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TOPIC: Cycling in Enfield - the view from the saddle - Episode 1

Cycling in Enfield - the view from the saddle - Episode 1
14 Feb 2016 10:20 #2010

Tom Mellor Tom Mellor's Avatar
I may be entitled, but it cannot be denied that unless cycling infrastructure is built on main roads we will be stuck at ~2% of journeys cycled, if that (in Enfield it is 0.3%). No alternative solution has been found, and shared space has not produced higher cycling numbers.

Of course, this all depends on the implementation.

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Cycling in Enfield - the view from the saddle - Episode ???
16 Sep 2016 15:18 #2272

David Hughes David Hughes's Avatar Topic Author
It’s been some time since I contributed to this Forum under the heading ‘The View from the saddle’, but an experience when cycling to Crews Hill – a few kilometres North of Enfield Town – has moved me to record the trip and to review the issues it highlighted. Frankly I was shocked by how nasty the journey was compared with previous trips north of Palmers Green.

I left home at around 11.00 – a relatively quiet time on Green Lanes you might think – but I was struck by just how furiously unpleasant it was. Cars dominated the scene, cars making life unpleasant for cyclists, cars making life unpleasant for pedestrians, cars even making life unpleasant for older drivers. Cars as big as a tank and just as ugly, cars parked – if parked is always the right word – resembling nothing so much as litter, cars driven too fast and too noisily in a space created for living, cars dangerously cutting in front to avoid a moment’s delay when turning left, cars passing too closely to avoid a dreaded loss of speed, cars charging red traffic-lights (who cares about air quality and the needs of pedestrians?), cars bigger and more aggressive than necessary.

Cars mostly carrying only one, the driver.

This is a Hell of an environment to bring up kids; surely we can do better!

Well, people wedded, or welded, to their car might at last accept that Green Lanes is also home to hundreds of families, the site of several town centres, and that traffic speed prevents many a child from walking or cycling to anywhere along it. That’s a travesty given that 30kph (20mph) would get you to most places along its path in half-an-hour if traffic behaved in the interest of the common good. Indeed many a car journey could be replaced by a journey on a bike, on a bus, by walking, or a mixture of bus and walking.

In fact Enfield Council in common with most/all councils has done quite a bit to help pedestrians using central carriageway islands and vehicle-activated speed signage. And now has made a strong start towards developing a cycling policy which I hope (and expect) will progressively stimulate the habit of travelling by bike, and with a bit of luck, on foot. But it’s not enough; a start, but it’s not nearly enough, because history shows that drivers will persist in driving at a level inconsistent with urban life unless other changes are made*.

So the next step must be in line with what Haringey Council has done: changed the default** speed limit of 45kph(30mph) to 30kph(20mph). Firstly because 30kph is safer for everyone, drivers included, secondly because it would improve quality of life across the board, and thirdly because 30kph is ample for short urban journeys. But if 30kph signs went up across Enfield, would drivers’ habits change in the absence of other restraints? Probably not much. Although I drive in Haringey fairly often, and do feel that traffic is a little calmer than in Enfield.

But that’s not enough, not nearly enough. For a better quality of life, for a safer environment, for childhood independence, to make it easier for elderly people and others with mobility problems, more must be done. Unfortunately most choices such as vehicle-activated signs (VAS), speed-limiting road surfaces, physical calming measures such as ‘speed humps’, and speed cameras, have their limits or disadvantages. All of which leaves me with the reluctant, and temporary choice, of averaging speed limit cameras between social centres such as the high streets until the habit of driving more slowly is embedded into a new mindset.

Averaging speed cameras have a benefit not possessed by any other calming measure which is the vexed problem of curbing motorcycle speed. Which is a very necessary step because if all road traffic was to be successfully calmed to 30kph people would be able to cross carriageways safely in more places; thus enabling a reduction in the number of pedestrian crossings and traffic lights with benefits for traffic flow.

