Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The great London Cycle Network farce

'The London Cycle Network' on Leyton Green Road.

The London Cycling Campaign is a big fan of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, and regularly awards it prizes. (That's one of the reasons I terminated my membership.)

Waltham Forest was declared the winner for its innovative and extensive cycling facilities, which includes a 40-mile network of cycle lanes and quiet routes in the Borough. The Council regards cycling as an important mode of transport and almost all main roads in the borough now have cycle lanes.

The LCC is so intoxicated by feel-good statistics, it never bothers to explore what they mean.

Note that the LCC believes that cycle lanes in themselves are a good thing. It blanks out all those campaigners who question the theory and practice of cycle lanes (see this and this).

But even if you believe in cycle lanes, the LCC’s award overlooks such trifles as (i) width (ii) maintenance (iii) enforcement (iv) the speed of adjacent traffic (v) the presence of lethal railings at the roadside (vi) whether cars are allowed to park in the cycle lane. All these aspects of local cycle lanes are regularly covered by this blog and frankly I don’t think Waltham Forest deserves any prizes.

Never let it be said that blogging is an idle and purposeless activity. On 16 December last year, this blog gave its prestigious annual 'Crap Waltham Forest cycle lane' award to Leyton Green Road E10. The following day two blokes from the Council were down there with a clipboard anxiously peering at the crumbling cycle lane. Twenty-fours later the worst of the potholes had been filled in. And last month most of Leyton Green Road was resurfaced. The cycle lane was widened and given a fresh pink appearance.

And you know what? The road surface is now beautifully smooth but, apart from that, Leyton Green Road, officially part of The London Cycle Network, is still not a good road to cycle on. The basic problem is the speed and proximity of motor vehicles, which the refurbished cycle lanes do nothing at all to protect cyclists from. The photo below, taken today, shows how little space separates drivers from cyclists on this road.

Absurdly, the cycle lanes are comprehensively obstructed along both sides of Leyton Green Road every day of the year, quite legally. This is because the Council values free on-street parking more highly than the safety and convenience of cyclists. The cycle lanes are basically just a pointless gimmick. The car shown in the first photograph has been there for weeks. The Council could have put down double-yellow lines at this location, but is more committed to increased vehicle ownership, use and parking, than it is to cycle lanes.

(Below) This shows some of the 24 cars which comprehensively, daily and quite legally obstruct the new cycle lane between the junctions with Matlock Road and Cheltenham Road. Their presence forces drivers into the cycle lane on the other side of the road, to avoid conflict with oncoming traffic. (Just round the corner, opposite the tower block, is a bus depot. Leyton Green Road has high levels of use by double decker buses.)

(Below) At the junction with Knotts Green Road there are always around a dozen cars parked, quite legally, in the cycle lane. Which means that as you move out to pass them you come into conflict with fast-moving, impatient drivers. And look carefully at that oncoming 4X4 with the child-killing bull bar attached. It has moved into the cycle lane to avoid conflict with oncoming motor vehicles which are forced out into the centre of the carriageway by the cars parked in the cycle lane.