Sunday 7 November 2010

scenes from a cycling revolution

The London Borough of Waltham Forest has an estimated population of 223,200.

At the heart of the borough is The Town Square Walthamstow, which is adjacent to the longest outdoor market in Europe and The Mall shopping centre, which has 850 parking spaces.

The Mall website naturally doesn’t consider the possibility that anyone would arrive by bicycle, so let me tell you that the Town Square has 24 cycle stands.

Oh no, sorry, eight of those stands have disappeared, leaving the sixteen stands shown above. There are nine beside the library and seven by the children's playground.

There were once three near the bank and another five alongside Bhs. All eight have now vanished. One angry local cyclist wrote to the paper about various disappearing stands, but received a soothing message from the local LCC branch. Six years and ten months later not one of those cycle stands has been replaced, and more have disappeared. Both the local branch of the LCC and the cycling officer Gina Harkell have proved utterly useless when it comes even to a simple matter like replacing cycle stands which are removed, though Ms. Harkell has a vivid imagination when it suits her.

Still, you could argue that it doesn’t matter. At 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning (i.e. yesterday) just three people had arrived by bicycle to do a spot of shopping. Whoever those two bikes belonged to, plus me.

Curiously, alluding to the London Borough of Waltham Forest’s cycling officer Gina Harkell, Mr Grumpy observes:

I would say that it feels like the lunatics taking over the asylum, but it is more like the lunatics have taken over the asylum, have formed a "centre-of-excellence" committee and are now part of an advisory team for other asylums.

Quite. I couldn’t have put it better myself, Mr Grumpy!

By the way, if you are wondering why so few people cycle into central Walthamstow on a Saturday in one of the leading local authorities in London in its commitment to introducing cycling facilities (which include what a revealing Freudian slip identifies as '20 miles of quite cycle routes' - 'quite cycle routes’ like this) it’s a complete mystery.

Here (below) is one of the roads which leads directly to the Town Square and the shops. It is four lanes wide at this point, with parking bays down both sides of the road. It forms part of the London Cycle Network, and has blue signs reminding cyclists of this fact. It also has bike logos painted on the road surface and you can see one in the photograph below, which was also taken yesterday. This road, Church Hill E17, gets the thumbs up from the local LCC branch as a cycling-friendly route for its traffic calming. It also forms part of a large 20 mph zone. It represents everything that cycling campaigners have ever fought for, and we must also thank the Cyclists Touring Club for so effectively defending our right as cyclists to ‘share the road’.

I think you’ll agree it’s a complete mystery why fabulous infrastructure like this is deterring people from cycling.