Monday, 25 March 2019

The new Isle of Dogs to Hackney cycle route

Transport for London are currently asking for views on proposals for four new cycle routes in London. One of these is a 7.5km route from the Isle of Dogs to Hackney via Westferry, Mile End and Victoria Park. The route through Tower Hamlets has already been decided on, running from Canary Wharf on a direct main road, via West India Dock Road, Burdett Road and Grove Road. Once the route exits the borough of Tower Hamlets and enters Hackney there is a choice of two routes, which TfL want to hear your views on. One proposed route continues on the main road as Grove road turns into Lauriston road, whilst the other route turns off the main road to run on residential streets, via Gore road along the northern edge of Victoria Park

Lauriston road runs through Victoria Park Village and I regard it as my local High Street. In Hackney Wick we have only a handful of local shops and so need to travel out of the area for most purchases. Westfield shopping centre in Stratford is an obvious choice and is one I do use a fair amount due to the convenience (although I find myself going there less these days since the upgrade of Westfield Avenue and removal of all cycle parking). Roman Road in the neighbouring borough of Tower Hamlets is closer than Lauriston Road but requires cycling on narrow busy roads which I prefer to avoid, especially if I'm cycling with my young daughter. Lauriston Road however, is a quick cycle ride though the pleasant Victoria Park. For the last three Christmases I have exclusively used Lauriston Road for my Christmas day shopping - meat from Ginger Pig, wine from bottle aspotle, vegetables from Village Organic and cheese from the deli downstairs. I'm a regular visitor to all of these shops all year of course, and any time we're off to yet another children's birthday party then the Toybox, a small independent toy shop that gift wraps for you, is a blessing. There are other shops and restaurants I could mention that make Victoria Park Village such a pleasant place to visit. However the road layout is certainly not one of them and this proposed route could be a great opportunity to make Victoria Park Village a much nicer place for those visiting on foot and by bike

Almost every time I am i this area I see people cycling on the pavement, usually young children and families. I've spent some time walking along this road taking photos over the past week and even I was surprised at just how much pavement cycling by families happens here. All photos used in this blog have been taken within the past week.

As Grove Road exits Tower Hamlets and turns into Lauriston road in Hackney the road has a very cycle-unfriendly road surface, consisting of uneven stone setts. This was installed during the upgrade of Victoria Park prior to the 2012 Olympic Games and designed to slow down traffic. Ideally this should be replaced with a smoother surface and, ideally, a tiger crossing to link the two parks, rather than cyclists having to hop on and off the pavement to use the zebra crossing.

The current road surface is too difficult to use for those with young children on small bikes 
Gore Road is a wide street which results in long crossing distances for pedestrians and is also a busy road with lots of motor traffic coming in and out of it

Even the Google maps streetview car caught a driver parked on the dropped kerb on the corner (a regular occurrence) as a parent tried to cross with their bike,

Directly opposite is Wetherall Road, a busy route for cyclists at night who want to use the shared footpath on Victoria Park Road when the Park is closed, as well as for children going to Mossbourne Victoria Park Academy School. Cycleway or no new cycleway both of these roads should be narrowed at this junction and filtered to reduce or eliminate through traffic using them as a rat run

As you enter Lauriston Road from Grove Road its noticeable just how wide the road here is, with an exceptionally wide carrigeway, you could fit about six lanes of traffic here and still have space left over for parking on both sides of the road!

There is clearly ample space here for protected cycle tracks, with floating bus stops with plenty of room left over for a narrower roadway, and to retain parking and loading.

