We want Wick Walk

It’s worth going back to Hackney’s transport strategy, and thinking a bit about the competition here.  Hackney promise us:

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Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.13.52Councillors have suggested that there is ‘no chance in the next decade’ of getting all the money to sort out the Victoria Park one-way system properly.  So we have to get this road right now, not wait for possible changes we may not live to see.

At the very minimum, there is no reason to remove the current segregated cycle track.  We would like to see this track extended the length of Wick Road (from Morning Lane to Kenworthy Road).

However, why stop there?  Wick Road is an unusual road with amazing potential:

1) It has several parallel routes dedicated to taking large numbers of motor vehicles.  (At its narrowest points, the Victoria Park one-way system has one westbound lane (Cassland Road) and two eastbound lanes (Victoria Park Road and Wick Road)- a clear imbalance).

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Cassland Road

 

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Victoria Park Road

2) Large lengths of the street does not need motor vehicle access.

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Not a single door way in sight

3) The road is exceptionally wide wide.

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Three lanes, a lane of parking and two generous pavements. For a road which narrows to a single lane for moving traffic at the far end…

Introducing Wick Walk

We are calling for the closure of Wick Road as a route for through-traffic, to be replaced by a linear park – Wick Walk.

Initial discussions with residents have elicited excitement about including:

  • a cafe
  • tables to play chess

But we’re in the earliest stages of our planning and are open to ideas.  What would you like to see in the park?  Please add your ideas in the comments at the bottom.

But what about…?

What about the money?

The council are proposing spending £700,000 creating more space for drivers (most of whom don’t live in Hackney).  That money could be better spent on a park for local people.  There is also £1 million available to be spent for the community within Wick Ward.

What about traffic?

The single most important thing to remember is that cars are like work – they expand to fill the time available.  If we make more space for people to drive through, more drivers will use it.  If we reduce the space, drivers will choose to use other roads (like Mile End Road and Commercial Road – massive dual carriageways designed for through traffic).  And some people will choose to cycle and walk, now that they can do so safely.

This idea is brilliantly explained in this TED talk which shows that people will stop driving, and won’t even notice they’ve changed their behaviour.

The other key thing to remember is that most local people don’t own cars.  People driving from Essex to Central London don’t care whether they’re taking Mile End Road, Commercial Road or the Limehouse Tunnel or the North Circular – if Wick Road is closed, they’ll go elsewhere.

What about access?

We would maintain access to all off-street parking and houses along access roads – a solution which works well in areas around Well Street Common.

What about local businesses?

What could be better than a wonderful attraction encouraging the local community out.  Whether buying food for the barbecue or ice cream, businesses can make money out of this.

What about buses?

Buses would be best served by the provision of bus lanes where there is space down Cassland Road (most of the length of that road) and Victoria Park Road.

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Ample room for a bus lane on Victoria Park Road

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This is a two-lane road – ample room for a bus lane on Cassland Road

 

 If New York can do it…

New York was far more car-dominated than Wick Road is.  What they proved was that it is possible – easy even – to close off space to drivers, and make room for people to enjoy the streets.

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Image credits

 

To see how, try this TED Talk from Janette Sadik-Khan, who led this effort.

If New York can knock out four lanes for drivers in its biggest square, surely Hackney, seeking to be an ‘exemplar for sustainable urban living’, can knock out one lane?

How do we get Wick Walk?

Crucially, we are simply ordinary residents asking for something better.  There will be many questions and issues as we create Wick Walk, and we look to work with professional architects and designers and the community to make this work.  But the first step is to make it absolutely clear to the council that we want a better solution than what we’ve been offered.

There are three levels of support available – choose what you can do:

1) Bronze support

Complete the consultation saying:

  1. I oppose the current scheme – it’s damaging for the area.  Please mention you’d like to see the cycle track stay and be extended!
  2. I wish to see a feasibility study into the creation of Wick Walk linear park.
  3. The feasibility study must include a three month experimental traffic order closing Wick Road to traffic, from the junction with Barnabus Road to the west.

2) Silver support

  1. Tell three other local residents about the plan, and ask them to respond to the consultation.
  2. Email our local councillors, Christopher Kennedy (christopher.kennedy@hackney.gov.uk), Nick Sharman (nick.sharman@hackney.gov.uk) and Jessica Webb (jessica.webb@hackney.gov.uk), to ask them to support Wick Walk.
  3. Leave a comment on this post saying why you support the park.

