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Saturday, 5 February 2011

Crap Cycling Infrastructure in Waltham Forest

Yesterday I took a trip through Waltham Forest in outer London on the 56 bus. It was interesting to see some of the places previously featured on Crap Walking & Cycling in Waltham Forest. 

The cycling infrastructure I saw wasn't a unique feature of Waltham Forest, practically every town in the UK has a few cycling facilities tacked onto the road somewhere, many of them terrible. What seemed to make Waltham Forest special was the sheer quantity of disastrous cycle infrastructure, combined with busy roads featuring an unusually huge level of on-street parking. The main road we travelled down could easily accommodate Dutch-style bicycle infrastructure if the space wasn't being wasted on free parking for pimps. Even the vehicular cycling environment could be improved no end by removing the on-street parking.

A view from the bus, which I believe many have been legally travelling in the advisory cycle lane at the time

A legally parked car obstructing the cycle lane. Interestingly this is positioned just a few short metres away from the corner of the main road

 There is a reasonably good quality piece of segregated infrastructure here, which ends at a set of lights, without providing any cyclist using it with any way of safely rejoining the rest of the traffic.

There must be a whole 0.7 m width of high-quality cycle lane right there.

Another on-road cycle lane well below the absolute minimum width, conveniently situated next to those pedestrian cattle fences which facilitate the crushing to death of cyclists by HGV drivers. Floral memorials have been provided by the council in advance

There is a lot of attempts at infrastructure for cyclists to use in Waltham Forest. I chose that wording carefully, because I don't feel that any of it is actually for cyclists themselves, more that it is for the benefit of motorists who want to get cyclists out of the way. None of the infrastructure I saw could have honestly been designed by anyone who ever actually rides a bike. The sad thing is, that the small pockets-like structure of the community and commercial centres which exist in many of the outer London boroughs are structured in a way that cycling really should be the easiest and best way to get around in them. As things are, I can see why as few as 0.8% of journeys in Waltham Forest are actually made by bike.


On Saturday I was able to experience the crap cycling infrastructure of Waltham Forest first hand, as I passed through on my way to Paddington. The poor quality cycle-specific infrastructure was confusing at points, but at least largely ignorable. The factor which I felt endangered me the most was that not only are the bus/bike/taxi lanes here time-limited, during their off hours, parking is allowed in the bus lane. The net result of this is that cyclists are forced into the door-zone of these parked cars by the sheer volume of private motor traffic in the remaining lane. It would improve cycling conditions if the time restriction on the bus/bike/taxi lanes was scrapped altogether, or at least if they were in line with the bus lanes I have seen elsewhere in the UK and had double-yellow lines to prevent legal parking in them during off-peak hours.

The ride also took me through the Borough of Hackney, which whilst still very far from ideal for cycling was still a marked improvement in most respects.


  1. There's no way you'd even get a 'normal' cyclist down one of those bike lanes (By normal I mean sans lycra/carbon fiber). Especially with one or two panniers on. Ridonkulous.

  2. walthamize the planet, and have a nice day

  3. How did cyclist-shredders become such common infrastructure in England? The don't look substantial enough to protect people from cars, so I assume that their primary function is to herd pedestrians. Have you considered the judicious application of thermite?

  4. @dr2chase

    The cyclist shredders are surprisingly common. Their main function is to prevent pedestrians crossing the road except at allocated points, to facilitate motorists not really paying attention whilst driving. The shredding of cyclists is just a by-product.

    @Suzi Q

    The area has a lot of potential for cycling. The infrastructure ensures that the potential remains un-realised.


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