Friday, 29 February 2008

A sign of economy

Look carefully and see if you can see the sign for cyclists:

One problem I've always had cycling around Waltham Forest is missing strategic cycle routes because the signing is so poor. It isn't that there aren't any signs. It's that they are easily missed, for a variety of reasons. Let's cycle a little closer...

Spotted it yet? Let's hope so, because by now you need to have positioned yourself to turn right - or you do if you are planning to follow the sign and turn in to Maude Road, in order to use the cycle lane crossing, with lights, at the junction with Blackhorse Road, leading on to Glenthorne Road and the very popular route down Coppermill Lane (hugely popular both for commuter and leisure cycling). And you need to give lots of advance warning to drivers because, as you can see in the first photo, this is a road with the deadly 3 rubber speed cushions form of traffic agitation, which encourages drivers to swerve into the centre of the carriageway so that they can get their wheels in the gaps between the cushions.

The first few times I tried this route I missed the sign and became very confused about the route I was supposed to follow.

It's a pity that this strategically important sign is hidden away behind a telegraph pole. But it's useful if you are looking for a place called 'ey'.

The twisted world of cycling

The sign at the top is the one for cyclists... The cycling 'quiet route' sign on Pembroke Road E17, advising cyclists to turn left on to Grosvenor Park Road if they want tranquillity.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Icy indifference

The problem of water flowing 24 hours a day across pavements and cycle lanes is Borough-wide. Thames Water plainly couldn't give a toss and the Council seems to be neglecting its duties as a highway authority.

No surprise to read this in the latest issue of the local paper:

WATER has been gushing out of a pipe for more than a year - and now fed-up residents are demanding it is fixed. Resident Robert Wilkinson, 56, said he has reported the problem to Thames Water three times in the past year, but nothing had been done. He said: "There is a massive loss of water here at the same time as we are told not to waste it.

"It is also dangerous. The other day I slipped on it as it had turned to ice."

(Above) Tower Hamlets Road E17. (Below) Forest Road E17, junction with Hoe Street.

Terror and violence in London

Have you seen anyone taking pictures of security arrangements such as CCTV? Has it made you suspicious? POLICE will launch an campaign appealing for public help in the fight against terrorism.

As it happens I photographed this CCTV stalk on Hoe Street only the other day. I expect to anyone watching it seemed a mysterious and maybe even suspicious thing to do. In fact all I was doing was photographing the gap where drivers regularly flout the road closure by using the cycle lane on the left to drive across the pavement, in order to dodge the queues at the traffic lights at the junction with Church Hill. Drivers are able to do this because this crap Council still hasn't replaced the plastic illuminated bollard which was formerly positioned half way between the CCTV stalk and the bollard on the left, even though it was reported over a year ago, and I blogged about it weeks ago.

One night last week I saw a 4X4 driver come along Hoe Street and swerve into Cairo Road here, very fast. It looked like something the driver does regularly. Had a cyclist been coming down Cairo Road and about to enter the cycle lane, the 4X4 would have hit her head on. A terrifying form of violence.

As for the police obsession with terror and their substantial indifference to driver crime:

Number of people killed by terrorists in London in 2006: none.
Number of people injured by terrorists in London in 2006: none.
Number of vehicles involved in personal injury crashes in London in 2006: 44,463.
Number of people killed in such crashes in London in 2006: 221.
Number of people seriously injured in such crashes in London in 2006: 3,420.

Y'all take care now.


What is wrong with this picture?

That's right! Someone forgot to align the zebra crossing with the tactile paving. Or was it the other way round? And I suppose a crude DIY tarmac dropped kerb is better than none at all... Courtenay Place E17.

Meanwhile on Hoe Street, at the junction with Gaywood Road, all this new zebra crossing lacked was the stripes. The yellow beacons flashed for several weeks, apparently signalling the Council's indifference to the climate change credo not to waste electricity. But finally pots of white paint have been located and the crossing is now fit for purpose. Well done!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008


A number 48 bus waits in the ASL on Lea Bridge Road at the Baker's Arms today. When the lights went to green it turned left on to Hoe Street. The classic manoeuvre that crushes cyclists.

