To: Chris Harrison, Mini Holland Programme Manager
Mini Holland - Comments on the trial
The Mini Holland (MH) concept is flawed as it does not recognise the way society operates in the 21st century. It is trying to emulate the 1950s without changing society back to the way it was then.
In the 1950s women were the housewives who everyday went food shopping and kept the clothes and homes clean. The men were out earning the money. When refrigerators became cheap enough for all to buy food could be stored for longer so it was no longer necessary to go shopping each day. As the economy picked up women were able to get jobs and washing machines gave them the freedom to work outside the home.
Cars were rarely seen but as people became more affluent they bought them and parked them in the street. Over the years the capacity of our roads has fallen by at least 50% due to the parked car. In the 1960s it was decided to boost the car even more by building motorways which undermined the railways which started to close on the recommendation of the 1963 Beeching Report.
The car has enabled people to travel far greater distances so many people will travel for an evening’s entertainment rather than pop round to their nearest pub or restaurant. This and the rise of the supermarket have changed the economics of a particular area.
With this background in mind my view of the trial of Mini Holland is as follows:
1. Unfair – it sets one community against another. Why should Walthamstow Village have a pedestrianised area and not Palmerston Road where the traffic is already removed due to the bridge works blocking the road?
2. Redistribution – all that has happened in the village is the through traffic has found an alternative route causing problems for other residents i.e. Grosvenor Park East.
3. Rat Runs – these don’t exist. The route through the village is the most direct route to Markhouse Road from Wood Street. The Markhouse Road area has many jobs and the staff have to get to work and if they cycle or use their cars the route through the village is the most sensible in time and distance terms.
4. Capacity – traffic is like water it will flow to fill the space available. If you close off a road the traffic will pop up somewhere else. As more and more of the back street roads are cut off the main arteries will be further clogged, making it impossible for public transport and essential services like plumbers, decorators and delivery firms to operate. This will be a disaster for local jobs.
5. Quiet – Orford Road now has no through traffic which means it has no visitors except for local residents. Once the euphoria of being able to play in the street has worn off and the winter sets in it will become a “ghost town” and the chances are it will become as depressed as Palmerston Road is now.
6. Road Safety – cyclists have become aware that cycling is in favour and they seem to have the perception they can take over the pavements thereby endangering pedestrians. My feeling is this attitude has arisen because of the passion to “reclaim the streets” which is at the heart of MH.
7. Road Discipline - While on my bike I nearly collided with a kid playing football on what I regard as the highway and not a playground. If we do not have a clear division between pavements and the road serious accidents will happen. Cyclists must be made to use the road and not the pavements. I even saw a skateboarder on Saturday skating down the middle of Fyfield Road which has to accommodate double decker buses! For my own safety when on my bike I will be avoiding Orford Road.
8. Whipps Cross Roundabout – this is a very attractive and important interface between the urban area and the forest. It will be extremely damaging to the area to remove the roundabout and replace it with a traffic light junction. The people in favour of MH seem to want to go back to a bygone era so why can’t we protect our attractive areas and not spoil them? There are already plenty of ways of getting across Woodford New Road so this is just wasting public money.
9. Lea Bridge Road – I think everyone has their doubts about how practical it will be to design a segregated cycle lane along the length of Lea Bridge Road. For many years it was almost impossible to get from one end to the other, but since the Clapton Roundabout was re-designed traffic flows much better, but the traffic exceeds its capacity. Tinkering with Lea Bridge Road is a dangerous gamble as it impacts on so many feeder roads. Even today Markhouse Road ground to a halt for a couple of hours due to blockages at the junction with Lea Bridge Road. From a cyclist’s point of view there are plenty of alternative parallel routes so there is no need to cycle along Lea Bridge Road.
10. Cycle Improvements – what is really needed is the existing cycle routes:
a. To be properly maintained and the drain covers replaced with the flat type that have been installed along Hoe Street. Most cycle lanes now need urgent repair.
b. The removal of the continuous speed hump of the type in Hatherley Road and Barrett Road. The one in Vestry Road is particularly dangerous for cycles.
c. Parked cars should be towed away and the council’s spy cars should not be allowed to park in cycle lanes.
d. The police need to have more of a presence on the streets to catch cyclists behaving badly. Most cyclists seem to have a suicidal instinct when it comes to traffic lights trying to cross busy junctions when the lights are red.
My views are formed by getting around the Borough by public transport, cycling and car driving. It is clear to me that if you reduce the road network by closing off streets the main arteries get clogged up. For example Hoe Street has been clogged for months because it has had to carry the traffic from Palmerston Road. Pedestrianising Orford Road simply makes other areas less attractive and may even destroy the businesses that make the village!