Thursday, 24 March 2016

London Fields 'Quietway' causes massive local row

If you've been approached recently by cycle campaigners on-line, or on Broadway Market and Queensbridge Road,  you will be aware of the traffic planning scheme to install 13 road blocks in the London Fields area and to create, as its centerpiece, a cyclists Quietway along Middleton Road. You might also have seen local residents arguing with the cycle campaigners and read the recent story in the Hackney Citizen. The planned TfL Quietway has turned into a massive local row.

This map is a snapshot of annual mean air pollution in the London Fields area based on 2010 data. The red and orange corridors show that Mare Street, Richmond Road and Queensbridge Road exceeded the World Health Organisation's, and the EU Directive limit for safe air , namely  40ug/m3 for  nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - a poisonous and  carcinogenic gas produced by vehicles.

The new Quiteway cycle routes are part of  the GLA Mayor's policies, and Transport for London's plans, to promote cycling and discourage driving in London which in some places, frequently, suffer from the highest level of air pollution of any world city. It is estimated that at least 9,000 Londoners suffer early deaths every year from air pollution.

Research has shown that children exposed to air pollution are the most vulnerable to intellectual and physical detriments including higher incidences of asthma and other chronic diseases like strokes, heart disease and cancer.

But the massive local row isn't between car owners and cyclists, nor about the lifetime illnesses which traffic pollution causes. No one wants fume filled streets. The row is about the transparency of the traffic planning process and whether construction of up to 13 roadblocks will make a bad thing even worse.

The TfL Quietway2 route includes a cycle path crossing the middle of London Fields and along Middleton Road

The general public first became aware of TfLs plans, for the construction of the Wathamstow to Bloomsbury Cycle Quietway route, from a press release in December 2014. TfLs agent, Sustrans, had been working with local Council's  and the London Cycling Campaign for over a year previously on the plans. Sustrans were later awarded the 3 year contract, after OJEC public advertisement,  to implement the Quietways.

TfL publically states that Quietway route consultations will be carried out by Council's locally. But Hackney's consultation is not about the route.  Local residents and park users are not being consulted about the the carve up through London Fields (already used by up to 4,000 cyclists per day) and whether it should run along Middleton Road. Hackney Consultation is limited to whether to instal up to thirteen road blocks around the Middleton Road route.

"Just tell them its common land and so we can do whatever we want with it"

London Fields is common land, also called Lammas Land, like the lands that were requisitioned by the GLA for the London 2012 Olympics. London's common land is protected by the Metropolitan Commons Act 1866. The Bye Laws for Hackney's public open spaces forbid cycling and building structures on them without express Council permission. The exclusion of the commoners from any part of the common land would first require a local inquiry by the Secretary of State.

Hackney's consultation presents a number of Options.  Option 1 proposes thirteen roadblocks, and two bus gates, which divide the area into 3 'cells', which preclude through traffic crossing the area, but enables local residents to have access via a limited number of entry/exit points. This option is opposed by four local residents' associations but supported by TfL and the Council. Cycle campaigners argue roadblocks are needed to ensure a safe Quietway route for cyclists of all abilities along Middleton Road .

Such was Hackney's enthusiasm to be one of the first London Councils to have a Quietway, it decided to immediately implement all thirteen roadblocks, and divide London Fields, as a "trial". Without any public consultation at all. There were red faces all round and an embarrassing climb down when the Council was faced with democratic outrage.

Unless drivers switch to other modes of transport (walking, cycling buses etc) the Option1 roadblocks will inevitably increase the distances travelled by local and through traffic to reach their destinations, and so increase air pollution generally.

This illustration was produced by the Mapledene Area Residents Association to highlight its concerns, regarding increased air pollution, and increased cycle traffic across the London Fields common land. It recommends Option 4  -  width restriction on Middleton Road to stop HGVs using it.

Another effect of the roadblocks will be to concentrate traffic, and its pollution, by pushing significantly more vehicles onto unrestricted roads, particularly Richmond and Queensbridge Roads which are not only already the most polluted roads locally but also where many schools and nurseries are situated.

You can read the Council's documents and make your views known to them about the London Fields scheme here.  NOTE: public consultation closes at midnight Easter Sunday 27th March 2016.

The Council's consultation does not suggest any Quietway route except Middleton Road, although Albion Drive already has about 50% less traffic than the minimum for a Quietway, whilst Middleton Road has about 100% more. Hence the need for 13 roadblocks to make a safe Middleton Quietway possible - which is the route already upon decided by the authorities. 

Public transport money could perhaps be better targeted at reducing air pollution where there are the highest concentrations of Hackney inner-city children ie around schools and housing estates. Targeted schemes are being tried in other cities

It wont be the first time that TfL and Hackney Council have decided that the most expensive, and least beneficial transport scheme is the one that's good for us. Ed)


  1. A disappointingly one sided post. There is massive local support for the scheme as well as vocal opposition. Local residents in support of the scheme (not cycle campaigners – locals who live within or at the boundaries of the scheme), have knocked on nearly a thousand doors to raise awareness of the scheme. Households have been 2:1 in favour.

