Why I joined Hackney People on Bikes

A big reason why I moved to Hackney a year ago was it’s status as the *best* borough to cycle in in London.  But I knew really, that best really meant *least worst*. I’d like to see that change.

I’d previously lived in Haringey and Tower Hamlets: when I say ‘best,’ Hackney was way better than their utterly forbidding or completely inconvenient cycle routes.  There were filtered streets without cars, through which I could patch a route away from through traffic.  There were parks, easy to cross.  There was always the canal.  I used to cross from the Wild West environment of Tower Hamlets backstreets into Goldsmiths Row with a sigh of relief.

But, the longer I’ve lived here, the more it’s felt like *least worst* is the more accurate term.  There is no journey I can make across the borough without at some stage fearing for my life or limbs.  While I can ride through London Fields, De Beauvoir Town or some of the back streets, in relative safety, no journey avoided main roads entirely (the clue’s in the time).  I spend a lot of time visiting friends in Haringey: I could choose direct routes like the A10, among speeding cars and buses, weaving around the parked cars; and others like Mare Street, or slightly quieter roads like Well Street, parking on both sides, drivers zooming past, often far beyond 30mph.  Or I could use the true backstreets – often with rat-runners squeezing past me as fast as they dared, taking far longer and never quite getting me where I wanted.  I appreciated small things like the 100m of safe space in Goldsmiths Row, but I realised Hackney was no better than the other boroughs for end-to-end journeys or for genuine safety.

I thought about joining the Hackney Cycling Campaign, but they seemed to want the opposite of what I wanted.  I hoped that Cycle Superhighway 1, up the A10, would finally bring safe segregation, separating me from drivers.  I found out that they had campaigned against this – returning the route to the inconvenient, dangerous backstreets of London Cycle Network Route 10.  I read that HCC felt there was no space for segregation: but I looked at the streets around Victoria Park introduced parking controls and saw acres of space in unused parking spaces – and yet the one-way system so fast and busy that almost everyone I saw cycling was on the pavement.  I read that they believed sharing was fine: but I found myself frequently terrified – many drivers are kind, considerate and careful.  But it only takes one to end my life or at least my career.  Reading that Hackney was in the top five boroughs for hit and runs suggested that my own experience was not unusual.  And seeing the construction of great infrastructure in Camden and on the new cycle superhighways, I felt sad that Hackney would be left out.

But I couldn’t face starting a one-man campaign, given the apparent determination of a few people in the borough and Hackney Cycling Campaign to ensure people on bikes mixed with people in vehicles.  When Hackney People on Bikes came along, I jumped at the chance to contribute to something which would make the borough safe enough that I (and children, and old people, and everyone) could cycle around it and feel safe.  The popular reaction has been amazing, from individuals telling us what a difference this would make to them, to gaining almost 250 followers in three days.  It’s clear this campaign has widespread support.

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Hackney People on Bikes are taking this message to the Hackney Cycling Campaign at its monthly meeting on 3rd December (7.30, Marcon Court Estate community hall).  I hope that a strong showing of people will help to evidence the demand for change in the borough.  This is just the start: they have more plans afoot to help ensure the council and TfL make the borough safe and pleasant for everyone.

Hackney People on Bikes letter to Hackney Cycling Campaign can be found (and signed) here.

Hackney Cyclists has chronicled a good deal of Hackney’s problems here.

Here’s another reflection on the stance of Hackney Cycling Campaign from the Alternative DfT.

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9 thoughts on “Why I joined Hackney People on Bikes

  1. Hi Harry,

    So sad that you accepted the rants from anonymous bloggers as the whole truth without bothering to meet the people involved in London Cycling Campaign in Hackney to discuss how to make things better.

    No one pretends that cycling in Hackney is risk free yet the observation that more and more people are choosing cycling as a main form of tranport suggests things have been steadily getting better over quite a long time. All the good places to cycle in Hackney that you mention did not happen by accident, all of them are the result of decades of work by LCC’s Hackney Cyclists. Their persistent planning, lobbying and campaigning has led to cooperating with the highway authorities in a way unmatched in any other borough.

