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. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Hoxton area cycle route improvements

Hackney Council are currently consulting on 'Hoxton Area cycle route improvements' to "improve the area for cycling and walking along the Central London cycle grid". The biggest change is the closure of both Poole Street and Eagle Wharf Road to motor traffic:

However, from looking at the plans above it seems that no actual physical closure is to go in place at this junction, just "cycles only" painted on the entrance to both roads along with no entry signs. If so then this is a poor decision as it is bound to be ignored often by many motorists, just as Pitfield Street is.

Even when physical closures are put in place some drivers will still try to find a way around them

Although credit should go to Hackney Council for acting on this tweet and improving this junction to ensure cars can no longer get round the closures. However it shows that a physical closure of both roads is needed at the junctions in this consultation, perhaps something similar to Brill Place in Camden:

If this kind of closure were to be introduced on both roads then a tiger crossing could possibly be built across New North Road, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross the junction

A Tiger crossing on Richmond Road in Hackney, courtesy of the London cycling campaign 
There wouldn't need to be four separate pedestrian crossings at this junction then, just the one.

New North Road itself is three lanes wide here and according to DFT traffic counts is used by around 20,000 motor vehicles per day, including over a thousand buses or lorries, therefore this road should be upgraded with segregated cycle tracks

Yet despite there being space available for cycle tracks here all that is planned for that middle section of the road to become a hatched area, leading to a right turn filter for cyclists:

This is absurd, surely cycle tracks along with a two stage right turn would be a better solution. When I lived in De Beauvoir Town I used to use New North Road ,most days and disliked having to use the right turn filter into Baring Street, the next junction along from here. It is unpleasant to have to "take the lane" in order to manoeuvre into a right turning filter lane on such a busy road and only a small section of Hackney residents are willing to do it.

On Eagle Wharf Road itself the segregated cycle lane that does exist is to be removed and the road made two way, all part of a long term plan to remove segregated cycle lanes from Hackneys streets. If the plans in this consultation go ahead then that will mean that following removal of segregated cycle tracks from Eastway, Goldsmiths' Row, Pitfield Street and now New North Road there would be virtually none remaining. Saying that, I think it would be an improvement if this section of New North Road was to be closed to through motor traffic and therefore access only for local residents, as only a handful of motor vehicles would need to use it per day so a segregated lane would not be needed. However I fear without physical blockage of the road then motor vehicle levels are unlikely to be that low

East of New North Road and Poole Street is also to be made two way. Again I find this road quite pleasant to cycle eastbound on at the minute due to the contraflow cycle lane (although it should ideally be on the other side of the car parking)

But once again I think this would be fine if the road is truly "access only" with a physical closure of Poole Street at New North Road. As Poole Street becomes Penn Street, around 200m east of New North Road, the regeneration of the Colville Estate is underway and as a result the road is closed eastbound to motor vehicles but open to people cycling:

This actually makes it quite pleasant to cycle on and I hope measures are being taken to see what effect this closure has had on traffic in the area. If there is little effect on surrounding roads then maybe it could permanently become one way for motor traffic in order to enable protected cycle tracks for people cycling on this "cycle grid"

A road which is one way for motorists to enable a bi-directional cycle track in Eindhoven

Perhaps this could then be extended onto Hoxton Street and beyond; the one way system for cars could even flip direction at junctions, acting as a "filter" for through motor traffic. This would also severely reduce the amount of motor traffic crossing CS1 at Britannia junction, reducing the many cycling casualties which occur here. A truly ambitious project that would enable anyone, of any age or ability, the chance to travel to school or go shopping locally by bike.

Elsewhere Murray Grove is to be made two way for all traffic with the council stating that "these measures will facilitate the flow of traffic including buses between Shepherdess Walk and New North Road in both directions". Presumably this is to keep the 394 along the same route east and west, rather than splitting the route, as happens now:

As a semi-regular user of the 394 this will make the journey quicker and avoid putting the buses down narrow residential streets so I agree with this proposal, I just wish this was in a separate consultation as this has nothing to do with "improving the area for cycling and walking along the Central London cycle grid".

The consultation is open until Wednesday 30th November. You can respond here.