Thursday 19 August 2010

‘Shared use’ for Waltham Forest cyclists

Cycling in Waltham Forest is all about sharing. The dedicated cycle path on Snaresbrook Road (a very British cycle path) is shared with pedestrians, who are obliged to step into it because their own reduced section of a footway which was once exclusively for them is currently blocked by this road contractor’s sign for motorists.

Cycle stands are shared with all manner of materiel, usually sacks of rubbish. But sometimes the tedium of daily obstruction is enlivened by a refreshing new variety, in this instance an Asda cart, far from home and ingeniously wedged between the two stands outside Sainsbury’s in Walthamstow High Street (below).

If there was a prize for the sheer multiplicity and variety of ‘shared use’ condensed into a single location, it would surely have to be awarded to the off-road cycle route which links Walthamstow with South Woodford at the so-called ‘waterworks roundabout’ (where the A503, A104 and the A406 North Circular Road all meet). Here, a complex combination of subways and roadside cycle paths has been designed so that drivers do not have the distressing experience of having to wait at a red light in order to allow cyclists and pedestrians to cross.

This infrastructure, recommended by Sustrans as providing a magnificent ready-to-use section for an ‘Olympic Greenway’, allows users to share the experience of cycling with rats, litter thrown from vehicles, graffiti artists, the aftermath of an earthquake which has cracked open the earth’s crust all along the cycle path, all in a rich tropical habitat. This is just the kind of ‘quiet route’ which will ensure the success of the ‘cycling revolution’ in Outer London for those novices too timid to cycle on major roads.

Welcome to a cycle route that gets the thumbs-up from Sustrans.

(Above) Abandon hope all ye who enter here. One of a number of subways in this vast and creepy complex.

(Below) Rubbish thrown from vehicles on the North Circular slip road provides a colourful display along the edge of the cycle path.

(Below) The 'shared use' pathway for pedestrians and cyclists on the Woodford New Road section of this route. Notice the beautifully clear and well-maintained markings. The path extends to the fence which is buried away in the darkness of the overgrown vegetation. This is actually a scrap of Epping Forest and is under the control of the Corporation of London, which has no interest in maintaining its property when the only people affected are the cycling and walking peasants of East London. The London Borough of Waltham Forest has the power to force the Corporation of London to cut back this vegetation but is totally indifferent, and this obstruction happens every summer, year after year.

A tip for anyone interested in seeing the local wildlife. This is the spot where you are most likely to encounter a rat. (Below) Enjoy.