Shoreditch Cyclists sharing space with everyone

Cyclists, pedestrians, cars, taxis, vans and lorries are all beginning to mix in the new shared space junction at Leonard Circus Shoreditch.

The arguments have already begun about describing this as the first real example of shared space in London or merely the best so far.

Council members have claimed inspiration from the Danish city space guru Jan Gehl for transforming a tricky junction in Shoreditch to space shared by all road users. Can this be described as a 'Go Dutch' scheme? In Shoreditch's 17th Century street layout it is more reminiscent of central Utrecht than out of town Assen.

We previewed the plans in  February 2013 and now they have been delivered.

The previous road scheme was seen as a dismal failure with the 'Disco Biscuit' sculpture, double steps to trip up pedestrians and totally confused cycle and road routes.

Now it seems to be working for all, especially on the school run.

The junction has been out of action for six months so it may be a few weeks before we can make a full assessment of how the traffic works. With new many new office buildings and more to come pedestrians seem to be the biggest winners.

The contractors are still completing all the features, there will be banks of seating and seats around the trees with an option for a coffee stall in one corner.

Even the biggest lorries are tamed to move slowly through the trees.

 While everyone else goes about their daily business.



It would be a nicer place with a few bollards to keep the cars and trucks away.

Shared space just doesn't work - it's just another anti-segregationists' fantasy, just like the belief that imposition of a 20mph speed limit makes it ok for cyclists to share road space with lorries and buses. Just look at seven dials and exhibition road, both absolute nightmares, especially nerve-racking for pedestrians with kids; they've basically abolished the pavement. Advocates of this kind of thing, most particularly the Hackney branch of the LCC, should be expelled from the LCC. 



This post was edited by Orientandy at 6:37am 13 June 2014.

Shared space doesn't work because "power corrupts.." etc, motor vehicles having more power, bulk and weight bully their way through. Londons Exhibition road is cited as a prime example.

I've been patiently waiting for this to reopen and rode through it for the first time this morning.  It looks lovely and I love the theory - but I'm yet to be convinced how I - or a small child on their way to school - am not going to be ploughed down by a lorry.  I'm probably being cynical and need to ride through it a few more times!

I've also been patiently waiting for this to reopen. I commute along Paul street and pass through this new shared space north to south in the morning and south to north on my return home in the evening. I was rather sceptical when I first saw the plans for this but have to say so far it is working pretty well for me and a pleasure to use. I will however reserve judgement until the minicabs and vans make their return. Whatever the outcome, I am quite sure it is a vast improvement on the dangerous mess that was there previously.

The works here are not complete but it does seem to be working remarkably well, far better than the appalling hard segregation junction there before. It will be interesting to see how it bears up while the SE corner becomes a massive demolition and building site over the next few years.
David Hembrow's blog on shared space referenced above is really interesting. Clearly the Kerksplein area is very poor, worse than exhibition road. There taking out pedestrian crossings and putting in high kerb bus boarders which undermine any opportunity for negotiated space has failed.
The Leonard Circus space is designed to slow down and intimidate motor traffic, the access roads are ramped, the trees and the seating to come will encourage more space negotiation. It will slow down motor traffic and bicycle traffic. This appears to be a very well designed pedestrian space where cyclists and drivers are guests. Perhaps we should organise a study tour for Dutch traffic engineers to visit here.
Hembrow also describes the transition of Ceresplein from shared to car free space where the only motors are mopeds and rubbish lorries. This progressive improvement of public space is at the core of the vision for Hackney of the council and of LCC in Hackney.

"The Leonard Circus space is designed to slow down and intimidate motor traffic" 

'Intimidate traffic'? By what means? Putting vulnerable road users including children in front of it? 

The LCC in Hackney and the Council believe that Hackney's cycllists' main problems stem from a couple of gyratory systems. Meanwhile they have been ripping out what little legacy cycling infrastructure there was in the Borough. What they did at Eastway was irresponsible. And now they can't wait to rip out the protected contraflow cycle track on Pitfield Street. According to Cllr Vincent Stops, concrete protecting the safety of pedestrians and dedicated space for buses is fine but, if its protecting cyclists, it's a pedestrian trip hazard.

Don't beleive the propaganda that Hackney is a leading light in provision of a safe environment for cycling. It is nothing of the sort. There is no mass cycling in Hackney. Yes, there are quite a few cycling hipsters in their 20s padding out the statistics, but there are almost zero pensioners on bikes, and even fewer children cycling to school. So long as Hackney Council follows Councillor Vincent Stops' and his acolytes' exclusively pro-pedestrian, pro-bus agenda and ignore cyclists' safety (whilst glybly pretending that it will be enhanced as a natural by-product of their other interventions), everyday, Dutch-style, utility cycle usage will remain as elusive as ever.

I'd love to see what Dutch traffic engineers would make of Hackney's changes over recent years. Let's see now: 200m of car-free road (Goldsmiths Row), a roundabout converted to a cross roads (Hoxton), some speed humps on minor roads and oh, of course, the 'improved' lethal main roads around Dalston junction which, according to Cllr Vincent Stops' blog, are described as 'perfect for cycling' by 'Hackney Cyclists'. Moreover, they boast about successfully opposing cycle lanes on City Road and are blocking all segregation on the cycle superhighway on the Hackney segment of the A10.

