Sunday 13 February 2011

cycling and the North Olympic Fringe Area Action Plan

Lea Bridge Road (A104) – more fun than a Center Parc.

Waltham Forest Council is keen to hear local views on that electrifying document entitled North Olympic Fringe Area Action Plan (AAP) Preferred Options.

The spin boils down to a glorious vision of a post-Olympic paradise in which

local people have a better quality of life and greater opportunities, in the form of jobs, homes, services, open spaces, and public realm improvements.

Cut through the crap and the eco-fluff, though, and you soon see what the North Olympic Fringe Area Action Plan (AAP) Preferred Options really boil down to.

Firstly, the council can’t wait to get its hands on green belt land and cut some more deals with property developers. Part 8.9 states

Although most developments will not normally be acceptable in the Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land, there may be exceptions where development is necessary.

But not to worry because

the Council will consider how these sites can be sensitively developed.

And sensitivity is this Council’s middle name when it comes to disposing of public land and flogging it off to developers.

And what could be more sensitive to local green space than building tower blocks or hotels on it, beside it, or overlooking it.

Part 4.10 states

Redevelopment at Leyton Mills would provide the scope to introduce taller buildings into the area, particularly along the A12

None of this should be a surprise in the context of the material posted on Fight the Height. If you are worried about the future of the Lea Valley then you should certainly read this AAP and respond to it.

The AAP promises ‘enhanced pedestrian/cycle routes’, though these will be largely leisure-orientated and will require cyclists to use unpleasant car-choked streets to access them. So they will deter everyone except hardcore vehicular cyclists, and will fail to attract families.

Documents like these are often worth reading just for the new information they contain. For example, the Council has discovered that

many young people who lived in proximity to Marsh Lane playing fields were unaware of its existence and had never used the fields.

That’s a sign of the new car-centric generations, who never cycle and who rarely go for a walk in their neighbourhood. They’ve been brought up on car travel and anything which is outside the infrastructure of the motor vehicle is invisible.

On Leyton High Road and Lea Bridge Road the planners have noticed that ‘the dominance of vehicular traffic detracts from the shopping experience’ but naturally have no plans to address this condition, other than superficially:

Higher quality public spaces, street trees and street furniture would improve both this experience and public perceptions.

This is a bit rich from a council which can’t even supply adequate cycle parking in its major shopping centres. The council’s own planners are grey fleet planners – many of them probably don’t live locally, they travel everywhere by car on generous and unmanaged expenses, they don’t use buses, they don’t walk, and they don’t cycle.

For Leyton

Appropriate parking in the Town Centre was seen as an essential tool for promoting local shopping by local business owners.

Well of course it was. Shopkeepers have never understood that it is possible to enjoy commercial prosperity in a non-vehicular environment. Britain’s shopkeepers bitterly opposed the country’s first pedestrianisation schemes, until they were forced on them and found to work. They have never understood that people might want to arrive at their shops by any other means than the car. That’s why I do very little local shopping. It annoys me when I arrive at a local shop wanting to buy an expensive electronic item and I find parking bays but no cycle stands at all. That’s why Van-Haaren lost my custom, as did Rapid Radio.

As for cycling.

This AAP seeks to promote enhancements to Lea Bridge Road to create a more natural and friendly setting, with open views to the north and south up and down the Lea Valley, creating a nature focused pedestrian and cycling experience along the valley crossing.

Like that shown in the paradisal picture shown above. It either shows Lea Bridge Road just after the junction with Orient Way, looking towards Clapton, or (the more probable of the two alternatives) the view east just after the Ice Rink, looking towards Leyton.

Yes, in just a few years time people will be pouring down to Lea Bridge Road for a picnic on its grassy banks. Outside sensitive developments people will sip their cappuccinos and admire the mysterious absence of traffic on Lea Bridge Road, which normally carries 27,000 vehicles a day. In this vision of the future the bus lane has been removed, as has the speed camera, doubtless as a testament to the borough’s success in restraining and taming the traffic. And, realistically, there are no cyclists to be seen anywhere.

I expect the missing cyclists are still stuck in traffic further up the road. You know, like on these cycling-friendly sections of Lea Bridge Road. Who can possibly doubt that entire families will be leaping on their bicycles and pouring west on these safe and attractive cycle lanes in order to enjoy the sunlit green spaces of the fabulously regenerated North Olympic Fringe Area?

The AAP document can be accessed here.