Still going Dutch

Simon Munk from Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign on the progress of Mini Holland

A bicycleCongestion, pollution, inactivity and related  health issues  are  serious problems for London and every other European city. The answer most cities are going for is more  walking and cycling.

In 2014, Transport for London (TfL) awarded Waltham Forest around £30 million for “radical” schemes  to improve cycling and walking in Walthamstow – only two other boroughs (Kingston and Enfield) received similar funding.

The aim of the Walthamstow Mini Holland schemes is to give people aged 8-80 the confidence to get on a bike, without having to mix with fast-moving, heavy  traffic – either  by riding through quiet residential streets or on protected space on main roads, with enough routes to join up all the key destinations people want to get to.

Controversial Trial

A two-week pilot of the scheme, in October 2014, provoked strong, mostly unjustified, objections from some local people. Some inaccurately blamed the road closures during the trial for gridlock on main roads; others felt the initial focus on Walthamstow Village showed the Mini Holland was all about gentrification – despite the fact   that   the  majority   of the improvements  will  ultimately   be carried out in less posh areas.

A few felt that by creating better conditions  for people  on bikes or closing some roads, the council was going to harm the disabled or elderly, or those that can’t cycle – I’d argue  that fewer cars on the roads and quieter streets are good for anyone who genuinely needs to drive.

The   most   legitimate and commonly-aired  grievance was that  the council consultation started out rubbish. This was true but it did get better, with the council eventually mounting their largest Highways consultation yet.

What Did Residents Think?

After the Village trial, there was a huge turnout for the consultation, in which more people in the area voted  in favour of the scheme than against, and a majority approved of the principles – that discouraging through traffic calms streets, and makes them nicer to cycle and walk through, as well as live on.

Following the consultation, the Village section of the scheme was approved by the Council cabinet in February, with tweaks to fix issues highlighted during the trial (some roads  in the village  were  busier, businesses  needed loading concessions  etc.).  It’s due for completion in July.

What’s Next?

Leyton residents have already voted heavily in favour of the first main road scheme – Ruckholt Road – currently being built. Also currently underway are  –  protected bike  tracks on Selbourne  Road and a section  of Blackhorse Road, and a small section of protected track  and pedestrian crossing on Hoe Street.

The council  is in the process of consulting   with   businesses   and residents in the other parts of the borough affected by the scheme.

Meanwhile, 10 “bike hangar” giant bread bins for secure, weather-proof bike parking in the street have been installed across the borough (ideal, for instance, for those in upstairs flats).

Each one stores  six bikes in about three-quarters of a car-parking space. Another 20 are due soon. Secure bike parking spaces at borough stations are also still to come.

Whether you want to cycle, can’t or won’t, the Mini Holland schemes represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make Walthamstow a better  place.

The Waltham  Forest  Cycling Campaign want people to engage with plans as much as possible – to ensure they work as well as possible for local residents.

Waltham Forest Council’s Mini Holland site: www.enjoywalthamforest.co.uk

Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign: www.wfcycling.org.uk