Hackney’s cycling boss interviewed: 15 new things we learned about the future of cycling in the borough

Continuing our series of interviews with the people in charge of cycling in London’s boroughs, I spoke to Feryal Demirci, Hackney’s Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods – a brief that includes cycling and other transport.

I’ve picked out fifteen new things she told me about the future of cycling in Hackney. If you missed my interviews with her counterpart in Camden, and Westminster’s transport officer you can catch up on them here.

Pitfield Street in Shoreditch could be closed to motor traffic

Pitfield

from Google Maps

If the road was closed, it would provide a traffic free route from De Beauvoir/Haggerston down to Old Street.

I’d rather close off roads like we did in Goldsmiths Road [than build segregated lanes]. We are looking at Pitfield Street – that goes into Shoreditch from De Beauvoir.

The Narrow Way will see further improvements

The right turn waiting area set to be improved - image from Google Streetview

The right turn waiting area at the Clapton end of Narrow Way set to be improved – image from Google Streetview

The street will see  junction changes at the Clapton end to make it safer for cyclists waiting for a gap in the traffic, and further public realm improvements.

It’s our aspiration for the street to be permanently traffic-free. We’ve got to find the funding from to do the public realm improvements along there. We just put some painting, tried to make it look funky… it didn’t quite work! Now, fingers crossed, it will be completely transformed.

We have to make changes or create some sort of safe space for cyclists who are actually stopping when you’re going down from Mare Street, stopping before you turn right. When you go down there there’s not very much space, it’s a bit scary standing there in the dog-leg … It will definitely include some sort of waiting box for cyclists.

Hackney wants to close Broadway Market to traffic too

Broadway Market, in purple, is the missing link in Hackney's traffic free route - from Google maps

Broadway Market, in purple, is the missing link in Hackney’s traffic free route – from Google maps

If the aspiration, which has long been called for by Hackney Cyclists, came to fruition, when joined with existing traffic free sections, it would create a traffic free route all the way from Hackney Town Hall down to Hoxton.

In an ideal world, we’d be able to pedestrianize Broadway market as well, so there would be no traffic as well. Ideally you’d have this mile from the Town Hall back roads, through London Fields, Broadway Market, Goldsmiths Row, and we’d work with Tower Hamlets to improve the entrance onto where Columbia Road is.

Hackney is blocking Cycle Superhighway 1, and won’t accept segregation on the A10

TfL's plan for the Cycle Superhighways, showing their preferred route for CS1

TfL’s plan for the Cycle Superhighways, showing their preferred route for CS1

TfL want CS1 to go down the A10 – from Tottenham, through Stoke Newington, and Kingsland Road – but Hackney won’t have it. When asked whether CS1 would be going through Hackney, Demirci replied:

Oh no it’s not! Well, yes, it is supposed to go along the A10, but we are very resistant to really bad cycle infrastructure. We don’t want just a strip of blue paint going down A10 on a stretch of road where a part of it is a gyratory. The biggest problem for cyclists at the moment is the one-way. The plan was to have a gyratory cycle superhighway, which benefits no-one.

When pressed on whether the council would accept a properly segregated lane, Demirci said there wasn’t enough space for one without sacrificing too much of the bus lanes and footway.

The problem is until you remove the gyratory along it there is no [point in a segregated lane]. Also along the end quite a lot of it is very narrow so you’d be taking quite a lot of the footpaths, and they’re red routes, so the bus lanes.

Hackney wants a quietway running parallel to the A10 instead of CS1

The A10 runs north-south, covering Kingsland Road and Stoke Newington Road. Is a parallel quietway possible? - from Google Maps

The A10 runs north-south, covering Kingsland Road and Stoke Newington Road. Is a sensible parallel quietway possible? – from Google Maps

What route it would take is yet to be decided – have a look at the map of the streets around the A10 for possible options.

We are discussing a quietway – it’s parallel to the A10 along the backstreets. All two-way.

For the A10 itself, Hackney sees a 20mph speed limit as a solution for cyclists

A trial for a 20mph limit in the City could be extended north through Hackney.

The A10 is obviously a very direct route, and if it was safer it would be better. So what we’re talking about with TfL is putting in 20mph on that route. They’re going to trial 20mph on parts of the A10 in the City and only last week I met up with them to talk about extending that trial and maybe looking at the bits of the A10 in Hackney, so maybe we can extend it all the way through Hackney.

The council says there isn’t space for segregated cycle infrastructure in Hackney

Stoke Newington Road, where Hackney is blocking Cycle Superhighway 1.

Stoke Newington Road, where Hackney is blocking Cycle Superhighway 1 – Image from Google Streetview

Demirci says segregation is better suited to outer London’s dual carriageways.

What we like to do in most of the areas is do everything else you can do to improve cycling there, because segregation is very costly, and you can’t put it everywhere. It’s not possible to have segregation everywhere.

