Monday, 4 March 2019

London's "Mini Holland"

Guest writer - Dan Kelly

Is your suburb plagued by rat running and traffic chaos? 

Get some planter boxes.

Cleveland Park Avenue Walthamstow. Photo: Tim Burns 2017

Fed up with rat running motorists and school drop off chaos, my suburban London neighbourhood used low-tech interventions such as planter boxes and outdoor seating to create safer streets, improve liveability and boost active transport. Here’s how Perth can do it too.

West Avenue, Walthamstow. Photo: Tim Burns 2017

Starting in 2015, an innovative project was rolled out across the whole local government area of Waltham Forest, an outer suburban area of north east London where I live.

Just as in Perth, residents were increasingly frustrated with issues of rat running, parking woes, school gate chaos and speeding. 

Somers Road, Walthamstow. Google Streetview 2008

Somers Road, Walthamstow. Google Streetview 2017

People said they wanted calmer streets, more greenery, streets less dominated by fast moving traffic and where children could play and people could interact more. They said they wanted the option of walking and riding bikes for short trips around the neighbourhood but were put off by unsafe street design and high volume traffic.

Dubbed ‘Mini Holland’ and spearheaded by go-getting then London mayor Boris Johnson, the Waltham Forest project took inspiration from the people-friendly, calm streets approach of the Netherlands.

The project involved improved pedestrian crossings, reduced speed limits on residential streets, the planting of more street trees, new public spaces and protected bike lanes on main roads that fully separate two-wheeled traffic from cars.

An important feature of the project was the partial closure of some streets to rat-running motorists. This low-tech re-design known as ‘filtering’ used heavy planter boxes or bollards to block the street to through traffic, reducing traffic volumes and making it safer for those on foot or bicycle. All homes remain accessible to motor vehicles but non-essential ‘through traffic’ is radically reduced.

Northcote Road, Walthamstow. Google Streetview 2016

Northcote Road, Walthamstow. Google Streetview 2017

Northcote Road, Walthamstow. Photo: Tim Burns 2017

The project was relatively inexpensive, at around £27 million (AU$46 million) over six years, approximately the cost of adding nine kilometres of lane to the Kwinana Freeway.

Most residents supported the project before its introduction however, a noisy minority of businesses and residents protested the changes, determined to stick to the status quo.

Three years on and the nay-sayers’ fears have proved unfounded. Waltham Forest’s Mini Holland project has delivered dramatic results that have made the area much more pleasant, safer and liveable.

East Avenue, Walthamstow. Google Streetview 2012

East Avenue, Walthamstow. Photo: Tim Burns 2017

Research by Westminster University found the Mini Holland project has led to increased rates of walking and cycling with many of the bike trips done by new riders.

Rat running and traffic volumes around school drop off zones have reduced. New public seating, pocket parks and pedestrian-priority crossings have improved the walking experience and increased the sense of community. Children are once again playing in the street, there’s been a rise in parents biking with their kids to school, and footfall is up around local businesses.

Church Road, Walthamstow. Google Streetview 2016
Church Road, Walthamstow. Photo: Dan Kelly 2018

A separate study found children in the area may have a longer life expectancy due to improved air quality and greater opportunity for active mobility.

But the best thing about the success of the Waltham Forest project is that it can be replicated in other communities – including in Perth. It doesn’t cause chaos, as detractors feared. Instead it has improved quality of life for residents and made town centres and suburban streets work much better.

West Avenue, Walthamstow. Google Streetview 2012

West Avenue, Walthamstow. Photo: Tim Burns 2017
All across Perth, local governments are facing issues around traffic, road safety and car parking. Local governments and residents say they want kids to be able to walk to school, they want the streets to be safe for bike riding, and they want vibrant town centres and prosperous local businesses.

My suburban neighbourhood provides there's a workable template for local governments in Perth and beyond to achieve these goals. It’s not technically complicated, it’s not expensive and the results are delightful.

Hatherley Road, Walthamstow. Google Streetview 2015

Hatherley Road, Walthamstow. Google Streetview 2018

Hatherley Road, Walthamstow. Photo: Tim Burns 2017

Hatherley Road, Walthamstow. Photo: Tim Burns 2017

Dan Kelly is a London-based liveable streets advocate who specialises in community engagement and campaign strategy. He recently visited Perth.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Design Perth streets for bikes and increase our kids' independence

It's time for Perth to embrace the three-mode transport approach that makes for a more socially connected, happier and healthier city.

While cities around the world are lowering speed limits and tearing down freeways, Perth continues to build a road network that facilitates the movement of only two modes - car and foot.

Most parents would love for their children to ride home from school on a safe path.

People on bikes are currently expected to share with motor traffic or share with pedestrians, and the conflict problems are obvious.

Designing for a third mode, the bicycle, not only improves mobility options, it can deliver a number of positive social benefits too. This is seen most notably in the Netherlands, which since the 1970s has adopted the gold standard of this three-mode approach.

It's about changing our thinking from two modes to three.

The Dutch have done it and their streets function in a way that is fairer for all people. 

Better for children, seniors and those with disabilities

Thanks to the network of separate bike paths and low-speed neighbourhood streets, Dutch children are able to have independent mobility by the time they are eight or nine.

Meanwhile in Australia, the majority of our children have restricted mobility and must wait to be taken places by car. Being a parent in Australia also means being a taxi driver.

The three-mode system also allows Dutch seniors to have independent mobility without the stress of driving. They can do their own errands and are able to have a more active social life than older Australians.

People with disabilities also benefit from bike-friendly street design. Smooth, continuous paths designed for bicycles are also ideal for wheel chairs and other motorised mobility aids.