    The beauty of Option 1 is that it’s not just for cyclists (the other options would also improve conditions for cycling on the Quietway, to varying degrees) but for all residents. The other filters are not about making Middleton Road a Quietway – they are about creating a network of safe and quiet streets, and creating the environment conducive to active travel options throughout the area.

    Your point about the park seems confused. There are no changes within the park, apart from widening the path by 50cm and measures to slow down people on bikes. No commoner is being excluded, and the park isn’t being carved up in any way. You seem to be objecting to the Maurice Hope route, which has long been a cycle route through the park and onto Middleton Road. The route was named in the 1970s after a Hackney-based boxer, so your objection is at least 40 years late.

    It is also misleading to say that distances travelled will increase. Some individual journeys will increase in distance, but the overall distance travelled by polluting traffic will decrease with the reduced total motor traffic, so overall pollution will decrease due to the proposed scheme.

    Option 1 would help tackle two major problems in Hackney – clean air and childhood obesity. I’d be interested to know how you propose to spend the (comparative) very little money to achieve a bigger outcome. Any scheme that I can imagine that would achieve meaningful pollution reduction would be much bigger and more controversial – for example, banning diesel in the city/borough or introducing a Hackney road charge. Sure, let’s start that discussion, but let’s not neglect other improvements in the meantime.

    1. It's obvious that if you close roads traffic has to take longer routes, significantly increasing pollution. Your claim that overall pollution will actually reduce relies on sufficient drivers giving up in favour of walking, bikes and public transport. A noble thought, but contradicted by conventional traffic science and numerous empirical studies. I wonder this was explained to the local residents persuaded by your arguments. The campaigners leaflets which I have seen simply claim that traffic wont be displaced onto other roads but magically disappear.

    2. Yes, the healthy choice is for kids to walk to school rather than take the car. But the roadblock scheme makes pollution worse around our schools. Why not target reduction there instead?

    3. Your suggestion of no change to London Fields is either naive or disingenuous. The official endorsement, publicity, signposting, resurfacing etc of a new TfL Quietway for cyclists across our common land is intended and bound to significantly increase its cycle traffic. To suggest that, because some cyclists already used it, commoners are 40 years too late to be entitled to consultation on this development is arrogant. We are still a democracy you know!

    4. Garmon - I absolutely love your description of the 13 roadblock scheme as "creating the environment conducive to active travel options throughout the area." Do you write that sort of stuff for living?

  2. As usual, the same few cycle campaigners fudge the issue, just as last year they over-stated the actual numbers of vehicles on Middleton Road by 50% to bolster their "fume-free" cause.

    To dismantle Garmon's objections to a good and very fair article:


    Garmon unsurprisingly massively overstates the local support for the Option 1 road closures scheme. The Mapledene Area Residents Association (MARA) have canvassed far more widely within the affected area, knocking on several thousand doors and we see over 8 to 1 opposition to Option 1 locally. Perhaps the cycle campaigners are not knocking on the right doors...

    As it happens, car ownership in Hackney is suprisingly low - about 35% - and cycle use is high. Indeed, I've been riding bicycles in London since before Garmon was a twinkle in his parents' eye, along with many local cyclists who don't support Option 1. So - there is no massive local support for Option 1 - because it doesn't help cyclists. It doesn't deal with the dangerous junction of Middleton and Queensbridge Rds and it creates an accident blackspot on the bizarre 4-way diagonal junction proposed for Middleton and Malvern Rds.


    Despite Garmon's blandishments about "all residents", the entire Option 1 scheme is a fanciful edifice built on the back of the Cycle Quietway 2, funded by Transport for London. These are funds for a quiet cyle route clearly being hijacked to pursue a wider agenda of sealing off areas against vehicle use. Without arguing the merits of such an agenda, imposing closed "cells" of streets on a local neighbourhood with no consultation (until their intentions were uncovered and one demanded) and no modelling of the impact of traffic displacement on already congested surrounding streets (because it was "to expensive") is undemocratic and frankly immoral.


    London Fields Park is a park first and foremost, not a cycle path. The north-south segregated cycle path from Martello Street down to the top of Broadway Market already carries almost 4000 cycles a day on weekdays. Far fewer traverse the park east to west - but this will increase substantially when the Cycleway is advertised widely and as cycle use in London continues to rise. And the Cycleway is not a "local" route - it stretches all the way from Walthamstow to Bloomsbury.

    This is already a significantly high level of cycling in the park. Applying a hypothetical increase with the addition of the Quietway 2 users and an increase of at least 50% in cycle numbers, the park would see well over 5000 cyclists a day; good from an environmental point of view, not so good from a pedestrian and park users' safety point of view.

