Whilst Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign (WFCC) is generally delighted with the impressive progress the council is making over Mini Holland, it is inevitable that that issues will arise for a programme of this size and with such a short delivery timescale (£27m of TfL funds was originally intended to be spent in just 3 years).
In the interests of public transparency, and to help us ensure we focus and track our main concerns, we have listed our top 10 issues below. And below this we have listed some of the areas where we believe the council has demonstrated outstanding leadership and performance.
Top ten issues
Traffic light colour indicates progress: red = nothing much happening yet, amber = solution being developed, green = largely resolved.
WFCC believes the principles behind the council’s MH schemes are sound. But more needs to be done to enshrine those principles, and develop a strategic & coherent cycling and walking network for the borough, communicate this, and ensure designs leave no dangerous or awkward gaps. For example, of concern are the narrow sections of Forest Rd, Markhouse Road, St James Street, Hoe Street, Church Road, and Chingford Road. Update November 2015: Potential bypasses to narrow sections of Church Road & St James St are being explored. Update Oct 2016: The Forest Rd, Markhouse Rd & Church Road plans so far are of good quality given the carriageway width constraints. A backstreet bypass is planned for St James St.
There are concerns over the “villagisation” schemes, including the implementation of the first scheme in Walthamstow Village, where a “rat run” for through motor traffic has been allowed to remain along Church Lane/Vestry Road, as well as a 10pm – 10am rat run via the part time filtered section of Orford Road. This concentrates through traffic onto an unlucky few streets rather than stopping it altogether.
Further streets supporting through traffic in “villagisation” areas includes Vallentin Rd, Church Hill/Prospect Hill, Wyatts Lane, Havant Rd, Shernhall St, Palmerston Rd & Mission Grove. Whilst we accept that filtering all of these roads is unrealistic, we believe some such as Havant Road and Wyatt Lane merit further consideration.
The remaining rat runs cause severance for those walking and cycling across these streets, as well as feeding linking rat runs. Many of these roads carry sufficiently heavy volumes of motor traffic that they require safe crossing points for pedestrians & cyclists; failure to provide these facilities will greatly reduce the number of people who choose to walk or cycle.
We are concerned by designs where buses stop adjacent to a cycle track requiring pedestrians to get on and alight from the bus via the track, with an attendant high risk of pedestrian/cycle conflict. Or for higher use bus stops pedestrians congregate on track, and there is an increased risk of cycle/motor vehicle conflict as those on cycles may have to leave the track (especially risky as if there is not a dropped kerb) to get past the crowded bus stop. Update Feb 2016: we understand the council hopes to implement bypasses for all the Lea Bridge Rd bus stops. Update Oct 2016: We have now been advised that some will be bypasses, and the others will be islands with the possible exception of the eastbound stop between Hoe Street and Poplars Road which may have to be a border. Click here for our design summary of bus boarders, islands & bypasses.
Many blended crossings have been designed with large side entry widths without physical protection and with ramps which have very gentle gradients, which greatly raises risk of casualties due to higher motor vehicle speeds when turning. Also we believe that all blended crossings should be implemented after road closures are in place (not before) in order to remove rat-running flows, and hence help ensure there are reduced motor traffic volumes and speeds across them. Update November 2016: We are seeing some improvement in new designs, but still feel that more can be done. There are a handful of junctions which in our view are sufficiently poor that retrofitting of tighter geometries should be seriously considered. The worst of these is Northcote Road/Blackhorse Rd.
There are concerns that a) tracks may be too narrow in places, b) lights phasings may overly delay those on bikes who use the tracks compared to those who mix with vehicle traffic, c) over complex junction designs may confuse all users. Update Feb 2016: we believe the junction designs have been simplified as much as possible whilst still being compliant with DfT requirements. Update April 2017: Much better use of available space has been achieved for the most recent plans we have seen, and track widths have been increased where this has been possible. The traffic light should be viewed as green for sections where we have seen plans, but will remain amber until we have seen plans for the entire length of Lea Bridge Road.
