Walthamstow pro-motoring protesters disrupted the opening of Walthamstow’s £27m mini-Holland cycling scheme this week, shouting “streets for all” through megaphones and carrying a coffin to symbolise he “death” of Walthamstow village.
The Dutch ambassador Simon Smits was in attendance for the launch of the local authority’s scheme, one of three that were awarded around £30 million each by Transport for London after successfully bidding for the cash in competition with five other Outer London boroughs to transform their streets by bringing in Continental-style infrastructure.
One of the aims of Waltham Forest’s project is to reduce traffic on residential streets currently used as ‘rat runs’ by motorists, and last week the council began a trial of road closures in the Pembroke Road area to assess their impact. The pilot scheme will run until 13 October.
60 protesters arrived, carrying banners reading “Please Get Rid of this Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain” and “In loving memory of our village, 1815–2015,” according to BikeBiz.
The protest was organised by E17Streets4All, organised via their Facebook page which says: “We are a group of Walthamstow residents and business owners [who have] come together … to challenge the implementation of the Mini Holland scheme in its current form and achieve the implementation of a sensible, redesigned scheme acceptable to the majority of people living or working in the area.”
Cllr Clyde Loakes, the deputy leader of Waltham Forest council, was met with jeers of “on your bike” as he arrived at the event.
Cllr Loakes said: “There are clearly people who don’t like the scheme. But we spent six months on consultation which had a high response rate and addressed a lot of people’s concerns.
“But we are living in an age where public health issues are increasing rapidly especially obesity and air pollution. More cycling and walking will combat that and make the streets safer for school runs.”
He admitted that some motorised journeys might now take a few minutes longer but that “rat-running” motorists had to be discouraged from using Walthamstow village as a short-cut between major roads. Less than fifty percent of Walthamstow residents have access to cars.
According to the council’s website, “over 67,000 vehicles travelled through the trial area from 15 Sept to 22 Sept and that over 80% of traffic in some streets, including Orford Road and Pembroke Road, is rat running through traffic.”
It aims to cut that number “dramatically” through introducing strategic road closures to prevent motorists treating the area as a rat run, while still enabling locals to access their homes and workplaces.