Quietways always sounded pretty rubbish. I use the vestiges of the London Cycle Network frequently – as with so much cycling in London, as a least-worst option – and I never cease to resent the wiggly routes it takes me on and the rat-running drivers I have to contend with in amongst the parked cars.
I thought Quietways might be a step up. I’ve always seen them as a cop-out, avoiding TfL’s and the boroughs’ responsibility to provide safe space for cycling on main roads. But at least I thought I might be able to get around the indirect and inconvenient routes safely and comfortably. Here’s what TfL promise:
Quietways will complement Superhighways by providing a network of cycling routes through less heavily trafficked streets… They are aimed at new cyclists who want a safe, unthreatening experience.
London Cycling Campaign, rightly, expected something clearer than this:
To actually be ‘quiet’ the routes need to restrict through motor traffic (rat-running) and provide separation where required (where speed limits are above 20 mph or traffic volumes are high).
So to Quietway 2
This is a pilot route, being delivered by Camden, Islington and Hackney, with the assistance of Sustrans. I should probably have seen the writing on the wall when Camden consulted on the Guildford Road section – a choked rat-run and taxi route with car parking space – in which they promised a speed table or two and some painted signs.
Looking through Islington’s Consultation document (and let’s take a moment to note that it’s in nineteen separate pages, such that only really interested people are going to bother), I was disappointed, initially, to note no filtering, just some signs and some new road humps. Sadly, the next page offered the same. I got to the third page, and there were some more signs and new road humps… You get the idea. Nothing.
Here’s a fairly standard extract, showing the extent of what is to be done:
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the route as it stands – notably whoever designed it, let me take you down it. This was yesterday on the way to a meeting – a random Tuesday morning – so unfortunately, some bits which are often horrible and choked were less so. On the other hand, I got close-passed in an area which is usually fine, so it balances out. This post focuses on Islington, with two exceptions, but I’ll start with something nice:
The route takes a dog-leg diversion in the wrong direction and back on to the main road, which I didn’t bother to follow.
Back on the proposed ‘Quietway’ route.
At this point, my camera ran out of battery – which is fine, because this is the borough boundary.
My point is that these routes were all busy. It’s probably true to say they are “less heavily trafficked streets” but only because the main roads are so heavily ‘trafficked’. It’s certainly not true that they will offer a “safe, unthreatening experience” as the driver of 7861H was kind enough to demonstrate Middleton Road.
[This part of the route, where I was close-passed, may be modally-filtered – although the works notifications have gone up in Hackney Today before we see any plans for this, which makes me nervous].
This new route won’t make it any safer or more pleasant to cycle, because it won’t provide any new space for cycling which isn’t already busy with drivers. The only people it will help will be people unfamiliar with the route, due to the signs. But why would anyone else bother with a round-about route which is neither safe nor pleasant?
There are excellent parallel routes which drivers are free to take. Islington is encouraging and continuing to allow rat-running commercial drivers to use these back, residential streets. De Beauvoir shows what could be done here.
At the moment, we are looking at more money spent for absolutely no gain. TfL can claim they have succeeded – these streets are “less heavily trafficked” – but only by comparison tot he main roads.
Thankfully, Islington claim they are willing to listen.
I would urge everyone reading this to oppose this scheme outright. The money will be wasted and we will benefit not at all.
In contrast to the consultation plans, the consultation response is very simple. To finish by the 17th May.
* I’m not even going to get into the ridiculous idea that new cyclists and existing cyclists want different kinds of infrastructure.