Tuesday 30 November 2010

Watermead Cycle Path

On my trip to the cycling nirvana that is Mothercare Edmonton, I used the off road cycle path system going from Tottenham Hale to the North Circular loosely following Watermead road.

It is a journey worth documenting for good and bad points. 

Firstly, coming from the station, you can go on the off-road cycle path around Tottenham Hale. Good since it means you don't have to go around the huge gyratory loop with its terrifying junctions, but bad because the path is clearly just taken space from the pavement and therefore is narrow, disjointed and conflicts with pedestrian needs. The cycle way up watermead road doesn't start at Watermead road, but uses a road through the adjacent industrial estate. This is the junction between the cycle path and the industrial estate road.

As you can see, the cycle lane terminates with the ubiquitous give way, and the cyclist needs to cross the one-way street at the mouth of the junction with the gyratory to get to the left hand side to cycle down it. This is clearly more dangerous than it should be, and affords no priority to the cyclist at all.

Then the cyclist needs to progress down this industrial estate road. Note that this is clearly another one of those London roads where there is no room to put in decent segregated infrastructure. Note also that the cars are actually allowed to park on the narrow pavement - presumably someone in the Haringey transport department actually does think that road is too narrow for anything other than car provision.

At the end of this road, is a cycle / footpath leading to Watermead Road.

Which has what looks like a medieval torture contraption across it. Presumably this is designed to stop motorbikes using the path, but it also will prevent anyone with anything other than a standard bicycle using it either. So bad luck if you have a trailer or child seat. In fact my panniers barely made it through the gap.
And another strange thing. Look at the picture closely. The pedestrian access is across the cycle path and the cycle access is across the footpath. How mysterious.

So then the cycle path goes past the end of industrial estate and under the sidings for the Victoria tube line. To end up here.

So here the cycle path crosses the footpath at the end of the tunnel. Not an enormous issue, but it is a very odd layout. Why have the footpath intersecting the cycle path like this? Well, call me Sherlock, but I think the previous photo of the entrance gives a clue. Remember that the cycle and pedestrian access are switched? Well the paths would be continuous if the cycle path and footpath were reversed at this point, so I think that the design was intended with the cyclepath on the left and the footpath on the right, but either the implementation or the plans were incorrect. Clearly it was cheaper to add a couple of give ways than possibly make the provision continuous. Now the path goes up alongside the sidings and the road.

Not a bad cycle path. Unfortunately it isn't maintained so here we have it covered with leaves, when I cycled last year it was covered in sheet ice. I could barely stand less still cycle and ended up taking a very long time working my way up this slight incline. Some grit would have resolved the issue. I ended up coming home on the road which unsurprisingly had been salted and gritted. Then the cycle path runs alongside the road.

Do you wonder where all those extra cycle stands go that local councils say they have put in? Well I think we have the answer. They appear to be lining this cycle path. And look! Not one ungrateful cyclist is bothering to use them! Presumably they are having too much fun sliding around on the mush formed by rain and leaves and neglect.

Still, on the cycle path the council has thought it necessary to tame the dangerous cyclist in deference to the pedestrian. Which is good. Like here.

The give ways are to force the antisocial cyclists to cede priority to pedestrians wanting to cross - the Lea Valley park entrance is on the other side of the road. Clearly the council have made sure that the most dangerous hazard to the pedestrian here - the cyclist - is tamed whilst the much smaller risk of having to cross two lanes of traffic who treat the 40mph limit as a minimum is left to the pedestrian to deal with by themselves. Clearly a zebra crossing here would be unsuitable as it may slow the traffic.

Following the cycle path takes you to the retail estate where, after this journey, Mothercare cannot be bothered to install a single cycle stand.

There are some interesting things to say about this cycle path. Clearly it could be better thought out. It could be wider. Clearly it doesn't get maintained. At all. Ever. Clearly the cyclist has no priority when the path crosses the roadway. All things that would happen as a matter of course in a civilised cycling city. But even so, the path is actually quite nice to use, and makes me realise the importance of these off-road facilities when the road next to it is so unpleasant for vulnerable road users. Using the path allows you not to have to concentrate all the time on the vehicles, and you can go as slowly or fast as you wish. It is much less stressful.

It has made me realise that these types of facilities - only much better thought out and maintained are absolutely essential to get the ordinary person cycling. Nothing else will get the modal share shift that TfL, local councils and cycling organisation purport to support. 

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