I might have missed the article which has caused me optimism for improvements in cycling in Waltham Forest. I haven't seen it widely reported.
However, this article details a plan which has been passed by the council to introduce 20 mph on most of the borough's residential roads, and to allow cyclists to travel both ways on one-way streets. For reasons that I struggle to fathom, the conservatives saw fit to vote against the plan on the grounds of "safety".
As I have mentioned in previous posts, the average speed of travel when using a car on most streets in Waltham Forest makes 30mph seem a fairly distant dream. When one is spending most of the time sitting in queues for junctions, the difference between doing 20mph or 30mph on the short stretches which are free of traffic is unlikely to improve journey time by anything meaningful. And 20 mph will make the residential roads much more amenable to pedestrians, residents and cyclists alike.
The one-way streets are somewhat more contentious, but on roads that have had cycle contraflows enabled, I rarely find an issue cycling them in opposition to traffic flow. Many of these roads have been restricted to stop rat-running and therefore can accommodate two way cycle traffic with little issue. It appears to me from reading up on the subject that one of the issues was actually how to amend signs to allow contra-flow cycling - no entry signs weren't allowed with cycle exceptions apparently, spawning some quite un-intuitive signs and road treatments to accommodate.
So, Waltham Forest should be commended for its plans. It looks like there is a general will to improve matters for cyclists (as well as other non-motorised road users). I do think there is one problem with 20mph though. In that, where roads have been designated 20mph, it is a rare driver that actually sticks to it. My road is a 20 mph traffic calmed one, and I witness every day drivers going way above 30mph, less still 20mph, on it. It is a road with a high number of residents with children, and driving at these speeds shows the lack of consideration one is sometimes up against. So, it isn't enough to simply designate 20mph zones, thought needs to be given to policing it as well. And this is tricky.
Maybe what is needed is a brave redesign of our residential streets along the "home-zone" lines, where it is really difficult to speed in the first place. Maybe we need to look for the police to blitz certain areas in relation to speeding in order to raise the profile. And these schemes could also look to take off the road many of the illegal and uninsured drivers who are statistically more likely to be involved in accidents than those legally using the roads. Apparently, at the last estimate, the percentage of drivers who are illegally using roads in East London may be as high as 10%. Imagine taking these drivers off the roads. Maybe the roads will be slightly less congested - maybe it is even possible that those forced out of their cars would transition to the cycle?