Thursday, 7 October 2010

Sustrans Route 1

I am sure that Sustrans do sterling work in the effort to get people to use more sustainable transport. I would be really quite certain that if left just to the great and the good in the councils of Haringey, Waltham Forest and Hackney that the cycle route 1 which is a great off-road route through these boroughs would still be at "discussion stage". No actual route, but plenty of glossy brochures indicating intention.

So this isn't really criticism of Sustrans, who try and make the best of  trying to get local and national government turn rhetoric into action. Not easy unless one measures action as the number of celebrity promotional videos created or the thickness of each sustainable transport policy document generated.

But I cycle this route 1 frequently, and some parts neatly sum up the issues that face utility cycling.

Firstly, I believe that this route is maintained by Sustrans, which is in itself telling. Surely national and local governments should be using transport funds to maintain key cycle routes? I wonder whether we could have all transport infrastructure maintained by charity? But whether Sustrans or not, the fact is that this route through Walthamstow and Hackney marsh is very popular with commuters and leisure cyclists alike, but the conditions can be sometimes atrocious.

Yesterday for instance.

This the path to the underpass for Lea-bridge Road. The alternative is to take ones chances crossing two lanes of heavy traffic. It is widely used by cyclists and pedestrians.

Not only are there puddles, but there is obviously the remnants of a now long deceased concrete path which is really slippy if your cycle wheels go over it. But this isn't the real problem. The real issue is the fence that has been erected in the last couple of days. Without that in place the cyclists could swing left slowly to avoid pedestrians and cyclists coming the other way around the blind 90 degree corner. Now cyclists and pedestrians are forced into each others paths as the fence has narrowed the path.

A neat and simple solution would be to install a convex (Trixi) mirror attached to the fence or railings so that you could see down the underpass as you rode down the path. Or, of course, not put up a fence in the first place, the purpose of which is, and probably always will, remain a mystery.

A little further down at Hackney Marshes one comes across this cycling facility

Now, clearly some contractor is doing something in the corner of the playing fields (what they are doing is again left as a tantalising mystery) and has blocked Sustrans 1. This is the diversion for cyclists and pedestrians.

On the Sustrans website, this diversion is noted with a little exclamation mark and the text "Cycling diversion onto grass". Now that isn't really true is it? A more accurate description would be "Cycling diversion onto terrain that bears some resemblance to a WW1 battlefield".

 I cannot really believe that city workers would use this route to commute home on a Brompton whilst dressed in a suit. Well, not unless they were really keen on dry cleaning.

And this is one of the many problems. A route such as this that links inner and outer London to the centre without having to use roads would be cherished in other countries and may look like this.

Netherlands - courtesy of David Hembrow's blog

In the UK we have some kind of mud covered obstacle course.


  1. Oh, but sometimes the Dutch have to divert their bike paths around building work too. What do you think happens there, when this is necessary?

    Oh, right.


  2. Some breaking news (which I would have sent to Freewheeler as well if there was any way how) - just got this in the latest edition of the Leytonstone residents' newsletter that our local councillors send out.


    Olympic Development Agency Cycle Schemes

    These schemes will connect Whipps Cross roundabout with the Green Man roundabout with Bushwood and the route south through Epping Forest to the Olympic Park via Newham. The proposed schemes were prepared following consultation with stakeholders, ward councillors, and affected businesses and residents. The schemes are-

    · Whipps Cross- This will provide a cycle path along the north-eastern side of Whipps Cross Road via Hollow Ponds. TfL and the ODA have provided £174,000 for this scheme.

    · Bush Road- The proposal includes providing a segregated cycleway/footway on the southern side of Bush Road. The cycleway will link the Bushwood/Bush Road junction with the existing toucan crossing that is located south of the Green Man roundabout. We secured a significant concession from TfL, in that the original scheme had the cycle lane along the edge of the fencing of Henry Reynold Gardens and pedestrians alongside the road, we got this reversed, in light of the number of very young children and mothers with prams that use this park and this particular pavement. TfL and the ODA have provided £54,000 for this scheme.

    · Ferndale Road– This will involve the reconstruction and widening of an existing path on Epping Forest land that will link Bushwood Road to Ferndale Road. We have also asked officers to consider how we can fund and improve the toe path from Harrow Road up to the new cycle lane, at Ferndale Road, to maximise this opportunity further. I hope to give further details on this shortly. TfL and the ODA have provided £30,000 for this scheme.

    Work is expected to commence for Bush Road and Ferndale Road during October 2010 and be completed by November/December 2010. The Whipps Cross Road works are anticipated to commence in November/December and be completed before April 2011.

  3. This new cycle-way certainly looks promising. I hope that the implementation is well thought out. Interesting about Whipps Cross Road. This could have such nice cycling provision, but it might be ruined if cars are allowed to park across it. I did hear that Whipps Cross Roundabout was being re-designed as a traffic light controlled junction. This roundabout currently is appalling for cyclists (it isn't too clever for cars either) as the width allows cars to speed.

    Of course all of this doesn't help roads such as Eastway which despite being completely inhospitable to pedestrians and cyclists, is actually used by cyclists a lot - probably because the alternatives are so circuitous.