Monday, 29 April 2019

#LDNCycleSafari: Peace & Quiet In Francis Road

The London Cycle Safari rode again yesterday (28th April 2019) and we packed in so much, it's going to span a few posts. This week, I am going to start with something astonishing and that's the transformation of Francis Road, in Waltham Forest.

My first proper introduction to the Waltham Forest "Mini-Holland" scheme was back in 2015 where I looked on in awe at what had been achieved at Orford Road. I had been meaning to go back to the area for for an update and so a few of us tacked on a quick visit to a safari which was majoring on Stratford Town Centre and the Olympic Village (more on those another time).

So, I found myself riding along Francis Road, a 'B' road to be sure, from the still hostile High Road Leyton. There was nothing special about the street, although a sign warned that there was no motor vehicle access to Grove Green Road via Francis Road. The street was a quiet traffic calmed 20mph Zone, nothing to write a blog post about;

The street is part of the Leyton Town Centre phase of the programme which, in common with other town and local centres, has been the subject of modal filtering (of various types), to keep through traffic on the main roads, while maintaining local access and in selected places (such as Francis Road) some transformation street design work.

At the heart of Francis Road there is a local shopping centre which is pretty much all independents. There are also other community facilities nearby which makes this very much a community centre, rather than a high street. Before the scheme, the street was heavily parked and from a people point of view, pretty hostile as this series of images from Google Streetview show;

The street is mainly split into two sections at Murchison Road which has been made one-way for motor traffic along with Francis Road through the shopping area; although the one-ways on each side run in opposite directions to make traffic cells for local access by motor traffic. 

Cycling is two-way. The two parts of the shopping area also have a motor traffic ban daily, between 8am and 10pm - access for the deliveries have to take place outside of these times. The traffic controls and filtering provide the framework onto which the scheme is built.

The place is transformed - the next three photos are roughly from the same positions as the images above;

The old parking spaces have been repurposed as footway and the shop forecourts have been beautifully paved with Dutch clay bricks (with a very subtle line between public and private maintained. The quality of the paving is some of the very best I have seen in the UK; plus the retention of a "carriageway" in the centre is a pragmatic solution for loading and it helps give a visual demarcation between an area where one might expect cycles or out of hours motor vehicles; but this is very much a pedestrianised space for 14 hours a day.

As we have come to expect from the Waltham Forest Mini-Holland programme, the planting is brilliant and something the community has taken ownership of; plus we have plenty of cycle parking along the street.

Aside from the fact that the street looks wonderful, it really is a peaceful place to be and the fact it was a chilly spring Sunday afternoon was all the more powerful when you saw how busy the street was with people using their local shops, chatting with friends, relaxing on the benches and for me the most significant observation was little kids on bikes and scooters doing their own thing in complete safety, under the watchful eye of parents of course;

I will leave you this week, a cycle through of the street - watch out for the kid on the scooter at the end. What a fantastic job and what a lovely place to call home.


  1. That looks wonderful, just a nice place to be. Any indication if footfall and spend has gone up in the local shops?

  2. Waltham Forest's mini-Holland schemes are, unfortunately a mixed bag. Although Francis Road and Orford Road have been done well main roads such as Markhouse Road and Blackhorse Road have some serious design flaws.

    The Markhouse Road scheme involve the creation of two uni-directional stepped-track cycle lanes (northbound cyclists on the west side and southbound cyclists on the east side). Unfortunately for cyclists it is impossible to join or leave these stepped tracks at side roads when they are on the 'wrong' side for the direction of travel. This may be one of the reasons why I see so many cyclists cycling the wrong way.

    The second major problem is that the roads are too narrow and the only way that the cycle lanes could be created was by reducing the width of the already narrow footways. This means there is no room for pedestrians in opposite directions to pass one another without stepping into the cycle track, no room for two pedestrians to walk side by side and limited space around bus stops/shelters. Given the primary and nursery schools here you can imagine that many of the pedestrians are parents taking children to school with younger children in pushchairs.

    An attempt has been made to address the problems in the vicinity of the bus stops by creating an unsegregated area delineated by tactile markings and signs but it has been badly executed - the signs are sited at the start of the paved area and they are not even facing the right way.