If the LCC in Hackney doesn't subscribe to the LCC's 'Go Dutch' policy, it should do the decent thing; sever its links with the organisation and cease using its name and acting within its auspices.

This post was edited by Orientandy at 5:26pm 14 June 2014.

I never know  whether  to laugh or cry when the Hackney bashing gets fired up. I have lived and cycled in this part of Hackney for 42 years. I think it is getting better. I welcome anyone to come and visit, see what it is like, talk with the locals and make up your own mind.

Do the thousands of people on bikes I saw in London Fields this morning add up to mass cycling? I don't know. The census data tells us that cycle use has grown here faster than almost anywhere else in the country. More people travel to work by bike than by car. In my ward that is about 19% of the working population.

The point about cycling to school is well made, far too few children cycle to school. As the photos above show some of the few kids who do cycle to school in EC1 choose  a route through Leonard circus.

The Dutch transport writer Tijs van den Boomen (co-author 'De mobiele stad') was there on Wednesday. He thought it was "quite beutiful" but perhaps to much money and effort to spend on a minor intersection.

Nobody's Hackney bashing. Just pointing out, perhaps, that a few small improvements in 40 years, though clearly good relative to those boroughs that have made none at all, doesn't make it the shining beacon of mass cycling some people make out. And perhaps, also, that a degree of complacency on the part of some councillors and campaigners, together with an irrational ideological position that only allows them to make safe space on minor roads, will stop any progress that is being made in its tracks. So to speak...

I too have been cycling in east London for over 40 years. Traffic calming in back streets is obviously an improvement, but I'm afriad on the major roads it has got worse in recent years and largely due to Council intervention in the form of either removing legacy cycling infrastructure or implementing schemes that favour pedestrians and bus priority, but give absolutely no consideration to their impact on cyclists. Pedestrian friendly road narrowings and pinch points do not help cyclists, they are a hazard. Every day of the week I cycle across Mare Street into the recently-narrowed entrance to Westgate Street and regularly now have cars push past me, far too close for comfort, as they race to get across first to the narrow entrance. There was plenty of potential 'space for cycling' here. I wrote to the Council and suggested a cycle gate should be included in the design to avoid the very situation I've just described. My request was completely ignored. I also suggested that the service road at the adjacent 'triangle' area could have been retained in some form as a safe alternative for cyclists wishing to turn left out of Westgate street and thus avoid a potential left hook. But no 'space for cycling' was included here either; they didn't even offer pedestrian/cyclist shared space which would only have required signage and installation of a dropped curb to allow cyclist egress into Mare Street. Another example of Hackney's retrograde cycling policy was the ripping up of the cycle tracks that protected cyclists entering and exiting Eastway to/from its junction with Chapman/Wick Roads from the many buses and lorries that operate in the area. Hackney replaced them with parking spaces so what was 'space for cycling' has now become 'space for parking'. Quite unbeleivably, the LCC in Hackney opposed allowing cycling on the pavement along the one-way Victoria Park Road, which would provide the only safe, remotely direct route for eastbound cyclists to Hackney Wick when Victoria Park was closed. So, they didn't want 'space for cycling' here either. Thankfully, some of the Councillors or Officers saw some merit in the scheme and we now regularly see cyclists, including children and families, using an admittedly narrow but completely useable facility, and with minium conflict with pedestrians. But, of course, let's not forget that, according to the LCC in Hackney, all the problems for cyclists here are caused by that terrible gyratory and if only it were two-way again, cyclists could happily mix with the lorries and buses going both ways.

The hundreds of cyclists gathering on London fields on Sunday were largely the usual hipster crowd - no that is NOT mass cycling. Mass cycling involves all generations cycling every day of the week, not just a sunny Sunday in June.

The kids cycling through Leonad Circus do so because it's the least dangerous option available - they aren't going to use Old Street are they? Or indeed use the ex-gyratory Shoreditch High Street that Hackney LCC claim is now very cycleable. (I might also add that, according to one of the parents I spoke to from the nearby school, if Hackney remove the connecting contraflow cycle track on Pitfield Street (as appears likely) some of them won't be cycling at all.) It seems as if it's a mystery to Hackney LCC that so few kids cycle to school in's simple's because it's so dangerous; the junctions and main roads are unfit for mass cycling. In order to get kids on bikes (or get their parents to allow them to get on bikes) you've got to make it safe. There's a way, it's called's why the Netherlands is a much safer place to cycle than Hackney. QED.

You should have taken that Dutch writer, Tijs van den Boomen, to Dalston junction and asked whether he agrees with the LCC in Hackney that it's 'Perfect for cycling'.  And might I also sugest that, when he commented that Leonard Circus was beautiful but it was 'perhaps too much money and effort to spend on a minor intersection', it was in the context that he felt Hackney should be spending money urgently where it's needed most - on it's main roads, where people are dying for want of decent, Dutch-style infrastructure. Leonard Circus may well be beautiful, but the millions spent on it would have been so much better spent on making the main roads and junctions in Hackney safe.

