A pavement clipping and steps leading to a crumbling wall in a small London street only just scraped the top of our list. Our choice is for the city’s most urgent repairs. Which is your favourite?
‘God almighty,’ Sir Eugene Henderson muttered in dismay to John Bartlett as he assessed the damage to a narrow street a few years ago. Henderson’s jack-knife had succeeded only in clipping the pedestrian crossing the hard bricks, his wooden ladder nearly crushing a dog to death while the antisocial youths gleefully enjoyed the view of Henderson’s cherished city. ‘I can’t believe it,’ Henderson was reported to have said to a Guardian reporter at the time. ‘The pavement is perfect.’
Whether Henderson was exaggerating is unknown, but his immediate predecessor probably was. If ever there was a cobweb of misapprehension about the aspirations of the Victorian city, it was our survey of London’s most urgent maintenance. While Milton Keynes is forever mending avenues and stuffy Bristol digs not much deeper than its hard pavement, London is not only inept but feckless about encouraging itself to become a better place for the pedestrian. With parks filled with holidaymakers sunbathing and slides operated by bored-looking city workers dangling from rusty and inefficient wooden scaffolding, few people in Britain’s capital would be surprised if the number of tripping hazards on street walks was actually climbing.
The pedestrians’ poor state was our comparison with the municipal neglect of the 20th century. In the middle of our survey our victorious favourite, a terraced street which lost much of its street floor to the postwar expansion of the suburbs, gave us our most poignant headline. ‘Double tragedy for Brydon family’. That’s right, the parents of Sam, the youngest cast member of the Grange Hill revival series, had a tragic love-hit double tragedy, one involving their only child’s horrific overdose and the other the previous night’s tragic collision with a parked lorry. The Guardian’s writer confessed he was ‘falling apart’.
The survey is at theguardian.com/concretecities