Saturday 30 October 2010

Viva La Revolution!

As you are all probably aware, London is in the grip of a cycling revolution. By marketing campaigns such as videos of celebrities on bicycles, TfL have found innovative ways to make the cycling modal share in London rocket from 1.2% in 2001 to  1.6% in 2009. At this meteoric rate, London's cycling modal share will be the same as Amsterdam's and Copenhagen's in a little over 600 years. Clearly TfL were right and every city with high cycling modal share was wrong - cycling excellence can be achieved without having to bother with pesky and expensive infrastructure.

But how is the cycling revolution progressing outside London? Is the expertise of award winning councils such as Waltham Forest being heeded outside the M25? Great news! On my trip to Harlow, Essex, I think it is!

Look at this cycle path, pictured below - clearly taken from the Waltham Forest book of great cycle provision.

London Road, Harlow

At first sight, this cycle provision, running about 12 feet, would appear to be completely useless whilst being shared with railings and a traffic light. However, this is a misconception - the light coloured ridged tiles are not there just to make it interesting when cycling in the wet, they are actually the landing zone for a Star-Trek type teleporter that whisks the cyclist to the next piece of disjointed infrastructure. Obviously, the teleporter doesn't work as it hasn't been invented yet, but this just shows the far-sightedness of whoever implemented this facility - it is completely future-proofed.

Until the art of teleportation has been perfected, the cyclist can use the cycle path on the other side of the traffic lights. At first glance the lack of lighting on an offroad path in a secluded area may be thought a mistake, but the council have come up with a better (meaning cheaper) plan. Cyclists have their path lit up from the glass shards scattered over the entire length. And this doubles as a useful consumer test facility to see if those new "puncture-proof" tyres really are up to the job!

It is good to see Harlow also taking note of Waltham Forest's creative use of overgrown shrubbery. In Harlow, when the cyclist returns back to the crossing via the cycle path (assuming that they have manage to replace those shredded tyres), they are confronted with this at the end of the path.

One might falsely assume that obstructing the path as it turns 90 degrees onto a narrow pavement would put cyclists in direct conflict with any pedestrians coming along the other way, and that this would be a bad thing. But Harlow are employing a transportation genius - this is exactly what is intended. Instead of cyclists and pedestrians careering headlong into the road and possibly slowing down traffic by colliding with it, they are slowed by colliding with each other. Soft and squidgy pedestrian hits soft and squidgy cyclist instead of soft and squidgy cyclist damaging expensive paintwork on hard metal car.

I think it is clear from the evidence above that authorities outside London are employing the same tactics for increasing cycling modal share as those used in London. Therefore we can be confident that these boroughs will also enjoy the same spectacular results. Hurray!

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Greenway - Linking East London to the Olympics

The other day, after I had discovered the Greenway - a cycle and pedestrian path on the top of the sewer running to Beckton, I was impressed.

I did, however wonder how on earth cyclists should cross the A11 which, at this point, is a confusion of 4 lanes of heavy traffic separated by railings. With no apparent way of crossing it to reach the other part of the Greenway.

I have just looked at google Streetview and realised the answer!

View Larger Map

Of course! These two cyclists are showing us the crossing provision. Run across 4 lanes of traffic and heft your bicycle over the railings!

I can see families, the young and the old flocking to the Olympics on bicycle via Greenway if this is the expected crossing method.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

It could be worse...

... we could be living in Toronto.

Rob Ford has just been elected Mayor of Toronto. A man who, it seems, has made more knee-jerk, reactionary comments than he has had hot dinners.

Normally political activity in Canada holds very little interest for me, but Copenhagenize has a video link to his speech about cycling in Toronto

What he says is :

"What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later you are going to get bitten. Every year we have dozens of people who get hit by cars or trucks. Well no wonder. Roads are built for buses..... cars....... and trucks. Not for people on bikes. My heart bleeds for them when I hear that someone gets killed. But it is their own fault at the end of the day"

Since Toronto was built in the 19th Century, it is unlikely (unless the city planners were very good at telling the future) that the roads were built for motorised transport. But this is a small point compared with the thrust of the argument that implies cyclists get what they deserve for messing around on Toronto's roads.

So, it could be worse. Although London's cycling infrastructure is often hopeless, at least local councils believe that cycling should form a part of our transport policy. Even if the funds and willpower to do something about it is sadly lacking.

So well done Rob Ford. For becoming Mayor of Toronto and for making me realise that it could all be so much worse...

