Wednesday, 12 September 2018

The redevelopment of Hackney Wick Station

My local train station, Hackney Wick, was built in 1980 by British Rail when passenger trains returned to the North London line between Camden Road and Stratford. In 2007 TfL took over the Silverlink Metro services along this line, rebranded it London Overground, and passenger usage has rocketed from 366k entries and exits in 2006/2007 up to 2.1m entries and exits in 2015/16. Access to the platforms was via ramps, with the Westbound platform having three sets of lengthy elevated ramps to climb. I can't tell you the amount of times I've seen a train pull into the platform as I'm on the ramp and not been able to sprint quick enough to reach the platform before the doors close, resulting in a frustrating ten minute wait at times. Halfway up the ramp to the eastbound platform there were half-a-dozen bicycle stands but no facilities for anyone arriving at the station by bicycle wanting to travel West, with "bicycles attached to these railings will be removed" signs plastered all over the handrails of both ramps. As a result the railings outside the westbound platform ramp were almost always full of parked bikes

The former Lord Napier Public House, alongside the westbound platform ramp with a collection of locked bicycles outside

Each platform had a basic waiting room with a small ticket office on the Eastbound platform and a footbridge linking the two

Hackney Wick station, a few days before the footbridge was demolished
The station was clearly due a rebuild, especially with the huge amount of new residential developments either under construction or planning in the immediate area. The railway line through Hackney Wick station marks the boundary between two boroughs, with the Eastbound platform and everything north of it in Hackney, and the Westbound platform and the south side of the station in Tower Hamlets. However all of this area falls within London Legacy Development Corporation land and so planning and construction falls under them, rather than the two boroughs. It also mean that TfL did not have to pay for the station reconstruction, as the LLDC coughed up the £25m instead. The new ticket hall has been built in Tower Hamlets, on long empty land south of the station

The plot of land as it was prior to station upgrade construction 
Building work begins
The completed new ticket hall and station entrance 
During construction White Post Lane was closed directly outside for over a year and became part of the construction area

This caused no issues at all, as this map validates, motor traffic was easily able to divert via Rothbury Road and Hepscott Road with access to all local businesses and Queens Yard car park remaining for those on four wheels. The most impressive engineering feat was the construction of a new underpass under the railway line, built in four days over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. Although passengers using the station on the Tuesday after it reopened couldn't really tell from Platform level that anything had changed  

The newly built underpass under the North London line, constructed in four days last year 
The construction of an underpass under a railway line is such a short space of time is something I've been alerted to several times before, but only ever in the Netherlands 

Cycling underpasses under railway lines are a very common sight in the Netherlands, both in rural areas and at train stations themselves  

A walking and cycling underpass under Rotterdam Centraal station, built in 2014 as part of the station reconstruction 
A walking and cycling underpass through Amsterdam Centraal station, opened in 2015

Before and after from Google streetview: Utrecht Lunetten station, a road and car parking removed to create a walking and cycling underpass allowing quicker access to the train station, with the car park reduced in size to accommodate relocated buses and more cycle parking
Utrecht Lunetten station, a view from a bicycle
However there is no cycling in the new underpass at Hackney Wick station. Just under half of the underpass is currently a link between the only open entrance on White Post Lane and the Eastbound platform

On the other side of the removable glass wall lies what will become a pedestrian route through the station 

The closed underpass a few days after the upgraded Hackney Wick station opened. It has since been securely closed with hoardings, presumably to prevent anyone sleeping or spray painting inside
Almost all buildings either side of the new station will eventually be demolished to create Hackney Wick Central, a new mixed use neighbourhood with a pedestrianised north-south route surrounded by retail units, all animated as either coffee or bike shops in the visualisations pinned to the outside of the station

The route of the new pedestrianised road which will run through the station 
From the Eastbound platform you can view where the new pedestrian route will run, with most of the warehouses soon to be replaced by flats and retail units 
It'll also link up with the cycle and footbridge from Wallis Road into the Olympic Park, part of quietway 6, and will allow residents of East Wick quicker access to their local station. It is of course entirely possible that cycling will be allowed through this underpass and along this route once it opens, however it would clearly be better for everyone if a cycle track was built to clearly separate walking and cycling, rather than a shared space design

However this is the LLDC who are not very keen on creating cycle routes but are keen on "cyclists dismount" signs, so it is unlikely this will become a walking and cycling route. 

