Monday 28 February 2011

Leyton Library, cycling, & the great Waltham Forest ‘spatial planning’ fraud

If you want to understand everything that’s rotten in the planning and transport strategies of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, look no further than the re-vamped Leyton Library.

With charactereristic grey fleet cognitive dissonance, the car-centric planners gush about a truly sustainable community for all of us to enjoy to the full.

What the ‘spatial planners’ of Waltham Forest know about sustainability could be written on the back of a postage stamp and you’d still need an electron microscope to read it.

Naturally, being Waltham Forest, the great ‘spatial planning’ confidence trick requires consultants

Waltham Forest is a car-sick, anti-cycling borough with a cycling modal share which aptly reflects the car-centric priorities of everyone involved in urban planning in the borough. The planning officers of Waltham Forest understand nothing about cycling, but this doesn’t really matter because no matter how much cycling stagnates or declines no one wants to talk about failure and no one is accountable.

The exterior of the newly refurbished Leyton Library represents everything that’s wrong about planning in Waltham Forest.

The footway has been carved up for parking bays. For a local library! Why everyone at TfL pretends to be baffled by the spectacular levels of car dependency in Outer London never fails to surprise me. When the entire transport infrastructure is centred on catering for the needs of people who drive short distances, what do you expect?

The top priority outside Leyton Library is car parking. Moreover, the provision of these parking bays is detrimental to cycling on a major route (High Road Leyton, A112) because it sandwiches cyclists between parked vehicles and overtaking vehicles, with the threat of 'dooring' if you stay in the cycle lane, or verbal abuse and horn-blowing if you cycle outside the lane.

The nearest parking to the library is not bike parking but car parking.

And here’s the nearest bike parking, beyond the white car shown above. A solitary stand with a bike which has been abandoned here for weeks. Someone had their back wheel stolen and evidently just gave up. That’s one less cyclist. And a current modal share of 0.8 per cent following on from a modal share of 1 per cent might be interpreted as signifying that one in five cyclists in Waltham Forest has recently given up cycling. If so, who can really blame them?

By the library this multi-purpose bin (litter plus dog turds) is sensitively located directly in the path of the footway studs for the visually impaired and in front of a bench for those who want to relax and stop awhile to inhale the bracing odour of faeces.

And now it’s time to head off along cycling-friendly High Road Leyton. Can you spot the cycle lane?