The ‘Mini-Holland’ projects are probably nothing new to many of us London cyclists. Going Dutch is supposed to fix all of our cycling woes and the place where the revolution begins is London.
What is very interesting is the variation in the interpretations of what ‘Holland-izing’ London would look like. Each borough (Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest) is taking a very different approach to the idea of creating a ‘mini-Holland’. These differences seem to reflect differences within the wider general public about how to approach basic aims such as getting people more active, reducing traffic and reducing air pollution.
The plans do show that the general feeling is that a primary achievement in countries such has Holland has been to reject the automatic assumption that roads are for cars first and foremost. In cities it is often quicker to complete a journey on foot or by bike. This is as true of travel within neighborhoods in the outer boroughs of London as it is in the city proper.
Popping down to the shops for a few things can be accomplished by foot, but might be quicker by bike. However, this will only be true if you can easily access your bike and know you can lock it up outside the shop.
Neighborhoods are where children learn to ride bikes and can fall in love with riding. Providing proper infrastructure will enable this and hopefully make it seem like a bike is an obvious form of transport. This is something I had growing up and I am infinitely grateful for it.
On the whole it seems that each of the three projects has goals to satisfy most people who want to ride a bike:
- Major roads used by cyclists and pedestrians will become more friendly with segregate lanes and/or proper space provision
- Smaller roads will be linked and marked to create quite ways for families and commuters to enable more local journeys by bike
- More bike racks in shopping areas and on residential streets so you can have a bike regardless of dwelling size and know there will be somewhere to lock it when you arrive at your destination
There is currently one consultancy open in the Enfield project, with 4 more opening in the coming months. They seem to be the borough that is doing most to introduce more people to get people on bikes and making resources available to get people into cycling. They have some cycle routes in place previously and are intending to build on these, particularly around the Lee Valley paths.
Enfield seem to be putting particular focus on the resources available to people in the borough, such as one-to-one training, long term, cheap, bike hire and classes. They are partly focusing on efforts to encourage more people to become confident cyclists, whether for leisure or commuting.
This seems to be the least developed of the schemes. The big news from them seems to be 1300m of ‘innovative’ cycle lane to be put in at a cost of £3 million. They have some plans online and have undertaken some consultancy. It is also proposing a short floating cycles-only board walk along the river, which will be nice for families if nothing else.
The main focus of this scheme however seems to be to connect residential areas to the center for train connections. The impetuous is to get people to be able to access the center of Kingston. However there is nothing about bike rack provisioning.
The works in Waltham Forest are fairly well developed already, with a trial area just completed in Walthamstow village which officially opened this week and has already won awards. Their plans aim to improve infrastructure for both cycling and walking, with a focus on generally getting people out of cars and public transport. There are plans for cycle storage in residential and commercial areas.
There are also plans to improve cycle lanes along some of the main commuter routes into and out of the borough, such as Lea Bridge Road. There is ongoing consultancy for major proposals, and they seem to have gathered quite a lot of data about how people use the roads in the borough.
What about everyone else?
I assume that part of the point of these projects is to show what can and should be done to increase bike usage. By allowing boroughs to make their own plans based on consultation it should mean better infrastructure that works on the roads in question.
The real benefit to people who live in other boroughs is if these projects are successful, they will provide templates for what can be done. A big problem with some of the efforts in London thus far has been planning and applicability to the roads. It is all well and good to say we need to be like Holland, but what does that look like in London? Hopefully these three boroughs will start giving actual indications of what can and should be done. Or shouldn’t. We shall see.
Pace of development of course is a problem. We want people on bikes, now, now, now, but changing roads takes time. Work is projected to be complete on all projects sometime in 2017. If we are taking a wait and see approach to these plans, then its looking like another 5 or so years before things are in place in other boroughs, money issues aside.
Of course, not everyone is happy about changes to roads, as was seen at the Walthamstow launch on Monday, with anti-cycles demonstrators protesting road closures for cars. There are always two sides to things and obviously we are on the side of safe encouraging cycling spaces.
Quibbles aside, these ‘Mini-Holland’ projects are good. It is easy to sit back and nit-pick, but sometimes you just have to get stuck in and at least try something. Hopefully they will work out. At London Cyclist we shall revisit these projects when they are further along.
If you do live in one of these boroughs, let us know what you think. Will these changes help you? Are they doing the right things? What would you like to see improved in your local area?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.