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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
Giving these drivers additional space on Wick Road means either:
- 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.
- 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).
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.
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.
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:
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
- Come back and read my next post, on what we could create with this space next week.
- 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.
- Attend the consultation event this Tuesday (2nd June, 6pm-8pm; Gascoyne Community Centre) and tell the council it’s not good enough.
- Respond to the consultation (you can do it very easily in two minutes online). Demand a better solution from the council.
- 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…