The local police safer neighbourhood team were out on my commute home tonight warning cyclists about breaking the law on Victoria Park Road. They seemed to accept, though, that Hackney Council’s failure to provide safe lanes on an important cycling route was causing scores of cyclists to either put themselves in danger or conflict with pedestrians on the (also inadequate) pavements. I’m also hopeful from my chat with the SNT officer that the police in Hackney are actually already advocating for better infrastructure.
There is a busy eastbound cycle route on Hackney’s southern border. The safest ways to get from the City to anywhere in or beyond northeast Hackney pass through or around Victoria Park. One such route skirts the north of the the park, then diffuses as it hits Well Street Common. It’s always busy, and in the few minutes I was there talking to the police more than a dozen riders passed.
The problem is that the people planning the transport infrastructure did not prioritise the cycle route – so it is broken for one stupid moment by a one-way street.
Victoria Park Rd is part of the Hackney Wick racetrack circuit: traffic here routinely breaks the speed limit. We can see that, because the council did helpfully provide those warning signs that flash on when cars are going too fast – and they come on for almost every car. How many? We’ll never know, because Hackney Council would apparently rather not think about it, let alone do anything.
On the north side, the pavement is both narrow and fenced off with railings; on the south side there is a bus shelter. Even if you walked your bike here you would come into conflict with pedestrians.
The road is wide enough here for a short contraflow cycle path, just linking up the two parts of the route. Instead, the lack of thought by the council is just asking for cyclists to risk putting themselves at danger by rushing the wrong way up an unregulated road of speeding traffic, or to annoy pedestrians on a narrow, crooked, fenced-off pavement.
This wouldn’t be a particularly difficult fix, especially compared with the killer junctions that still dot the borough, so the failure to do anything about it is just symptomatic of the lack of real attention given to cycling under Mayor Jules Pipe’s leadership. But the local SNT, and apparently also the local Labour councillors, do believe that the community safety issue here is the cyclists who are put at danger by bad traffic planning, not the risk to the abstract integrity of the one-way system from forty yards of cyclists being encouraged to break the law.