Drivers and mobile phones

A new study shows that over a third of motorists on the road have sent texts or listened to their phone messages whilst driving and over a million motorists across the country have caused an accident because of this.


Road safety critics and MPs say police enforcement is still too lax given the alarming surveys showing widespread abuse through motorists continuing to phone and text on their mobiles while driving.

Obstruction of the footway

The builders working at 7 Comely Bank Road E17 have engaged in that commonplace builders' practice of running a board across the pavement in order to tip waste into a skip from a wheelbarrow.

It is obstructive and unlawful but the reason that they do it is that there is little or no enforcement of the law, builders have zero consciousness of the needs of people with a mobility handicap, pedestrians in general have a low consciousness of their rights (and neither the government, Council nor the mass media is very interested in raising awareness of the rights of walkers), and this Council's own environmental services inspectorate has always been massively under-resourced. This is just one of the thousand and one reasons why fewer and fewer people choose to walk.


Well it woke me up at 1 a.m., a brief shuddering and rattling.

I naturally assumed I'd been dreaming I was cycling on part of the London Cycle Network.

Like the section shown above, for example, which is not a fissure torn in the earth's crust in California but one of the 'shared use' pathways in the Waterworks roundabout subway system.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Crash at the Crooked Billet

A pensioner is being treated for serious head injuries after the car she was travelling in hit a lamppost on Saturday. The 67-year-old passenger had to be cut out of the car by fire-fighters after the Vauxhall Astra crashed at the Billet Roundabout, on the Chingford/Walthamstow border, by the exit slip road of the A406.

This news story appeared on the website of the local Waltham Forest Guardian, but the link has now disappeared. I suppose it will be in covered in more detail in Thursday's issue. I don't know what the statistics are but there seem to be crashes at the Crooked Billet on a fairly regular basis.

The most dangerous of all exits at the Crooked Billet for cyclists using the underpass system is surely the one that leads on to Billet Road. My first photograph shows a cyclist heading in to the system from the Billet Road exit. The other ones illustrate the hazardous entry point for cyclists leaving the underpass system and entering Billet Road.

The problem is simple. Just before the exit there is a 'shared use' walking and cycling sign for pedestrians and cyclists exiting to Billet Road. But the sign is either wrong or has been twisted round by vandals because the cycle lane ends by the sign. The faded END markings are easily missed. As you continue you emerge here (below), where a dropped kerb invites cyclists to enter the carriageway. The problem is (i) traffic enters Billet Road here at speed (ii) the drivers' view of cyclists is obscured by the wall. There is nothing to indicate to a driver that a cyclist might be entering the carriageway at this point. (iii) the white arrow in the carriageway advises drivers to move in to the kerb, directing them to the very place where cyclists enter the carriageway (iv) there is no cycle lane.

Any cyclist joining the road here needs to exercise extreme caution, as even if you enter the carriageway safely you run the risk of being hit from behind by some lunatic speeding round the bend.

Another load of rubbish

I give up. It seems nothing can stop the Council's employees from regarding cycle stands as a great place to dump LBWF rubbish bags for collection.

This is the only cycle stand on William Street E 10.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Empire of Neglect (continued)

The idea of a cycle lane that bypasses the traffic lights outside the greyhound stadium, enabling cyclists to go off-road and not be held up by the red phase, is an admirable one. But as I have previously pointed out, there is a serious design flaw where the lane rejoins the carriageway, bringing cyclists into potentially fatal conflict with vehicles.

These photographs show the start of the lane. It is not signed. No one who was not familiar with the road would have a clue that they have the option of cycling in the lane on the left, or where it led. Nor is it even flush with the road surface: as you can see, you hit the edge of a kerb at the start of the lane. And it starts inside an entrance used by vehicles. And lastly, note the water hydrant merrily bubbling away in the foreground. That's Thames Water up to its usual money-saving non-maintenance strategy, ensuring another sheet of ice when the temperature drops below zero.