As for cycle parking there are currently seven new bike stands outside the new entrance on White Post Lane with another inaccessible eight behind fencing at the, as yet unopened, northern entrance. The current seven stands are clearly nowhere near enough as they are always full and were from day one, with lamp posts and railings nearby often used as well. If 15 stands will be the eventual total bike parking at Hackney Wick station then clearly that will be nowhere near enough 

Typical cycle parking under a railway station in the Netherlands where 40% of all train passengers arrive by bike. Clean, light and spacious with room for thousands of bicycles to park for free. Hackney Wick does not need thousands of spaces but it does need more than 15 bike stands and with the new station due to be surrounded by new buildings with spacious basements it would have been great to have seen more ambitious bike parking facilities at Hackney Wick 
Bicycle parking at a bus stop in the suburbs of Amsterdam. With large unused space outside the new station could something like this have been built at Hackney Wick? 
It was disappointing to see that as soon as the new station opened so did White Post Lane following a closure of more than a year, despite being a little used road and alternative routes for through motor traffic in the area. This would have been a great opportunity to filter it directly in front of the station and create a new public space and improve the safety of those leaving the station on foot

The new Hackney Wick station, with on street car parking retained directly outside
Indeed as White Post Lane is currently the only way to access or exit the station it is a shame that this road was not even resurfaced and remains in a terrible state. It is particularly unpleasant as a pedestrian, with high kerbs remaining at no longer existing side entrances; if you're in a wheelchair or have a pushchair walking in the road may be the only option to get to the station

Pedestrian activity will increase here considerably in the near future, with huge apartment blocks very close to the station  nearing completion and even bigger ones still going through the planning process. However Hackney Wick will also be the local station for residential areas such as East Wick and Sweetwater in the Olympic Park and the developments under construction on Fish Island which will all be a good 10 to 15 minute walk away. Hackney Wick is also my local station and is at least a 10 minute walk; I usually do walk it but on occasions use the bike, especially if I know I'll be coming back with shopping and a child which is much easier to transport home from the station by bike than on foot. I suspect many residents in the North of the Olympic Park will prefer a short bike ride home from the station, rather than a longer walk too.

As a local resident I'm grateful for the station upgrade and it is a stunning addition to the area but I can't help feel this was a missed opportunity not to create new cycling routes. Meanwhile the next time you see a Dutch video of a new cycling underpass being built over the course of a weekend please remember we can also do that in the UK too, we just choose not to. 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Transport for London are blocking safe cycling conditions on Shoreditch High Street

As I have previously reported, the A10 in Hackney is the most dangerous road in the borough to cycle on, with 26% of all cyclists killed or seriously injured in collisions from 2004-2014 occurring on it, and a third of all collisions involving buses and cycles resulting in a injury to the cyclist also occurring on the A10. Shoreditch High Street is the southern end of the A10 in Hackney, part of the Shoreditch Triangle and one of the busiest cycling routes in the borough as it links Hackney Road, Kingsland Road and Old Street with the City and Commercial Street. It also suffers some of the highest level of cycling casualties in Hackney.

