for Hackney said: “As a result of the pandemic, people are walking and cycling more, but there is a clear danger that traffic will increase as people continue to avoid public transport. We’ve widened pavements and closed Broadway Market to through-traffic to help maintain social distancing, but we’re now launching the first of what will be a series of new road closures to protect the public from additional motor vehicle traffic and reclaim more public space to address what could be a radical long-term shift in levels of walking and cycling”.


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