Segregation [may be okay] in the outer-London boroughs, where they’ve got massive amounts of space around dual carriageways, but in a borough like Hackney that is very densely built up and tight, there just isn’t the space.

Lea Bridge Road may be getting a segregated cycle lane

Image from Google Maps

Image from Google Maps

Hackney might cooperate with a neighbouring council to build a segregated lane on the main road connecting Clapton with southern Walthamstow.

We’re talking to Waltham Forest because they want to have a segregated cycle lane along the Lea Bridge road along to Hackney. So that could be an area where you could have segregation.

I think segregation, is a tool in a box that anyone could use if other things aren’t available.

There will be no new car parking in Hackney, and much is being removed for bike parking

The council is removing car parking to improve safety, and replacing it with on-carriageway cycle parking.

We’re not actively going to be trying to create more parking spaces. What we’re also doing at the moment is putting cycle parking on carriageway, so we’re removing car parking space and replacing it with cycle parking. So yes, actively, to benefit our residents, to improve safety, to make it feel and look nicer, we are actually taking away some parking.

Having controlled parking, reducing parking along the roads, freeing up the roads, is a great way of improving cycling. Wherever we can we try to remove car ownership and encourage people to actually make that… actually, we take away their ability to own cars.

Hackney is putting cycle parking on all of its housing estates

Car garages units are being retrofitted as car use in the borough falls away.

We think our estates need [more cycle parking] because units are very small, social housing, there’s not enough space for people to park their bikes. We’ve been retrofitting some of the garages with cycle parking, we’ve put in stand alone parking, we’re putting in more. That’s my aim for estates at the moment, we’re doing them all.

The council wants Boris bikes in Hackney Central and Dalston

They currently stop around the Regent’s Canal, but Transport for London aren’t likely to extend the scheme any time soon.

We would like [Boris Bikes] to come further into Hackney Central. We’ve pushed it as far as we can. I would like it extended to Dalston, that’s another growth town centre for us, so yes, we would like that extension. I don’t think they are extending it at the moment, and only if boroughs are able to pay for it themselves.

The council wants to replace Old Street roundabout with a crossroads

Hackney Cyclists proposed the crossroads idea late last year.

Hackney Cyclists proposed the crossroads idea late last year – image from Hackney Cyclists

It may not be technically possible, however.

We are still talking to TfL: in an ideal world we’d want [Old Street roundabout] to become a crossroads. There are proposals to remove the roundabout – what ends up in place of it is very important, there are discussions still ongoing. … It might not be possible: there are issues with the weight of the slab on top of the station, how much it can carry.

TfL thought Hackney’s cycling targets were too ambitious

Even though the targets were below what it had already achieved.

We have quite ambitious targets for cycling and I remember when we had to respond to Boris’s transport strategy in 2011 and when we sent in cycling targets, we were sent them back saying ‘Hah, can you be a bit more realistic please, this is ridiculous’. And then when the census came out it transpired that we were way above what our targets were at the time.

Hackney thinks Camden’s Royal College Street tracks cause conflicts

The bus stops and segregated cycle tracks on Royal College Street cause conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists, Demirci says.

It’s a good scheme for Camden, but I think my problem with that, from the videos and things I’ve seen about it, is when people step into the road to get into the bus. It’s just creating an additional conflict; and for us in terms of priority, pedestrians are above cyclists, and cyclists are still a vehicle, even if it’s not motorised. We don’t want to create an environment which is unpleasant for people to walk.

Hackney is launching a new cycling strategy in the next few months

The strategy will be released as part of a general transport plan – keep your eyes peeled.

We’re in the process of finalising [our cycling strategy] and we will probably be launching it in a couple of months time. That will have our vision for the next ten years in terms of cycling.

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24 Responses to Hackney’s cycling boss interviewed: 15 new things we learned about the future of cycling in the borough

  1. Andrew 20/02/2014 at 10:22 am #

    Interesting point on Royal College Street, I was pretty surprised when I rode up there the first time after the works to discover they’d managed to combine the cycle lane with the queuing area for the bus.

    To be fair I’ve not had any problems with it but that’s mainly because I only go up there late in the evening and there’s never been a bus coming at the same time.

  2. Rostopher 20/02/2014 at 11:17 am #

    This seems a bit one-eyed from Hackney. Yes, some of their traffic-closure schemes have been very successful (I love the bit around De Beauvoir) but that seems to have gone to their heads and now that is the only solution they can see. I guess its the same with Camden who are so evangelical about their one streeet with armadillos.

