Thursday, 1 November 2018

The evolution of Westfield Avenue in the Olympic Park

Westfield Avenue is less than a third of a mile long and runs from Waterden Road to Montfitchet Road within the Olympic Park. Built on former railway sidings it opened in 2011 and was constructed with six sets of toucan crossings along its length


all of these were originally staggered, and so required a couple of stages to cross most, with up to six stages to cross from one side of the road to the other at the crossing by International Way


The section between Waterden Road and International Way was, I think, unique in London by having a bidirectional cycle track on both sides of the road. The cycle track on the north side is completely useless, linking nothing together and almost always full of obstructions

the cycle track on the south side is more useful and one that I use on a regular basis. It joins up with a continuous and, fairly decent, cycle track on Waterden Road but immediately decreases in quality once Waterden Road turns into Westfield Avenue. It vanishes at each of the pedestrian crossings and also, when initially constructed, for a bus shelter



It then used to run all the way down to Montfitchet Avenue in order to join up with the cycle track there, although on the opposite side of the road via another set of staggered crossings


Whilst it was a useful route to get to Westfield Avenue both it, and the footway, did not go anywhere else that was useful up until 2014 when the Southern section of the Olympic Park was finally opened up to members of the public, following almost two years of post Olympic conversion works. It was then that the cycle track giving way to both pedestrians crossing and pedestrians waiting to cross became an issue



The pedestrian crossing here was staggered with a narrow pen to wait in which proved problematic when there were a lot of visitors to the park, especially as this was a toucan crossing; trying to cross with a bike (or indeed a pushchair), could be very difficult

The staggered crossing captured by Google streetview in 2014. You can imagine how difficult it was to navigate by bike on busy days

With four wide traffic lanes and acres of space to play with it was obvious that this type of road design should not have any place in a modern city, especially in a new development, and so plans were being drawn up very quickly to change this road, released back as far as 2015

The first opportunity to do this was in late 2014, when construction of the 30 and 17 storey Glasshouse Gardens twin apartment towers began. Both the footway and cycle track were removed from the crossing through to Montfitchet Road, along with most of the younger-than-three-year-old trees and lane one of the westbound Westfield Avenue



Then in the summer of 2015 International Quarter office construction work commenced alongside Glasshouse Gardens with the main pedestrian and cycle access route from Westfield / Stratford station into the Olympic Park closing. The main entrance to the park was moved further west to the next crossing along, close to John Lewis, which was reconfigured from staggered to a direct crossing just before this occurred



Which made it much easier for the crowds of families visiting the park to cross on foot, with pushchairs or on bikes.



Although most of the cycle track was removed as the footway was reconstructed, leaving what must be the shortest cycle track in existence in London



The bus shelter was also removed but the bus stop remained, so waiting bus passengers now had no where to sit and people cycling on the shared footway to access the cycle track further along still had to navigate around them



In Early 2017 the Glasshouse Gardens apartment towers were competed, so the stretch of Westfield Avenue outside was opened up again. Although lane one of the main carriageway was reinstated to restore the dual carriageway, the cycle track was removed and replaced by car parking

Westfield Avenue in 2013
Roughly the same location on Westfield Avenue in 2017


In between the two apartment towers is a short waiting bay which can fit no more than three motor vehicles, yet both narrow side roads leading into and out of here have been equipped with pedestrian crossings, both of which even have countdown timers


The office block alongside, the first in the Olympic Parks new business district to be completed, has been leased entirely by Transport for London and was completed in late 2017. Pedestrians and cyclists using the shared footway again have to cross a side road leading to it, rather than a continuous footway (although this time without a countdown timer). Although a reinstalled cycle track does at least resume after this side road


Below is the same location in 2013


The side road that has been constructed here leads to 50 car parking spaces for TfL staff, which takes up the majority of the ground floor of the building


The layout is not so convenient for those cycling to TfL's new headquarters, with cycle parking located on the first floor, accessed via a staircase, making it an impossible task for those on adapted bicycles

On the Westfield Avenue side of the new TfL building are some new much needed bicycle stands, specifically requested by the management team at Westfield shopping centre who have at least recognised that removing all of their cycle parking at the most popular entrance for people on bikes was a bad idea

The very popular former cycle parking at Westfield, removed near to the end of 2017
Westfield Christmas shoppers had to make do with finding their own cycle parking last year 
Whilst this is a welcome move by Westfield there are unfortunately still not enough stands here to cater for demand, especially at peak times. I've noticed fewer people on bikes parking near Westfield over the last year and must admit I find myself going there less than I used to. Since the changes to the road layout and cycle parking I'm finding it much less convenient to visit.