The photograph below is taken looking back at the entry point from the lane. Note the faded condition of the markings. Another substandard facility for the great cycling renaissance!

More hazardous cycling and walking

Another of those permanent pools of water in a cycle lane, just waiting to turn into sheet ice when the temperature drops below zero.

For weeks water has been coming out of the rear of the pavement on Forest Road opposite Wood Street library. Which means that there's the prospect of sheet ice for pedestrians, too.

Where's the ASL?

Forest Road E17, junction with Hale End Road.

The Council is committed to providing Advanced Stop Lines at all signalised junctions

So where's the ASL here, then? ASL provision is generally good on Forest Road. And at this junction there is an ASL on the far side, for cyclists heading down the hill into Walthamstow. Ironically there is no left turn junction on that side. But for cyclists heading out of town towards the Waterworks roundabout there is no ASL, which is potentially lethal because some traffic turns left here. Railings along the kerb on the corner ensure that any cyclist hit by a left turning lorry will be trapped, with no escape.

The cycle lane fizzles out shortly before the junction. But I expect once a cyclist has been crushed to death under the wheels of a lorry turning left something will be done about this death trap junction. That's progress.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

'Carrying an offensive weapon'

Figures released by police reveal that 269 people have been stopped and searched in Waltham Forest since the launch of Operation Kartel last week. So far a total of eight arrests have been made. Those arrested were charged with a variety of offences, including carrying an offensive weapon.
(Waltham Forest Guardian, February 21 2008)

Got that? The police stopped and searched 269 local people and 261 were guilty of nothing. This is a police force which only has time to nab 5 drivers a day for driving with a hand held mobile phone, even though the Borough's streets are very visibly crammed with these prospective killers. Life-threatening lawless driving is a low policing priority.

And carrying an offensive weapon which can kill or cause grievous bodily harm to child pedestrians and cyclists will attract no police attention at all - not if it looks like this.

What a surprise!

TRAFFIC congestion around the Forth Road Bridge has soared since the abolition of tolls, according to new figures compiled by vehicle monitoring experts.

The figures will fuel the debate over the impact of road tolls on congestion, suggesting that charges do discourage drivers from using their cars. They also suggest that experts who told the Government last August that scrapping the tolls would worsen traffic congestion were correct.

The increase indicated that commuters and other travellers are now abandoning public transport and taking their vehicles into Edinburgh to take advantage of the falling cost.

"Congestion has increased since abolition of the tolls," said a spokesman. "It was thought that removing the tolls would speed up traffic but this does not seem to have been the case."

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Cycling in London

The extent to which cycling has taken off in London in recent years is staggering. The congestion charge, environmental awareness, a desire to keep fit, a fear of terrorism, the freedom and sheer convenience are all reasons why numbers are reckoned to have doubled since 2000. Even on these cold winter mornings we cyclists are creating our own unique brand of congestion at key hubs around the city. In the summer, the streets of London at rush hour will teem with cyclists.

But cycle journeys still represent only 1 per cent of all daily journeys in London, and the mayor's aim is to increase that figure to 5 per cent by 2025.

Interesting article by Simon O’Hagan in the Independent.

As someone who both cycles and drives in London, I remain sceptical, especially when measures such as advance stop boxes – spaces at traffic lights designed for the exclusive occupation of cyclists – seem to have no effect on motorists' conduct.

I, too, remain sceptical about any grand scheme to promote cycling which does not address the lawless behaviour of drivers and the reluctance of the Metropolitan Police to enforce traffic law.


