Thursday, 9 February 2017

A new road in the Olympic Park

I first wrote about the Olympic Park back in July 2013, a year after the games had taken place and just after the Northern section of the park had reopened to the public. I revisited the park again with another post in 2014, just after the Southern half of the park reopened, followed by another post in 2015 to mark two and a half years since the end of the Paralympic Games. It was always my intention to revisit the park and write about it this summer, in order to mark five years since the games took place. However a new road is currently being constructed in the park, so that'll be interesting for everyone, I thought.

Currently in the very early stages of construction on the Western edge of the park, on the other side of the River Lea from the stadium, is Sweetwater; a new community consisting of around 650 homes, a primary school, two nurseries, a library and a health centre. Sweetwater will be located in the small area of the park that lies within the London borough of Tower Hamlets. No sporting activities took places here in the Summer of 2012 but it did contain the worlds largest McDonaldsthe London 2012 Megastore (which is where I bought my Team GB hoodie from, and which still gets the odd wearing to this day). It also served as the space where Gary Lineker and others presented the BBC coverage from the top of a stack of shipping containers along with a storage space for games vehicles to park up behind the Megastore and McDonalds. Prior to the Olympics, up until July 2007, this area was home to the Bow Industrial Park and the Carpenters Business Park, sandwiched between the River Lea and the Lee Navigation.

The two industrial estates as they were before demolition in 2007, taken from Google earth. I've drawn a red line to indicate where the main road ran through the Bow Industrial estate, from Carpenter's Road down to the old Planet 24 building behind the old Big Breakfast house / TV studios
The same view during construction of the park. The former road through the industrial park is now part of the main orbital road used by construction vehicles and buses ferrying workmen between the various sites. Note the two new bridges over the River Lea at the end of this road, one temporary for construction vehicles and a wider one alongside, designed for a post games park. 
The same view again, this time during the summer of 2012, just before the games began. This road is now part of the orbital service road, used to ferry athletes, journalists and other officials between the various venues, broadcast centre and Olympic Village. Note also the new footbridge halfway down the red line
Following the Olympics this area remained a vast empty site, fenced off from the public. Below is a picture I took in the spring of 2014 looking down the former Bow Industrial Estate Road from Carpenter's Road through a gap in the barriers, with the view looking much the same as it did during the Olympic Games

This road was then reconstructed shortly afterwards

with the final layout pictured here, in the summer of 2014

The road shifts to the left instead of continuing straight on, as it used to, in order to accommodate a canal park and an elevated bank at the end of the pedestrian footbridge mentioned above, which had been constructed prior to the Olympics but simply ended in mid air for several years. Despite the vast space available no dedicated cycling infrastructure was constructed, the roadway remained narrow with all the space being spent on a mammoth pavement, which almost everyone now cycles on. Here is an image of the service road during the Olympic Games, taken from Google Streetview 

and a view of the same location, taken last weekend, below

I'm really not keen on the current trend of wasting space on colossal pavements and then expecting people to cycle on the road directly in front of motor vehicles. So wide is the pavement here you can even see it from space on google earth

The same area as it is this year, captured by Google Earth
After passing the new footbridge leading onto Fish Island the road then curves again at a right angle to rejoin its old course alongside the edge of the water, a lightly used section of road that usually contains many more parked cars than those being driven and was often dominated by people cycling instead, especially at weekends

However this section of the road passes through where a new Primary school is due to be located and so, just before Christmas, as the builders moved into start work on the new school, the Highways engineers also moved in to alter the course of the road. The entire site was fenced off and so I could only get a look at the start of the new road, by the Fish Island footbridge

and the end of it, at the back of the old Big Breakfast House near to the bridge over the River Lea

The southern end of the new road, note the construction site of the new Primary school alongside
It was quite clear, even at this stage, that this new road was not going to be wide enough for any segregated cycling infrastructure. The pavement alongside is probably about three to four times the width of the road and so I hoped to come back and see the engineers constructing a lovely new smooth cycle track between the road and the pavement for future generations of children to use to get to school. I returned last weekend to see how progress was coming along and despite witnessing some very poor road schemes built within the park in recent years even I was surprised at what I found

Advisory cycle lanes. Useless.
The road is still fenced off and so, as tempted as I was to sneak through and takes pictures from within the site, I had to make do with taking pictures either through gaps in the fence or over the top of it instead.

