Thursday, 5 August 2010

The A503: the attack on cycling begins

A cash-strapped council has found the money to pay for this temporary sign to be embedded obstructively in the footway, from which it will be dug up again in November. Rather wasteful, wouldn't you say?

Forest Road, otherwise known as the A503, is a major route which runs all the way through the London Borough of Waltham Forest, from Woodford in the east to Tottenham in the west. Traffic pours down it from the M11 motorway and the North Circular. Traffic volumes are very high and include large numbers of lorries.

When the Guardian newspaper website publicised my criticisms of car-centric Waltham Forest council with reference to The Forest Road Corridor Improvement Scheme, the Council responded:

The highway improvement scheme in Forest Road will make transport safer and reduce the number of injuries to all road users as it is designed to reduce vehicle speeds between Hale End Road and Woodford New Road.

The scheme will involve reducing the width of the carriageway and adding cycle lanes on both sides of the road.

‘Adding cycling lanes on both sides of the road’ is a very strange claim to make, since they already exist along the entire length of the route covered by this so-called ‘improvement scheme’, work on which has now begun, with a completion date of November.

What is actually being done is that the cycle lanes are being moved out closer to the centre of the carriageway in order to accommodate parking bays. At present no parking is permitted anywhere along this section of the A503 except on Sundays. Even on Sundays demand for parking is very low with only a handful of cars parked. This scheme promotes car dependency by creating free car parking bays in a location where there is currently no demand for it. How crazy can you get? Yet this scheme is a collaboration with Transport for London.

The Council claims that the scheme is all about making this section of road safer and reducing vehicle speeds. With boundless cynicism the traffic engineers then slipped into the traffic order at the last minute (it formed no part of the original consultation) a proposal to RAISE the speed limt from 30 mph to 40 mph between Beacontree Avenue and Woodford New Road.

This so-called ‘improvement scheme’ not only does nothing at all for cycling, it makes cycling more unattractive and dangerous, and will serve to suppress cycling on a direct route because cyclists (i) will be put at risk of ‘dooring’ (ii) will be brought much closer to high volumes of overtaking motor vehicles including lorries (iii) will be exposed to a greater risk of fatality by being exposed to vehicles travelling at speeds of 40 mph instead of 30 mph (though pragmatically when you tell drivers the limit is 40 mph many will drive at speeds of 45-50 mph).

It is also worth bearing in mind that this very wide section of road was perfectly suited to the installation of Dutch-style cycle paths without requiring any political battles with outraged car owners. Once car parking has become institutionalised here, any future battle becomes that much harder to win.

The reality of the savage deterioration in the conditions for vehicular cycling which are embedded in this lunatic car-centric scheme should be set against the delusional optimism and frothy fantasies of ‘a cycling revolution’ in outer London at the core of this worthless trash.

(Below) By November all this will be parking bays and cyclists will be forced out into the centre of the carriageway roughly in line with those traffic cones. This is currently a 30 mph zone. Once 'improved' drivers will be approaching cyclists at 40 mph, quite possibly more than that.

Plenty of room here for a fabulous Dutch cycle path. But catering for cycling forms no part whatsoever of this 'improvement' scheme.