Like most of London, Harrow is blighted by unhealthy reliance on car transport. Car traffic causes unpleasant pollution, noise and congestion. Walking and cycling are unpleasant and unsafe. Children are unable to cycle to school independently and many are driven to school, causing more congestion and contributing to the epidemic of childhood obesity.
The most cost-effective way to improve transport, the economy and people’s health in Harrow is by making walking and cycling safe, pleasant and convenient.
Why it is better to invest in cycling than other transport schemes
- Cycling encourages more physical activity and therefore has more health benefits than improvements to public transport.
- Cycleways are much cheaper to construct than roads or railways.
- Cycleways lead to a reduction in motor traffic. Building more roads for cars encourages people to drive more and causes more congestion.
- Well-designed cycleways are accessible to all and can be a boon for people with disabilities. They can be used by mobility scooters, tricycles and adapted bicycles.
- Improvements to pedestrian routes are important, but walking is impractical for longer distances. Cycling and walking should both be facilitated in new road schemes.
“Mini-Holland” is a comprehensive road improvement programme in a borough to make it as safe and inviting for cycling as Holland. This requires the creation of a dense network of cycle routes separated from motor traffic: either cycleways along major roads or minor roads that are inaccessible to through motor traffic. Mini-Hollands also reduce car traffic overall and improve the urban environment, making town centres vibrant places which people can enjoy rather than unpleasant traffic-choked thoroughfares.
Harrow should learn from the successful mini-Holland in Waltham Forest, where closure of minor roads to through traffic has resulted in 56% reduction in motor traffic on these roads and 16% reduction over the wider area. Waltham Forest used to have a poor cycling environment, like Harrow, but has been transformed by £30 million of mini-Holland funding.
Cycleways along major roads
Building cycleways along major roads is the most important and effective way of kick-starting cycling in Harrow. They need to be physically separated from the space used by motor vehicles; painted lines are inadequate.
These are highly visible routes that are easy to navigate, which is necessary in order to attract non-cyclists to use them. Cycleways along major roads are the most expensive aspect of mini-Hollands but also the most important.
On some roads, space for cycling can be found by taking some of the verge, making the lanes narrower, removing traffic islands or generally using the road space more efficiently. On other roads motor traffic lanes or car parking will have to be removed. This may cause short-term congestion, but in the long term traffic will reduce as people switch from driving to cycling.
Removal of through traffic from residential zones
Limiting through traffic to the main roads makes residential areas quieter and more pleasant, and has widespread benefits for residents, pedestrians and cyclists. However, if individual streets are blocked to motor traffic without considering traffic flow in the surrounding area, traffic may be merely displaced onto adjacent roads. Some schemes may encounter opposition if residents themselves want to drive without restrictions.
Although these schemes are cheap and effective, they may be politically more difficult to build than cycleways. Therefore they should be considered as widespread area improvement projects (with residents being the primary beneficiaries) rather than isolated cycling schemes.
Suggestions for Harrow mini-Holland
Harrow Cyclists have presented the council with ideas for cycleways along major roads and potential quiet routes that could be created by restricting through motor traffic in residential zones. We are continually refining our suggestions based on good-quality schemes being built elsewhere.
Scope and timescale
A mini-Holland scheme should kick-start modal shift from driving to cycling and walking, by building an initial network of high-quality cycle routes. However, it is only the start of the transformation; cycle-friendly road design should continue and the cycle network should become more dense. It will take many years for Harrow to become as safe and inviting for cycling as the Netherlands, but without a significant initial investment in the form of a mini-Holland project, it will never happen.
Choosing what to build when
We recommend that cycle routes are built in the order which will provide visible benefits as soon as possible. The initial routes should follow major desire lines and link together existing fragments of cycleway, and should be along major desire lines where there is sufficient space to build a cycleway.
Routes that may be more difficult to build (e.g. busy roads which are too narrow for segregated cycleways) should be considered later. They can be dealt with in a number of ways:
- If the volume of motor traffic decreases, the road can be closed to through motor traffic
- Major engineering or compulsory purchase can be used to create additional space for a cycleway
- Cyclists can be diverted along a parallel route
- A footway can be converted to shared use, if pedestrian density is low
In Harrow, major roads along which cycleways should be built as part of the initial network include Lowlands Road, Station Road, Imperial Drive, Kenton Road and Honeypot Lane.
Harrow proposed a mini-Holland cycle network for the Mayor’s 2013 Vision for Cycling, but unfortunately Harrow did not win mini-Holland funding. Instead there was a plan for a ‘Quietway’, but even this did not happen.
However there does seem to be the political will to apply for future funding. Harrow Cyclists needs to continue to lobby TfL, the Mayor and Harrow Council to take the Harrow mini-Holland from vision to reality.
Harrow should co-operate with neighbouring boroughs to build a network of high-quality cycle routes along major roads (link to map).