Waltham Forest Mini-Holland (part 2) – Lea Bridge and Markhouse Roads

This is part 2 in my series of posts looking at Waltham Forest Mini-Holland, covering Lea Bridge and Markhouse Roads.

The other posts can be found here:


Lea Bridge Road

Lea Bridge Road is part of a key route through Waltham Forest, linking the area with Hackney and beyond. Given its significance as one of the main A roads in Waltham Forest, the scheme includes segregated and kerb protected cycleways along its length.

In contrast to much of the protected sections of London’s Cycle Superhighways, Waltham Forest have opted for unidirectional cycleways on either side of the road, rather than a single bidirectional cycleway. There’s pros and cons to either option, but given the location and nature of the street, cycleways on either side is probably the better option.

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Kerb protected cycleway along Lea Bridge Road

Where many segregated schemes in the UK fall down, is when it comes to junctions and side roads. Often, the needs of motor vehicles or lack of budget mean cycleways don’t get the priority they need or the segregation disappears entirely. A good example being the Wilmslow Road Cycleway in Manchester, where the segregation is generally not present at junctions and there isn’t clear priority at side roads.

Refreshingly, on Lea Bridge Road there is clear priority over side roads, with continuous footways and cycleways along the route. This makes using the cycleway much more convenient, as you’re able to maintain speed without needing to slow down and check at each side road.

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Continuous footway and cycleway across a side road

It’s not perfect though, as the level of the footway and cycleway are not maintained as you pass side roads. This means you drop to road level as you go across the side road, rather than vehicles turning rising to the level of the footway and cycleway.

The benefit of maintaining the level of the cycleway and footway is twofold. It helps to reinforce the priority of people walking and cycling, and forces vehicles to reduce their speed to negotiate the ramp.

(Update: I’ve been informed that by default footways and cycleways will remain at the same level where possible “The dropping to carriage at side roads isn’t a constant design choice on LBR, only happens when needed for lorry tracking or some other reason beyond the gift of our amazing engineers to fix. Most of the time the track is raised across the side roads or due to be in final finish.”)

Lea-Bridge-Road
Lea Bridge Road before, courtesy of Google StreetView

The width of the cycleway is reasonable, though maybe a little narrow to be overtaken without discomfort. The kerb heights are quite low and the kerbs slopes, so there shouldn’t be many problems of hitting the kerbs with pedals.

The angle of the kerbs could be a little more forgiving, if you hit them with your front wheel, there’s probably still a chance you might come off. But this is quite a minor point.

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Substantial construction work being carried out to widen the bridge

Lea Bridge Road is still work in progress, this is particularly evident at the bridge at Lea Bridge Station. The work being carried out on the bridge I think demonstrates the ambition of the Mini-Holland scheme in Waltham Forest.

On many typical schemes in the UK where a bridge is too narrow to include cycleways. A compromise would be reached, which would inevitably mean those cycling lose out. Here, it’s a very different story. The bridge is being widened, so that cycling is properly catered for. This is great to see.

Although incomplete, all the signs point to Lea Bridge Road being a success, enabling many more people cycle safely and comfortably through the area. While it’s not perfect, it comes pretty close to being of a the standard you’d expect in The Netherlands.

Markhouse Road

Markhouse Road is another key route and it has received similar treatment to Lea Bridge Road, but not up to the same standard and I’d say not as successful.

While there are segregated and protected cycleways, the initial stretch coming out of Walthamstow are quite narrow, as are the footways. Given it looks as though the road could have been narrowed, I assume this is due to budget rather than space constraints.

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Narrow footways and cycleways coming out of Walshamstow

Things improve once you reach Verulam Avenue. The stretch between here and Boundary Road has seen a much more significant change.

On the southbound side, some of the green space has been used to provide a bidirectional cycleway, a bus stop bypass and a crossing point between the footway and cycleway. Overall, I think this has been quite successful and it’s not often you see such a generous bus stop bypass.

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A very generous bus stop bypass

Unfortunately, after Boundary Road, it switches between protected cycleway and unprotected cycle lanes for small sections. Which while I was passing, almost to prove a point, the cycle lane was blocked by a van.

(Update: I’ve been informed that the primary route splits at Boundary Road “Markhouse is so narrow at the southern end, the route splits away from it. Those narrow cycle lanes are old. And the signage and markings aren’t quite in yet to show how to get onto the route link.”)

Markhouse-Road
Markhouse Road before, courtesy of Google StreetView

Markhouse Road seems much more similar to what we see elsewhere in the UK. While it’s definitely an improvement, it does feel a little compromised and inconsistent.

I do think the work being carried out on Lea Bridge Road sets the standard for what we should expect on our key A roads in cities across the country. Markhouse road, while good in places, does feel a bit of a compromise in places.

Plans were recently announced in Manchester for the Chorlton Cycleway. While this scheme has been talked about for some time, it now has Chris Boardman’s team involved and the aim of delivering a ‘exemplar’ scheme for the city region. I hope this scheme has more in common with Lea Bridge Road, than Markhouse Road.

Back to part 1 – Orford and Francis Roads

Next to part 3 – Modal filters

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