I should say straight away that I have nothing against cyclists. No, most seem to be well-adjusted, friendly sort of chaps and chapettes with an inexplicable death wish. I mean sharing a crowded road with boy racers, frantic mums with kids on board, taxi drivers with tunnel vision and sundry high-speed blocks of steel and plastic doesn’t, to me, appear to be a strategy for longevity.
I don’t cycle: can’t would be nearer the truth. I did experiment with a bike when we first moved to Walthamstow. Gentle rides over Walthamstow Marshes were cut short when I found myself asking strangers I ran into for directions to St James’s Street.
Shopping trips to Tesco’s at Bakers Arms were more productive. Armed with a rucksack the weekly shop was a great adventure. I was instantly recognizable: a French loaf sticking out above my head as I pedaled manfully up Hoe Street. This, however, did not last long. Punctures, slipped chains, greased up and torn trousers soon dampened my enthusiasm. Oh, and my inability to stay vertical for any length of time.
No, my admiration for cyclists knows no bounds. So when I heard of Waltham Forest’s success in securing monies for the Mini – Holland project I was intrigued. Although I had to admit I was unclear why our Council was going into the bulb growing business.
Having been put right on that matter by a very knowledgeable resident, I attended the many Council briefings on the scheme. It did look impressive: lovely town planners’ drawings with clear streets and happy people gamboling in roads with masses of newly planted trees. Cyclists waving to passing pedestrians as they sped on their way unimpeded by dangerous, noisy, polluting, demonic internal combustion engines. Happy motorists at expansive road junctions smiling contentedly as they wait patiently for the lights to change knowing they won’t have to scrape another cyclist off the tarmac.
No wonder the Council officials who’d put together Waltham Forest’s successful bid were evangelistic about Mini Holland. We were all swept along by their enthusiasm.
A pilot. Absolutely. A toe in the water to see how the scheme works out. Great way to find out the strengths and weaknesses of what’s proposed. A mini “Mini Holland” so to speak.
The Village was an obvious choice. Orford Road, the King’s Road of north east London would be transformed. Diners would nosh their Ottolenghi styled pulled mutton without the addition of carbon particulates. Mums with 4x4 baby buggies could block the pavement without unduly inconveniencing old people with Zimmer frames. Estates 17’s frontage would no longer vibrate as large delivery lorries churned up the road giving prospective house hunters an undistorted view of the “silly prices” being paid for property in the area.
Quite simply, a pilot scheme, for a couple of weeks, centred on Orford Road and the village, was the ideal approach.
It came as some surprise therefore to discover, via Twitter, that “Stow’s chattering classes did not unanimously welcome this “toe in the water”. It would appear, according to the many complainants on Twitter, that the Village’s quietude and car free idyll was bought at the cost of gridlock in the surrounding streets. Roads previously blissfully unaware of Walthamstow’s reputation as a testing ground for aspirant FI drivers found themselves on the rat run from Hell.
Some have unkindly suggested that the Council were hoodwinked by the Mayor of London into running a trail for London’s bid for a FI circuit thinly disguised a traffic calming, cycle friendly measure. Such has been the clamour that our delightful MP Ms. Creasy has written to the Council seeking clarification on a number of issues surrounding the construction of Walthamstow’s challenge to Silverstone.
I make no comment on the trial, other than to observe that our road is eerily traffic free. I’m told that it’s because all the cars that once used our street as a go cart track are now to be found stuck in some never ending traffic jam a stone’s throw from the delightfully peaceful village square.