    And here's the real issue. The current cycle route goes down the very eastern edge of the park from Martello St to the top of Broadway Market and most of the time has a relatively small impacts on park users. It crosses 2 paths into the park from the east, and passes the south children's playground and in off peak times it's quiet. So that apart from parents or child minders having to be careful about passing cycles while entering or leaving the playground, it’s not that bad.

    But the Quietway 2 goes right across the middle of the park – it cuts the park in half. Once the Quietway 2 is open and publicised and as cycle use increases, no one seems to have thought about the impact on park users. On a busy summer day with park users, children of all ages and toddlers on the loose, people with pet dogs, all trying to cross this busy cycle path, that stretches east to west right across the centre of the park, it is a recipe for collisions and confrontations.


  3. [continued]

    As Mike Martin of the London Fields User Group says:

    "This is yet another result of this scheme devised by “experts” and total failing to properly consult with local people of Hackney. No one has ever consulted the London Fields User Group and their park users. The impact of this route on the park is not included in the current traffic management consultation. While Hackney Streetscene admitted that they just took the old London Cycle Network route because it was the most direct.

    I wonder what the tens of thousands of people, Hackney residents and far beyond, who love London Fields as a park will make of having to negotiate a busy cycle route whenever they walk up and down the park? Nobody has asked them.

    And if the projected cycle use of the Quietway is so low that it will not impact park users at all, why on earth does the Quietway 2 going west down Middleton Road towards de Beauvoir need hundreds of thousands of pounds of road closures, with resulting increased pollution and traffic on surrounding roads like Richmond Road and Queensbridge Road?"


    These depend entirely, as Garmon rightly states, on the level of reduction in overall traffic. For traffic to actually reduce in the area affected by Option 1's road restrictions and closures, we would have to see a massive decrease not just in local car use, but in through traffic. Wishful thinking will not make that happen - but doing Option 1 will absolutely push significant increased traffic onto Queensbridge, Richmond, Whiston Rds and Laburnum St - right past all the areas schools and nurseries. Who is being misleading?


    Without Garmon's mythically large reduction in traffic, Option 1 will drive traffic onto already busy surrounding streets and add congestion and pollution - so it only makes clean air for a few lucky people inside the closed off area and dumps more bad air on their neighbours. Children walking and cycling to school is great for tackling obesity if they can do it without filling their lungs full of particulates and poison. Not very community-minded, but then the cycle campaigners don't really seem to care about community. In a recent conversation with a local resident, a cycling "activist" called local residents "NIMBies and the Little People". Thanks for that. And Hackney Cycle Campaign are openly encouraging their friends right across London and beyond to flood a local council consultation that clearly and categorically states "for residents and businesses" in favour of a scheme with loca implications they can't possibly understand.

    If Garmon and his activists friends in Hackney Cycle Campaign and Living Streets and Fume Free Streets - and indeed those in Hackney Council who support them - want a meaningful discussion, perhaps they should stop deciding what is good for little local people and trying to impose their causes on them without meaningful discussion? Just a thought.

  4. Hello - I wish Garmon could see my notes on the last fifteen hours I have devoted to knocking on doors in LF area and speaking with people about these plans - several hundred tenants and residents canvassed and very few Option 1 supporters. A puzzle why he is citing such different results! Last weekend in a street of 70 houses, I spoke with 30 householders, of whom 2 supported Option 1.

    This was less of a surprise to me as I read a comment by one of the leading proponents of the scheme that there is huge opposition to it in the area - which in my experience, is correct - and in that of other neighbours all round the area.

    Why is there so much opposition to the scheme? Could it be because the displacement of traffic onto Richmond Road and Queensbridge Road will be significant? Could it be that Richmond Road and Queensbridge Road, among others, already have MASSIVELY more traffic than Middleton Road, which is supposed to be closed under Option 1? How about the new rat runs which the scheme creates in formerly quiet streets? And what about the chances of much greater pollution near schools as a result of displacement from Middleton and other streets following the closure of a dozen or more junctions?

    It may have escaped Garmon's notice that car ownership and use in our area is below average for London. Many of us walk or cycle - keeping an eye on our obesity and that of our kids. From a cycling point of view, Malvern Road looks like absolute hell to me if Option 1 is installed.

    Can we look at where the real problems are, rather than trying to push this scheme through in an ill-considered way?

  5. A very accurate post from Open Dalston. Local people have been canvassing the area for weeks and there is nearly unanimous horror at the proposals. A very small number of people came up with this unpopular damaging scheme. No schools were considered or consulted and the existing traffic problems on other local roads were ignored.
    It is evident in the campaigning and in the above post that lies are considered ok - it was very misleading originally to exaggerate the amount of traffic on Middleton Road at between 6-8,000 cars a day for example. It is also misleading to say there will be a reduction in traffic and pollution - nearly all of the roads apart from 1 will not see a reduction in traffic as they are completely quiet - several already busy and dangerous roads will however see a significant increase in traffic as a result. These roads are near our schools, nurseries and the park, and so unfortunately the scheme proposed will not help clean air or childhood obesity - but perhaps Garmon thinks damaging children's health and safety is beautiful?


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