3) Gold support

Get in touch (use the comment section below or tweet) to help us build Wick Walk.  We particularly need people with time to pass on the message, people who can help us with visualisations, and local businesses keen to get involved.

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Hackney Council: making Wick Road worse?

Wick Road is not an appealing environment.  It’s designed for people in cars.

It’s probably not very appealing in a car either.

I’ve got any number of photos like the one below, but let this represent all of them.  Wick Road is a fast, wide race track, with parking on one or both sides of the road.  It’s extremely unattractive for pedestrians (there’s a reason you can only see one in this picture) and has nothing at all for people on bikes (unless they want to either share the road with dangerously fast drivers, or cycle on the pavement).

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Last week, Hackney brought out proposals to change Wick Road.  I was excited to see how they promised to make it better for people living here.

I was disappointed.

The last thing I’m going to do is defend the current design.  Yet Hackney managed to offer something which will make Wick Road worse.  The details can be seen here, but the key thing is that the council want to make the road two-way.  In doing so, they will:

  • remove some parking (fine, no one uses it since the Controlled Parking Zone came in)
  • remove an off-street cycle track giving a safe route across the road (see below) – people on bikes will have to use the main road
  • add a lane for drivers (at the moment, the road narrows to one lane near the eastern end of the road; this will make it two lane, two way in either direction)
  • and so – allow lots more rat-running drivers to pass through Wick Road – now in both directions, not just one.

I don’t think this is good enough.

Why are the council doing this?

It’s not very clear from the consultation (there are no statistics about casualties, speeds, or the number of drivers using these roads at the moment).  But the council begin their ‘Background: section of the consultation by saying:

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But this scheme mostly seems to be about people in cars and commercial vehicles having more options to drive.  (In explaining this, I refer a lot to Cassland Road.  It’s parallel to Wick Road, a couple of hundred metres south.  At the moment, Cassland Road is one-way westbound (and Wick Road is eastbound).  So any drivers who go down Cassland Road at the moment will be able to use Wick Road instead.  So Cassland Road gives a fair indication of what Wick Road will be like once it’s two-way).

(At the bottom of the post, I’ve listed all the Hackney Transport Strategy policies I don’t think this follows, for any readers who are really interested).

Let’s consider the claims from the leaflet one at a time:

“Promoting sustainable forms of travel such as walking”

Paradoxically, while it’s unpleasant, it’s not that hard to cross Wick Road at the moment.  In the mornings, it’s solid with drivers who can hardly move, so you can cross – carefully – between them.  Not fun or safe for families, but not terrible by Hackney standards.

In the afternoons, drivers move far too fast, but there are long gaps between them speeding through, in which people can cross easily.

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4pm on a weekday. I stood in the road for a good 30 seconds before some more drivers zoomed down the road.

Two-way traffic will make it harder for people living here to cross the road, as at any time of day they’ll have to look two-ways, and the road will be much busier.  Putting in a couple of extra arms of pedestrian crossing and an ‘informal’ crossing point won’t help people cross where they want.

“Promoting sustainable forms of transport such as… cycling”

Lots of drivers will choose to come down Wick Road instead of Cassland Road, so we can guess at what things will be like from what Cassland Road looks like.

The photo below shows part of the ‘Greenway’ from Finsbury Park to the Olympic Park (you can just see the blue cycle route sign on the lamp post).  You’re meant to share the road with all these jammed in drivers.  Too narrow to overtake safely, too busy to feel safe.

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One hundred metres further west, you can see what the road is like when vehicles are able to moved: people on bikes are meant to share space too narrow to feel safe, with vehicles like this.

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Giving these drivers additional space on Wick Road means either:

  1. Traffic speeds up and people on bikes are in scary spaces like that with the lorry above, too narrow to be overtaken safely, too slow for impatient drivers to wait.
  2. Traffic clogs up like the first photo and people on bikes are left trying to squeeze past along narrow lanes.

(Obviously, 2 is much more likely, given induced demand).