‘Speed kills’ is the message - and it’s true. But all cars are built to go at speeds vastly in excess of the maximum speed limit and no political party has ever suggested that it should be otherwise. Even supposedly liberal newspapers like The Independent and The Guardian have motoring correspondents who regularly rave about fast cars. The gutter press regularly screams with outrage about speed cameras. BBC News follows a similar agenda, giving enormous attention to trivial speed camera stories and informing us that speed cameras are nicknamed "yellow vultures". They are painted bright yellow because the police insisted upon it, worried that they might alienate drivers. Which is funny, because drivers are the most violent and lawless offenders of all, killing over 3,000 people a year. No other type of criminal gets this indulgent treatment.

The road safety industry is silent, preferring to blame the victims and putting all the emphasis on teaching children to take care when they cross the road and warning cyclists to wear helmets (though statistically it would make more sense for all car drivers and passengers to wear crash helmets) and to make themselves as visible as possible to inattentive killer drivers.

The consequences of this culture can be seen every day of the week:

Part of the northbound M11 motorway has been shut and a man arrested after six separate crashes in early morning fog. The motorway would not reopen until the middle of the afternoon, police said. An eight-mile stretch of carriageway was closed between junction eight at Stansted Airport and junction nine at Saffron Walden in Essex. Police said a seriously injured woman and a man had been taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Essex Fire and Rescue said 12 cars and three lorries were involved in crashes and they had sent seven appliances to deal with the incidents.

Terrorist violence merits enormous media coverage. The much greater violence of drivers barely rates a flicker of attention. But the cause of those six crashes is not hard to seek. The M11 is packed with drivers screaming along at speeds well in excess of 70 mph, and there is no shortage of lunatics prepared to drive at high speed in fog. The problem is that the most stupid and murderous drivers on the roads are often those in the most expensive vehicles. Their recklessness is protected by air bags and safety cages. It’s those who they hit and kill who pay the price.

In the London Borough of Waltham Forest, drivers enter Forest Road from the North Circular and the M11 and come racing down the hill past a school, through a residential area. And there is no speed camera at all. Just a solar powered advisory sign which flashes thousands of times a day.

A toxic atmosphere

Air pollution in Britain's cities could be as toxic to the heart as an oil slick, scientists have warned…people in big cities are breathing in an aerosolised oil spill…The warning centres around polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, compounds which are abundant in crude oil and found in high levels in polluted city air.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Terror on the A104

ONE of London's most dangerous roads for cyclists runs straight through the heart of Woodford Green, it has been revealed. According to figures released by Transport for London, (TfL), 337 cyclists were injured between 1996 and 2006 on the A104, much of which is made up of Woodford New Road and the High Road, Woodford Green.

That’s an amazing statistic, is it not?

Part of this road lies within the London Borough of Waltham Forest. And the reality is that though I think Waltham Forest is crap, Redbridge Council is vastly crappier. At the Waltham Forest end of the A104 there is a cycle lane. The moment it reaches the border with Redbridge the lane fizzles out. Redbridge Council is a Council run by car drivers for car drivers; it is utterly contemptuous of pedestrians and cyclists.

No surprise to read of

Redbridge Council's plans to improve cycle routes by putting in road markings and signs on the A104

A fat lot of good that will do, when the problem is reckless, lawless driving. The photograph above shows a traffic island on Woodford New Road at the junction with Chelmsford Road. Ever since it was installed, drivers have regularly been crashing into it. Or as the local paper recently quaintly put it, it "claimed another victim". Yes, drivers are regularly victimized by inanimate objects.

Gill James from the London Cycling Campaign's Redbridge group said it wasn't enough. She told the Guardian: "It is a very fast and quite dangerous road and I think it's only safe for confident cyclists which is a shame because there are so many schools along there that children could cycle to, but people do not want their children cycling on such a busy road. I would like to see a separate dedicated cycle route which was really safe, then we wouldn't get so many parents driving their children to school, making the traffic worse."

The problem with that line of argument is that it solves road danger by removing cyclists from the roads instead of addressing the source of the danger. And in a city like London off-road cycle lanes are rarely possible in dense urban areas.