Enlightened cities around the world are cottoning on and are progressively installing separated bike infrastructure. New York, London, Chicago and even Auckland increasing understand the importance of providing an option of bicycle riding for all people.

Failed system

Our Western Australian state and local governments want more people on bicycles but the current strategies are not working.

A new approach is needed that targets the 56 per cent of the population who have bikes in the shed but will not use their bikes for transport unless there is a dramatic change to the urban environment.

The majority of people will simple not ride a bike next to motor vehicles travelling at 50 or 60 km/h.

Lemnos Street near Shenton College.

For example, the on-road bicycle lane next to Shenton College does not get used. The students riding bikes prefer the safer option of being on the footpath (legal but not ideal).

Change in thinking

The issue is not about Australia having enough space or money. It's about changing our thinking from two modes to three.

The Dutch have done it and their streets function in a way that is fairer for all people.

Once we stop thinking about the bicycle as just a piece of sporting equipment and remember our history of using it for transport, we can stop having the pointless debates about a minority group called 'cyclists' and get on with providing transport options for the majority of people.

In Western Australia, only 1.3 per cent of people ride a bike to work or school, yet there is at least one working bike in 61 per cent of households.

Obviously most people, even when they own a bike, do not want to travel to work, school or the shops wearing Lycra and a helmet, in single-file next to fast moving motor vehicles. That's the main option available right now.

Most parents would love for their children to be able to ride home from school, relaxed, chatting with a friend, on a safe path that's separated from motor vehicles. The kids want it too.

Perth, it's time to stop taking baby steps with infrastructure and treat the bicycle as an efficient transport option for all people.

Tim Burns writes the Bicycle Perth blog.

This article was recently published by WA Today using alternative photographs (see below). I have re-published it here using my original photographs which are more relevant to the content. My images were supplied to WA Today but they decided not to use them.

The article is based my earlier "Australia, start counting to-three" blog post.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Perth Stadium: Bike-car from South Perth

There's another big game at the stadium this afternoon. A crowd of 54,000 is expected to attend the football match between Fremantle and Collingwood. Access by car is restricted so trains and buses will be the predominant mode of transport. Cycling is a good option if you live close enough, but for many people living further away or in areas without good connections to public transport the combination of bike-plus-car is a realistic option. My last post described a cycling route from Rivervale to the stadium. That one is a good option in daylight hours but the river path is not lit and would be a bit creepy in the dark.

This route from Hurlingham Road, South Perth is a good option at any time of the day or night. Easy car parking and a four kilometre ride along separated paths. This route is suitable for all ages and abilities.

Use the car park at the river end of Hurlingham Road. There are toilets here and there's a new coffee van that is open from dawn to sunset, every day of the week.

If the car park is full. Go back one block and park on the northern side of Ranelagh Crescent.

There is a shared path from Ranelagh Crescent that joins with the riverside paths.

Turn right at the river and travel along the cycle path. The stadium is an easy four kilometres without hills.

These are great quality paths. It's one of the few places in Western Australia where cycling is separated from pedestrians.

The Embargo Bar is currently in McCallum Park for the next couple of months. You can stop here before or after the game.

The path travels through this tunnel under the Causeway.

The most direct path is current blocked off but there is an alternative path on the western side of the lake.

There are multiple parking racks around the stadium.

If you return after dark the route is lit for about 90% of the journey.

Stadium management are using mobile lighting towers along the western side of the lake. At the time of taking these photographs not all the towers were illuminated so it appears darker than what could be expected during an event.

This dark section close to the Causeway is about 100 metres long.

Once past the Causeway you will be back to the Embargo Bar area.

And the final section is well lit all the way to the car park.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Perth Stadium: Bike-Car from Rivervale

Perth Stadium finally opens to the public for the first time today. It's a 60,000 seat sporting arena located on a peninsula with very restricted access for motor vehicles.

Travelling to the stadium will require a change of thinking for many Western Australians who don't consider travelling in anything but a car or a plane. The state government has designed a transport plan that focuses on trains and buses. Here is a recent advertisement promoting both modes.

Some Western Australians have an aversion to public transport. I know people who have lived within walking distance of Murdoch station for ten years and have never caught a train. 

One way to avoid the crowded public transport is to ride a bike. If you live close enough there are safe and easy routes to the stadium. For people living further away, using a combination of bike and car is a logical solution. Put the bikes on the back of the car and drive to a spot within riding range.

The bike-car solution may not be as praiseworthy as bike-only, or bike-train, but for those living in areas not well-serviced by public transport it's a realistic option. 

My bike-car suggestion for this week is Rivervale.

Park in Tanunda Drive at the rear of this building. From this point it is an easy three-kilometre ride to the stadium along a shared path. There are some hills but it is suitable for people aged 5 to 80.

You might get a car park on the street but there are also about 150 off-street bays that are not used on weekends.

Directly behind the car park is a shared path that travels along the river. There's even a convenient water fountain to fill your bottles.

Travel down the hill and stay on the river side of the apartments. This path will take you along a very pleasant and shady route to the stadium.  

There are opportunities to stop along the way. There are small jetties, parks, picnic tables and a grassy beach.

The path opens onto a car park next to a popular water ski area. There is no need to ride through the car park. Turn left immediately and use the short section of path next to the toilet block to connect to the main Principal Shared Path beside Graham Farmer Freeway.

There are three streets to cross. The first is the entry to the ski area, with a low volume of traffic. The next two are controlled with traffic lights and are easy for all ages and abilities.

When closer to the stadium. Turn to the left to get to ground level. There are bike parking racks in front of the train station. You can park there if it is crowded and prefer to walk the final section. Otherwise, if you continue riding, there are racks for 600 bikes in areas closer to the stadium and in the surrounding park.

Travel through the tunnel and you have arrived.