Before and after in Nijmegen: a wide road with painted cycle lanes in the doorzone is narrowed to create protected cycle tracks and a central divider to keep motor traffic speeds low. Continuous footways and added greenery improve the road layout for pedestrians as well as cyclists 
The road surface here is also in a terrible condition and is particularly dangerous if you're on a bicycle as you either stay in the door zone or are forced to cycle in the middle of the road to avoid the poor surfacing

Morpeth Road, which should be a quiet residential street but is actually a heavily used rat run, has two exits onto Lauriston Road along with narrow pavements with pedestrians constantly having to give way to cars coming in an out

It's obviously been good to see so many children and parents going to and from school by bike this week but all of them, without exception, were cycling on the pavement, rather than on the road

This was also the case last weekend with families on bikes shopping or going to and from Victoria Park

the cycle parking outside the shops is very well used and I can tell you from personal experience that it's a regular occurrence to not be able to park a bike at any of the cycle stands

I've always thought most of the grass here could make way for a protected cycle track, with the bike parking moved closer to the road between the trees. This would ensure the cycle track is close to the shops and create more space for pedestrians.

Easily the space for a cycle track, trees and a much wider footway on Lauriston Road
The cycle track could then continue alongside the trees, which also means it would be set back some distance from the bus stop

freeing up carriageway space for a cycle track on the opposite side of the road, along with loading and car parking spaces

Saying that, parking is free on this road, except for two hours between 10am and midday Monday to Friday only. At the weekend it was clear that an awful lot of cars were being parked here so parents could take their children to Victoria Park so not sure how having cars parked all day for free is good for trade of local businesses along here. With a network of protected cycle tracks and filtered residential streets many families could easily cycle here from the surrounding area

Before and after in Amsterdam - car parking removed from what is already a quiet residential street to create a cycle track for a safer and more direct route out of Vondelpark so families can safely cycle to and from the park 

Ruthven Street is a minor residential cul-de-sac which leads to no more than a dozen houses and even fewer car parking spaces. However it is two lanes wide and you often see motor vehicles parked here, usually on double yellows at the edge of the road but sometimes also blocking the dropped kerb

A continuous footway and cycle track, with street furniture located at the edge of a narrower access would prevent this and improve the situation for people walking and cycling

Just north of here Lauriston Road meets Victoria Park Road at a roundabout where Shivon Watson was killed under a lorry whilst cycling here almost exactly nine years ago. The council removed her ghost bike many years ago but a single flower remains at the scene

Note the mum and her child cycling on the zebra crossing in the background. Would you cycle with your children on this roundabout or would you stick to the crossings? 

Victoria Park Road is a horrible road to cycle on; filled with lorries and coaches using it to drive from the A12 into Central London. Nearly 12,000 motor vehicles use it everyday with 93% of them breaking the speed limit. People cycling should not be expected to share with lorries and buses on a roundabout like this and it's frankly disgraceful that nine years on from Shivon Watsons death no changes have occurred here. The proposed route in this consultation is a wonderful opportunity to finally fix this deathtrap, which makes it all the more bizarre the backstreet route is even being considered.

With a slight reduction in the size of the (very pretty) centre of the roundabout this junction could accommodate cycle tracks and cyclist priority alongside the pedestrian zebra crossing

North of Victoria Park Road at Southborough Road and the vast majority of carriageway space is reserved for car parking, meaning very long crossing points between footways for pedestrians

Does this road layout put pedestrians and cyclists at the top of the road user hierarchy, with cars at the bottom? 

Whilst I'm not against some cycle routes running along quieter roads; for example the route from Hackney Central to Hackney Road runs along Goldsmith's Row and Broadway Market, which is a shorter and more pleasant route than Mare Street. However in South Hackney the proposed back street route would be a mistake, it should quite clearly be much more beneficial to run along protected cycle tracks along Lauriston road instead to serve the shops, houses and schools along here, whilst committing to filtering more residential streets in the surrounding area. The eastern alignment would link Victoria Park with the shops in the village, on Well Street, Quietway 2 and even the new cycle tracks on Wick Road. What a lasting tribute to Shivon Watson it would be to see families safely cycling on protected cycle tracks at the spot where she was killed riding her bike

Transport for London state that the route options are not decided and that they will be refined based on comments and feedback. You can email them via with ideas, comments and suggestions up until 31st March. If you live in or visit the Victoria Park area and would like Lauriston Road to be improved for people walking and cycling then please do respond.

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