The road is pretty narrow here. Whilst two motor vehicles could pass each other side by side they would certainly both have to drive in the cycle lanes

Further ahead and the cycle lane pauses for the yellow zig zag lines outside where the school entrance will be, before continuing in the door zone of a lay by

and then pausing again for a zebra crossing and a pinch point where the road narrows

and then a fun looking slalom where I'm not sure I'd trust any speeding motorists to not swerve into the opposite cycle lane as they overtake someone in the cycle lane

taking us back to the Fish Island footbridge

The gigantic pavement which remains has been a well used cycling and walking route since this area reopened to the public nearly three years ago (known as Marshgate Terrace) and here is a picture from Summer 2015

and a view from the same area this weekend

Hopefully you can just about make out those narrow advisory cycle lanes in the background! Another view from 2015:

and the same view now:

Here is another view at the end of the route two years ago, it was fenced off back then directing you onto a now closed path leading to the towpath on the Lee:

With a view from the same angle last weekend:

There is easily enough space for the four teenagers on bikes to cycle side-by-side with room to spare, and that is still with half the pavement area fenced off. Soon they'll be expected to cycle in single file on that narrow advisory lane to their right! Of course that is unlikely to happen, the vast majority of people here will cycle on the pavement, just as they do further north already. It is, of course, entirely possible that some kind of cycling infrastructure will appear on the pavement here, which is crap for everyone

Two Tier cycling provision in another area of the Olympic Park. A cycle track on the pavement which gives up at every junction and becomes a shared use pavement with "cyclists dismount" signs, alongside an ASL on the road
A cycle track along the new Chobham Manor development opposite the Velodrome, safe for children to use but it is narrow, gives way at side roads and you are meant to dismount at the pedestrian crossing to get to it. Note the lone adult on the bike (understandably) using the road instead

Another reason that many cycling here will use the pavement is that, despite the double yellow lines, it is likely those cycle lanes will be filled with parked cars during the school run. This is exactly what happens every morning and afternoon at my daughters primary school in Hackney and also in the other school already open in the Olympic Park

Home time at the Chobham Academy, many cars parked on double yellow lines and on the pavement

Imagine if there was a network of cycle tracks in the Olympic Park that were as well designed and linked together as seamlessly as the road network in the park does.

Young children on the outskirts of Nijmegen, able to get around very busy roads on cycle tracks through junctions that are designed to a high standard, just as the roads are
Who wouldn't want to live in a new development where anyone can cycle to wherever they want to go to in safe conditions?

A new development called Groote Wielen on the outskirts of Den Bosch I visited in the Netherlands last year. Most children will use a bike to get to school, visit friends and will have the freedom to safely get around a city independently
A new development on a former industrial area of Nijmegen. The cycle track has already begun, planned as part of the entire project. You can see where it will be extended as building of apartments is complete, set back from the carriageway at that side road. Why wasn't something similar planned in the Olympic Park?

Primary School children exit a school in Beuningen, the Netherlands, directly onto a cycle track, despite their young age they will be able to cycle home alone safely in motor free conditions, even if they have to use main roads. 

The Olympic Park does have some cycle tracks on the main roads but they don't generally link up, or they suddenly end forcing you back into traffic. However where they exist they are well used by families. 

