Sunday, 16 October 2016

Whiston Road

Hackney Council are currently consulting on proposals for Whiston Road as part of the Central London cycle grid. This section of road is historically known as LCN+ cycle route 16, running from Goldsmith's Row to the A10, and then beyond towards New North Road by Shoreditch Park to link up with the route into the City of London via Shepherdess Walk. It also crosses Cycle Superhighway 1 at Britannia Junction, the most dangerous junction for cycling in all of Hackney. It's a very unpleasant road to cycle on as there are no restrictions for motor traffic and so drivers can use this route as a shortcut all the way from Bethnal Green to New North Road.

The diagram of the consultation plans starts in the West where Whiston Road meets the A10. No changes are planned at all here; no restrictions to motor traffic, no protected space for cycling and the awful speed cushions remain. Once under the railway bridge this part of Whiston Road has changed dramatically over the past few years. Or at least the buildings either side have but nothing much has changed on the road itself.

Whiston Road as it was four years ago and today, via Google maps streetview
As you can see despite the regeneration of the buildings either side no changes have occurred on the road, apart from those cycle symbols painted onto the carriageway fading slightly. The road is wide here so a real shame the road was not also reconstructed at the same time the estates were and that safe dedicated cycle tracks were not constructed on this 'cycle route'.

If you're travelling along the pavement on Whiston Road in a wheelchair or with a pushchair then you'll have to walk in the road here. Despite the building on the left only being a couple of years old there is no cycle infrastructure or even wider pavements here yet car parking remains on both sides of the carriageway. The car parking isn't even marked out on the consultation map so I assume they have just ignored it, rather than any plans to remove it,
Just next to here the proposal is for a "raised table with uncontrolled pedestrian crossing and build out". They have recently constructed one of these further along on Whiston Road so this gives a clear indication of what to expect


Clearly easier to cross for pedestrians but a nasty pinch point for people cycling.

A road I used in the Dutch village of 's-gravendeel where the pinch point was in place for drivers, not for people cycling. Also note the road surface here which slows traffic down as cyclists share with drivers in this 30kph (18mph) street
Further east by the junction of Bryant Street a zebra crossing is planned, with build outs again. Bryant Street is a new street, constructed as part of the estate regeneration


This road is mainly used as car parking for the replacement flats (and presumably deliveries as well) but it is not filtered and links Whiston Road with How's Street, two streets that it was not possible to directly drive between before the regeneration. What does not exist on the plans in this consultation (or even on open street map) is two more new roads that are also not filtered on the north side of Whiston Road that now make it possible to drive directly between Whiston Road and Laburnum Street north of it, something that again could not happen before the regeneration began

Thanks to the historical feature on Google streetview we can see exactly how peoples homes have been turned into roads for through motor traffic
This is quite a theme for the regeneration here and it continues on the new estate north of the Regents canal, which was also part of this regeneration scheme. Simply move the slider back in time on google streetview here or here to see some examples of more new through routes for motor traffic

An entrance to a large residents car park under the apartments from one of the new roads. Note how awful it is to cross the car park entrance on foot, especially for those in a wheelchair or with a pushchair as there isn't even a dropped kerb in place
These roads may well be needed for people to access parking and any disabled residents who perhaps need dropping off as close to their door as possible but a shame the new roads could not be built as filtered roads so they can only be used as through routes by people walking and cycling

A residential "access only" road that is also a main cycling route and filtered to motor traffic in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
"Swimmers Lane" is another new route directly alongside the long disused Haggerston Baths, and has been created as a cycling and walking route linking Whiston Road and Laburnum Street


It can be a handy cut through if you want to avoid cycling on the A10 or Queensbridge Road, although I'd personally prefer a wider Dutch style red tarmac cycle track with a slight height difference. It is also used heavily as a cut through by local moped delivery drivers so I'm not always keen on letting my daughter walk through there ahead of me. I also wish they'd install motorcycle parking on the carriageway nearby as the cycle stands are currently often used by motorbikes


They'll be a raised table here making it easier to access but I suspect any children using it will continue to use the pavement once they get to Whiston Road, something I see often and don't blame them!


At the Queensbridge Road junction the proposal is for "low level signals with early release for cyclists" assuming you're willing to ignore the Department for Transport's advice and are eager to continue onto the ASL


East of Queensbridge Road and the plan is for another set of early release low level cycle signals for those cycling West along with another raised table by the entrance / exit to Haggerston Park.  Between the Park and the very busy Goldsmith's Row cycle route there are actually some decent proposals; a removal of all on street car parking (a total of 17 spaces, with some moving to minor side streets). Assuming the new double yellow lines are enforced this should be an improvement, it is just a shame that no car parking is planned to be removed from the western section in this consultation. Another improvement is low level early release signals on all arms of the Goldsmith's Row / Pritchard's Row junction, hopefully putting an end to the regular occurrence of drivers turning right into Whiston Road in front of people cycling ahead towards Broadway Market

So, some minor improvements along the eastern section of Whiston Road but virtually nothing for the rest of it and overall a very poor consultation which offers little to people cycling. Compare it to Camden Council's Central London cycle grid, recently consulted on

Actual dedicated safe cycle tracks, so no sharing with the buses or speeding cement mixers planned here 
Whiston Road between the A10 and Queensbridge Road is easily wide enough for dedicated cycle tracks

Car parking along both sides of the carriageway, two wide traffic lanes and a child cycling on a narrow pavement earlier today
Whether this is cycle tracks along both sides of the carriageway as per the Camden consultation or, if car parking was to be retained, a bi-directional cycle track instead

A bi-directional cycle track I used on a residential road in Breda, the Netherlands. The road as nowhere near as busy with traffic as Whiston Road is but it was a distributor road to other residential roads and also had one bus service running along it. 
Closing the two new roads north of Whiston Road to motor traffic so they are only accessible from Laburnum Street would ensure this cycle track was safe with no turning movements across it risking a collision. Between Haggerston Park and Pritchard's Row there would also be the space for this treatment if the proposed removal of on street car parking were to happen. I fear that the short stretch of Whiston Road outside Haggerston Park is probably too narrow for cycle tracks whilst maintaining two way traffic so perhaps a solution could be turning Whiston Road one way for motor traffic along here to accommodate a cycle track?

A one way street in Haarlem with ample space for two way cycling. Could a similar layout work on The Central London Cycle Grid in Hackney?

This would mean a short diversion of the 394 bus route, perhaps a quarter of a mile south of here via Hackney Road instead, but I would support this if this was to achieve safer cycling conditions, and I say that as a regular user of the 394 having used it twice this weekend.

In their 2015-2025 cycling plan Hackney Council state that they want to make Hackney's roads the safest for cycling in the UK and somewhere where it is second nature for everyone, no matter what their age to cycle. Unfortunately these plans will do little to achieve those aims. If Hackney is, as also stated in this plan, still serious about achieving 5% of primary school children and 15% of secondary school children cycling to school within a little over 8 years time then they seriously need to go back to the drawing board. Unless they want scores of children cycling on the pavement every morning then Hackney Council need to realise that riding in primary position outside of the door zone along Whiston Road, with motor traffic behind you will not appeal to most school children, never mind their parents. If this is what Hackney Council truly believes is a cycle grid then those targets will likely never be met. In the Netherlands 49% of primary school children go to school by bike and more than 90% of children aged over 12 do so, it is surely sensible for Hackney Council to look abroad (but beyond Jen Gehl) if their cycling targets are to be met and children in the borough are to remain safe on bikes.

The consultation closes this Friday 21st October, please respond here

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