Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Olympic Park in 2017, Part Two: Chobham Manor and East Village

East Village was previously known as the Athletes village, as it was where athletes competing in the Olympic Games stayed during the games. It was then converted into nearly 3,000 apartments and became a new neighbourhood in 2014. A small section of the next Neighbourhood, Chobham Manor, is already complete with people living in the section directly opposite the velodrome which was "The street market" during the games in 2012, where more expensive alternatives to the Big Macs that were on sale elsewhere in the park were to be found. The rest of Chobham Manor is currently under construction where the Basketball Arena and gigantic athletes dining hall stood in 2012 or where the Eastway cycle circuit and Clays Lane Estate stood before that

Chobham Manor and East Village

Yesterday I finished my East Wick post on the bridge on Waterden Road. To access East Village from here you will need to do a left turn onto Olympic Park Avenue. This is a manoeuvre I've had to make a few times in the past and now forward plan to avoid having to do it; instead I cross Waterden Road to go into Middlesex Way, across the bridges over the River Lea and then turn south onto Olympic Park Avenue to access East Village from there. This is a longer route but is much simpler, and crucially safer, due to this very junction. If you do have to turn left here then you have two choices; simply dart across the junction as quick as you can, crossing four lanes with no indication if the traffic lights on Westfield Avenue / Waterden Road will change to green. If this happens as you're halfway across then you're in trouble. The other option, the one the planners of this road hope you'll make,  is to use the toucan crossings alongside which involves a staggered wait in the middle of the four lane Westfield Avenue (although that wait is in quite a large space) and then another wait on the other side of the road in a very small area to cross Olympic Park Avenue. This involves waiting to cross the road three times and so will usually take you at least a minute to do this.

Olympic Park Avenue begins on a bridge crossing the tracks at Stratford International station. This bridge was again built in 2009/2010, just as the ones alongside Waterden Road were, but was opened to traffic in 2011 in order for motor vehicles from the A12 to be able to access Westfield. This was known as "the lifeline" as Westfield had agreed a deal with London 2012 to create a road through the Olympic Park building site ahead of the games. Only motorists were allowed to use it and there were security guards at the entrance at all times to ensure that cyclists and pedestrians were kept out. It was a dual carriageway back then but now that Waterden Road has opened it's been downgraded to one lane in each direction with two pavements and two horrible, very narrow cycle lanes

The Olympic Park Avenue bridge in 2012, from google streetview, and in 2017
Surely it would have been more sensible to keep two lanes on one side of the bridge and then convert the other side into a walking and cycling only bridge with both a cycle track and a pavement

An example from Amsterdam
This would not reduce capacity for motor traffic as there would still be one lane in each direction, however people would not have to cycle so close to large vehicles on such a dangerous and narrow cycle lane

The same spot in 2012 and 2017. Would you let your children cycle here?
A much safer example from Utrecht, the Netherlands.

The other advantage of this type of layout would mean it would connect up to the cycle track which runs down the western side of Olympic Park Avenue. At the moment if you're using this cycle track to cycle towards Westfield and you want to continue onto the bridge then you have to cross the road to get to the nasty narrow cycle lane.



Many don't do this and just continue to use the pavement of course



But are then left isolated and have to use the narrow toucan crossing to continue their journey. The cycle track on Olympic Park Avenue continues along the western side of the road but briefly pauses as it passes a zebra crossing into East Village (which really should be a tiger crossing but many people cycling to the shops and restaurants in East Village do just use it as well). Still, it does provide a safe space for children to ride, it is just a shame it is not continuous all the way up to Chobham Manor.

Communal barbecue spaces are located alongside here so no scorched grass. Very popular on sunny days. 
The cycle track ends as the pavement becomes shared space for a few metres before a no cycling sign appears at the junction with Honour Lea Avenue, which is where Quietway 6 crosses though the park. If these signs are to be obeyed then that means you are currently not allowed to cycle on quietway 6 at this location.


If you want to turn right from Olympic Park Avenue onto Honour Lea Avenue then you are meant to dismount, walk over the zebra crossing and then get back on your bike again.

Honour Lea Avenue runs between Chobham Manor and the East Village apartment blocks and will be the route of quietway 6. It currently has a narrow bidirectional cycle track, built in 2013/4 at the same time as the apartments in East Village were being converted from the Athletes village. It is difficult to access at either end and in my experience most people do not use it (but I always do)

A child and her mum safely use the cycle track, with the lone adult cyclist on a road bike opting for the main carriageway alongside
A real shame public money was spent on building this sub standard cycle track and it wasn't designed as well as new roads, and cycling infrastructure, are in the Netherlands. However, as it is due to become a Quietway and Chobham Manor is being constructed alongside then this would be a great opportunity to rebuild it as a wider cycle track with good connectivity at either end. Newham Council disagree though and state that:

Applying the LCDS levels of service street type matrix categorises Honour Lea Avenue into the local street category which does not require segregation. The existing two way track does not connect to cycle infrastructure at either end of it. Using the link for the quietway would restrict local access for the route therefore a preference for keeping the quietway on street has been agreed by Newham Council, TFL and Sustrans.