Last year, as part of its healthy streets approach, Transport for London consulted on proposals for Shoreditch High Street with two main interventions. The first was at the slip road leading from Hackney Road onto Shoreditch High Street; reducing this from two traffic lanes down to one, by enlarging the island

Above: before and after the changes to this junction 

This has provided a slightly wider, but shorter, cycle lane leading into the ASL. The cycle lane is still completely pointless a lot of the time however, as it remains impossible to reach it if any more than a couple of vehicles are waiting at the lights


I'm not sure why the space taken from the carriageway was reallocated to a larger island; surely it would have been a perfect opportunity to create a protected cycle lane for people cycling from Hackney Road onto Shoreditch High Street. Even better would be to close this slip road to traffic entirely to provide a dedicated protected left turn for those cycling onto both Shoreditch High Street as well as for those cycling onto Old Street.

The route from Hackney Road onto Old Street remains the most popular route for people on bikes here, heading into the West End via the Old Street Roundabout and Clerkenwell road, the busiest cycling corridor in London. However nothing has been provided for the huge amount of people who cycle this route everyday, with people on bikes having to often squeeze between two lanes of traffic to get to the lights

Only to find when they get there that TfL haven't even bothered to create an ASL here and so cyclists have little choice but to surround the cars and lorries waiting at the lights instead

The other measure consulted on, and built, was at the point where Quietway 13 crosses the road, with the main intervention being removal of a southbound traffic lane to create an island where cycles turning into Rivington Street can wait, along with all traffic to turn into Calvert Avenue.

It also proposed reducing the width of the footway 'to allow larger vehicles' to turn into Calvert Avenue, otherwise known as quietway 13!

Before and after quietway improvement works on Shoreditch High Street

Note that what was not part of the consultation diagram, the "Keep clear" signs to help motor traffic coming out of Calvert Avenue to turn right onto Shoreditch High Street; a popular manoeuvre, due to the fact that Shoreditch High Street is restricted to buses, Taxi's and bikes only further south

The consultation responses showed that 50% of respondents did not support this scheme, with many believing it did not go far enough to protect people on bikes. The Hackney Cycling Campaign expressed concern that the proposed crossing would not help vulnerable and unconfident cyclists and they recommended that a segregated and signalised cycle crossing should be provided. 

I was pleasantly surprised to read the response from Hackney Council to this scheme; they believed a more ambitious scheme could be developed to further improve safety at the junction. They recommend a segregated junction crossing for cyclists as well as the segregation of the entire length of Shoreditch High Street for a cycle lane. In relation to the proposed bus lane, the Council also said that they prefer cycle segregation along Shoreditch High Street rather than a bus lane on the southbound lane of Shoreditch High Street. As a result they oppose this proposal as they are concerned that if a bus lane were to be introduced in the short term, it may be difficult to subsequently remove it.

To hear Hackney Council suggest that TfL should not create a bus lane, in order to instead create a segregated cycle lane would have been unthinkable just a few years ago and shows the huge progress within the mindset of some members of the council over the last couple of years. TfL responded that significant changes to the existing layout of Shoreditch High Street are not proposed as part of this scheme but segregated cycle lanes will be considered as part of the wider Shoreditch Triangle scheme.

Despite not being their road, Hackney Council have even gone as far as to produce their own plans for protected cycle tracks along Shoreditch High Street

This scheme even included a protected cycle track replacing the slip road at the Hackney Road / Shoreditch High Street junction with safe space for those cycling onto Old Street, instead of the dangerous layout that TfL have left untouched

Therefore it is thoroughly depressing to read the Mayor of Hackney confirming that Transport for London have rejected these plans. The council claim that TfL believe that the road width and modelling would not support a segregated track north and southbound and are therefore are proposing a southbound segregated cycle track and a bus and cycle only lane northbound.

Transport for London rejecting plans for protected cycle lanes in both directions here 

Whilst TfL are willing to block this scheme they will not even fund it as the Shoreditch Triangle scheme is reliant on third party funding from proposed and future nearby developments and that the withdrawal of Bishopsgate Goods Yard has left a shortfall in the funding to implement the scheme.

