Push comes to shove: COVID and active travel on Harringay Green Lanes

GreenLanesTrafficMay2020

The lack of safe space for cycling on Green Lanes, the imposition of rat-run status on Wightman Road, the tortoise pace of buses on Green Lanes … all are due to two things: parking and loading on Green Lanes, and traffic going in and out of the Arena Shopping Park (Sainsburys/McDonald’s/Homebase).

There is now a recognized need for quick creation of a safe cycling network as the COVID lockdown eases: people are afraid to ride buses or trains, there’s not space on the road for more cars, and many people – most people, in Haringey – don’t have cars anyway. Plans are mooted for emergency cycle tracks, some of which could be made permanent. Is it going to become safe to cycle on Green Lanes?

A ray of hope comes from Transport for London’s Analysis on Temporary Strategic Cycle Network, part of its larger Streetspace for London package. There’s a map there showing existing cycle routes, and proposed new ones; the new ones are colour-coded to show Highest-, High-, and Medium Priority. There are two new routes shown in the borough of Haringey which get the Highest Priority rating. One of those routes comes over Couch End Hill from Kentish Town via Archway; the other is Green Lanes.

Green Lanes has, despite truly fearful traffic and no cycle tracks, become a major cycle route anyway; to the north, Enfield has installed a segregated cycle track on Green Lanes; to the south, Hackney is preparing one. Will the missing link through Harringay and Wood Green now be found? You can register your views by adding a comment, or a “like” on existing comment, on this great map the Council has posted.

Please do it, and also contact the councillors in your ward: it’s not to be taken for granted that the Council will solve the Green Lanes problem. Consider: on 2nd June Haringey Council followed up TfL’s announcement with its own on Active travel to aid social distancing. Go to that link and, towards the bottom of the page you’ll find a positive note from Councillor Kirsten Hearn, Cabinet Member for Climate Change & Sustainability (her portfolio includes Strategic Transport), telling us

… we are working in partnership with TfL to provide more active travel options through temporary walking and cycling facilities in Haringey as part of a funding bid … We will also aim to bring forward east to west and north to south cycling routes, so that more residents can be confident that cycling is a safe, clean and efficient way to get around and have also identified low traffic neighbourhoods to discourage use of cars.

Hearn’s message is excellent, though general. What worries me is what is included in (and what is missing from) the specifics at the top of the page, in the unsigned announcement from Haringey Council. The announcement mentions three particular cycle routes, but neither of TfL’s Highest Priority ones. They mention improvements to CS (“Cycle Superhighway”) 1, which meanders more or less parallel to Tottenham High Road; the proposed CS2 from Tottenham Hale to Camden Town, which the TfL document gives High (not Highest) Priority; and “Quietway” 10, which goes from Finsbury Park, over the rather steep hill between Stroud Green and Crouch End, and on to Bowes Park. All are worthy, but why are TfL’s highest priorities left out?

Now, in the past, in the bad old days, Haringey Council promoted Quietway 10 as the alternative to a cycle route on Green Lanes or Wightman Road. Anybody who rides a bike and considers both the topography of Quietway 10 and the paucity of places to take a bike across the railway knows that this is not serious, and that anybody who does propose Quietway 10 as a substitute for a Green Lanes cycle route either is not well informed or is taking the piss.

Thus the Council’s failure to mention Green Lanes worries me. It does not surprise me, though. The Haringey Council has long been institutionally reluctant to face up to the problems created by traffic on Green Lanes. A few years back it spent a large sum on a study of the problem and in the end found that all solutions were impractical. Times do change, and I am confident that at this point there are mixed views of the question both among elected members of the Council, and among Council officers. But the failure to mention the most obvious and important route while still name-checking Quietway 10 says to me that this battle is far from over. Hence, my pitch to you here.

