Waltham Forest, Enfield and Kingston have each been awarded around £30m to make their boroughs as cycle friendly as their Dutch counterparts.
What are Mini Hollands?
The existence of London’s £30m ‘mini-Hollands’ is a direct result of LCC’s Love London, Go Dutch campaign.
The creation of Dutch-style town centres in London was one of the commitments Boris Johnson made to LCC and the 42,000 Londoners who supported our Love London, Go Dutch campaign in the run-up to the 2012 mayoral election.
Outer London boroughs were invited to bid for £100 million to transform town centres into areas ideal for cycling, with ideas taken from continental approaches to design. And in March 2014, it was announced that Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest would each receive £30 million to build substantial cycling facilities in their town centres as part of the mini-Holland bidding process.
This funding, if spent well, could transform these three outer London boroughs. The benefits of making areas friendlier for people to get around by cycle or on foot are well documented both nationwide and internationally.
Orford Road, Waltham Forest during road closure trials as part of the Mini Holland programme in September 2014.
What are the benefits?
Generally, people want to live in areas that aren’t dominated by motor traffic: making area areas better for cycling and walking reduces this dominance and increases quality of life. At the same time, transforming local networks provides a cheaper transport alternative which can significantly reduce the outgoings for low income households and increase disposable income. 2011 figures from the RAC Foundation show that 32.5% of households in Enfield don’t have access to a car – up from 28.8% in 2001. In Waltham Forest, that figure is around 42%, going up to 50% in some wards.
In Kingston, the number is lower, with around a quarter of households who don’t have access to a car – but once again that’s an increase since 2001. At the same time, cycling is on the up: in central London, cyclists now make up a quarter of traffic at peak times, 16 per cent across the day; in Hackney, next door to Waltham Forest, 14.6 percent of residents use bicycles as their main way to get to work.
So making it easier for people to get around by foot or by bike is also about providing a more universal mode of transport – as well, of course, as the many social, environmental, and physical and mental health benefits to having an improved cycling network.
Because car parking has traditionally been sought as the solution to struggling high streets in the UK, and because traders tend to overestimate the number of customers arriving by car, there’s been opposition to the removal of car parking spaces on high streets in the scheme; while for some schemes there's been serious opposition coming from a mix of reasonable concerns (car access for the elderly and vulnerable) and unreasonable (it'll take a minute or two more to drive short journeys).
There’s a growing body of evidence that highlights that these fears aren't realised in the schemes, but it’s taking a while to filter through. Customers tend to prefer a ‘people-friendly’ environment and dislike motor traffic so in the long run, restricting motor traffic is beneficial to local retail; while cycle tracks and modal filters don't cause carmageddon.
Investment in cycle and walkway infrastructure in Ealing has shown that, in conjunction with other public realm improvements (such as new street lighting, de-cluttering, improved directions), improved accessibility can improve footfall, whereby the town now performs above the national average. Tom Platt, London Policy Manager at Living Streets, says: “We know from our own research that making places better for walking and cycling can boost footfall and trading by up to 40%, as well as delivering health and environmental benefits.” Meanhile, with several "village" schemes in in Waltham Forest, traffic along the main road through the area hasn't been delayed according to TfL data.
What's happening in the three boroughs?
Waltham Forest’s plans are the most radical of the three boroughs. They’re also the most holistic and thought-through – and while many local residents expressed concern at the beginning of the trials in Walthamstow Village, 60% of respondents said they were in support by the end. Waltham Forest's projects include a mix of tracks on main roads across the area in a network running north-south and east-west, and residential areas in between treated as "modal filter cells" with through motor vehicle traffic removed using strategically-placed bollards, planters etc. On top of that, the borough is investing heavily in secure cycle parking at tube and rail stations, and on residential streets.
In Enfield, progress was initially slower, but there’s a huge opportunity for positive change in this borough, where currently just 0.7% of journeys are cycled. And the approach of primarily an extensive network of "semi-segregated" cycle tracks means now the borough is moving schemes into construction, it is moving forward rapidly.
