Thursday, 26 February 2009

Orient Way again

Two days ago I went down the Black Path and along the entire length of the award-winning cycle route which is collectively known as Orient Way. I was last this way during the second week in December.

A few years ago the London Cycling Campaign gave the council a prize for Orient Way, naming it 'best cycle route' in London that year. Unwise, I think. Orient Way and Argall Road formed a new link road between a southern fringe of Leyton and an industrial estate in Walthamstow. Marshall Road extends it to an estate of superstores.

This new link road was opposed by local environmentalists, partly because it introduced a road into the Lea Valley, partly because projects of this sort simply increase the number of journeys made by car, and partly because it laid the possible foundations of a much bigger road in the future, continuing up the valley. The new segregated cycle route had all the hallmarks of a cosmetic add-on, designed to give the new road a Green gloss.

Arguably, the Orient Way cycle route has little strategic significance, and it is far too unattractive ever to attract leisure cycling. My impression is that few cyclists use it, though it is hard to say what the true picture is since, oddly, the Council has never taken any cycle counts on it. I suspect the results of a cycle count might be embarrassing. And a comparison of vehicle and cycle use would surely show that cycle use is only a tiny fraction of one per cent of the equivalent driver use.

In the years since the Orient Way route opened various access roads to new businesses have been built across the cycle lane, resulting in that classic phenomenon, the off-road cycle lane where cyclists have to keep stopping for crossing motor traffic which has priority. The effect of this is to make it more convenient and quicker to cycle in the road. But then if you get run down by a speeding driver - and Orient Way, though nominally a 30 mph road, is a race track - you will be regarded as being partly at fault for wilfully declining to use the off-road cycle lane. In such ways do organisations like the London Cycling Campaign, with their segregationist philosophy, make cycling worse.

As usual I didn't meet a single cyclist on this supposedly brilliant cycling route. I went all the way to the superstores at the Leyton end. Approaching Ruckholt Road I have learned from experience to abandon the cycle route and its laughably circuitous and interminable signalled cycle crossings in favour of the roundabout and the through route for motor traffic under Ruckholt Road.

On my ride I took these snaps.

(Below) Argall Way E10, close to the junction with Lea Bridge Road. Evidently a driver 'lost control' here recently and took out a section of the railings. Luckily no cyclist was riding by at the time. And naturally no one has bothered to deal with the bent railings which lean across the cycle lane.

(Below) Orient Way E10. Beautifully maintained.

(Below) Two-way cycle lanes on the left, pedestrians on the right. Marshall Road E10