Creating a mini-Holland in Fishponds?
Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes for the Voice
IF we can draw one positive from the past year, which has in most respects been pretty grim, it’s the transformation in travel and working habits. People can now work remotely and conduct meetings by Zoom, rather than sit in rush hour traffic every day. Others have taken advantage of the quieter streets and started cycling, or are walking more because they’re trying to avoid public transport.
As things start to return to normal, we need to embed these changes, by making it as convenient, easy and safe as possible to walk, cycle, or use public transport, and also to free up the street space for things other than cars. What we don’t want to see is a “car-led recovery” and a return to intolerable congestion and illegal levels of air pollution.
Bristol has already made a good start, for example in closing off roads in the city centre that had been previously reserved for motor traffic, to allow businesses to offer outside dining, and creating more bike lanes.
But the Council that has led the way on this agenda is Waltham Forest in East London, beginning with its hugely successful “mini-Holland” scheme some seven years ago. Eastville councillor Marley Bennett and I recently visited the borough and embarked on an e-bike tour with the council's deputy leader, Clyde Loakes, and one of his officers.
Residential streets in Walthamstow that had seen thousands of vehicle movements a day have been closed off to traffic to prevent rat-running, with traffic levels dropping by up to 97% and no notable increase in congestion on main routes.
These changes are not only enabling active travel but have created some beautiful community spaces too. Marley and I kept pointing out measures that could work in Fishponds and Eastville, from the Blended/Copenhagen crossings, wildflower planting and sustainable drainage features to reclaimed street space.
There are 29 kilometres of segregated cycle lanes in Waltham Forest, and they have the most on-street cycle hangars of any borough in the country – 550 in total – making bike ownership a feasible option for people who don’t have the space to keep their bike at home.
I’m glad that Mayor Marvin Rees has committed to introducing on-street bike hangars in Bristol. Bristol City Council is also rolling out low-traffic neighbourhoods and new school street schemes (with roads by schools closed off at drop-off/pick-up times). It has proposed changes to 10 neighbourhood roads and high streets too, which could involve closing a road completely, pavement widening, or road layout and direction changes. Roads under consideration include Rosemary Lane in Eastville. If you have any thoughts on any of this, please do get in touch!
Kerry McCarthy is MP for Bristol East and Labour’s shadow Green Transport Minister and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0117 939 9901.