Saturday, 18 July 2020

#LDNCycleSafari: Nicer Neighbourhoods

After a few solo infrastructure safari rides during lockdown, it was nice to get out and meet an actual person to share the kerbnerdery with. So a big hat tip to Hackney Cyclist for giving me a little tour of what's new (and newish) in Hackney and just over the border in Tower Hamlets.

This week, I'm going to concentrate on places which are being created through filtered permeability. For those who don't know, filtered permeability is a catch-all term for measures deployed to manage access to or through an area using physical measures, traffic cameras and/ or traffic signs (called "modal filters". A general blog post on the subject can be found here.

The Skew Bridge (over the Hertford Union Canal) on Old Ford Road has been closed to motor traffic on both sides as part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets' Covid response. The bridge has very narrow footways and a narrow carriageway making social distancing impossible;

The council has installed a filter on each side of the bridge (where there are no premises) to create an area people can safety walk and cycle;

The photograph above is of the filter on the western side of the bridge which comprises of simple timber planters with trees and some traffic signage. The planters and the area around have been decorated by the Tactical Urbanistas, who have added some fun to the street;

Although this is a Covid response, the scheme is actually part of the Bow Liveable Neighbourhood project which seeks to remove through motor traffic from the area and back on the strategic road network and which is currently in formal public consultation following a process of public engagement which has seen the community put forward ideas. 

The strategic road network includes the A12, which is essentially an urban motorway here and the A11 which carries Cycle Superhighway 2 and so the Bow scheme will actually make it easier to cycle to the A11 for people with longer cycling trips.

According to the council, 49% of motor traffic in the neighbourhood is passing through without stopping and so with various closures to motor vehicles (with some bus gates), the aim is to give the neighbourhood back to the people who live there, rather than accommodate the people who drive through and make no contribution (and who take from the community in terms of road danger and pollution etc). Here's a little video of the filter (link);

To the west is another one of Tower Hamlets' Liveable Neighbourhood schemes, but this one for the Bethnal Green area has already been through the engagement and consultation process and is on site being constructed. We had a look at Old Bethnal Green Road on which a modal filter is being constructed to the west of Temple Street;

We chatted with the contractor who said that this scheme was a little ahead of schedule. It's hard to see what the final layout will look like, but from what we saw, it's going to have trees, cycle tracks and what looks like an emergency access.

Across the border into Hackney and we have Broadway Market. There is an actual market held on Saturdays for which infrastructure is in place in terms of removable bollards and a gate, whereas normally, the street is open to all traffic and is full of parking bays. As a Covid response, the street is currently closed to motor traffic and the space is given over to people to walk and cycle as well as providing more seating space and areas people can socially distance while queuing to get into the shops.

What was great about spending a little time in the street was that it was clear how people cycling modify their behaviour around people walking, especially as there is a parallel route for those who want to make progress. The end of my video is a sped up glimpse of how the street is working.

The arrangement for the street is in until October, but I really hope the council have some longer term plans because something like the current arrangement would be really transformative. The best thing of course, is that this filter didn't cost very much because the traffic management infrastructure was already in place!

Next is a quick look at The Narrow Way at the northern end of Mare Street in Hackney. It's a pedestrianised street which allows cycling in both directions at all times (pedestrian and cycle zone), with loading permitted between 6pm and 10am (daily) with access for deliveries being in one direction only (north to south);

It's a nice looking street with its Dutch clay paving, seating and tree planting and if you look closely, you'll see the street lighting on catenary wires. There isn't a clear cycling (or delivery traffic) route though the space as such, but maybe a hint with the way the seating and planting has been arranged (there will be a fire path kept clear of street features). 

Access from the south is a total nightmare from the main part of the A107 Mare Street where people cycling get to mix with buses and HGVs and pedestrian desire lines are poorly accommodated. At the northern end, there is a toucan crossing over the A107 Dalston Lane into the partially filtered Clarence Road.

What is amazing about The Narrow Way is that the current layout is only a few years old. It was a pedestrian zone previously, but buses used it in the southbound direction and so it wasn't really a place to walk;

In 2013, buses were rerouted from the street on a temporary basis and the impact to services were not adversely affected. This led to an interim layout where buses were permanently removed and temporary street art was used to activate the space in advance of the scheme we see today. Here's a video of the street, including the awful access from the south;

Finally this week, one final filter which is another in response to Covid. It's a "point" treatment which allows motor traffic to pass through in one direction only while maintaining two-way for cycle traffic. Just inside the Hackney border, the filter at the eastern end of Gore Road is designed to reduce through traffic in the area and to give people more space;

It's a simple arrangement of planters and traffic signs which shows just how simple and straight-forward this type of thing can be.

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