So the quietway will run along here but cyclists are expected to cycle on the road, rather than on the cycle track, despite the acknowledgement that motor traffic volumes are expected to increase here in the future. I also can't believe that this road is considered good enough to be a quietway now with no intervention, never mind in future years when the park is fully developed. Everytime I've been here there is the constant sound of motor traffic using it, quite often at high speeds, and there are no restrictions on them using it. It absolutely feels like a main road.

How comforting that Newham Council, TFL and Sustrans all agree that children can just mix with lorries on the road instead.

Another issue with this cycle track is that it did at least used to be continuous all the way along Honour Lea Avenue (except where it turns into shared footway for a few metres half way along). With the construction of Chobham Manor came the construction of new side roads crossing it, for construction vehicles entering the site and eventually as new roads into the neighbourhood. It would have been quite simple for the cycle track and footway to continue, ensuring pedestrian and cyclist have priority, but the road was instead built through the cycle track, with kerbs and tactile paving (and "cyclists dismount" signs during construction).

Honour Lea Avenue a few years apart. This is the kind of design which kills people on bikes 

The same spot in 2012, acres of space and plenty of time to get this right
There is also plenty of space on the other side of the road but a huge footway has been created when there is easily the space for cycle tracks on both sides of the road. And why not? Kids from these apartments in East Village will want to cycle to the playground or to use sporting facilities in the park too.

A footway wide enough to park your car on (despite car parking along both sides of the roads and in the basements of these buildings), with room to spare
A more sensible use of space in a new development in Delft, the Netherlands.
I find it worrying that Chobham Manor, despite having roads all the way round it, also plans to be dissected by more roads through it.


I would hope the plan would be to filter many, or even all, of these roads so whilst all residents can access their homes by car (including delivery vehicles and so on) they could only be used as through routes by people walking or cycling.

An as yet unopened road with freshly laid smooth tarmac to keep motor speeds high, through the middle of Chobham Manor
This would help ensure that young children could cycle from the front door of their house on virtually traffic free roads before reaching protected space for cycling on the main roads. This would bring the added benefit of quiet neighbourhoods for residents and permanent zones for children to play out in the street. Essentially what you see in every village, town and city in the Netherlands and in a few select areas here, such as in De Beauvoir Town. As some councils, such as Hackney and Waltham Forest, are currently pushing against opposition from motorists for more filtered roads it is such a great shame that here is the perfect opportunity to create living neighbourhoods from scratch being wasted.

A residential road through the same new development as above in Delft, motor vehicles can access every home but not use it as a through route, as it is filtered outside a childrens play area halfway long. On the other side of the houses are cycle tracks which connect to the back of all these properties and are the most direct route both through the development and into the city centre
Another missed opportunity here on a photo I took from the playground opposite Chobham Manor. This could be a great walking and cycling route by building a cycle track that links up with low traffic roads, creating a link right through the centre of Chobham Manor 
A cycling and walking route through a new development in Zoetermeer, the Netherlands. The entire area is cross-crossed by this type of design, with cars sent the long way round on separate routes
EDIT: a week on from writing this post and "Peloton Avenue" has opened


Back on Honour Lea Avenue and at the end of the cycle track the awful two-tier layout remains, with the cycle track becoming a shared footway and an ASL on the road alongside on quietway 6 "targeting less confident cyclists who want to use low-traffic routes" by expecting them to mix with lorries


Turn left here and a wider bidirectional cycle track resumes for a short while, before stopping again for a construction route (and presumably a permanent road) into Chobham Manor



An example of a continuous cycle track and footway, in Amsterdam
This section of road was the boundary of the fenced off Olympic Park construction site and the google street view car made its way along here in 2009, giving us the chance to see how the road has changed in seven years:

Temple Mills Lane in 2009, with construction of the Athletes Village underway in 2009, and the widened road in the same spot in 2016, from Google Street View 
The cycle track also pauses for a bus stop, before resuming immediately afterwards

why don't some cyclists use cycle lanes? Just look at all the space that was available here for a continuous cycle track and bus stop bypass 

Continuing along Quietway 6 from Honor Lea Avenue onto the section of Temple Mills Lane that heads East into Waltham forest then the former advisory cycle lanes have recently been repainted as mandatory cycle lanes, and are a couple of inches wider.



but once again the Google Street View car came this way in 2009 giving us a chance to see the changes between then and last year. Clearly there was the space to be able to create protected cycle tracks all along this route from the Parklands into Waltham Forest.