Monday 25 October 2010

N/E London's Tour De Crappiness

All local councils love cycling. Or at least they love putting some ecofluff about it on their websites. Whilst I generally rant about the huge discrepancy between aspirational cycling promotional material and reality in Waltham Forest, one needs to bear in mind that they aren't alone. Or even possibly the worst. 

Here is a selection of some facilities I encountered along my route through four boroughs today.


Haringey has a network of cycle routes across the borough including cycle lanes on main roads, separated cycle lanes and special fully signed, quiet routes.

Sounds promising. Here is one of those cycle lanes on a main road - Ferry Lane.

This is clearly a shared cycle facility - being as it is shared with a couple of road cones and other road-work detritus. Which have been here for months. To ensure that cyclists don't blunder into the road signs, there is a handily placed sunken drain which forces them out into the fast moving traffic to avoid. It really is as if Haringey hates cyclists. If the semi-permanent road-work detritus doesn't get you then there is a slippery off-camber drain to catch the unwary.
Still at least the cycle lane is a mandatory one. Which is great - it means that cyclists have the several millimetres of space between the cones and the white line all to themselves.

A little further along, one comes along a special quiet route round Markfield Road. These quiet routes allow one to relax, away from the bustle of the main streets. Time to take in the scenery.

I am always surprised I don't see more families cycling through here to Markfield Park. Maybe it is the multitude of HGVs manoeuvring in and out of the refuse plant that puts them off. Or the complete lack of any cycle facility to protect them from the works lorries that use this industrial estate every day.


Did you know? Hackney has more people who cycle to work that anywhere else in Britain - join them and find out why.

I would hazard a guess it isn't because of the world-class cycling facilities.

What can I say about Homerton Road that I haven't already said?

Only that, according to the sign, Hackney are investing £22M in their streets. Here you can see Hackney investing in cycle facilities to the tune of err... bugger all. They have laid down some nice cobbles on the steep entrance to the tow-path which will provide an exciting challenge in wet or icy conditions. Here could be a really superb segregated cycle-way which safely bypasses the congestion regularly present along this road. But instead the space is given to car parking. Which says it all.

So maybe the cyclist will want instead to use the cycle / pedestrian tow-path a bit further along the river?  Us cyclists are a grumpy lot - we get these off-road facilities and yet still want to take away space from the motorist.

The cyclist even has a choice - either go up the raised and uneven cobbles or along the side which turns into a slippery mud bath when it rains. These raised cobble sections continue for a good stretch of the path. By the end you may be several inches shorter due to spine compression and the ride will have shaken out teeth, but at least this type of facility weeds out the weaker cyclists among us. Call it Darwinian cycle provision.


Newham is an ideal place to cycle because it is relatively flat.

That's really as enthusiastic as Newham seems to get over cycling - I had to search pretty hard even for this. So there we are -  Newham's best asset to cycling is it's flatness - which I suspect has little to do with local government. Still, at least it is honest - I guess they couldn't say Newham is an ideal place to cycle because it has traffic choked streets  that are deeply unpleasant for pedestrians and cyclists.

Take this part of the A11 to Stratford. I think using the word "ideal" in any respect to the conditions for cycling here can only be intended to be irony. 

So there we have it. Three boroughs in the midst of London's  cycling revolution. Superb.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Last week, Cycalogical wrote an article concerning the London Assembly transport meeting about the new Bike Hire Scheme and Cycle "Super" Highways.

Waltham Forest's Principle Transport Officer, Gina Harkell, was on hand to grill TfL on the adequacy or otherwise of  the CSH scheme. It would appear that she is not impressed, and neither should she be - in my opinion it is a reasonable idea made useless by lack-lustre implementation.

But there is something uncomfortable about a representative of Waltham Forest pontificating about these cycling schemes. I would say that it feels like the lunatics taking over the asylum, but it is more like the lunatics have taken over the asylum, have formed a "centre-of-excellence" committee and are now part of an advisory team for other asylums.

For instance, cycalogical reports her saying  that the CSHs are not giving that much more space to cyclists. Cyclists are not given priority at junctions, or special signals; there are parking and loading problems. Some of the opportunities to make the routes really safe are not being taken.

Hmmm.... remind anyone of anything?