Meanwhile the pedestrian bridge leading to Fish Island, which I mentioned at the start of this post and crosses that new road with its advisory cycle lanes, is also a well used by local families getting about by bike

I use it all the time with my daughter, either with her  on my bike or her pedalling alongside, it is a safe and handy route for me to use to get to the swimming pool or Westfield Shopping Centre 

Teenagers cycling on the bridge last weekend - a regular sight
Unfortunately the London Legacy Development Corporation plan to tear down this bridge (which has been open less than three years) to create yet another through road for motor vehicles to enter the Olympic Park

Separate provision for people walking yet the visualisation shows someone cycling having to do so on the road with motor vehicles, something only a small percentage of the population are willing to do
It is already possible to drive directly into the Olympic Park to use its network of roads via White Post Lane in Hackney Wick, Eastway (and directly off the A12 right alongside), Temple Mills Lane, three roads off the A112 alongside the Olympic Village and three roads off the A11 Stratford High Street.  I really don't understand why another vehicle route into the park is needed, at the expense of a route that already exists for people walking and cycling. The new road bridge will link Monier Road, in Fish Island with the park

The Carpernter's Wharf development alongside the bridge on Fish Island. In the visualisation everyone is travelling by bike, skateboard or on foot. The visualisation is in accurate as it does not show that the 120 year old Chimney Shaft will be demolished this year for a new road carrying an estimated 950 motor vehicles per hour into the park.
Fish Island is currently a naturally filtered area as you can only get in or out of it in a motor vehicle via one road. This means it is dominated by people walking or cycling due to not having any through routes for motor traffic. I feel safe cycling here with my daughter, just as I do in De Beauvoir Town, due to the pleasant, quiet, traffic free streets. Most of Fish Island is currently a building site as new developments are underway, nearly 600 homes are due to be built in the huge Fish Island Village scheme alongside the Hertford Union canal

Ah, roads that are currently 66% full of parked cars will suddenly become like the Netherlands, filled with parents on bikes, this is despite the creation of new through routes for motor traffic right alongside
Along with developments along Monier Road itself

Whilst people do currently cycle side by side on Monier Road due to the lack of motor traffic, I can't see that happening when thousands of motor vehicles a day begin to use it
I really can't see why this road needs to be built, there are already enough roads into the park and far too many roads within it. For the small amount of people that want to get from Monier Road to the park in a car it isn't exactly a lengthy journey 

Motor vehicles in the area can already access the park via a bridge 250m away

The LLDC should not be constructing this new road, if anything they should be turning other roads leading into the park into filtered roads, enabling them to be used by pedestrians and cyclists only, whilst redesigning cycle tracks along the main roads that do already exist. How many second chances do they need? Most of the Olympic Park has been designed around cars, not people and I find it astounding that well used pedestrian and cycling routes that already exist are about to be destroyed for a new road network. The Olympic Park should be designed to encourage walking and cycling by building routes that make it attractive and convenient for people to do so. We aren't going to tackle London's air pollution crisis by making it easier and more convenient for people to drive than to cycle. I already have the rare opportunity to be able to cycle to the swimming pool, shopping centre or into the Centre of Stratford with my daughter without the danger of maxing with cars, buses and lorries. That luxury is soon to be taken away from me, as well as many other current local and future residents. How it that part of the sustainable Olympic legacy? The Mayor should urgently review this decision by the LLDC as it goes completely against his commitment for cleaner air. If he does not act now then a peaceful and safe route for children to travel in and out of the park will soon be lost forever. 

1 comment:

  1. There is a strange irony in the fact that Monier Road was used in the deplorable travesty of a 'road safety'(sic) film produced for DfT's think campaign where a truck travelling on the wrong side of the Monier Road and initially slightly slower than a cyclist just in front who is drawing ahead, then manages to be turning left (a route to take the driver nowhere other than back to where they'd come from) IN FRONT of the cyclist and try to convince us that the aftermath was the bike going under the FRONT wheels of the truck.

    Remember too the proven to be lethal road butchery at Eastway that claimed a cyclist's life. I visited shortly before the fatal crash, and had 2 potentially serious close calls. First the coach pulling out from the press centre exit on my right for which it was prudent to stop, as the driver certainly was not, and the at the dangerously confusing rebuilt junction including the 'new 180 degree full lock left turn' where the bus-cycle fatal crash took place.

    Here I kept moving with that sudden realisation of a what the F*** moment as a coach turned right on to the A12/M11 slip road as if I hadn't been riding across the junction (on a green light) directly in the driver's path.

    So sad that those idiots want to wreck the area with through roads is there no local opposition?