This is part 3 in my series of posts looking at Waltham Forest Mini-Holland, looking at modal filters.
The other posts can be found here:
People might think that to truly go Dutch, we need to add cycleways to all our streets. This isn’t true, as Bicycle Dutch demonstrates in the following video on where to build cycle tracks and where not, it’s only through roads that require cycleways. The amount and speed of motor traffic on residential streets should be low enough to mean that this kind of separation isn’t necessary.
But as anyone familiar with residential streets in the UK will know, many suffer from problems from rat running. Combined with narrow roads, due to high levels of residential parking and you end up with somewhere that’s far from a pleasant place to ride.
It’s not just cycling that’s affected by rat running. As a child of the 70s, I’m old enough to remember when the streets were our playground. There’s so many more cars around now, that it’s often not safe or convenient for kids to play out on the streets.
So how do you prevent rat running? Well, Bicycle Dutch has plenty of examples of how rat running is prevented in The Netherlands, by using various mechanisms to filter motor traffic, while enabling people on bikes through. As Easy As Riding A Bike also looks at some of the types of filtered permeability, and its effects.
There’s different ways of filtering motor traffic:
- Using physical barriers such as bollards is very common, even in the UK. This includes automatic bollards that can lower to enable permitted traffic through.
- One way streets can be arranged to prevent through traffic, without the need of physical barriers. Exceptions can then be made to enable those on bikes to cycle against the flow.
- Signs forbidding motor traffic can used, either on their own or in conjunction with traffic cameras. This has been implemented recently in Manchester on two high profile bus gates on Oxford Road and Portland Street, resulting in many people being fined.
Modal filters play a significant part of the Mini-Holland Scheme in Waltham Forest. There’s even a Twitter account dedicated to them. There’s a huge variety in the types of filters too. From simple rows of bollards, to filters with cycle parking and planters.
Now, during my visit to Waltham Forest, I only had the opportunity to see a fraction of the modal filters that have been introduced, which are shown below. There’s plenty more to see, if you have the time.
The Cleveland Park modal filter consists of two planters and a single bollard. It’s situated towards the end of Cleveland Park Avenue as you approach top end of High Street in Walthamstow, which is now shared space.
Around the planters, new paving has been introduced, replacing the roadway that used to be there. I think this helps to give the area around the modal filter some character. I’m a big fan of using things like planters and paving to create a sense of place. It reminds me of the fantastic work Gorgeous Gorse Hill near me.
Prior to the Mini-Holland work, Orford Road used to have two motor traffic lanes, one in each direction. Now, this has been reduced to a single lane, in one direction. The single lane is restricted to buses and bikes for most of the day, between 10am and 10pm. So it effectively means the street is nearly traffic free.
Filtering is achieved through the use of signs and traffic cameras, so there’s no need for automatic bollards to let buses and emergency vehicles through. This also means traffic can be allowed through between specific times.
I covered Orford Road in more detail in the first post on Waltham Forest Mini-Holland. As I said in that post, Orford Road is increasingly become a destination to shop, socialise or just hang around. This is only possible because of how successful the modal filtering has been to reduce traffic and make it a much more pleasant environment.
The East Avenue modal filter isn’t far from Orford Road. As modal filters go, it occupies quite a large space across a bridge above the railway line into Walthamstow Central.
There’s nicely detailed wooden bollards at either end of the filter as well as well as bollards running down either side along its length. There’s also a raised bed at the St Mary Road end, which looks like it’s missing some trees since it was first installed and could do with some TLC.
Cycle parking is well catered for, with a row of Sheffield stands. There’s also a parking space for Urbo bike share bikes, though at the time, only my Urbo bike was present.
It’s clear that the East Avenue filter has been created for more than just to stop rat-running. I can imagine on days when the weather is better than when I was there, there’d be lots of kids out, making the most of this traffic-free space.
The modal filter at Erskine Road is a much more utilitarian example, just consisting of a row of bollards. Kerbs have been added across the road, with the section in the middle being at carriageway level, to enable those on bikes to navigate through.
There’s not a lot to say about the Erskine Road modal filter. While it’s not going to win any awards, it serves the purpose of removing through traffic, enabling the streets to be much more liveable.
While on my tour, I was able to see the Exmouth Road modal filter while it’s under construction. So it was possible to get an impression of the work involved in adding modal filters.
The location of this filter is near the end of Exmouth Road, next to Walthamstow Queen’s Road Station and Mission Grove Primary School. I’ve not been able to find out a great deal about it, but from what I understand from this Road Traffic Act notice, it is to replace an existing filter on Edinburgh Road, just around the corner.
The filter on Edinburgh Road is quite old and no longer appropriate, as access is mostly blocked by a gate, with a very narrow space for bicycles to pass. So a new modern filter, providing better access should be a welcome improvement.
Now I’m just guessing, but I’m assuming the purpose of moving the filter to Exmouth Road and in front of the station is so that station traffic uses Edinbugh Road rather than passing the school.
It’s not really possible to determine how effective these new filters are on a single visit, and without knowing the roads. But something I can say definitely, you can tell the difference between riding on filtered and unfiltered roads. As I mentioned, many of the residential streets around the area are quite narrow, so you notice the presence of rat-running vehicles while riding.
It’s fantastic to see the number of modal filters going into Waltham Forest as part of the Mini-Holland scheme, it’s also great to see that many of these filters are being used to create a sense of place, going well beyond simple bollards.
Modal filters have a significant role to play in reducing rat-running on our streets, making them safer for all road users, not just those cycling. In conjunction with protected cycleways on through roads, they are key to delivering a truly joined up cycle network.
I hope we’ll see modal filtering of this scale and quality soon in Greater Manchester, as part of Mayor Andy Burnham and Chris Boardman’s plans to improve cycling in the city.
Back to part 2 – Lea Bridge and Markhouse Roads
Next to part 4 – Cycle parking