Some interesting points were raised. Gina Harkell was concerned that the 500k per year grant for cycling wasn't going to be ring-fenced and thus "lost" in the general funds and cost cutting in boroughs. This is a valid point for Waltham Forest who seem to take losing track of money to the level of an art form. £500k barely covers the "golden bye-bye" payment to former Chief Executives

To put this yearly grant in context, the car-centric redesign of Tottenham Hale is estimated at costing £45M. So it is hardly a lavish payment, but I would still like to know where it is being spent - after all, the last time Waltham Forest were given extra cash for cycling measures it appeared that they were contemplating using it for extra car parking. I would be willing to wager a small amount of money that even this pittance went to "cycling" measures that were less about cycling and more about meeting "sustainable" targets or controlling car flow.

Take, for example this marvellous piece of infrastructure in Leyton.

This one-way street has two cycle lanes on either side. The road is long and wide and is cursed with speeding drivers. One would think that the council want cyclists going left to be in the left lane, and those turning right, to be using the right cycle lane. But look!

The right turn cycle lane ends abruptly in what might be termed a water feature.

So here, the cyclist diligently using the cycle lane provided is left on the outside of the road with his back to a blind corner whilst cars speed around and up the inside. By using this "facility" the cyclist has been put in the most dangerous position at the most vulnerable point. I assume the council think that cyclists should give up and just push their bicycle around the rest of the gyratory at this point.

This road is well used by cyclists, and I have never seen one use this right hand cycle lane. We all just have no sense of adventure.

So assuming that the borough don't want to actively maim and kill cyclists, why would they put in a facility that is useless at best and plain dangerous at worst? A look at the whole road may give a clue.

It is my opinion that the cycle lanes were implemented primarily to make the road appear narrower and discourage cars speeding. In which case the cycle "facility" isn't designed for the safety and convenience of cyclists, but for the control of motor traffic. Call me paranoid, but why would the cycle provision just end around the corner where junctions slow down the cars?

If this is the case, it doesn't even work - in the time I took these pictures, several cars used the cycle lanes as an extra lane to undertake slower moving right turning traffic. One car actually slowly went over the traffic island at the end to short cut around the gyratory.

If the £500k is being used to implement these type of lethal facilities then we are better off if the council loses the money anyway.

Finally, one of the questions raised was why TfL don't implement traffic lights for cycles that prioritise cycles and make junctions on the CSH more safe. The answer was that the DoT regulations don't allow it. Which begs the question as to why the regulations cannot be changed to implement Copenhagen type cycle provision in London? However, based upon local experience any cycle traffic lights would be hooded for over a year anyway due to "conflict" with motor traffic, and be the only cycle facilities in the world where there are signs for the cyclists to push their cycles instead of ride.

Monday 18 October 2010

Car driving roll-call of Honour

Once again I feel compelled to mention those drivers who have gone out of their way to imprint themselves on my memory in the last couple of days.

Firstly, the chump in a black super-mini who managed not to see me dressed in hi-viz with a flashing front light on during daylight hours, and instead turned across me as he was turning right at the Major Road / Temple Mill Lane junction. I had to brake so hard the back of the cycle started to slip from under me. Thank-you for stopping and for that completely bemused look on your face as I angrily went past you. I am not sure how much more visible I can make myself - maybe if you looked instead of following the other cars like a sheep it might help?

Secondly, the man in the dilapidated blue Peugeot estate who managed to pass me and then ,just as his front wheels went past, completely forgot about my presence as he veered left without any reason at all. Well, I say no reason, but as I passed him again seconds later in the queue on the A10, I saw he was wearing earphones and playing around with an iphone in his hands.  Clearly I cannot expect him to concentrate on all these important tasks all at the same time.

Lastly, thanks to the chap on Hoe Street in the small Silver car. Some words of advice. If you are going to reverse out of a one-way street the wrong way onto a major road, it might help if you looked in your mirrors once or twice. Also, I am the last one who should give fashion advice, but that hat? No-one could look good in that - especially when matched with the look of stunned incomprehension as I overtook you. Seriously, the hat. Why?

The ups and downs of cycling

Today, I tried out the "Greenway" cycle-route for the first time. I have cycled around this area for years, but never got onto this. I heard good things about it, and decided to try.

Here it is

It is great! Possibly could do with being a little wider (the cycle lane is on the left), it might be a bit better if they didn't use some textured paving on some of the joins, and I could swear it smelled a little of sewage (but it may have been my imagination, I knew it was built on top of the sewage pipeline to Beckton). But these are small points - It is smooth and traffic free.