    Still, good news that they will consider separate space of the Lea Bridge Road – a big step forward for a man who once dismissed such stuff as “trip hazards”

    RE: Royal College St, that works because its a rare bus and not particularly well used stop by London standards. For somewhere busier (like the A10), you’d need the space for bus bypasses (which you have for much of the A10 route…)

    • Robbi 20/02/2014 at 5:38 pm #

      I agree, closing Goldsmiths Road has increased traffic on other roads, namely Pritchards Road. Closures may help cyclists traverse and area but it actually negatively impacts on people in live on the roads that suffer the dispersal of traffic.

      • MJ Ray 21/02/2014 at 11:49 am #

        Last time I rode in Hackney, heading roughly south/south-east, the right turn from Whiston Road into Goldsmiths Row seemed to be prohibited. I dismounted and wheeled across but I curse the council every time I have to do stuff like that. I had no idea that Goldsmiths Row was thought to be good practice: if so, why has no-one at the council fixed that fault? If that’s good practice, I fear what they consider a compromise.

    • Fred 22/02/2014 at 6:20 pm #

      I agree – each borough seems to have one solution (or in many cases no solution) and they’re wedded to it. I think they should talk to each other more and at least consider all the options!

      Good news about Lea Bridge Road, the current pavement lane is a total joke it’s so narrow – if you use it you just end up occupying most of the pavement!

  3. Rostopher 20/02/2014 at 11:19 am #

    And apologies to Feryal Demirci. The “man” I referred to above was another Hackney councillor (can’t find the source now), not her.

  4. Liz 20/02/2014 at 1:20 pm #

    I think Hackney have rather missed the point in that closing a road to traffic (except pedestrians/bikes) *is* segregation – it’s separating people out by mode and in time, rather than in the traditional sense of a kerbed bike lane alongside cars.

    They’re still thinking about it in terms of getting bikes out of the way of cars, rather than the other way around, hence the reliance on backstreet quiet routes. Back streets are all well and good if you know the route well, but people will still want to travel on direct main roads to get through the borough, particularly if they don’t know the area. To me, it looks like there would be space on the A10 but it would mean losing parking spaces and possibly reducing the width of lanes.

    • Kie7077 21/02/2014 at 12:51 pm #

      Are you kidding me, are you saying you would rather be sharing the road with cars, Hackney’s solution is awesome, I cycle approx 8,000 miles a year round London’s streets, and it’s a rare and very welcome break to cycle anywhere without motor-vehicles.

      This is exactly the kind of thing London needs and if Hackney keeps doing this they will end up with cycling rates that Copenhagen envies.

      One of the benefits of this is less stopping at traffic lights, some of my commute is down Green Lanes and stopping at lights costs me several minutes everyday.

      Less stopping at lights means less sitting behind the increasing number of diesel vehicles spitting out PM2.5s etc.

      Not having to share the A10 means healthier lungs.

  5. WildNorthlands 20/02/2014 at 3:32 pm #

    I don’t think closing roads is quite the same thing as segregation. Closed roads tend to fill up with pedestrians who treat all the space as their own. You need to establish dedicated spaceforcyclists who want to get somewhere in a hurry.

    • Kie7077 21/02/2014 at 1:03 pm #

      That might happen in busy city areas with shops and cafes etc, but I don’t see it being a problem elsewhere.

      Quite frankly some of the responses on here today are baffling.

  6. Robbi 20/02/2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Hackney, although considerably better than Tower Hamlets (I live on the border) aren’t as good as they make out.

    Every day minicabs park illegally on Hackney’s double yellow lines on Hackney Road (Western end) yet Hackney don’t enforce it, despite it being reported to them numerous times. Seriously reduces the width of the carriageway and puts cyclists in danger.

    • richard 17/03/2014 at 3:20 pm #

      The border between Hackney and Tower Hamlets runs along much of Hackney Road, but the street is maintained by LB Tower Hamlets, which explains why it’s such a mess.

  7. Anthony 20/02/2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Royal College Street is not the flagship scheme it is cracked up to be. Too open to abuse by selfish motorists. Armadillos and pretty planters are not enough to stop this. Lots of the planters are damaged as are the armadillos at crucial spots, despite replacement. Glad Hackney are not following this approach unquestioningly. Need to stop messing about and allowing cars to dominate everywhere, most driving through to get to and from the suburbs anyway.

  8. Kristian 20/02/2014 at 8:32 pm #

    Fantastic interview Jon and brilliantly presented, really great blog piece.

    I met Feryal recently at the City of London cycle forum and had to completely agree about segregation being a tool. However, I at that meeting I didn’t get the end bit here:

    “I think segregation, is a tool in a box that anyone could use if other things aren’t available.”

    This is a shame, there shouldn’t be a tool hierarchy. Different tools for different jobs. If I need to screw something in, I use a screwdriver. If I need to hammer a nail in, I use a hammer. At no point would I claim “a hammer is a good tool to get this nail into place, but only if a screwdriver isn’t available”.

    It seems to me the A10 is exactly where you would use segregation as opposed to other tools. The comparison with the camden cycle tracks is completely unfair as the camden tracks are on very different roads that are nothing like the A10.

