In Holland, where there are more bikes than people, cycling accounts for 70 per cent of journeys. So, when the local authorities proposed to introduce a clutch of pro-cycling measures in the London district of Walthamstow, they decided to call the whole thing “Mini Holland”. The phrase conjures images of a happy, healthy, bike-filled neighbourhood. The reality hasn’t proved quite so simple.
The £30m scheme, funded by Waltham Forest council and Transport for London, includes a new cycle superhighway and segregated cycle lanes on the Whipps Cross roundabout. On 26 September, the council began a two-week test of some of the pro-cycling measures, which included restricting car access to eight roads.
One of the aims of the plan was to improve the local economy. But, one week in, local businesses are complaining that cars can’t reach offices and shops and business is suffering. The owner of a local architecture firm told the Waltham Forest Guardian that the pedestrianisation of Orford road, on which his practice is based, will “close us down” (architects get a lot of trade from passing drivers, clearly). On the other hand, this advert for a three-bed house does note that the area is “part of Mini Holland LBWF proposals”, implying it could be a selling point for some.
The way the trial has been implemented has caused problems, too. The Waltham Forest Guardian reported that “many people are not aware of the trial, and that cars have been towed and tickets issued to motorists”.
In response, Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, has written an open letter to the council saying they didn’t provide enough information to motorists before the trial began. Creasy has apparently received an “avalanche” of emails and tweets asking about the project; unfortunately, she didn’t receive any formal details either, so wasn’t able to help.
The MP has now asked the council to clarify who will make decisions about the scheme’s future, and how residents can give their feedback on the trial. As things stand, it looks like mini Holland’s first reviews won’t be that glowing.