    I truly cannot understand why the bloggers, one who lives 1000 miles away, target Hackney and the London Cycling Campaign in Hackney ahead of all the people who have achieved so much less. The blogger who hides behind the tag ‘hackneycyclist’ is truly bizarre. He began by opposing the transformation of Goldsmith’s row into one of the most admired cycle routes in London. Over thirty years Hackney Cyclists (the LCC group) identified it as a useful route, signed it as part of the network, lobbied for improved junctions and painted lanes for two way cycling, and finally cooperated to have motor traffic largely removed to reduce the conflict with pedestrians and stop the collisions with delivery traffic at the farm. More recently he appears to denigrate Hackney Cyclists for their part in the partial removal of the 4/6 lane high speed one way system that blighted the street economy in Shoreditch for 40 years.

    Anyway it would be good to talk with ‘hackney cyclist’ and you and anyone else at the Hackney Cyclists’ meeting this week. We can talk about what’s really good about cycling in Hackney and what can make it better.

    Charlie Lloyd

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    • Hi Charlie,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond. Perhaps I should have attended meetings before now: I looked at a lot of the details on HCC’s website and didn’t find anything which convinced me I had a place in the organisation. But I’m really looking forward to attending the meeting on Wednesday, and I hope that an honest, frank and respectful conversation will help me understand the HCC position better.

      I don’t mean to denigrate the achievements of HCC over a long period of time, and having cycled all over London for the past five years, I’m aware of how much Hackney has achieved compared with many other boroughs.

      I’m really pleased that both you and Rita share my belief that there is much that is good and that we have to continue to make things better. Looking at the transformation starting to take place around London, for Hackney to remain at the front of the pack, I believe it needs to learn from other boroughs who are segregating effectively, while continuing to build on its achievements.

      Thanks again for commenting, I look forward to meeting you on Wednesday.

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    • Hi Charlie,

      Many thanks for labeling me as “truly bizarre”.

      Firstly, I do not “target” Hackney or the Hackney cycling campaign. I have lived and cycled in Hackney for over ten years and so write about my experiences of cycling within the area I live and work. I did not start my blog (or “rant” as you describe it) about Goldsmith’s Row. I began it by describing the poor cycle infrastructure in the newly opened northern half of the Olympic Park, as the London cycling campaign couldn’t be bothered to do this or indeed lobby for decent cycle infrastructure in the first place. It is true that I then talked about Goldsmith’s Row in the context of Hackney Council removing segregated cycle infrastructure within the borough. I did not “oppose the transformation” instead I did actually praise the scheme in the blog post; I was just pointing out that the money spent there could have been spent somewhere where there was no cycle infrastructure instead of removing a perfectly good cycle track. The blog post containing me writing about the Shoreditch triangle was a long post where I tried to post, in detail, about Hackney Councils ten-year cycling plan, as again, the LCC clearly could not be bothered to do this. In this plan the council describe how they plan to remove the Stoke Newington Gyratory and I talked about recent gyratory removal schemes, inducing Brixton, Tottenham and Shoreditch and how without any cycle infrastructure these schemes offer nothing at all to people who may want to cycle but instead offer a quicker journey for people who already cycle in these areas. I’m not sure why you and others involved with the Hackney cycling campaign appear to think the Shoreditch triangle is anything other than a truly awful place to cycle to cycle. All that money spent on removing the gyratory and not an inch of cycle infrastructure. A place where most will not cycle and somewhere I’ve never seen a child or pensioner using. Is this really the best the Hackney Cycling campaign can do?

      I’ll tell you what is bizarre Charlie, and that is members of the commitee of the Hackney Cycling Campaign saying that London bus users are being “done over” due to cycle tracks. Also bizarre is the fact that despite five people being killed on the A10 in Hackney between 2006-2010 the Hackney cycling campaign actually campaign against cycle tracks down the A10 and describe the current dangerous layout as “ideal”!