The discussions between Hackney and TfL on the Shoreditch Triangle scheme have been put on hold so it appears that the road layout will remain in its current state for many years to come. Whilst TfL continue to refuse to allow protected space for cycling, something that could also improve bus journey times, it is likely that many more people will continue to be seriously injured or killed whilst cycling in Shoreditch.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Cycle Superhighway 1; three years on and still unfinished

In the spring of 2015 Transport for London began consultation on Cycle Superhighway 1 and then announced their decision to build it in June 2015. Three years on from announcing their intention to proceed with the proposals I have looked again at the route to see what has been completed, what hasn't, and what changes we can expect in the future. 

Starting at the southern end of CS1 and although not part of the original consultation, it was stated within the consultation report that "We will remove the bollard from the junction between Wilson Street and Christopher street, improving access for cyclists". Nearly three years on and that bollard remains in place, even though it seems like an easy and inexpensive adjustment to make. 

Just north of here it was promised that parking would be removed to create space for a new motor traffic free area for pedestrians and cyclists:

  • Bollards create new motor-traffic-free area between Worship Street and Dysart Street, including enlarged footways, two-way cycling, new paving and seating
  • Parking bays removed

Despite confirmation in the consultation report that this would go ahead this section was not built. The gate is still in place, the road has been resurfaced and the parking bays have been repainted.

New parking restrictions were promised for Paul Street, with no stopping for two hours during the morning rush and for three hours in the afternoon. Which was not much help if you wanted to cycle on this route for the other 19 hours of the day (as I usually do) or at weekends 

However these parking restrictions were not implemented, it is free to park here up until 08.30, where paid parking is allowed on both sides of the road though to 18.30 on weekdays, up to 13.30 on Saturdays, with it free to park all day on Sunday. It was always an odd decision to leave parking on both sides of the road as it means it is simply not possible to cycle north up CS1 without having to stop numerous times to allow cars to pass through

The consultation report also stated that "we are reviewing requirements on a site-by-site basis, and resurfacing will only take place where necessary". Three years on and the road surface is in a poor condition in some places

Leonard Circus remains a nice looking square on paper but the reality is far too many lorries use it and continually damage the street furniture

And then Paul Street between here and Old Street still has parking on both sides of the carriageway, causing issues if you're cycling north, and again the proposed parking restrictions never came into force, with it remaining free to park here up until 08.30, with parking not restricted at any time of the day

CS1 north of Leonard Circus will soon become an "ultra low emission street" and motor vehicles that are not classed as ultra low emission will not be permitted to use this section of Paul Street from 07.00-10.00 and from 16.00-19.00 on weekdays (with an exemption for local residents or businesses with a permit). It is an interesting experiment and, assuming it actually goes ahead, I hope it does reduce motor traffic levels here. Just a shame the restrictions are not in place at all times.

Hackney Council have recently declared that "following a review and taking into account feedback from residents, a number of actions are being planned to reduce traffic and improve the CS1 route in Hackney". They recognise that the first section of CS1 along Paul and Wilson Street "is still difficult for cyclists due to parking and loading arrangements. These are being reviewed with Islington Council and will be rationalised where possible."

Considering that the new parking restrictions still haven't been implemented three years on from promising to do so, coupled with the fact that every time I cycle this way there is illegal parking on double yellows or on the footway, I have little confidence of this happening. Perhaps the best solution would be to strip parking away from one side of the carriageway to install a bidirectional cycle track from Old Street to the end of CS1 in its place. There would still be parking available all along one side of the road, along with a safer and quicker route for those on bikes.

Three trees were in the spot where the cycle track leading to the Old Street crossing was due to go and the plan was to remove these three trees and plant 11 new ones alongside the track instead

However the three trees were, amazingly, left within the new cycle track causing an obstruction and making it difficult to use at peak times

 Two of these trees were finally removed in early 2017

With a new tree planted directly in the centre of the cycle track, leaving just two trees in the track but at least with both of them are now located directly in the middle. 