Indeed with averaging cameras installed we might hope to reduce the habit very many drivers have of charging red traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, and tailbacks at 45kph or more, only to brake hard to a standstill in the last few metres. This is such an odd habit that I wonder whether drivers do it in order to better enjoy the poor, and dangerous, air quality that a stationary line of traffic creates.

I’ve no doubt that by now most drivers have come to the conclusion that I think the speeding problem lies solely with them. To the contrary I think otherwise: cars are complicit. Inside a modern car 45kph (30mph) feels so slow, the ride so smooth, the brakes so sure, the ambience so comforting, that it’s hard for a driver to keep in mind that to pedestrians and cyclists 45kph seems fast and unpleasant. Which is a potent problem because so many never cycle, rarely walk on a Green Lanes type of road except in town centres, and so develop the idea that all the rules should be built around the needs of cars. Which is a way of saying that they develop a feeling of entitlement. In which case their luck is running out because London’s carriageways are bursting at the seams, and pedestrians, bikes, buses, and trams take up so much less room.

All of which has probably created the idea that I am anti-car. Not so: cars are wonderfully useful and flexible. But there are a plethora of detriments in our car-crowded city, shortly to become our car-stationary city unless something changes:

• as a group, though of course not everyone, drivers do seem to be getting more aggressive, including much more use of the horn, and some shouting at junctions;
• there is much misuse of cars for short journeys which could be walked or cycled by everyone, including children, with considerable health benefits;
• the use of a car – in our very over-populated-by-cars city – when public transport is a convenient choice;
• poor driving, not in terms of skills, but in terms of attitude to other road users (that sense of entitlement again);
• the lack of knowledge and/or acceptance that traffic is now the principal cause of deadly air quality, especially if diesel-powered;
• trophy cars which bear no relationship to use;
• the destruction of front gardens – though the chief culprit here is Government which facilitated it – with the consequent increase in the risk of flooding, and the transformation of many residential streets from their previous green and pleasant appearance, to more of a military barracks appearance (the author Bill Bryson, who sees it as lost interest in neighbourhoods and neighbourliness, is very eloquent on this in his latest book ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’), and
• the health detriments as a result of lack of exercise as well as poor air quality, which personal suffering apart, is costing the NHS dear.

And before anyone says that cyclists especially, and pedestrians sometimes, also have their faults, I agree, and it should stop. The difference though is that loitering on a pedestrian crossing, or a cyclist ignoring a red light is unlikely to cause serious harm to anyone else (in some countries cyclists are permitted to cross a red light when safe to do so).

* In my view if drivers can’t live without speed, and with consideration for cyclists, walkers and residents, they should make as much use as possible of the railway-equivalents such as the A10 and the North Circular Road.

** Default speed limit. The assumption that specific types of road , in this case urban roads, will have a particular speed limit, currently 30mph (approximately 45kph), unless a different speed limit is specifically designated otherwise.

I’m pretty sure that some drivers, and perhaps some others, will have felt a little surprised by the language I used in this piece. If so can I ask them to understand that this is how it seems to a cyclist? Drivers might then respond that cyclists should stick to the quieter side streets, to which I would say: “I was the same person on my bike as I am in my car; I hadn’t become second class citizen.” To clarify that I wouldn’t dream of cycling along a railway equivalent route such as the A10 or the A406 where the priority is traffic movement and speeds are high, but within what is first and foremost a living and working space, traffic should travel at a living speed. And for motorists the good news is that at a calmed 30kph (20mph) some of impediments to steady travel could probably be removed.

Journey times could well improve.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Hal Haines

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Cycling in Enfield - the view from the saddle - Episode ???
01 Nov 2016 12:37 #2372

David Hughes David Hughes's Avatar Topic Author
Yesterday, in the Guardian, and in the Financial section no less, there was an article "How can we keep our cities moving?" featuring ideas created by a range of the great and the good; there were photos of the contributors to boot.

Being as daft as tripe I failed to read quite of bit of it - how I don't know - but I'll make good that omission later to today. Meanwhile I felt the need to advertise the the fact of the article, and to mention one statement: "Cars are amazingly efficient vehicles when they have four or five people in them,......................". I suppose that if you must travel in a mechanized means of transport door to door that's true, but otherwise 70 seats on a bus sounds even better.