Unfortunately, at the moment, the Olympic works means it terminates in a series of tight hairpins (with Trixi mirrors so some thought given here) and then gets very tight before you are herded by a polite security guard onto a short run to Pudding Mill Lane. The security guard was very patient as I tried to go every way except the correct way - the cycle lane seems to cross a road in the middle of the Olympic Park.

Once the work is completed, I believe the Greenway will run straight through to Beckton's water treatment plant. At the moment, the railway line tunnel is blocked off. How the Greenway will cross the A11 is anyone's guess.

Unfortunately, due to the work, this means that at the end of Pudding Mill Lane the cyclist is once again hurled into a car dominated world as you meet the A11 slip road around here

I did think at first I must have missed the cycle route, but, no, several other hardy cyclists continued whilst I was stopped. As can be seen above  a truly world-class cycle lane has been provided for us, to stop, alas, just as the slip road full of fast moving traffic joins the A11 full of fast moving traffic. Once you have fought your way off the slip road, the following scene greets you..

And then it is a mixture of weaving through stationary traffic, avoiding road work paraphernalia scattered with wanton abandon around the carriage way, and asserting oneself as traffic speeds away from lights to meet the next queue seconds later.

It made me almost nostalgic for the "safety" of the Tottenham Hale Gyratory...

Of course there are no signs on this diversion to guide the confused cyclist, how you would get back onto the Greenway from here is beyond my understanding - but would involve crossing a three lane carriage way to turn right.

The Olympic site does actually note this cycle diversion here, but interestingly states that the diversion will last until Spring 2010. Unless I have imagined living through 2010, I would say that this prediction is optimistic. And I did read the diversion document all the way through, but at no point did it recommend that the cyclist may need a change of underpants after negotiating the diversion.

So, in summary, The Greenway looks wonderful - I don't know if the rest of it is the same as the small section I used, but it has great potential. Which will be completely let down if no-one bothers making the local access roads more cycle friendly as well. It is hardly going to entice novices to cycle to the Olympic park  if  you have a great off-road cycle path which is accessed by roads which make your life flash before your eyes. I think I might have mentioned this point previously...

Sunday 17 October 2010

Cycling to the Olympics?

London 2012 is aiming for 100% of spectators to get to the Games by public transport, or by walking or cycling.

So says the Olympic website here.


Homerton Road

Junction with Eastway

I know I have blogged about this before, but these roads are right next to the Olympic Park, ironically a stone's throw from the Velodrome. It worth a second blog to highlight the huge gap between aspiration and reality.

The traffic along Homerton Road and Eastway is frequently backed up - even before the roadworks it would be queued extensively at rush hour.

The Olympic Delivery Authority are upgrading some off-road cycle routes to the Olympic park and creating a few more along green corridors. Which is very nice. But it supposes that cyclists can magically teleport themselves from their homes and hotels to the corridors without having to endure the crap that masquerades as cycle provision on these roads. 

Homerton road is a great example of the complete lack of enthusiasm for actually creating anything resembling a decent cycling environment. It is used by many cyclists, and is wide enough for a separate quality cycle facility. But instead the road is used for parking on both sides which means that when it gets queued as shown above, the cyclist has a few choices. To wait with the cars, to filter left or filter right. Filtering left is a very poor choice at the moment as roadworks combine with parked cars to make it tight and dangerous. Filtering to the right requires assertiveness as you are then in the path of oncoming traffic, so have to move in and out of the traffic. Filtering right is by far the best choice, but even for a confident cyclist, it can be intimidating. All of this because road space is devoted to parked cars and not a safe cycle path. It is hardly the type of road that I would have enjoyed when I was a novice road cyclist.

Does the Olympic committee think that cyclists won't need or want to use the roads surrounding the park? That they will push their cycles on the pavements until arriving at the cycle paths? It is complete nonsense - there needs to be at least cycle friendly feeder roads to the cycle paths and cycle provision also put in on the roads around the Olympics. Or possibly the Olympic committee are presuming that three lanes of traffic chaos moments from the Velodrome will encourage cycling?

Whose road is it anyway?

If you read the typical article about cyclists in The Mail, you would think that cyclists are lawless degenerates whilst drivers are hard put-upon angels who single-handedly are keeping the economy going.

Clearly there are many cyclists who take scant regard of lights. I believe that in an environment that people perceive to be hostile they then become hostile and aggressive themselves. And of course, there will be as many selfish, thoughtless cyclists as there are in the rest of society. But what amazes me is that poor, aggressive and selfish driving is commented upon so little. Today I experienced two separate incidents on zebra crossings that show some drivers' complete idiocy.