      I’ve cycled in the Netherlands many times and it never ceases to amaze me how well people cycling are catered for in almost every Village, town and city. Compare this to Hackney and we have a long, long way to go. I do get annoyed when not only do the Hackney Cycling Campaign not campaign for segregated cycle lanes but actually campaign against them (“poor quality cycling provision”) and you, the person who leads infrastructure policy at the London cycling campaign, support them! I totally get that you’ve been involved with Hackney cycling campaign for many years and you’ve been friends with members of this group for a very long time. It is a shame you’ve allowed this to cloud your professional opinion in the work you do for the London cycling Campaign.

      Anyway, I’ll be back to supporting Hackney People on bikes, The cycling embassy of Great Britain and Cycling works, organisations that have ideas and plans that will certainly do a lot more for people cycling than the Hackney branch of the LCC.

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      • Hey, we did use your great images of the problems in the Olympic Park in our campaigning and repeated objections to their planning proposals. Hardly a fortnight goes by without another 1000+ page planning application from the London Legacy Development Corporation, this week it was for another multistory car park to increase motor traffic.

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    • Interesting that you choose to attack me personally, rather than tackle any of the arguments I’ve raised about Hackney LCC. If my article is wrong, please do point out the errors.

      I may live in Berlin now but I’ve only been here six months. Until then I used to spend a lot of time in Hackney, living close to the border in Tower Hamlets.

      Did my right to discuss cycling campaigning in the UK end the moment I wheeled my bike onto the ferry? It seems you’d prefer it if that was the case.

      I was in Hackney last week too, incidentally, at the traffic-filled Leonard Circus. Do I have permission to blog about it now I’m back in Berlin?

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  2. Hello (again!) Charlie. I really do appreciate you engaging with us and look forward to meeting you on Wednesday.

    I’ve avoided joining LCC as a result of HCC policies for the past 8 years of cycling in Hackney. It’s all very well saying come along & try and change things but if you know you are going to be swimming against a very string tide, it’s no wonder people aren’t keen to come alone.

    In addition HPOB was born partly as a result of several of us coming across very confrontational attitudes from certain Committee members when trying to engage in two way dialogue on social media. Why on earth should I want to come to meetings with someone who has blocked me on Twitter and repeatedly lied about me, merely for holding differing views?

    I fervently hope that we can try and effect change from within HCC, and I hope that HPOB only has cause to be a short-lived group but I’m afraid the historical ideology and politics doesn’t particularly interest me. My aim is protected bike lanes in Hackney and if HCC continue to oppose these then HPOB will continue to exist, lobbying on behalf of (we believe) the majority of people who DON’T want to share with buses and HGVs. There are an increasing number of people on bikes who want to lobby nothing less than the best for Hackney cycling. Hopefully HCC will take this on board rather than feeling the need to stick to outdated ideology.

    Ruth-Anna

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    • Most other branches seem to be able to manage it just fine, without descending to the level of bickering 8 year olds. No, the reason given by Trevor at our meeting was his own (admirable but hardcore) anti corporate views. Instead we get individual high profile Committee members giving their own views, which are assumed to reflect wider opinion given the absence of an “official” voice on social media.

      I’ve yet to see a negative response to the formation of HPOB that actually deals with the issues involved. It has never been about choosing between segregation or modal filtering. We are campaigning for both, dependent on context, according to LCC policy.

      If HCC will not engage via social media it will remain very inward looking and not reflect the views of wider membership. Many people have reasons it is difficult to attend meetings in person. Personally I have a job which involves shift work and nights, two small kids and a husband who works every evening. To enable me to attend tomorrow he has had to cancel an evening’s work. Unsustainable on a monthly basis. Plus the hostility from some on social media hardly reaches out to encourage people along!

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      • I reckon that Hackney Cyclists aren’t very active online because this would open their dogma to scrutiny and evidence-based criticism. Much easier to pretend that mixing with heavy traffic works wonders.

        Certain Hackney Cyclists members have no trouble frequenting forums full of young men who are ardent vehicular cycling advocates, so it’s not as though they don’t know how to use a computer or don’t have the time.

        I’m still waiting to find out what’s wrong in my blog post about Hackney Cyclists, beyond the irrelevant fact that it wasn’t written there. I doubt I’ll get an answer though – that’s how Hackney Cyclists refuse to debate online. Much better to wait for a face to face meeting where Oliver Schick can talk over everyone.

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