Danger reduction for cyclists is a political, not a technical problem. It’s an absurdity that cars are manufactured and sold to go at speeds twice the maximum speed limit, it’s an absurdity that speeding is generally regarded as a minor offence, and it’s unacceptable that the Metropolitan Police have massively reduced their traffic police numbers and no longer regard motoring offences as being a key area of policing.

Trinity Catholic High School headteacher Paul Doherty, who has been cycling for 26 years, said he avoided the A104 because of its reputation. He said: "The speed of the traffic is far too dangerous… It is not as safe as it once was, and as a cyclist, I feel that it is not getting better, it is getting worse."

It is getting worse. And that’s why expectations of a massive rise in cycling in London should be regarded with deep scepticism.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Chingford Lane syndrome

Every picture tells a story.

We live round the corner from Keynsham Avenue and people drive at ridiculous speeds around these roads. There are parked cars on both sides of the road and children live here, yet some people seem to get their kicks from driving at stupid speeds. These speeds, combined with the regular inability of drivers to give way at the mini roundabouts on Chingford Lane, surely mean that it is only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt. If you contact the police they say it's a council matter, and if you contact the council you don't get a response!! What will it take to get drivers to slow down?

That’s in the Comment box after this story:

A SLEEPING couple had the shock of their lives when a motorcyclist clipped a parked car outside their home and crashed his bike through their living room window. The crash is the latest in a spate of accidents along the road in Woodford Green, including one six months ago when a car crashed into the forest and caught fire. Mr Maloney and Miss Crowhurst have also had to re-build their front wall twice since 2003 as a result of road accidents.

Miss Crowhurst said: "People drive like maniacs around here, and it's only a matter of time before someone gets killed."

The photograph above shows the mini roundabout on Chingford Lane, from the junction with Lichfield Road (a recommended "quiet route" for cyclists), just a few metres from the junction with Keynsham Avenue. This area is on the borders of Woodford Green, and forms part of the northern tip of the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

The first problem is speed. Drivers race at excessive speed along Chingford Lane and don't slow for the mini roundabouts. They drive as if they had priority, even though priority belongs to the first person to enter an empty roundabout. Any car driver or cyclist emerging from a road like Lichfield Road and who has legal priority at the empty roundabout risks being hit by a lunatic belting along Chingford Lane at high speed.

But there is another problem for cyclists and pedestrians at this location. The two poles in the photograph inadvertently mark out the crossing point between Lichfield Road and the public path across Woodford Golf Course. Scroll down and let's take a closer look...

Just to the right of the green pole on the far side of the road is the start of the path. It is marked on Transport for London Local Cycling Guide 4 as a route with "provision for cyclists". Continue down to take a closer look at this fabulous provision.

The photograph below shows the entrance to the path. As you can see the boards ends in briars and a mud swamp.

Let's bear in mind that this is either a public right of way or a public footpath (it is impossible to tell which because the Council's Draft Rights of Way Improvement Plan comes without a map, rendering it a meaningless document). The path is unsigned at either end. The path is also difficult to locate further on. Everything possible has been done to discourage cyclists and walkers from using it. And bear in mind that the Council is under a statutory obligation to improve "the accessibility of the rights of way to blind or partially sighted people and others with mobility problems".

There is also no dropped kerb on either side of Chingford Lane, and cyclists and pedestrians crossing at this point come into conflict with vehicles using the mini roundabout. It's a comprehensive disaster, where the lawless speeding driver is king, the Metropolitan Police show once again that they have little interest in cracking down on speeding drivers, and the Council does its own bit to render cycling and walking as difficult and dangerous as possible.

And there's one more thing...

Yes, it's the usual neglect of the basic infrastructure. A sign obscured by vegetation.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Luxury transport

Setting us all an example on climate change... The Town Hall private car park.

At first I thought it was a Mafia funeral... A long line of big black limos gliding through the humble backstreets of Walthamstow. Then they headed for Forest Road and turned into the Town Hall and parked. So I pedalled after them and took some sourvenir snaps, as I don't expect there will be a photo in wfm.