The council also plan to remove this little bit of cycle track here:CIMG9160

Again, it’s not amazing, but it does mean people on bikes can get from one side road (Barnabus) to another (Bradstock) without going on the main road.  That won’t be possible any more.  I find this a bit strange, as the pavement is massive and I don’t really see why you’d force people onto the main road with all the drivers.

“Promoting sustainable forms of transport such as… public transport”

The council want to run the 30 bus down Wick Road.  This is what 4pm on a Wednesday during half term looks like on Cassland Road.  Two buses, trapped among the massive number of rat-running commercial drivers.

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If the council want to increase the use of public transport, they have to help buses move faster.  If people on buses are stuck behind people driving, they can’t go faster.  If the council make space for rat-running drivers, that won’t work.  They would have to block the road to cars and only allow buses down it if they wanted to help public transport.

Conclusion

This scheme offers a couple of extra pedestrian crossing points.  But primarily Hackney Council want to make it easier to drive around Homerton.  The people who will benefit will be the drivers cutting through Homerton each way from outside the borough.  This is what we’re told Hackney Council are aiming for:

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This scheme is a step away from all of these supposed promises.

I would urge everyone to oppose the scheme and demand something better.  In my next post, I will set out an idea of what this ‘something better’ might look like.  We can create a Wick Road which is an ‘exemplar for sustainable urban living’.

How to create a better Wick Road

  1. Come back and read my next post, on what we could create with this space next week.
  2. Get in touch to say you’re interested and support the campaign.  Comment below, or tweet me (@hazzer2001) and Hackney People on Bikes (@hackneypob) who are leading the campaign.
  3. Attend the consultation event this Tuesday (2nd June, 6pm-8pm; Gascoyne Community Centre) and tell the council it’s not good enough.
  4. Respond to the consultation (you can do it very easily in two minutes online).  Demand a better solution from the council.
  5. Watch for the answer to my Freedom of Information request about the costs and data behind this scheme.

 Appendix – Hackney’s Transport Strategy

For the seriously interested, here are a list of policies from the Draft Transport Strategy for Hackney, with a quick comment from me on each one.  Bizarrely, the only thing on the council’s main website is the 2006-2011 strategy, but these quotations are taken from the draft of the 2014-2024 strategy:

“C22 Pursue a policy of ‘clear space for cyclists’ when designing public realm and traffic schemes on busy routes and where there are high vehicular traffic flows.”

This is a very busy route, but there is no clear space for cyclists, even though the road is massive!

“C22 Look to progress and complete the removal of the network of one-way systems in South Hackney during the lifetime of the strategy.”

I’ll come on to this in my next post, but there is no proposal for the other bits of the one-way system!

“C37 Work with Tower Hamlet [sic], Islington & TfL to create a high quality, direct & safe cycle route between iCity/Olympic Park and Shoreditch/TechCity and onto the West End”

This could be on that route, if the council were willing to allocate space to people on bikes, not just to people in cars.

“C42 Undertake area wide traffic reviews in neighbourhoods still subject to rat-running and consider options for reducing traffic flows, such as filtered permeability cells.”

Unfiltered streets in Homerton are full of dangerous, rat-running drivers.  Wick Road should be tackled as part of an area-wide scheme to address this.

“PT16 Improve bus journey times and reliability through new bus priority measures – completing missing gaps in the network and reviewing bus lane hours.”

This could be a bus priority scheme.  It’s not what I’d prefer for the area, but it could be.  An opportunity missed.

“LN1 Increase the tree canopy coverage in the borough from 18.5% to 25% by 2024.”

New trees aren’t the priority, but still…

“LN9 Restrain the levels of external traffic cutting through the borough and look to reduce the number of trips made by commercial vehicles on our roads.”

This is the crux of it I reckon.  These roads are full of external traffic, but Hackney want to make more space for these drivers!  Rather than taking it away from them.

“W22 Seek to create 10 new public spaces and pocket parks through road space reallocation by 2024”

This is a golden opportunity to put wasted road space to use for people, not for drivers.  But don’t worry, local residents have a plan…

CS2 upgrade – people on bikes voting with their wheels

This was the scene on Mile End Road outside the Royal London Hospital, heading into town at around 9.15 this morning.