1) Whilst crossing a zebra crossing with my toddler daughter, a driver in a smacked up yellow van (which was way off when I started crossing) decided not to stop or even slow down, but to go between us and the central refuge at speed. Normally, drivers are pretty considerate with a toddler in tow - I suspect most human beings don't want to be responsible for running down a child. But 1 time in 100 you get some twat whose race to the next red-light is all consuming. Today I met the 1 in 100.

2) Whilst cycling a chap walked up to a zebra crossing. I started slowing to anticipate him crossing. I slowed, he remained with one foot on the crossing. I stopped. He still wasn't crossing - because the car behind me had decided to not bother stopping and sped past. The man started to cross again - then stopped as another car failed to stop and sped through the crossing. Completely moronic.

Why do these incidents happen? Clearly there are selfish idiots who cycle, walk and drive, but I think in the car there is something else happening here. Many drivers believe they have a right over the road which is simply not correct. Even when law states priority is given to other road-users, some drivers just don't believe it. Instead of taking the privilege of a driving license seriously and understanding that they are piloting a tonne or more of dangerous machinery through densely populated areas, they assume that the road is theirs to do with what they will. How this attitude can be changed, I don't know. But I do know that it will never change whilst many in local and national government hold the same view.

Thursday 14 October 2010

TfL and the Traffic Light Saga

Whilst reading my newly delivered LCC magazine today, I noted that the Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign have highlighted the situation with the hooded cycle lights in Hoe Street. It is good to know that the local organisation is working hard to lobby TfL, and believes the current answers unacceptable. TfL appear to have decided that the cycle lights will be re-activated after the junction is remodelled (or when time ends, whichever is more convenient).

They rightly point out that if this was the situation for another mode of transport they wouldn't let the current situation continue.

They have filed a formal complaint.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Two wheels good, four wheels better

When Orwell penned his dystopian masterpieces, Animal Farm and 1984, I doubt he had TfL in mind. For sure, these books are addressing much darker and deeper issues than cycle provision. But I am reminded of some common themes whenever I read a TfL road planning document. Nearly all of these documents employ a completely different version of English to one used elsewhere. Instead of newspeak , TfL employ a more wishy-washy version, which I term ecofluff, which says nothing at all, whilst filling up reams of paper.  And of course, in Animal Farm all animals were equal, pigs just more so. In TfL-land, they say there is a hierachy, which actually puts cycling and walking top, but then move away from this in documents to say everything is important, when, in actual fact, car provision is considered first and everything else fits around it if convenient.

Hex commented on this blog and referenced a TfL response document to questions about the Tottenham Hale gyratory redesign. This document shows the above two concepts beautifully.

The first question and answer is :

The proposals show no pedestrian crossing on the High Road at the junction of Philip Lane?
The proposals have been developed with the needs of all modes of transport being important. The decision to remove this pedestrian crossing facility has not been taken easily. We considered how many people use the crossing as well as how many vehicles pass through the junction. We want to ensure that pedestrians have safe, convenient footways and crossing points. However, we also have to ensure traffic flow is maintained.
Changing Monument Way and the High Road to two-way traffic will affect the flow of traffic using the junction. Traffic signal phasing and the location of stop lines will be changed. The re-phasing means southbound traffic on the High Road will flow in a more continual way. If the signal controlled crossing remained, the flow of traffic would be severely affected. The junction would very quickly become blocked. Many people, who responded to the consultation, commented on the loss of the
crossing facility at this junction. We are continuing to look at what other options for pedestrians could be introduced instead.

The pdf map can be found here. Removing the crossing will mean pedestrians need to go up to Monument Way and cross 5 separate crossings to come back down to the shops, or take their chances across 5 lanes of traffic. Note also the little caption showing that pedestrian space has been converted to road-use to fit in 2 lanes south-bound.

This is a classic example of all road users being equal, but car users being a bit more equal than anyone else.  There is clearly no alternative to the pedestrian crossing. The stretch of High Road between the Town-Hall approach and monument way is impassable to pedestrians.

TfL pretty clearly state in their response that car users are prioritised. The answer clearly demonstrates that the re-design wasn't approached with cycling and walking as a key part of the scheme, but to be shoe-horned into it if convenient.

