I have previously written about Wick Road, and having thought more about it, have now written my full consultation response. Please respond – the consultation closes on July 10th. Feel free to borrow any of what I’ve written, if you agree with it.
I’ve said I don’t support the Wick scheme and I wanted to explain why.
I appreciate that most people who do support it share my broader aims – improving public realm and local health, cycling and walking – and do genuinely believe that this is a good scheme. That’s why they are planning to invest £700,000 in it.
So I’ve tried to indicate below why I disagree.
I have focused on strategic and process issues as well as engineering detail.
It isn’t clear to me which substantive local problems (perhaps public realm, lack of cycle connectivity, severance and ill-health caused by high volumes of through motor traffic, etc.) this scheme is intended to address. Providing two-way through motor traffic shouldn’t be a headline strategic aim, in my view.
Here are six problems I have with the scheme (more detail of each is given below). This does not cover all potential relevant areas, but rather a selection of issues that I feel able to comment on.
1. There isn’t a clear identification of the scheme objectives, the problems it will solve, and how success will be measured.
2. The consultation process is limited, merely asking people to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, with no data provided to help local residents decide.
3. There will be little difference to public realm: the road will continue to lack on-street activity, and continue to carry high levels of through motor traffic and large amounts of car parking.
4. There will be a possible increase in through motor traffic, which will aggravate the many health and other problems faced by local residents.
5. The road will be unsafe and uncomfortable for cycling, and connectivity for cycling in this area will remain poor.
6. There are some improvements for walking, but fewer than those likely under the ‘Wick Walk’ idea, and the plans raise specific concerns such as over informal crossings and footway parking.
In terms of solutions, I have some ideas – for example, replacing one lane of motor traffic with a two-way cycle track, or exploring the Wick Walk proposals. If the current scheme were to continue, I would think minimal remedial changes would include: retaining the current cycle track, replacing the informal crossings with zebras, and removing/relocating car parking so it is less hazardous to cyclists.
However, I think we should be more ambitious. I’d like to see a visioning process focusing on what the problems are and what we want for the area. I’ve got my own ideas again here, but so I am sure have local residents. We could then explore and trial different options – my cycle track idea, the Wick Walk idea. There is plenty of space here to play about (why not have a Playing Out event as part of it, in fact!), cut down on motor traffic space, see what might work and what people like.
Let’s learn from other parts of London (and in Hackney of course) and the UK where increasingly trialling is being used to explore more radical streetscape options than simply the traditional one- or two-way carriageway with footway parking and no cycle provision. We can do better than that in Hackney.
1. Scheme Objectives. There are no clear objectives for the scheme, and accordingly no idea of how we will be able to assess its performance against those (Counts? User Surveys?) The closest is a background statement saying ‘Hackney Council is committed to promoting sustainable forms of travel such as walking, cycling and using public transport. Road network changes which improve safety and accessibility for all users are important to achieving this aim.’ This does not tell us what the scheme specifically is intended to do for the Wick area and those travelling through it by sustainable modes.
2. Consultation and Data. The consultation process is very limited: there has been little pre-consultation, the consultation questions is a simple yes/no, without allowing people to contribute in a strategic or more detailed manner. Those consulted have been provided with no data or information (for example, carriageway and footway widths and how these are changing, current or predicted motor traffic volumes, possible traffic displacement to residential streets outside the scheme area, how the car parking arrangements are changing, pedestrian, bus and cycle accessibility and levels of service, etc.) to help them decide.
3. Public Realm/Access to Local Facilities. The scheme will do little to improve public realm, blighted due to the lack of on-street activity, large amounts of car parking, and high levels of motor traffic (see below).
For example, much footway (“inset/hybrid”) parking will remain (despite no space being allocated to cycling) and new footway parking is being installed on the South pavement where it is relatively narrow. While there will be some pedestrian improvements at Wick Road/Morning Lane junction, moving the crossing South further disconnects the natural link between Wick Road and the Wick estates to Well Street market and shops. The latter is a key potential local destination, especially given the lack of active frontage on Wick Road, but the shops and market have struggled in recent decades. The plans do not permit East-West cycle permeability: cycles, like motor traffic, cannot complete this movement to access the shops and market at the end of Wick Road.
4. Through Motor Traffic. The scheme will not improve the health and other problems that local residents face due to an inappropriate level of through motor traffic. In fact, through motor traffic will likely increase under the new plans. Despite currently carrying around 9,000 PCUs (Passenger Car Units) per day, Wick Road is well under capacity as a one-way street (partly due to car parking on the carriageway on both sides at a narrow point near the Morning Lane junction). Creating two lanes without obstructions (partly through moving car parking to the footway at that narrow point) will provide road capacity that may hold up to the current levels of Westbound motor traffic.
While some of that Westbound traffic may divert, a two-way road will in addition take a substantial amount of Eastbound motor traffic currently using other roads in the area (Homerton High Street, Cassland Road – both of which are even busier than Wick Road). This has implications for quality of life on Wick Road and potentially also on residential streets outside the scheme area (e.g. East of Mare Street).
5. Cycling. One reason to look carefully at improving conditions for cycling here is the poor cycling environment in Wick, compared to many other parts of the borough. This area is blighted by motor traffic throughput, hemmed in by roads on which cycling requires ‘Bikeability Level 3’ (dealing with ‘more challenging roads and traffic situations’).
Under the scheme this will not change. It provides an unsafe and uncomfortable environment for cycling, even going as far as to remove a small bit of safe cycle track providing a key link into and out of Wick, allowing families to access Victoria park to the South for example.
The cycle track is symbolic of the scheme’s problems, but more fundamental is the lack of safe cycle provision more broadly. There are no good East-West options in this part of the borough so a major – £700,000 – redesign could and should have incorporated cycling. A two-way Wick Road, carrying perhaps in excess of 1,000 motor vehicles per hour at peak, will be about as safe and inviting for cycling as Homerton High Street; excluding children and most adults. Although on paper permitting cycling in two directions, in practice few will feel able to cycle here; and there are very limited alternatives.
The detailed design is also problematic. I have written elsewhere in detail about how removal of the track will put cyclists following the signed LCN Route 8 at risk of injury, where a safe crossing previously existed. But more broadly, making cyclists use the carriageway alongside car parking (for much of the route each way) will mean people cycling are at constant risk of close overtakes and being pushed into the door zone. I would expect this to put many people off, but for those that do attempt the route a high injury risk will exist, especially given the volumes of larger vehicles (HGVs, large vans) using this route.
The pedestrian phases at the two junctions are to be welcomed. Whatever is introduced, pedestrian provision, like cycle provision, needs to be improved including making it easier to cross Wick Road. But I am concerned at the relocation of parking from carriageway to footway on the Southbound side between Vanner House and the Morning Lane junction, where the footway is already relatively narrow. (By contrast further up, where car parking is being removed from the footway, there is more room and, I would suspect, lower footfall).
I am also concerned that introducing two informal, non-priority crossings, does not in practice improve people’s ability to cross the road. At present the ‘pulsing’ of one-way traffic through the traffic light systems means that there can be gaps in the flow enabling pedestrians to cross. A two-way road will not have gaps in the same way. Hence I am dubious that pedestrians, including children and older people, will in fact be able to use a courtesy crossing in the way suggested. Zebras would be much better (although still of limited use to some less confident pedestrians, given the high levels of through motor traffic).