    I’m speculating that Feryal means that they aren’t willing to put in cycle tracks where they could have bus lanes. That is to say, accommodating cycling on the A10 is secondary to bus accommodation. If that’s the case then fair enough (we can agree to disagree?) but would be best to admit that rather than criticise the concept of protected space in general.

    However, it is course very promising that they are willing to support Waltham Forest’s plans for protected space and hope that following success here, they’ll revisit the prospect of protected space on the A10.

    • Kie7077 21/02/2014 at 1:07 pm #

      So given the choice between a nice cycle along a quite road and a road full of buses taxis, trucks, cars and even mopeds spitting out clouds of fumes, and having to avoid all of the “jay-walking” pedestrians, you’d prefer to be on the busy road.

      Eh?

      • MJ Ray 21/02/2014 at 2:29 pm #

        Quiet roads are quiet for a reason: usually because they’re considerably less direct and often give way when they cross other roads. In the case of the A10 through Hackney, the choice is roughly between 2.5 miles down the A10 and a stop-start 4 miles on current nearby cycle routes. That extra distance is even more annoying for pedal power than petrol power. The easier journey should go to the forms of transport that we wish to promote – not the private car in inner London.

  9. NickP 20/02/2014 at 11:05 pm #

    If they can extend the already separate space on Lea bridge road currently from Orient Way to
    the Princess of Wales pub that would a bonus.

  10. Kie7077 21/02/2014 at 11:07 am #

    Why stop there?

    http://goo.gl/maps/2gmOn

    2.5 miles

  11. Kie7077 21/02/2014 at 11:22 am #

    Love the idea of cycle-only roads though, BETTER THAN “GOING DUTCH” :-)

    20MPH – will that be enforced?

    I think it’s only a matter of time before the technology becomes so cheap, we could have mobile phone sized units attached to lamp posts with GPS for timing, cameras built in, catching people speeding through all of the back streets, speeding could be ended, it just needs political will.

    With this kind of technology, 10mph zones could be enforced for some residential areas, children could actually play on their local roads safely.

    • fred 21/02/2014 at 12:50 pm #

      cycle-only roads are part of ‘going dutch’. as are filtered permeability, and general traffic reduction..

      protected space is another part, and only necessary where motor traffic can’t be reduced to below 2,000pcu/ day…

  12. Kie7077 21/02/2014 at 11:37 am #

    “TfL thought Hackney’s cycling targets were too ambitious

    Even though the targets were below what it had already achieved.”

    These people have < zero vision, they need to be replaced, they can't see how much nicer London could be, they are stuck in their ways.

    Go for it Hackney, show us what can be done, some cycle routes can be created as easily as stopping through traffic with a couple of bits of pavement and some bollards (don't go nuts trying to stop mopeds from getting through, if cycles can fit through so can they, live with it.)

  13. MJ Ray 21/02/2014 at 11:43 am #

    It’s disappointing to read “in a borough like Hackney that is very densely built up and tight, there just isn’t the space” which is debunked in http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2008/08/but-our-streets-are-narrow.html – was there no opportunity to challenge this councillor’s proclamation of hopelessness?

  14. Kie7077 21/02/2014 at 1:45 pm #

    Why main roads are the worst place to cycle (zoom in)

    http://www.londonair.org.uk/london/asp/nowcast.asp?species=Combined&LayerStrength=75&lat=51.5008010864&lon=-0.124632000923&zoom=14

    Particulate matter (PM):

    Particulate pollution can harm the human respiratory and cardiovascular systems – it is inked to asthma and mortality.
    Research shows that particles with a diameter of ten microns and smaller (PM10) are likely to be inhaled deep into the respiratory tract.
    As smaller particles can penetrate deeper, the health impacts of PM2.5 are especially significant.

    Nitrogen dioxide (NO2):

    At high concentrations, NO2 causes inflammation of the airways.
    Long-term exposure can affect lung function and respiratory symptoms – it can also increase asthma symptoms.
    The health impacts of NO2 are less well understood than those of PM10, as less research has been undertaken in this area.

    Air pollution causes 29,000 early deaths a year in the UK and is linked to heart and respiratory diseases including asthma.

    from UK government failing legal duty on air pollution, supreme court rules

    (no preview, hope this looks ok)

  15. John Earl 22/02/2014 at 1:36 pm #

    Before Hackney Council does anything else they should improve the shocking condition of their roads as a matter of priority. Some of the potholes in bus lanes and near to the kerbs make the surface of the moon seem like an ice-rink and are downright dangerous.

    I’ve had several punctures and two buckled wheels due to riding through potholes that were unavoidable due to the sheer-weight of traffic immediately to my right. How long will it be before a cyclist hits a huge hole, causing them to fall off under the wheels of a HGV?

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