This post was edited by Orientandy at 5:10am 16 June 2014.

Interesting to read the differing viewpoints with regards segregation versus the  non-segregation approach taken by LCC in Hackney. I'm a Hackney resident for 10 years and rely on my bike for getting around both for work and social activities. Even as an experienced confident fit male cyclist I regularly feel unsafe on the major roads in both Hackney and London in general. I can certainly understand how lack of segregation on these roads prevents many from considering the bicycle as a means of transport. As someone who passes Dalston junction on a daily basis it is absolutely not 'Perfect for cycling'! Far from it. I feel segregation on roads such as these to be imperative if we are to get people onto bicycles outwith the usual clique.

This is not to bash Hackney LCC as can see how improvements have been made on certain minor roads and residential areas. Prevention of rat running in De Beauvoir Town should rightly be celebrated. The benefits of the Leonard Circus shared space at this early stage look promising. However I do feel that LCC in Hackney could benefit from a dose of humility in their approach and to be more open to listening to criticism.  Hackney is very very far from being a cycling haven.

This post was edited by Socrates72 at 2:43pm 16 June 2014.

To be fair on Hackney cyclists they were very critical of some of the changes around Dalston Junction, particularly lane widths.  What works really well in Hackney is the minor road network with hundreds of gaps for cyclists where cars can't get through. This area based approach to reducing the impact of motor traffic has evolved over 30 years and has been adapted to help cycle trips over the last 20.

What has been achieved is in part consistent with what the Dutch engineers call the "complementary strategies" of segregation and integration.

No one disagrees that most of the main roads are still horrible places for cycling, just as bad as in most other boroughs. How to provide safe and inviting cycle routes on roads with very high bus flows is a problem yet to be solved. Even the Dutch, as in David's video of Kerkplein in Assen, find that a difficult one. Bus use in London is at a quantum level higher than any other Euorpean city.

What I find distressing about the Hackney bashing is the assertion that the massive growth in cycling in Hackney is not real, that it is solely due to an invasion of deviant 'hipsters'. It is true that there is rapid demographic change here but we should celebrate the fact that the new residents choose cycling as their main mode of transport and we should be fooled into thinking that more and more other social groups are also doing so.

Keeping heavy bus and cycle traffic on main roads separate is certainly an interesting design problem. However the answer is not to hold up one's hands in defeat and say that safe cycling is just impossible here, as certain councillors and campaigners in Hackney like to do. There are a few discrete spots where careful compromise may be needed, but mostly it's pretty easy. It's even easier if one has the political cojones to restrict private motor traffic on these main roads, just a little... 

The point, surely, about hipsters, is not that they are deviant but that they are clones - and that one element of the uniform, at least recently, was a fixed gear bike. And that this is/was a fashion, and so could change..?

Charlie at LCC. If Hackney Cyclists were 'very critical of some of the changes around Dalston Junction, particularly lane widths' and generally feel that 'most of the main roads are still horrible places for cycling, just as bad as in most other boroughs', why on earth do you allow Hackney Council to brand itself as a leader in cycling provision and, in particular, allow Cllr Vincent Stops to use the following as a caption to a photograph in his blog concerning the lethal, zero-provisioned A10: 'The busiest section of the A10 in Hackney at Dalston Kingsland. This has a nine meter wide carriageway, pavements recently widened and still very busy. Described as perfect for cycling by Hackney Cyclists. Where would separated cycle tracks go?' ? And why do Hackney Cyclists continue to rubber stamp and endorse his and Hackney Council's streets policies? In many communications I've received from them they claim your endorsement. (By the way, if you haven't read it, I do recommmend reading Stop's anti-'Go Dutch' rant....this bloke could get elected in Westminster! (

The ongoing 'improvements' to main roads in Hackney offer absolutely no protection whatsoever to cyclists; they are systematically being optimised solely for buses and pedestrians - and usually at the expense of cyclists' safety. Yet Stops and Hackney have the arrogance to claim that cyclists gain some benefit from these measures. But, of course, as Vincent Stops says in his blog, 'cyclists also use the bus', so arguably cyclists do benefit - it's just not when they're on their bikes! What we are asking for is 'space for cycling', but in Hackney all potential space is being consumed by 'space for buses'. Sadly, Hackney has made its decision; bus pasenger convenience is more important than cyclists' safety, and in that respect it is no better than any other London Borough.

As regards the backstreet 'network', De Beauvoir has worked well for decades. The area around Powerscroft Road in Clapton is good. But all the other areas that I'm aware of, including Broadway Market, are distinctly meadiocre. And the area east of Mare Street (around Darnley Road) is nothing short of dismal; eastbound it's still a rat run and westbound it is as impermeable for cycles as it is for cars. 

And no-one's claiming there isn't a boom in cycling in Hackney, we're just pointing out that it is almost exclusively people in their twenties, and most certainly not older people and children, therefore it is not 'mass cycling'.

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