Boris Johnson's final act as mayor was to order the removal of the shared space signage on the Apex Corner crossing of Old Street, which did occur, and to "install appropriate and effective vehicle blockage of Pitfield Street", which did not

CS1  then moves onto Pitfield Street and Hackney Council state that "Further closures are under investigation to reduce traffic crossing Pitfield Street." Whilst the bottom section of Pitfield Street was closed to motor traffic from Old Street it is still possible to access via Boot Street and this is a route many drivers make. Prior to CS1 Pitfield Street was only open in one direction for motor vehicles but bicycles could use it in both directions. However under the CS1 plans Pitfield Street was opened up to motor traffic in both directions, meaning drivers can now use Pitfield Street to drive south to Old Street, or to City Road via Haberdasher Street, something they could not make before this road became a cycle superhighway 

Pitfield Street before and after CS1

This is especially evident in the morning rush as hundreds of cars and vans use it as a rat run down to Old Street

Hackney Council stated that the zebra crossing next to New North Road would be "raised to slow traffic" and this work was completed in one afternoon shortly after that announcement earlier this year. There is another zebra just 500 feet north of this one, by Crondall Street. A local school, along with the vicar at St. Johns Hoxton church next door, have recently launched a "respect the zebra" campaign, resulting in a commitment from the council of a lollipop person, a slow sign and a repainting of the zebra, three years on from it being repainted as CS1 was constructed. I find it odd that the vicar is dressing up as a zebra to highlight how lorries should be stopping for pedestrians on the zebra crossing yet no one appears to be calling for either the lorries, or the huge numbers of other motor vehicles that clog this road up every morning,  to be removed from this "cycle superhighway" to allow it to be safe enough for children to cycle to school and easier to cross with some traffic reduction

There appears to be no plans for any improvements to Pitfield Street from New North Road up to Britannia Junction, despite this being one of the worst sections of CS1 within Hackney, a very busy road with an awful lot of motor traffic and certainly not the place for anyone "of any age" to be on a bike. The school run, weather on foot or bike, is almost exclusively carried out on the pavement here. 

It is also absurd that such a high number of lorries regularly use this section of Pitfield Street, especially coming from Mintern Street, which is a short 'quietway' route linking Shoreditch Park with CS1, yet is not even filtered!

Cycle super highway 1 and Quietway 16 meet at the Pitfield Street / Hyde Road and Hoxton Street junction. This is the most dangerous junction to cycle on within Hackney and I have written about it previously here. The council are "investigating a scheme to reduce traffic and simplify the junction" less than seven years after spending £600,000 to change it from one of the safest junction designs to the most dangerous! It has been slightly better this year as Penn Street on approach to it is now open in only one direction for motor traffic, reducing the amount of traffic crossing it from East to West but drivers can still use it as a shortcut west all the way from Bethnal Green to New North Road, resulting in near misses and collisions on a regular basis

A tree recently destroyed in a collision at Britannia junction

Again, there appears to be no changes planned for Whitmore Road or De Beauvoir Road from here up to downham Road, which is just unacceptable as motor traffic levels are far too high. I just don't understand why side roads leading off from CS1, such as Orsman Road or De Beauvoir Crescent remain open to motor traffic, let along why Pitfield Street itself is not filtered to stop through traffic from outside the area using it. 
Although not part of the original CS1 consultation a scheme was later proposed in De Beauvoir Town to filter more roads and create a much larger residential area that is free from rat running motor traffic

Most of these closures went into place in 2016, including one which had originally been proposed over 40 years earlier! The exception was De Beauvoir Road which, in response to the consultation, was kept open southbound but closed to traffic northbound. This has still resulted in it being much quieter than it was and also allows crossing De Beauvoir Road on a bike via Q2 much easier. The signage leading up to the closure isn't clear enough it seems, if the amount of reversing lorries is anything to go by. Originally the closure was simply some road signs, which were routinely ignored, but the recently changed layout does seem to be working well.