In early 2018 the main toucan crossing was rebuilt, this time as another direct crossing to replace the previous staggered crossing, although I noticed the old "green light" for pedestrians and cycles has been replaced by one just for those on foot so I think this technically is now not a toucan crossing, although plenty of people on bikes still use it of course.



Lessens have not been learnt as the reinstated cycle track was built to the same design as the previous track, with people on bikes again having to once again give way at this crossing. This will surely be more of an issue now as thousands of employees based in the new office buildings make their way to and from work


The main walking and cycling route from the Olympic park into Westfield and Stratford station was also reopened at this time and renamed "Endeavour Square", with cyclists dismount signs initially installed



Thankfully these were quickly removed but were replaced by large rows of hedges in planters, presumably to slow people cycling down, with the added advantage of being able to attach posters reminding you that you are on private property where the rules are only available by emailing or phoning.


In reality these stupid planters are just an obstruction and cause more conflict by pushing people walking and cycling into tight spaces


So much so that it is actually better to visit now when West Ham are playing or other major events are on in the park as the planters are always removed on these dates to allow more space for the crowds but annoyingly put back the following day. Endeavour Square is very wide and so it is a shame that a cycle track wasn't included when the entire area was rebuilt and paved earlier this year, rather than a shared space approach



Alongside the TfL building is another newly completed office block, with more bicycle stands and a cycle track outside This cycle track gives way to a service road named Turing Street

Above - the same location a few months apart earlier this year, with a new service road cutting through the cycle track
Turing Street isn't even open for all motor vehicles but has solid security barriers


 I've never seen a motor vehicle use it and most vehicles tend to park in lane one of the two lane Westfield Avenue alongside (or sometimes on the cycle track)

Literally everything about this is terrible; the cycle track and footway giving way, the radii of the corners, the change in kerb height, I could go on. For the moment it doesn't matter as the newly opened cycle track has been closed


All the way down to International Way, as the next phase of International Quarter is constructed


Normally I would welcome the opportunity to rebuild the cycle track here and construct a proper bus stop bypass but this is the London Legacy Development Corporation and so I expect any changes to the road layout will be for the worse, at least if you're on a bike.

These construction works should have provided the perfect opportunity to reconstruct Westfield Avenue as a single lane road, with cycle tracks along both sides, along with plenty of cycle parking. There is an argument that through motor traffic could be removed from this road altogether as traffic is already fairly light here. It does not serve any car parks or service areas of Westfield and does not go anywhere particularly useful as the railway lines and Stratford station form a barrier, meaning a lengthy drive on Montfitchet Road to get anywhere useful. I find it depressing to see the changes along here over the years at what was a wasted opportunity to create an Olympic legacy, especially when you compare it to new developments elsewhere. Another opportunity missed.

3 comments:

  1. Yes cycled through the park since it was opened. Its an example of how not to encourage cycling. They are playing lip service to cyclist. Regularly shop at Westfield the cycle parking inadequate.

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  2. Oh look, some twat has given space for those bastard cyclists. Well we'll soon put a stop to that- where are those 2000 'Cyclists Dismount or else' signs I ordered? Get those diggers on to that cycleway. Put some Give Ways signs up every 2 metres. Speed bumps would be a good idea- they go like hell, what about that kid who murdered a woman by riding too fast?

    I long to see the first 'Motorists exit your cars and push' signs..........

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  3. Meanwhile, up on Waterden Road, the nice segregated two-way lane next to Here East remains closed (as it has been for the last two years or so), and now the closure has spread further south as a building site has sprung up for more housing.

    I'm continuing to hassle LLDC as the original planning permission for the road has a clause about the path being kept open 'permanently and clear of obstruction', or words to that effect. It's not going to open it again any time soon but I'm hoping it might make them consider cyclists every now and again.

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