This is even more clearly put into perspective when you look at one of the other questions

Why have you stopped lorries’ turning left from Markfield Road into Broad Lane?
Our original plans showed a traffic island restricting the left turn for lorries from Markfield Road into Broad Lane. Local businesses and freight operations are key users of the traffic system and we have taken on-board their comments and concerns regarding this issue. We have therefore reviewed the location of the new traffic island and will allow all vehicles (including lorries’) to make the left turn from Markfield Road into Broad Lane.

 Markfield Road is part of the gyratory by-pass for cyclists leading to Crowland Road and the A10. Lorries having to turn right would have to go up to monument way before turning onto the A10 instead of the shorter route down Broad-Lane.  I don't know why lorries would be restricted in turning left here (I might say to try to mitigate left turn accidents between cyclists on a TfL cycle route and lorries if I felt TfL would think of such a thing), but what I do know is that they have looked at it and changed their mind! How different to the pedestrian crossing!

Then after some more vague replies on environmental issues such as air quality and congestion, we reach the cycling part of the Q+A.

Why are some cycle lanes shown as two way and some do not look complete?
The cycle strategy tries to provide for confident cyclists on the road using a mix of cycle lanes, bus lanes and wide general traffic lanes. These are not always obvious when looking at the plans. This is complimented with a variety of off-carriageway facilities for less confident cyclists in many areas. We have tried to reduce the number of times cyclists need to cross from one side of the road to the other, as far as possible.

So, it isn't that cyclists haven't got much in the way of provision, and that the provision supplied is disjointed and takes away from pedestrian space. Oh no. It is because we all can't read a plan. I like the use of the word confident in the answer. One wonders how much confidence TfL believe is requisite for road cycling. Hopefully less confidence than needed if one wants to cycle on the present road system, where the word confidence could be replaced by the term suicidal.

And finally, the crowning glory of TfL ecofluff speak - the question asked about priorities.

Why has the scheme not being designed to reduce motor traffic or give preference to walking and cycling?
We want to make Tottenham Hale a better place to be. The proposals have been developed with the needs of all modes of transport being important. Removing the one-way system will allow the transformation of the area, making the area a more attractive place to live, work and visit. Our proposals will provide an opportunity to meet the needs of proposed future developments in the area.

One can read this response any number of times and be completely mystified about its meaning. It is the pinnacle of ecofluff nonsense. Take the first sentence - "We want to make Tottenham Hale a better place to be". All this is saying is that TfL aren't actively wanting Tottenham Hale to be worse than it is now. Which is nice, although one could say this isn't reflected in their previous responses. Then they say all modes of transport are important - although clearly some more important than others and then finally some more aspirational waffle. At no point is the question answered because it is clear that TfL isn't designing to reduce traffic or give preference to walking and cycling, but this answer wouldn't fit with the ecofluff philosophy - summed up as "what TfL says ,  isn't what TfL does".

I am sure that Tottenham Hale will be a better place without the race-track one-way system which isolates it with a ring of vehicles. But this plan is such an insipid and short-sighted view, and should be so much better. The congestion around the one-way system is often caused by people driving to the retail parks, presumably travelling short distances to get there (as nice as it is, I doubt the retail park draws in crowds from all corners of the country). The congestion won't go away because of a redesign, it will just be relocated. Roads will fill up with traffic to capacity in areas like Tottenham Hale anyway. What is needed is some brave thinking, something in which TfL has no interest.

I need to cheer up

I think freewheeler may be concerned that I am just too grumpy.

He has kindly suggested that I take a relaxing cycle around Waltham Forest's equivalent of the Great Lakes.

Thanks, freewheeler! I will take your advice as soon as I have bought the wet-suit and scuba gear.

Monday 11 October 2010

Olympic cycle ways and Whipps Cross

I received a comment the other day which kindly outlined the proposals for new cycle paths linking around the Green Man Interchange near Leytonstone to the olympic park via Newham.

Now, the fact that work looks like it has been scheduled is good news. It is also good that Whipps Cross Road, one of the few 40mph roads in the borough will have a cycle-path. One hopes that this cycle path is not set on the road, as in the summer it will just turn into convenient parking spaces at the weekend.

The scheme looks like linking up the cycle ways under the Green Man Interchange to a larger cycle network to the Olympic site. The Green Man interchange is an example of cycle provision that is OK. I don't generally like these underpass cycle systems as they are OK in the day but can be intimidating (for good reason, sometimes) at night, but this seems a better example.

Unfortunately, at the other end of Whipps Cross Road, we have the Whipps Cross Roundabout which is intimidating for cyclists at any time of the day. It isn't too clever for cars either, the width of the roundabout generally means motorists speed around and don't slow as they enter it.