Getting from the longstanding filtered southern half of De Beauvoir Town to the northern half involves crossing Englefield Road, which can be a challenge at times, especially if you are cycling with young children. The council state that "a parallel pedestrian / cycle crossing is to be installed", which is great news, but I do hope it does not involve any pavement cycling
The new closures are working very well and have dramatically changed the area, creating a much quieter neighbourhood whilst improving the safety of those who choose to walk or cycle through here. I just hope that at the end of the 18 month trial the closures remain and the plastic bollards are replaced with something a bit more permanent. Unfortunately the closures at the junction of Kingsland Road with Stamford Road and Tottenham Road have still not been implemented, despite the consultation closing three years ago and the consultation page stating that they plan to start work in spring 2018.

In the 2015 consultation the majority of respondents opted for option B on Balls Pond Road; a bidirectional cycle track linking Culford Road with Kingsbury Road 

Three years on and work has still not begun on this section of the scheme, with seemingly no date that the works are even likely to start. Hackney Council claim that "this section is jointly maintained by Hackney and Islington and is also on the Strategic Road Network. Discussions are still ongoing but the aspiration remains for a protected cycle lane on Balls Pond Road between its junctions with Culford Road and Kingsbury Road"
It really is unacceptable to take this long to construct this vital part of the scheme. Families who want to use the well promoted "cycle superhighway" are either expected to take their lives into their own hands on such a busy and dangerous road or are forced to break the law and cycle on the pavement 
You can't even rely on an empty bus lane outside of peak hours as it then becomes a car park

North of here there are no plans to improve Boleyn Road, however since the 2015 consultation three new filters have been installed along Wordsworth Road, resulting in another residential area where all streets can be accessed by car but the streets are free from rat running motor traffic from outside the area, leading to quieter and safer roads for residents. 

A new "Cyclists slow down" sign has been installed on the cycle track between Wordsworth Road and Nevill Road alongside the children's posters with similar messages emblazoned onto the railings alongside

I believe a redesign of the cycle track and pavement here to a clearer layout would be a better solution

Before and after from google streetview
The transition as you exit this cycle track onto Nevill Road is quite stark, transferring from quiet streets to a very busy one, clogged with motor traffic at all times 

Hackney Council also recognise this problem and ran a consultation this winter on more proposed traffic filters in this area. Option A would eliminate East / West rat running entirely but would do nothing to solve the issues on Nevill Road and drivers would continue to use it to avoid the Stoke Newington Gyratory. Option B would see a filter on Nevill Road but would still see a West to East route open via Barbauld Road and Dynevor Road. Neither are perfect but option B would clearly be the best outcome for CS1 and those who live on Nevill Road who have to live with all the traffic

At Stoke Newington Church Street the promised traffic islands to provide a safe waiting area for cyclists following CS1 never materialised 

So, as with Balls Pond Road, a fairly important intervention needed as the superhighway meets a busy main road has not occurred and people continue to risk serious injury as they cycle here

Towards the end of CS1 in Hackney it follows West Bank, a one-way road (for cars) with houses along one side and a railway track on the other but with car parking along both sides of the road, leaving virtually no room for contraflow cyclists. 

Another consultation from the council proposes to strip car parking from the railway line side of the road for a bidirectional cycle track. It is a decent proposal as the car parking would not be missed however the local conservative councillor for this area, councillor Steinberger, submitted a 3,300-name petition against CS1 back in 2015, even though all that was proposed was "CS1" to be marked by paint on some residential roads. Some of his objections included increased cycling posing a danger to children and that any increase in cycling would result in increased traffic congestion. I await the consultation report with interest.

Hackney Council should be applauded for recognising that Cycle Superhighway 1 has some serious issues and is largely not a pleasant place to cycle and I'm very glad they seem to be proposing some good solutions to some of the issues. However, it would obviously be welcome if they could actually finish all the adjustments to this route that were promised three years ago but have still not been delivered.