Green Lanes gets heavily congested in the stretch between Manor House and St Ann’s Rd. Beyond the general sea of motor traffic in which we live, there are two specific reasons for this congestion. One is that some years ago the Council allowed the construction of a traffic magnet in the form of the Arena Shopping Park – Sainsburys, McDonald’s (complete with drive-thru), and a collection of other chain stores. All of these chains are operating on business models which require surrounding neighbourhoods to subsidize their corporations by bearing the burdens of traffic congestion, road hazard and bad air produced by people each driving their ton of steel to pick up a few groceries, or a single burger. This is not the best way to get groceries or burgers to people in a place as dense as Haringey, and it should be shut down when and if possible (permits or leases or something do expire in the not terribly distance future, I hear); in the meantime, the Council and TfL should get tough on the traffic flows. For instance, they could:

  • install a southbound bus lane ouside the Arena Shopping Park;
  • eliminate the left turn exit lane from the Shopping Park which now feeds cars right into the bus stop outside Homebase (that’s not to say no left turns, just sharper left turns, crossing quickly over the bus lane);
  • forbid right turns by motor traffic from Green Lanes onto Endymion Road; and
  • filter Wightman Road to stop through motor traffic (and thus rat runs between Green Lanes and Wightman along Ladder roads)

That’s half the problem, but only half. The other half is parking and loading on Green Lanes itself: loading and parking needs to be moved onto side streets or – in the case of loading – given very restricted hours.

Most people travelling along Green Lanes, and most customers of the businesses there, go by foot, bus or bike. Buses sit in traffic, cyclists take their lives in their hands – or, in most cases, just don’t ride. It’s beyond a joke. The space required to solve these problems will not, cannot, be obtained without getting parking and loading off of that road. (It’s more complicated, actually, than just space: drivers pulling in and out of roadside parking spaces, or driving slowly looking for spaces, slow things down a lot.)

You might say “but why Green Lanes – couldn’t we just put the cycle route down Wightman Road?” Well, we could – it’s not quite as good, both because of hills and because it doesn’t meet up with the Green Lanes route used by Enfield and planned by Hackney, but it would be better than what we have. The problem: to make Wightman a good cycle route you would need to filter it to take the through motor traffic off of it, and doing that puts extra traffic onto Green Lanes; not much, but in its present state  Green Lanes already has more traffic than it can accomodate. To filter Wightman without making Green Lanes worse, we need to sort parking, loading and the traffic from Arena Shopping Park, anyway – there’s no getting around it.

The merchants of Green Lanes have always protected parking and loading on Green Lanes itself. It is of course well established that merchants over-estimate the share of their customers who do come by car; there are plenty of cases testifying to the attraction, to customers, of places less dominated by cars. Parking on a side street gets you as close to the shops as using a car park gets you to a superstore or shopping mall. Still, it’s a frightening a risky change to make.

Provision of parking on the side roads would also be opposed by some residents, who see parking supply already exhausted. To address this, the Council should reduce parking demand by raising resident parking permit rates in the Green Lanes area, and then rebate the increase to households as a credit on rates – i.e., residents would pay more if they parked, but get the rebate whether they had a car or not. (There may also be a case for separate CPZs East and West of Green Lanes; I’m told that some people from the East side of Green Lanes drive the short distance to the Harringay and Hornsey rail stations and park on the street there before get the train, something we can do without.)

Both sorting the traffic outside of the Arena Shopping Park, and sorting the parking and loading on Green Lanes, would be big steps, and politically difficult. Whoever writes announcements like the Council’s “Active travel to aid social distancing” knows that. That, I expect, is why, despite TfL’s rating of Highest Priority for an emergency bike route on Green Lanes; despite the actions of Enfield to the north and Hackney to the south, which make us the missing link; depsite the growing Green Lanes cycle traffic which occurs despite the congestion and evident danger; despite the pathetically slow buses; despite the geography which makes this such an obvious route both for cycle commuting and for cycling to local shops, services and schools – despite all of this, a Green Lanes cycle route is not mentioned by the Haringey Council at this time.

We should be able to cycle safely, to work or to school or to go shopping. And people riding on buses should not have to sit patiently in traffic so that a few people can park right where they want. This has long been an pressing problem – for reasons of air pollution, diseases of inactivity, carbon footprint and so on. Now, as we emerge from the COVID lockdown, it has become an unavoidable one.

2 thoughts on “Push comes to shove: COVID and active travel on Harringay Green Lanes

  1. Good stuff. And what about the nonsense of cars parked in Albion Rd with 73 buses trying to crawl through? Lethal for cyclists. (Hackney, not Haringey, but we need joined up planning)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s