The comment set me thinking that I had seen some glossy brochures about the re-design of this roundabout to a light controlled junction which would be far easier for cyclists and pedestrians. I hadn't heard about this for a while, and decided to see what is happening. Well, digging out news from 2008/09 on, it appears that at that time the council had decided this was too expensive and had proposed another solution. WFcycling was concerned, with good reason. Now, the plans are nowhere to be seen on the council website so I assume it has been canned completely.

However, the plans are archived on the site, and reprinted below. They are quite illuminating.

At first glance, there appears to be cycle provision - indeed ofroad cycle paths that cut across the junction. But a look at the cycle routes reveal why so many of these paths, however well intentioned, turn out to be useless and unused.

I have highlighted the route a cyclist would take going south on Leabridge Road. The provision involves them crossing the roads using no less than eight separate crossings. Cars doing the same route would have three lights and I presume that they would be synchronised to try to provide speedy traffic flow. Whereas the cycle lights probably wouldn't.

This is where cycle provision falls apart. Unless the cyclist is really not in any kind of rush and wants to savour the majesty of Whipps Cross Roundabout, all this provision would do is inconvenience the cyclist - many would simple use the road instead.

So, good news that cycle provision to get to the Olympic is progressing. Here's hoping that the design is better than much of what gets thought up for cycling provision.

Sunday 10 October 2010

The Day We Tackled Climate Change

I have just read on Freewheeler's blog  that today was The Climate Change Day Of Action. No, I didn't know either. Apparently Waltham Forest's newsletter ran an article on this.

The article is reprinted in Freewheeler's article, and I must say it contains some superb advice.

Firstly, that the easiest way to participate is to have a low carbon Sunday lunch - which sounds like they are asking you not to burn it. But apparently it is asking us to source locally grown food, use the leftovers and so-on.  Now, call me cynical, but the easiest thing to do may not be the most effective thing to help combat climate change. If climate change could be reversed by everyone making bubble-and-squeak on the Monday from Sunday's leftovers, I doubt Sir David King would have had cause to say that "climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today".

But anyhow, what did climate change action day look like in my corner of the world as I cycled from Walthamstow to Stamford Hill?

Tottenham Hale Gyratory

A503, Seven Sisters

Hoe Street, Walthamstow

Maybe they were all out sourcing local produce for their Sunday lunch?

Haringey - making Waltham Forest look good

World Class Cycling Farcilty - Tottenham Hale
Just to prove that Waltham Forest doesn't have a monopoly on poor cycling facilities, neighbouring Haringey has this around Tottenham Hale. Now as previously mentioned, the fact that something is provided is better than taking your chances around the lunacy that is the gyratory, but the best word one could use about the facilities, if one was in a really,really good mood, would be mediocre.

The above demonstrates why many UK cycling facilities are derided by cyclists. Firstly, the cycle path has been formed by removing space from pedestrians. So the design is giving space to a vulnerable road user by taking it away from the most vulnerable road user. The effect? Pedestrians use the cycle lane as the path is narrow, and feel marginalised by cycling. Meanwhile two lanes of stationary traffic add to the general ambiance of the whole scene.

Then, because the pavement is so narrow, look at how the pedestrian crossing is implemented. The crossing wait area is slap bang in the middle of the cycle-lane putting cyclists in direct conflict with pedestrians.

What should happen is that part of the car road-space is given over to a 2-way cycle path. The existing cycle path is converted to pavement again. The crossing could then has the waiting area in a safe place for pedestrians, and the 2-way cycle path could be light controlled to allow pedestrians to cross without conflict from cyclists.

But this would take away road space from cars! And look at the congestion anyway! Well, the sad fact is that no matter how much space is given over to cars and no matter how much this is prioritised to vehicles, it will always get queued. Too many people decided to make their journey by car. Simply adding more capacity would increase the number of people deciding to take the car, not ease the journey for existing users. The M25, if nothing else, has taught us this.

The Tottenham Hale Gyratory is being re-designed. Since this is being done by TfL, I cannot say my hopes are high for an improvement. But maybe having two way traffic may humanise these roads a bit. I hope so, since, based on past experience, I doubt the off-road cycling provision is going to be up to much.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Sign Moved

The sign has been finally moved out of the cycle lane in Selborne Road. Whether this is because of the complaints, or because the contractors are packing up the signs after finishing the work, we will never know. Maybe a more pro-active cyclist than myself got fed up with it and relocated it.

