Leadership commitment rewarded on £30M east London project as UK cycling innovation is heralded by Transport Minister and Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner as the “cycling vision” for the future of urban Britain.
London Borough of Waltham Forest’s determination to deliver its controversial so-called Mini-Holland cycle friendly urban area makeover in Walthamstow Village, east London was rewarded at this week's first ever Cycle Planning Awards
The project scooped the Best innovation - use of technology or new technique category for its consultation work to achieve local support for the scheme – which was officially opened by Transport Minister Robert Goodwill this week – while Waltham Forest’s Councillor Clyde Loakes, deputy leader of the council walked away with the inaugural Cycling Champion of the Year award.
“The key to achieving this cycling scheme is not the engineering – it is all very simples stuff - but the political leadership that has been shown.” Andrew Gillian Mayor's cycling commissioner
Tackling congestion in the capital and improving safety, said Cycling Commissioner for London Andrew Gilligan, was best achieved through reducing demand for road space by offering a cycling alternative.
“That is why what has been started in Walthamstow is so profoundly important,” he said. “The key to achieving this cycling scheme is not the engineering – it is all very simples stuff - but the political leadership that has been shown.”
The Mini-Holland programme is part of the Mayor's Vision for Cycling to improve the Capital’s streets for cyclists and provide better facilities for pedestrians. Up to £100M has been earmarked for three boroughs - Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest - which bid for the money to help make areas as cycle-friendly as their Dutch equivalents.
Waltham Forest’s Walthamstow Village £30M scheme is a semi-segregated route along Lea Bridge Road and includes a range of measures to improve cycling in residential areas. This includes creation of what it describes as 'Hackney-style' cycle-friendly, low-traffic neighbourhoods and hopes to transform local cycling and encourage people to embrace the bicycle.
The first stage of the Waltham Forest delivery was a pilot scheme in Walthamstow Village to show people how their area could feel if non-local traffic was removed and how their day to day lives would be affected.
However, when this was trialled last year the radical scheme prompted outrage from local businesses concerned that they would lose passing business.
“The backing will soon become overwhelming. I predict that in a year or so those protester will look back at their over the top slogans with embarrassment.” Andrew Gilligan
Addressing the awards, the Mayor’s cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan acknowledged this controversy but highlighted Walthamstow Council’s commitment and the leadership to drive through with the scheme – a point recognised by the award of Cycling Champion of the Year to Councillor Clyde Loakes.
Gilligan highlighted that the opening of the Mini Holland project was a significant moment as it was the first scheme to be delivered in the Mayor’s cycling strategy.
“It is the day that we start to change London to reflect how its roads are actually used,” he said.
He pointed out that while most people in Walthamstow Village did not use cars, they dominated the road space adding that, as with all traffic schemes which remove road space, there were inevitably those who didn’t agree and had to be won over.
“We should not confuse noise with numbers,” he said of those still objecting to the scheme. “The backing will soon become overwhelming. I predict that in a year or so those protester will look back at their over the top slogans with embarrassment.”
Transport minister Robert Goodwill agree that it was vital to support cycling schemes to bosst the safety and convenience of cycling across the UK.
“Across the country people tell me that the reason they don’t cycle is that they don’t feel safe enough. For that reason we have decided to cycle proof the road network," Robert Goodwill, transport minister
“As competition for space on Britain’s roads increases it is becoming ever more crucial to find new and better ways to manage traffic, create capacity and improve safety,” said Goodwill. “Walthamstow Village scheme] is a great example of innovation and progress to wards making Britain more cycle friendly. Our priority in government is to provide the support and investment to drive the cycling revolution.”
He referred to the Tory manifesto promise to double the number of journeys made by bike and to invest over £200M to make cycling safer.
“A simply change in the way we travel offers massive benefits. It is crucial that we make it easier and more convenient for people to jump on their bikes,” he said.
“Across the country people tell me that the reason they don’t cycle is that they don’t feel safe enough. For that reason we have decided to cycle proof the road network,” he added. pointing to the new Cycling and Walking Strategies being prepared by the Department for Transport.