Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Olympic Park in 2017, Part Four: Sweetwater and Fish Island

Sweetwater is the next stage of the park to be built, located in the borough of Tower Hamlets it will house 650 homes, a primary school, two nurseries, a health centre and a library. Sorry, I mean an idea store. During the games this area was where the worlds largest McDonald's was briefly located, along with the London 2012 Megastore. Prior to 2007 it housed the Bow Industrial Estate and Carpenters Business Park. To the west of Sweetwater, on the other side of the River Lee Navigation, lies Fish Island, not officially part of the Olympic Park but undergoing a huge amount of building works right now and under the jurisdiction of London Legacy Development Corporation planning department.

The only current way to enter this side of this area of the park by motor vehicle is via White Post Lane, which used to begin at Victoria Park, but now begins on the other side of the A12 with the first section due to form part of quietway 6. Most of it runs along construction sites at present but as it reaches the Olympic Park it runs past the former six storey Clarnico's chocolate factory (now mother studios) and the two storey white building, originally built to roast imported cocoa beans arriving via boat (hence the name Sweetwater), and now the White Building and always popular Crate Brewery and Pizzaria. This road was closed from 2007 through to 2013 and as a local I got used to the pleasant silence of the area and so it was quite a surprise when it originally reopened to motor traffic but four years on I've grown used to it once again

Crossing over the narrow Victorian bridge into the park and the road becomes Carpenter's Road, which used to be much narrower than it is today before Olympic Park construction began.

Carpenter's Road at the junction with Waterden Road in 2007, via Diamond Geezer on flickr
The same junction in 2017, with this section of Waterden Road now renamed Clarnico Lane

From the other side, Carpenter's Road at Waterden Road in 2007 via Sludge G on Flickr
The same junction in 2017, with the bridge and former Clarnico's factory in the distance the only remaining features. The road has been significantly widened 

Zooming out from the image above gives you a clearer view of just how wide the road is, yet despite the post Olympics widened layout the only facilities for people cycling are narrow, intermittent cycle lanes, which give up at every bus stop and junction

The road continues sandwiched between the North London line and what will become Stratford Waterfront in the future but was a beach when I took the photo below this summer. Prior to that it was the Water Polo Arena in 2012 and fridge mountain before Olympic Park construction began

You may just be able to make out the two cyclists in the photo on the footpath, shortly after the wide exit from the Aquatics Centre car park and what must be the least used zebra crossing in London
Carpenters Road continues past my local swimming pool

Again, can you spot the cyclist on the footpath in the bottom left?
This junction is gigantic, yet only narrow cycle lanes are all that is provided. This T junction existing prior to the Olympics

The same junction from google earth in 2005 and today, captured via google earth. It was a T junction but much smaller and located slightly further south 
The junction of Carpenters Road and Warton Road before the Olympics (©2004 Peter Marshall and the same location, renamed Swimmers Lane in 2017

Carpenters Road still continues under the railway bridge, as it did before the Olympics, but by making a left turn. The road continuing straight on becomes "loop Road" so called because it, along with Carpenters Road, loops all around the southern half of the park. Once under the railway bridge it passes through Carpenters estate, which Newham Council would really like to demolish to sell off to property developers, and onto Stratford High Street and the segregated cycle tracks of CS2

Back in Sweetwater it is clear to see how much space this cyclist has on the pavement, compared to the narrow intermittent cycle lanes on the road

Clearly no space to provide protected cycle infrastructure here!
This is exactly what I do when I take my daughter to her swimming lessons by bike every week, as I just don't feel it is safe enough on the road, risking mixing it with left turning lorries and cars travelling at high speed on this wide, straight road and in my experience, most people here tend to use the pavement

Probably for the same reasons, parents are naturally protective of their children and want to keep them away from danger

Also all the attractions, such as the Aquatics Centre and Westfield, are located south of this road and sometimes there just is no dropped kerb to allow you to hop off the pavement to get onto the road