The same location as above in 2009, via google street view
Finally, if you need to turn right from Honor Lea Avenue into Celebration Avenue from the cycle track then you have to cross over twice at the toucan crossings to use a narrow advisory cycle lane which runs all the way down the centre of East Village to International way, where Stratford International Station and the back of Westfield can be found.



Understandably, a lot of children prefer to use the pavement here, rather than chance it on the road!





Liberty Bridge Road runs off Celebration Avenue. Again, it is very wide (roughly 32 metres between the buildings either side) but the majority of space is used by large footways, trees and car parking.

Not actually a parking space but gives you an illustration of how wide the footways are here
Leading off from Liberty Bridge Road is Cheering Lane, a one way road which is there to serve Chobham Academy, the first school to open in the park in September 2013, but is also used as a popular rat run to avoid the traffic lights at the Liberty Bridge Road / Celebration Avenue junction. I wrote about the school run situation in this blog during the first year of it opening as a lot of cars were parking on the footway or on double yellow lines at school pick up time. I passed by here earlier this year to find a similar situation, so rather than taking photos I thought I would film myself cycling on it and post it on twitter



I was actually a bit late and the school pick up was already well under way so there were not as many cars parked along the road as there would have been ten minutes earlier but there were still a lot of cars and I happened to film an impatient parent in a BMW speeding along the pavement to dodge the queue of traffic.

The police did follow this up


and in the following weeks increased their patrols in the area during school run times. I thought I would pop along this month to see how the situation was and am sad to report it was even worse than it was in my film from earlier in the year with cars parked on all the footways and on double yellow lines both on Cheering Lane and Liberty Bridge Road. There were police officers and council officials there but they did nothing to stop any of the illegal parking, I assume they were only there to stop the type of footway driving I filmed or any road rage incidents. I avoid this area most of the time but especially at school run times, it is a really unpleasant place to be as a pedestrian or cyclist.

South of Liberty Bridge Road is Mirabelle Gardens, which I've written about before and the crazy one way road which runs around the square with no exception for people cycling. I've noticed a lot of motor traffic going into it from Liberty Bridge Road and quite clear they are using it as a shortcut to get to Westfield and avoid several sets of traffic lights on Celebration Avenue instead, as they do with Cheering Lane. It should ideally be filtered to through motor traffic but difficult to do with the one way design of it.

Opposite Celebration Avenue is Victory Park and a cycle track runs along the southern edge of it, which I previously described on here as going from nowhere to nowhere. However I've since realised that it does actually make a right turn and also runs along the western edge of the park, so badly designed was it that I had failed to notice this

The cycle track with it's 90 degree right turn
As it took me a couple of years of cycling on it to even realise it turned right at this point it is hardly surprising that many pedestrians do not notice the tiny bicycle symbols and assume it is an extension of the pavement, because that is exactly what it looks like.


A market is held here every Sunday and unfortunately some of the stalls are always placed on the edge of this cycle track, which clearly renders it virtually useless



Back in 2014 I didn't write about the area around Victory Park as it was just a load of empty retail units and an almost always empty park. The signs on the empty retail units promising "35 new shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars" seemed optimistic at the time but now all of the units are occupied with some really great choices of restaurants and shops, albeit some of them a tad on the expensive side. A couple of coffee shops which originally stared out in Hackney, the same wine shop and Fish Restaurant that can be found in Victoria Park Village, an Ice cream parlour and fruit and veg shop who both use cargo bikes parked outside to advertise, Pave Velo, a bike shop where Lee and his team will service your bike or sell you one, the list goes on. It does not feel like Stratford at all; a really nice place to relax at the weekend and will only get busier as more residential blocks are completed nearby.

"Victory Parade" runs from Olympic Park Avenue to Victory Park and I used to enjoy the deserted cycle through here a few years ago. The situation is very different these days as you now must cycle among shoppers and people sat on tables outside cafes



I personally do not see this an an issue at all and think it is great to see families slowly cycling through here



I think pedestrianised streets which allow cycling can exist perfectly well in the UK, just as they do in the Netherlands and will do on a transformed Narroway in Hackney next year



I really hope that cycling continues to be permitted along here for future generations


Using this route to cycle to East Village from the parklands or the cycle track on Olympic Park Avenue should be maintained because unfortunately, most of the surrounding roads are truly terrible to cycle on.

Next Post: Part Three - Westfield Stratford City

Previous Post: Part One - East Wick

1 comment:

Liam Reeve said...

This i a great blog. Perfectly sums up the mess that is the East Village, and the missed opportunities to make it a great place to cycle.