Evidently it was a meeting of London local council leaders or mayors. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was a meeting about climate change. You know, how we must all give up our cars and walk and cycle. But not top councillors obviously. It would demean them to travel in anything except a limo, right? And it's wonderful to have free reserved parking at the end of your journey.

And obviously we wouldn't want our local authority representatives risking their health by walking or cycling in Waltham Forest, not with things as they are.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Walking on ice

A sequel to yesterday's post about cycling and ice on the carriageway. The situation is no better for pedestrians. Yesterday I encountered a large sheet of ice on one of the busiest pavements in the Borough, namely Walthamstow High Street close to the junction with Hoe Street. I've noticed that for months water has been leaking out of a metal hatch, forming a permanent puddle in the pavement. If the Council isn't taking action about a location like this, walked over by thousands of pedestrians every day, it seems reasonable to conclude that it is indifferent to such leakages. And with the cold snap of the past two days this water turned into a sheet of ice about eight metres long by one metre wide. The second photograph below shows the source of the leakage, the rest show the ice (unfortunately black ice doesn't show up as well as white ice).

Any pedestrian who slips, falls and fractures or breaks bones here should get legal advice, as I don't think it would be hard to establish gross negligence on the part of the highway authority.

A tale of three stands

There is no point in this Council installing shiny new cycle stands anywhere if (i) they are inappropriately sited (ii) they quickly turn into sub-standard facilities because of regular obstruction. Unfortunately even the Council's own staff are adept at dumping rubbish sacks against cycle stands.

The state of three consecutive cycle stands on Hoe Street E17 yesterday.

The first one is between the junctions with Selborne Road and High Street. Here, yet again, Council workers decide a cycle stand is a great place to dump a street sweepings sack to await collection.

The next one is outside the bank by the derelict cinema. It has been carefully sited beneath the pigeons' favourite tree and is permanently... well, shitty.

The next one is between the derelict cinema and Hatherley Road. It hasn't been installed correctly and is far too high. And shopkeepers love dumping sacks of rubbish by it. This particular cycle stand, like so many in the Borough, is twinned with a Council rubbish bin, which roams the pavement like a Dalek, always staying close to the stand. The first photo below shows how it was a few weeks ago and the second how it was yesterday. And, yes, in the last photo that's another of those grey Council street sweepings sack next to the stand.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Unsafe to cycle

Many Londoners believe the capital's roads are too dangerous for them to take up cycling, according to a survey. One in four adults questioned by market researchers Mintel said cycling was too risky, despite the number of deaths staying at about 20 a year since 2000. Sales of bikes have remained at about 2.4 million a year for the past five years and are not forecast to rise over the next five. At the same time, the proportion of all journeys in Britain made by bike has fallen by a tenth of one percentage point to 1.5 per cent since 2004. Mintel said the biggest barrier to cycling cited in the survey was "a strong public perception that, at least on the road, it is simply too dangerous."

Cycling on ice

By yesterday afternoon the ice which originally extended the full width of the cycle lane on Forest Road E17 at the junction with Hoe Street had half melted.

All over the Borough water is leaking out of pavements and bubbling up from Thames Water hydrants. One of the reasons seems to be that instead of fixing leaks the company finds it more economical to simply increase the water pressure. As a highway authority the London Borough of Waltham Forest is not unduly concerned about this. I know for a fact that hazardous sites which are permanently under water have been reported to the Council, which has failed to act.

This (above) is the cause of this (below).

Even worse is the situation on Tower Hamlets Road E17, where water which permanently leaks across the road surface, turns into a broad sheet of ice when temperatures plunge below zero. And it's on a hill. If you come crashing off your bike here then it would be a good idea to seek legal advice, as it seems to me that Thames Water and the London Borough of Waltham Forest are both guilty of negligence for failing to deal with a permanent water leak which transforms a large section of road surface into sheet ice whenever the temperature drops below freezing.