And why did I put this forward under the heading of: "The View from the Saddle"? Because to cyclists - and walkers - cars create the most fear.

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Cycling in Enfield - the view from the saddle - Episode 1
22 Nov 2016 21:30 #2434

David Hughes David Hughes's Avatar Topic Author
Yesterday I received an e-mail from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC)which contained the following sentence:

"Schemes we fought to get in such as Tavistock Place, CS11 and all three Mini Hollands are all being targeted for removal in 2017."

I know no more than that, and perhaps the chances were being oversold given that the main purpose of the e-mail was to stimulate a contribution to LCC's fighting fund. Nevertheless the threat matters, and should be in the back of our minds until the habit of cycling is well established.

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Cycling in Enfield - the view from the saddle (30 November 2016)
30 Nov 2016 21:59 #2468

David Hughes David Hughes's Avatar Topic Author
Today I witnessed - out of the corner of my eye - the first collision between a cyclist and a car since I returned to cycling. It took place on Green Lanes on the stretch called High Street in the London A to Z , i.e. between Bounds Green Road and the North Circular Road. I was cycling north kerbside, and the cyclist in question was roughly parallel with me on the crown of the road.

It was a fleeting glimpse - I had much traffic to contend with - and the cyclist was just clipping the side of the car and pitching sideways to the road. I doubt he was more than bruised and shaken, but it seemed to be an example of the dangers cyclists face if they try to command the road.

There is too little information here to form an accurate assessment of blame, but there is no doubt that many cyclists take things too far in their frustration with the 'sense of entitlement' demonstrated by lots of drivers.

I'm not a fan of cycle lanes because the evidence I've seen countries such as Denmark and Sweden suggests that they prompt cyclists to acquire their own sense of entitlement. However, a cycle lane may well have forestalled this particular encounter.

On an shared urban street good manners and consideration for others is vital. In that regard we don't seem to be doing too well; drivers, cyclists, walkers are all guilty of creating unhelpful disharmony.

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Cycling in Enfield - the view from the saddle (30 November 2016)
18 Jan 2017 20:34 #2615

David Hughes David Hughes's Avatar Topic Author
I just wanted to confirm that today (18.01.17) I cycled along a short stretch of the Green Lanes (A105) north-bound cycle lane which had already been marked with the standard carriageway image of a bike. Noted also that a start is being made on the addition of the defining 'Armadillos'.

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Cycling in Enfield - the view from the saddle (30 November 2016)
27 Jan 2017 14:42 #2649

David Hughes David Hughes's Avatar Topic Author
I've just returned from a bike trip to Enfield's recycling centre where I disposed for recycling into motor fuel seven large bottles of used cooking oil; it's amazing what you can carry on a bike. This was one of those rare tasks where you get a triple benefit: exercise, recycling and avoidance of blocking the sewers with fat. Cycling naysayers please take note: you don't always need a car to carry something fairly heavy.

Taking a long route back home I was encouraged by the traffic around me to think about one, no two, of my favourite crouches: well over 90% of drivers have a train to catch (couldn't they have started out five minutes earlier?), and a big majority are confident that no biker will hit a pothole or wobble. A few of these behaviours are probably due to drivers' sense of entitlement or plain selfishness, but probably most are due to inexperience as a cyclist. Well, cycling isn't compulsory, but if it is to become popular it has to feel safer.

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Cycling in Enfield - the view from the saddle (30 November 2016)
27 Jan 2017 21:20 #2650

I agree that many drivers don't understand how to overtake a cyclist properly and close passing has been identified as putting people off cycling. Our new lanes will have limited success without this being tackled as of course you have to be able to cycle to them. Have a look at what the west Midlands police force are doing trafficwmp.wordpress.com This innovative form of policing is coming to London and is already being trialled in Camden. Do you think we should hold our breath and see if it comes to Enfield? By the way the next step for Wmp is to to work out a plan to protect pedestrians and all vulnerable road users better - they really do get it!

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