Officers need an ‘agile’ approach to ensure schemes are reviewed quickly after implementation and learnings are passed on to the entire team so improvements can be incorporated into the design & implementation of schemes in the pipeline. Update April 2017: We’re seeing considerable evidence of collaboration across teams, and more effective working between officers in Highways and Riney’s construction teams, leading to high quality being delivered first time round on the ground (cf need earlier in programme for more retrofitting of improvements).
The council’s design guide needs to be treated as a benchmark with formal escalation process for schemes when standards have not been satisfied. Use of TfLs CLoS (Cycling Level of Service) and other tools to ensure schemes are genuinely delivering positive benefits for cycling and walking. Additionally, as part of this quality control process WFCC should be treated as a statutory consultee for all traffic schemes across the borough.
The council needs to acknowledge areas of greatest public concern and be seen to focus on these and where possible (when it does not undermine core principles) to address them with modified designs. We believe there is an opportunity to better articulate the key benefits of the programme, and ensure that all perception surveys and consultations extend adequately into areas bordering the schemes. Update Feb 2016: We have seen a huge improvement in the council’s comms both for Blackhorse Village and the Lea Bridge Road engagement and consultations. Update April 2017: The council’s engagement & communications processes are consistent and methods used can be considered at the leading edge of local authority practices.
WFCC needs to be engaged even earlier in the design process for each scheme to ensure fundamental requirements are met. Whilst many designs are of high quality, WFCC is not involved early enough to spot and prevent design flaws being implemented on the ground. And occasionally invalid assumptions are made and officer time/resource is lost progressing schemes which need to go back to the drawing board. Update November 2015: WFCC is getting earlier sight of some proposals, but often does not have sufficient opportunity to properly scrutinise them.
The armadillos (small rubber blocks) on Temple Mills Lane and Ruckholt Rd have been installed with only 1.27m usable width, which is substandard. Cyclists need a minimum of 1.5m to ensure all-ability, cargo bikes and other non-standard cycles can use them. Update September 2015: Work has been done to widen much of Ruckholt Road lanes to 1.5m usable width. A small section of Ruckholt Road and all of Temple Mills Lane are still substandard.
WFCC is pleased to recognise the many and wide ranging accomplishments by the council.
Walthamstow Village – Orford Rd has been transformed and has proved hugely popular with residents and visitors. Due to extensive use of modal filters and attractive public realm enhancements, most of the neighboroughing residential streets are oases of calm with many people walking and cycling.
- Blackhorse Village – through traffic has been removed from all residential streets through the use of modal filters, and opportunities for greening the area has delivered far safer and more attractive local roads.
- Leyton Town Centre – ambitious plans for using modal filtering to revolutionise many of the residential areas backing on to Leyton High Road. The highlight is the planned timed filtering of the local shopping area in Francis Road, which looks set to rival Orford Road.
- Whipps Cross Roundabout – very impressive proposals which are at the leading edge of continental best practice.
- Enjoy Waltham Forest microsite – very useful source of information on the programme and progress, and presented in an engaging way.
- Lea Bridge Road “Section A” proposals – much thought put into overcoming hurdles and maximising safety for vulnerable road users for the western end of the Cycle Super Highway. The quality of the sections so far constructed is impressively high, setting a new standard for other local authorities to aspire to.
- Commonplace online app – dramatically boosted public engagement results and sentiment.
- Tracks and modal filters – key schemes now taking shape and generally to high quality
- Design Guide – A bible for beacon status schemes.
- Vision & political will – holding nerve in face of public concern over aspects of the programme.
- London Cycling show – well-organised, a coup for the borough.
- Cycle hubs, hangers and stands – a dramatic escalation of cycle parking convenience & security, where most needed. 6 hubs have been constructed so far, and the hundredth hanger was opened in April 2017.
- Officer motivation and professionalism – impressively high despite “bikelash” and unforgiving workload/pressure.
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