The sign was obstructing the narrow cycle filter lane since at least 29th September. I never saw the sign with any message on it, it appears during this time that it was actually blank.

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.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

The War On The Motorist

Apparently there has been a pernicious war on the motorist conducted by the last government. But it is all OK now as Philip Hammond is here to rescue us.

I am not so sure there has ever been a war on the motorist. I am a motorist, doing more miles than the average. If the government had been waging war on me, I am sure I would have noticed.

When I drive, the people "waging war" on my progress appears to be .... other motorists. It isn't government vehicles blocking up the motorways and ring-roads. I can only see a couple of solutions to this issue

1) The government bans everyone from driving apart from myself and a small group of carefully selected friends. Although, I think this is a good idea, I can accept that other people may not see it quite in the same way.
2) Us motorists decide to use our cars sensibly, and for short journeys accept that other modes of transport are more efficient - we also decide to use trains instead of cars for longer journeys and accept that, by driving the car, one cannot expect congestion free, cheap travel.

Philip Hammond is spouting populist nonsense. This is no better evidenced by his comments that once the "War on the Motorist" has been stopped he can look at important things such as congestion. How is he going to resolve congestion without people using their cars less? How can the congestion in London be resolved without a change in vehicle usage? It can't.

Cars are wonderful things, but they need to be viewed as simply a transport option that has certain benefits but also comes with consequences and therefore costs. There has been no "War on the Motorist". What is actually happening is that the total hegemony that motorists have enjoyed for years is being challenged on a very small scale, and the powerful motoring lobby is determined to strangle any such notion before it gains any ground.

I see glimmers of hope. Cycling isn't considered a weird minority hobby by many people now living in cities, especially London. People are realising that city facilities designed solely for cars destroy the local urban areas they supposedly service. Now we need local and national government to do everything to try to make these other transport choices as equitable, safe and convenient as possible. Since this will require motorists to cede some of the priority they have, I cannot see it happening any time soon.

Monday 4 October 2010

Just as I publish the round of applause...

... a driver pulls out the stops and surpasses all before him today.

On Selborne Road (the one festooned with diverse road-working signs in the cycle lanes) near Sainsburys a Mercedes S class pulls alongside me and then indicates left to go into the Sainsburys car park, whilst still alongside.

He does stop to allow me to continue without suffering any physical injury, which is quite lucky as his concentration was almost all taken up by the call he was conducting on the mobile phone clamped to his ear.

I should have known - he managed to block the whole ASL and a good portion of the pedestrian crossing whilst waiting at the junction previously.

I do vaguely remember my driving test, and I am sure I had to do things in it to prove that I could be trusted in charge of a car. Has this now been abandoned these days in the effort to end the "War on the Motorist"?

Waltham Forest spawns a verb

Through the efforts of Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest, the borough is becoming famous. Although not, perhaps, in the way that our elected "representatives" would like.

In tribute to the cycling conditions, Bristol Traffic has introduced a new verb into our great language - to Walthamize.

As explained in the blog:

"This means to turn any european city into a little piece of Waltham Forest"

Walthamizing. Coming to a street near you.

New cycle lane - same old, same old.

The council contractors are resurfacing the junction of Hoe Street and Selborne road. I know this from all the signs and other detritus littering the cycle lanes around the area.

Well, they have already marked out one of the lanes going North on Hoe Street.  Here it is :

Now, the "new" cycle lane is to the right of the car lane and presumably intended for cyclists going across the junction. This is pretty much exactly where the last markings were and are useless for the following reasons

1) Cars, when there is any type of a queue decide to turn the cycle lane and hatched area into a new lane so they can beat the queue. This completely blocks off the cycle lane. I have had cars come up behind me whilst I have been cycling through and slalom between me and the moving traffic queue.
2) Look how it is positioned. I mean just look at it. It appears that cyclists are expected to come up the left hand side of the road and then cross the left turn lane to enter the cycle lane. Which is fine if you want to be smeared across the road by a left turning vehicle as you try to cross the lane with your back to the danger.

It can be seen that the first user of the "new" cycle lane is the council to put another roadwork sign. At least it then lends the cycle lanes on the junction a certain symmetry as all of them have signs in them. And the cycle lights still hooded.

On that note, I do have to say that most of the signs I reported are still exactly where they were nearly a week ago. A couple have moved, but only in the sense that they have fallen over, not in the sense of anyone from the contractor or council being arsed to do anything.