In Kingston, only one major scheme has been finished - a bidirectional cycle track on the busy Portsmouth Road. Initial proposals showed a cycle lane separated from motor traffic by nothing more than a white line, for the considerable majority of the route. Campaigners were dissapointed but following a consultation process and the concerted efforts of our local group, Kingston Cycling Campaign in early 2015, Kingston Council have revised proposals for the Portsmouth Road mini Holland scheme. And the result is fantastic route along the river.
The northern part of the revised scheme is a two way cycle track on the river side of Portsmouth Road. This has some impressive features; fully protected space, floating bus stops, refuges for turning cyclists and a well thought out link to Surbiton via Palace Road. The southern section of the route is light or "semi" segregation by plastic ‘armadillos’.
The next Mini Holland Project in Kingston proposed was the New Malden to Raynes Park greenway on a Thames Water Main and Sewer alongside the railway under the A3 dual carriageway. Initially Thames Water appeared to want £1m plus apparently to check this link won't damage any of their pipes! Following a meeting with TfL and RBK we understand Thames Water accept they can't use the greenway as an opportunity to replace their infrastructure at the taxpayer's expense. There are also local protesters who do not want the route built. We look forward to engaging with them during the consultation in due course.
Kingston are now also slowly moving forward with other schemes, but the council's timidity stands in stark contrast to the bold moves of Enfield and Waltham Forest, with both boroughs picking up awards and study tours as a sign of their increasingly recognised success.
Local LCC groups are working hard to make sure these opportunities to transform the selected boroughs aren’t missed. They, working together with local communities, will have a critical role to play in ensuring the mini-Hollands deliver their aims of making London’s streets safe and attractive for people to walk and cycle.
Funding for Mini Holland 'Runners-up'
The boroughs who put in unsuccessful bids for the mini-Holland scheme are to receive ‘runners up’ funding to put in place smaller projects. These include:
- City of London - £224,000 to enhance public spaces and pedestrian routes. In 2015/16 the proposals are expected to include improvements to walking routes that by-pass Bank and improvements around Fishmongers' Hall Wharf, where people can enjoy views of the Thames;
- Hammersmith and Fulham - £350,000 towards designing new 20mph zones and tackling collision hot spots. £150,000 for a new cycle route on the A315 and £130,000 for environmental improvements on Stevenage Road;
- Merton - £200,000 towards improving cycling conditions in Wimbledon Town Centre, including identifying how the gyratory can be made safer and easier for cyclists and pedestrians to use;
- Haringey - £600,000 towards improving the public spaces around Green Lanes, which complements a major project to transform Wood Green which is due for completion in June 2015. £422,000 for new 20mph zones across the borough;
- Newham - £1m to commence the detailed design on the conversion of Stratford Gyratory to two-way operation, reducing the dominance of traffic and significantly improving conditions for cyclists, pedestrians, public transport users. £120,000 to improve walking and cycling links around the Royal Docks;
- Westminster - £320,000 towards developing and implementing cycle schemes over the next three years, including sections of the Central London Cycle Grid, free cycle training, cycle parking, and improved cycle access to the Royal Parks;
- Barking and Dagenham - £400,000 to improve the junction between Ballards Road and New Road, addressing long-standing safety and congestion issues, and making it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to use.
In the run-up to the 2016 Mayoral elections, LCC asked candidates to "Sign for Cycling" and pledge to triple mileage of protected space for cycling, finish the "Better Junctions" programme, make "Direct Vision" lorries the norm on London streets and make funding available for a "mini-Holland" in every London borough - not just the three funded so far.
The direct result of the campaigning over that last pledge and LCC's successful pressure on the candidates has been that Sadiq Khan and his Walking & Cycling Commissioner have announced the creation of a "Liveable Neighbourhoods" funding stream. Every London borough can bid for up to £10 million funding for projects aimed at ending motor traffic dominance, improving high streets, town centres and residential neighbourhoods for walking and cycling.
The first round of funding bids are set to be submitted in October 2017. And we wait to see which boroughs and schemes will move forwward in the first round of funding. But many of the mini-Holland lessons learned, particularly from Enfield and Waltham Forest, we hope will be applied across London.