There are usually very few pedestrians along here so this isn't an issue at present, however once Sweetwater is built then residential properties and the library will be located along this road and so it'll become a busy pavement. There is clearly enough room for cycle tracks either side or a bi-directional cycle track along here; if located north of the road then it would run between the road and the railway track, and with Clarnico Lane also due to be removed soon it would have no side road conflict, just as CS3 doesn't along the Embankment. However it would be on the wrong side of the road to all the properties and amenities, so ideally should be placed along the south side of the road instead. As construction has not started on Sweetwater yet and so there is still the time and space to build it,  the bridge is also very wide so it can easily be accommodated.

Do they seriously expect parents to cycle with their children to the library, nursery or primary school on Carpenters Road as it is, with those narrow cycle lanes?

Once you pass under the White Post Lane bridge along the Lee Canal Towpath the new canal park appears.

It is very pleasant but once again I do wish some of the space could have been used for a wider path

The towpath when I cycled this route back in 2007, with the Bow Industrial Estate boarded up but not yet demolished, and the same location today
Or at least a simple diversion onto a cycle track alongside the road along here but this was reconstructed in 2014, with no dedicated space for cycling, just a narrow road and a gigantic pavement

During the Olympics and three years later
As I reported in this blog earlier this year, this road has a realigned extension built just under a year ago and despite the space available, narrow advisory cycle lanes were painted onto the road, which is so narrow cars have no option but to drive in them

Bobby Moore Academy opened it doors to local school children in September. This site next to Sweetwater will be a primary school, however at present the secondary school is still under construction a short distance  away on the loop road on the other side of the stadium and so year 7 pupils are currently housed here until they transfer next year and reception children take over. I cycled this way one day at 3.30pm in the first few weeks of it opening and was not at all surprised that the mammoth pavement was being used to park cars on the school run

Just imagine how busy this road will be at 3.30pm in a few years when the full number of 400 pupils are based here, along with another 1000 around the corner in the secondary school!

Before and after. Why paint  narrow cycle lanes on such a narrow road with all this space available?
As the loop road continues round the edge of the stadium it passes over a new bridge over the River Lea, constructed during 2009/2010 and then loops around the stadium

The loop road in 2012, taken from google street view, when it was part of the service road used by athletes and the media during the games and the same spot today. Plenty of space to provide protected cycle tracks that the pupils from both the primary and secondary school located on this road could use to get to and from school
Whilst the road is currently closed outside the secondary school, as it forms part of the construction site, it is now possible to travel from Hackney Wick directly to Stratford High Street via this route, something that was not possible before this became the Olympic Park. These roads will get much busier over time

The north side of Fish Island was traditionally a place where people lived in Victorian Houses and worked in the various factories, such as Clarnico, or in the warehouses along the rivers and canals in the area up until the 1970s when they were demolished for more modern industrial units. Many of those industrial units have recently been demolished to once again house people and so a large area of it is currently a building site

The north side of Fish Island, a year apart
A lot of the old warehouses remain on the South side of Fish Island, mostly housing artists studios but with some well known businesses, such as Trumans Brewery, Formans smoked salmon and the Morning Star newspaper all based here in newer buildings.

The former Wick Lane Rubber Works, built in 1889, now housing artist studios 
At the end of Monier Road, the main road through the middle of Fish Island, a new apartment block, Carpenters Wharf, nears completion.

You can still travel back in time on google streetview to see the Carlton Cafe and warehouse as it was before demolition but in the present day the chimney with "Carlton" painted on it is the only reminder of it (although named after the shoe company who were once based here). Fish Island remains a quiet place to walk or cycle as it is naturally filtered by water or sewers. All motor traffic in the area is there for a reason, not using it as a through route to somewhere else. Unfortunately the London Legacy Development Corporation still want to tear down the popular walking and cycling bridge over the Lee Navigation. After I wrote about this plan on here last year I wrote to Caroline Russell and she kindly asked the Mayor about this bridge, and this was his response:

"The H14 all modes bridge is anticipated to have a speed limit of 20mph and has a narrow road width. It is unlikely that there will be an issue of rat running, as this connection would not provide any journey time savings or represent an obvious short cut for anyone using the existing strategic road network.
These bridges are part of the regeneration strategy for the area which is designed to rectify some of the long standing problems of isolation, caused by the large numbers of waterways and major trunk roads which have had a long term debilitating effect on the immediate local economy. I am informed that the construction of these bridges will help ensure that the Hackney Wick and Fish Island communities will have access to the world class facilities of QEOP, including the new schools, thousands of new homes, healthcare centres and other amenities. This will be a significant economic and social benefit for local residents."

Firstly, most roads in the Olympic Park are 20mph but speeding remains a real issue on many of its roads. Also you can tell Sadiq does not cycle and narrow main roads are terrible for cycling!

Next year if this child wants to cycle here then he'll have to do so in the centre of a narrow road to slow down speeding lorries

As for it to be unlikely that rat running will be an issue here, that is quite clearly not true

The new road and bridge running from left to right at the bottom of the map. It'll connect directly to the Loop Road, which in turn connects directly to Waterden Road to the north and Stratford High Street to the south. 
The mayor has been incorrectly informed that this bridge will help ensure that the local communities have access to the world class facilities of the park, schools and other facilities on the other side of the water as they will already have that due to the walking and cycling bridge that already exists! It is well connected already, unless you're a driver looking for a rat run. For those small number of residents that need to drive to those facilities then they are perfectly able to by using an existing bridge 250m away

If the Mayor is serious about tackling air pollution then why on earth would he back the building of this road?

Fish Island is an area where everyone can access all roads by car but there is no through traffic. I find it astonishing that as locals councils such as Hackney and Waltham Forest meet opposition to try and filter residential roads we have a community that already has filtered roads and the plan is to undo that. What Hackney Wick and the surrounding area needs is more pedestrian and friendly routes, not more cars. 

When I was in the Netherlands this summer I visited an area called Oosterheem, in Zoetermeer. Like Fish Island and Sweetwater it is an area with new housing and is split in two by water. Below is a map showing the routes cars can take, in black, and those that people can take by bicycle or on foot in green (although both of the road crossings also have segregated cycle tracks and pavement)

These bridges provide routes for people to cycle or walk from their homes to visit local amenities, such as shops, schools or friends in the area but make it less appealing to do so by car 

They continue on as direct routes through the local area, completely separate from the road network

These are intersected by other routes creating a real network of cycle routes that are quick and essentially safe for anyone to use, no matter what their age.

Below shows the local school and nursery on the left, with another direct and continuous  cycle track past it that continues over the water in the distance. The roads do not and are only used as access roads so whilst everyone can drive to their destination it is much easier to travel around the area by bike or on foot

The residential roads are carefully arranged to ensure they are only used by motor traffic accessing those roads for a purpose, rat running is not possible and the roads are designed for low speed traffic.

These are the kind of implementations Sadiq Khan should be encouraging for Fish Island and Sweetwater if he is serious about cleaner air in London, not ripping out popular walking and cycling routes to create yet even more roads for rat running motor traffic in the Olympic Park.

Nobody except the London Legacy Development wants this bridge. Local residents do not want it 

Future residents of Fish Island and Sweetwater, if they have quiet roads and safe routes to cycle on, surely wouldn't ask for a new road bridge once they experience how pleasant it is to live in such an area. John Biggs, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets does not want his bridge. Rushanara Ali, the local MP, does not want this bridge. Sadiq Khan has the power to tell the LLDC to halt the construction of this bridge and he should do this to save Hackney Wick and Fish Island from more motor vehicles, more pollution and a worse quality of life.

Next Post:
Part Five: The Stadium, Marshgate Wharf and Pudding Mill

Previous Posts:
Part one - East Wick
Part two - East Village and Chobham Manor
Part Three: Westfield Stratford City

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