Saturday 11 September 2010

Waiting for cars and the flowerpot slalom

I ventured into Haringey yesterday, on a trip I frequently make around Stamford Hill and Seven Sisters. Although obviously I am always nervous about leaving the protection of the award winning cycling facilities in Waltham Forest, sometimes one just has to be brave.

I have to say that the cycling paths around Tottenham Hale, although not maintained to a great standard, and having to be shared by pedestrians and people waiting for the bus, are actually easier than navigating the chaos that is the one-way system. Apparently this is going to change and the area may no longer be blighted by a three lane race-track.

But the cycle paths betray exactly where the cyclist comes in the pecking order of road users, in the opinion of Haringey council.

Now, aside from showing the difficulty of taking the pavement away to use as a cycle lane (ie pedestrians quite like to walk on it), it also shows cyclists expected to give way at a junction. This junction is with the retail park car park. It could have been easy to give cyclists and pedestrians priority, and it wouldn't have changed traffic flows significantly. The major congestion caused is too may cars trying to find too few spaces, sometimes the queues tail back along Forest Road.

And look - whilst pedestrians and cyclists are sharing this space, cars have 3 lanes.

I really hope that the new scheme will reclaim some of this space back to pedestrians and cyclists - both use this road extensively. I shan't hold my breath.

So, Haringey have tried - they haven't succeeded completely, but the road environment is so aggressive,  this is better than nothing. What have the award-winning Waltham Forest done on their side?

Well, this view shows Forest Road near Tottenham Hale. The white line denotes the cycle path, at least Haringey managed to find some green paint and time to add some little bicycle symbols. But here shows clearly how pedestrian space is compromised to provide nominal facilities for cycling. And ends up with both being crap. Meanwhile the road is kept lovely and wide to encourage speeding. Which is absolutely endemic on this stretch of road. The lone speed camera near the end is hardly deterring anti-social driving. If a road in Waltham Forest was crying out for average speed cams, this is it.

So the facilities above look like a puny attempt to move cyclists off a road made dangerous by law-breaking motorists, when the root cause of the danger is ignored.

When one reaches Blackhorse Lane junction, Waltham Forest has put in a  cycling provision - some cycle-lights which allows cyclists time to clear the junction before the main road lights go green. Useful in principal as the road narrows after the junction, and the cyclist needs to contend with 2 lanes of fast moving traffic merging. However, as the picture shows below, there is a problem

Yes, as lovely as the flowers are, they are blocking the narrow cycle bypass lane. This is so indicative of cycling provision - even a potentially reasonable idea is made ridiculous by the council not thinking about what they are doing.

I could point out that whilst cars have three lanes, cyclists are generously provided with this lane barely wider than the width of double yellow lines, but that would be somewhat cynical - Waltham Forest are really rather chuffed with their cycle lights.

None of these problems would take much money to sort out. Moving the flowers would take 10 minutes, at least continuing the green strip over the car park entrance to make drivers aware of the cycle path wouldn't be a hugely costly exercise. Yet the chances of this happening is probably around zero. Why? Because the councils either are cynically deploying cycle facilities as a facade of "green-ness" or the people responsible for implementing these facilities have absolutely no idea about cycling, and never use them themselves.

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