Orford Road

Waltham Forest Mini-Holland tour, 9 Aug 2018

Harrow Cyclists, Harrow councillors (Jerry Miles and Sarah Butterworth) and a group of Harrow Traffic officers led by Barry Phillips came on a walking tour on a rainy afternoon in August, kindly arranged by Paul Gasson of Waltham Forest Cyclists.

Harrow Council and Harrow Cyclists tour of Waltham Forest
Harrow Council and Harrow Cyclists tour of Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest submitted a winning bid in the Mayor’s mini-Holland competition in 2013, and was awarded £30 million to improve walking and cycling in the borough. The borough has also allocated an additional £10 million from other funding sources, such as TfL LIP funding and section 106 developer contributions. They have built several low-traffic filtered neighbourhoods, where through motor traffic is excluded in order to make them pleasant places to live, walk and cycle. They have also started to build a network of high quality, segregated cycle routes along main roads.

These improvements have been possible because of strong political leadership and a collaborative approach between council officers and cycling campaigners. The council has encouraged local residents to take more ownership of their streets, and several new residents associations have sprung up.

The results so far have been impressive, and the schemes have won numerous awards. Motor traffic has decreased by 16% overall and 56% in filtered neighbourhoods, with a substantial reduction in collisions (see article). A study after 1 year showed that in high dose mini-Holland areas, people were walking 13% more and cycling 18% more (Aldred et al., 2018). Improvements in air quality have already resulted in a 6 week increase in predicted life expectancy for children in the borough (Dajnak et al., 2018).

Modal filter in Waltham Forest
Modal filter in Waltham Forest, preventing the route from being used by through traffic

We saw quite a few modal filters, where former through routes for motor traffic have been blocked by bollards or planting, creating pleasant and convenient routes for walking and cycling. These filters have been applied across whole neighbourhoods, making them quiet and pleasant, while maintaining access to all properties.

In front of one of the schools, a rain garden has been created by narrowing the road, and is being maintained by the school. The vast majority of children attending this school now walk or cycle because the surrounding streets are safe.

Rain garden outside a school
Rain garden outside a school, adopted by the school and using space that was previously part of the road.

Many of the new areas of planting are maintained by local residents, who are taking new pride in their neighbourhood. The removal of motor traffic has allowed a resurgence of community spirit.

Roadside plants adopted by local residents
Roadside plants adopted by local residents

Crossing the main roads between filtered neighbourhoods is made easier by parallel zebra and cycle crossings, as shown below.

Zebra and parallel cycle crossing between two low-traffic neighbourhoods
Zebra and parallel cycle crossing between two low-traffic neighbourhoods

Waltham Forest is also building an extensive network of segregated cycle lanes along main roads. The photograph below shows Quietway 2, which has been squeezed in either side of trees, maintaining important segregation from motor vehicles.

Quietway 2
Quietway 2, showing a compromise design that enables cyclists to be separated from motor vehicles despite the location of the trees

We saw some stepped tracks (kerb-separated cycle tracks mid-way between the footway and the carriageway). These require less space than fully segregated cycle lanes, and can be fitted on narrower roads, as in this example where space has been created by narrowing the carriageway and removing central hatching. This is an older example and is not up to Waltham Forest’s current standard, which advocates red tarmac surfacing to distinguish it clearly from the footway and the roadway.

Stepped cycle track
Stepped cycle track segregated from motor vehicles, with space created by narrowing the lanes and removing central hatching

Cycle parking may not be provided in older flats or those which have been converted from houses, so on-street bike hangars (replacing car parking spaces) allow residents to rent a secure space to store their bike.

Bike hangar for residential cycle parking
Bike hangar for residential cycle parking

The town centre was pedestrianised before the mini-Holland scheme, but has since been improved, with walking and cycling improvements in the surrounding streets. This was an unusually rainy day in August; the street is usually much busier.

Pedestrianised town centre in Walthamstow
Pedestrianised town centre in Walthamstow, built before the mini-Holland scheme

Orford Road in Walthamstow Village is one of the major success stories of the mini-Holland project. It was previously congested and unpleasant, with many of the shops vacant. However, now that all motor traffic is prohibited 10am-10pm (except for one bus route), all the shops are occupied and a new village square has been created, which has become a real hub of the community.

Orford Road
Orford Road, previously choked with traffic but now a pleasant mini high street

Mini-Holland is not just about walking, cycling, public health and air quality, it is also about community and improving quality of life. Reducing the dominance of motor traffic is key to making this happen.

The map below shows the new modal filters and other changes to traffic management that enabled Walthamstow Village to become a low-traffic neighbourhood.

Overview map of Waltham Village scheme within mini-Holland
Overview map of Waltham Village scheme within mini-Holland