A few weeks ago, I went for a look around Lea Bridge Road in Waltham Forest, but the journey there uncovered a couple of interesting roundabouts which are worth a closer look.
I used the A12 to get to Waltham Forest because perversely it feels safer than the parallel A118 through the various town and district centres. It's not all marked for cycling, but I'm not sure too many people were bothered. In fact, Transport for London really should undertake a review and put an upgrade plan into place.
The first point of interest is the Redbridge Roundabout, which is a huge signalised roundabout where the A12 Eastern Avenue meets the A406 North Circular Road. It's a well known spot for traffic congestion which seems to get attention near election times with promises to spend money to "sort it out." Of course that always means works which will accommodate drivers and nothing to deal with the severance the junction and the large roads create.
Westbound approach on the A12. Yes that is an advisory
cycle lane on a 40mph dual carriageway.
The junction is a relic of the 1970s and part of the ambitious motorway building plans which didn't come off as part of the Ringways project - the "Motorway That Wasn't" covered by roads.org.uk in this article. The A406 was originally going to be the M15 with the A12 running through the junction connecting to the M15 with slip roads. It never came to pass and so we are left with the A406 and no free-flow of the A12 meaning that people driving along the A12 have to go through the roundabout.
What did get built, however, was a grade-separated walking and cycling route which takes people into the centre of the roundabout at a level below the road. Within this area, the A406 towers above and when one looks from the right position, the civil engineering is striking;
The North Circular carried over the junction on a large viaduct.
The space within the roundabout is nice and open and surprisingly calm given it's within a traffic maelstrom; unfortunately access to this urban curiosity is not great, requiring the usual tight ramps and narrow tunnels which is the British approach to treating those not driving;
Anyone cycling is treated to staggered barriers, confusing signage and tight turns to get to the ramps on the outside of the roundabout, although at least you don't have to mix with traffic. However, it's a lonely place and not somewhere anyone would want to linger.
On the western side of the roundabout, there isn't an advisory cycle lane to contend with, but there's no confirmation that one can cycle on the footway. There's no way anyone other than the fit and the brave (and maybe deranged) would cycle on the carriageway here and in any case, the George Green Tunnel (under George Green) isn't for anyone other than drivers.
Let's be honest though, it's a pretty hostile environment all round and not designed for people at all. This section of the A12 was originally going to be an extension of the M11, but what was eventually built as an extension of the A12 to the Blackwall Tunnel known as the East Cross Route.
The exit before the George Green Tunnel, heading west.
A couple of kilometres to the west of the Redbridge Roundabout is the Green Man Roundabout, named after the pub which still stands by the junction, although now an O'Neill's with the name lost to history. At least the pub is still there, so many others have been lost to road building and redevelopment with junction names being the only visible trace of their existence! The A12 goes under the roundabout into an underpass with slip roads back up to local roads.
The Green Man Roundabout, like Redbridge, has grade-separated walking and cycling infrastructure and it is so much better. It shows that if we put our minds to it, we can treat people with a little bit of respect. The late 1990s vintage is maybe showing its age and is need of a good tidy up, but it's eminently usable.
The photograph above is taken in the middle of the roundabout looking east. There is clearly defined walking and cycling space and if you have a look around on Google maps and Streetview, it will become clear that in fact, there is a walking and cycling network around and through the junction which is completely independent of the main roads.
The road of the roundabout is actually raised a little above grade and so with the space available, the ramps into the underpasses carrying the walking and cycling network are relatively gentle. The little crossroads in the centre is raised which keeps things feeling open and they give a little nudge to get going down into the next underpass to leave the roundabout.
Beyond the roundabout, the walking and cycling infrastructure returns to the default position which is a shame because a wider scheme of upgrades together with a tidy up could make for a really good local network between Redbridge and Waltham Forest. Luckily, it's a short cycle north along the A114 Whipps Cross Road (on a shared path) to get to Lea Bridge Road.