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I cycled through the gap.  The drivers in the right-hand lane were going nowhere, and I didn’t fancy choking on coach fumes, the coach stuck behind the bus in front, for the next few hundred metres.  The two people on bikes behind me did the same, slightly to my surprise.

This was the scene half a mile further down the road, at around 2.30pm on my way home (going away from town):

CIMG9097There may be scope to encourage people to walk on the pavements a little more – although I guess at busier times of day, they’re more likely to do so voluntarily.

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People are voting with their bikes about where they’d rather cycle.

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Since it was 2.30 – outside the six hours a day during which the bus lane operates – until recently I’d have been cycling on the outside of these cars.  (The drivers appeared to be managing whatever their ‘kerbside activity’ was unhindered.CIMG9102

It ain’t perfect by a long chalk – this LCC post covers the pros and cons of this stretch pretty well here.  But honestly, what would you prefer:

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Segregation – finally on the way.

Quietway 2 – an embarrassment to all

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 Design Standards)*

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).

(LCC)

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:

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Signs and raised entry humps on side roads.

 

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:

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Filtering in De Beauvoir Square – good for skateboarders too.

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Welcome to Islington!  The driver on the left is stationary, of course… (Northchurch Road)

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.

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This isn’t on the Quietway, this is the direct route. But it shows you the number of vehicles going down these back roads (and on to Prebend Street, which is on the Quietway). Drivers aren’t happy either – you can’t hear the driver on the right of the picture tell someone on the left to ‘F–k off’ as he passes (Basire Street meeting New North Road)

Back on the proposed ‘Quietway’ route.

 

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Lots of rat-running drivers. (Prebend Street)

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Lots of rat-running commercial drivers (Colebrooke Row)

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Four more rat-running drivers queued up behind people on bikes (Margery Street)

 

 

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See those drivers queuing up opposite – that’s what you’ll be joining to make it here from Camden’s side (Calthorpe Street)

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.

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What happens when you have lots of drivers mixing with people on bikes at a range of speeds? Close passes. And collisions. And injuries. And deaths. 

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Risk dooring or risk being knocked down – not a choice I’d ask a child to make.

[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.

A question for National Express on the safety of people on bikes

At the TfL board meeting on 7th February 2015, your chair, Sir John Armitt, said: “I would say the biggest danger to cyclists on the roads in London are actually themselves.”

This is directly contradicted by the research. For example, this paper from the Transport Research Laboratory, shows that over 60% of collisions are caused by drivers not looking properly.

This article in The Times reports on a study by Westminster Council which says that only 20% of collisions are caused by cyclists.

As someone who cycles daily along roads used by National Express coaches, I found your chair’s disregard for the evidence (or ignorance of it) alarming. It suggests to me that National Express’s culture does not prioritise the safety of vulnerable road users sufficiently. Naturally, I avoid spending money with a company which endangers me and others.

I tweeted National Express at the time, to say that I was not prepared to travel with the company until the chair had apologised for, and retracted his statement. I did not receive a response.

I have to make a journey next week which, for the last six years, I have always taken by coach. I wanted to check whether the chair has apologised for and retracted his comments, and what he has committed the company to do to promote the safety of people on bikes. If you are unable to confirm the former and inform me about the latter, I look forward to taking the train instead.

Many thanks,
Harry

Is there space to segregate people on bikes from people in cars in Hackney?

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Ordinary weekday – no resident using these parking bays.

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Ordinary weekday – no resident using these parking bays either.

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Usual, heavy traffic up Victoria Park Road.

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Cyclists are permitted the use of this shared use path – an admission that no one wants to share with drivers and that it’s impossible to get around here on-road Victoria Park is closed.

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This is day time and a bus has just gone. As you can imagine, trying to cycle past this bus stop when anyone is waiting is impossible. Ample road-space though.

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Weekday morning – residents have no use for this parking space – could fit in a generous segregated track in both directions, without harming bus reliability or pedestrians.

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Unfortunately, occasional cars parked in the parking bays mean that cyclists must merge with the fast moving, non-stop traffic.

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Why is all this space wasted when residents don’t need it?

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Another example why no one wants to share the road along Victoria Park Road – even if a cyclist used the empty parking bays, the zebra crossing forces them into passing (often speeding) drivers’ paths.

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.