CycleEnfield – Enfield Town Options

There is much talk about the CycleEnfield plans for Enfield Town and the opponents of the current scheme keep mentioning ‘Option 4’. Sadly it’s impossible to find the original drawings of the 6 options, but I’ve just found a copy of them so I present all 6 of them here.

Apologies for the poor quality but these are scans of photocopies and I’ve done as much as I can to make the images as clear as possible.

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Bus stops, bus stops…

There has been a lot of discussion about the bus stops planned for the A105 CycleEnfield route, but not a great deal of actual information so this Friday (9th October), I set of to get some. My cycle ride took in Leyton and Camden, places with combined cycle/bus boarders and Whitechapel, home of the ‘cyclists and bus users’ video posted in the Guardian. I’ve given links to Google maps so you can get an idea of the area of you want.

Leyton was, frankly, a bust. The closest thing I could find to a bus boarder was this:

The lane to the right is a bike lane, and although not obvious in this shot, even at 10:00am there was a steady flow of cyclists passing by – but no bus passengers. The reason is that this bus stop is here:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.5641112,-0.0408341,176m/data=!3m1!1e3

As you can see it’s well away from habitation and although it probably gets some pedestrians walking the pathway that runs under the road at this point, it’s hardly a busy urban environment.

So off to Camden, which is the source of the bus boarder photo in the CycleEnfield A105 documents. There are two ‘real’ bus boarders and I focused on the one outside the Royal Veterinary College, here:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.5367078,-0.1339806,176m/data=!3m1!1e3

It was noon and I did see some cyclists, including these two:

Sadly a cargo bike caught me ‘with the lens cap on’ but there was very little traffic. The cars you can see are almost all parked on this one-way street. Behind the bus stop you can also see a ‘counter board’ which counts the number of cyclists passing this point in both directions (there is a cycle path in the reverse direction behind the cars). But by noon the total was just 600 so let’s say 300 in each direction; hardly busy. There is also only one small bus every 10 minutes and after a boring wait, one finally showed up:

But as you can see, neither cars nor bikes were inconvenienced by the bus stopping, because there were no cars or bikes around!

Between Leyton and Camden I stopped off in Whitechapel to find the Guardian’s infamous bus stop, and here it is:

The location is:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.5165376,-0.0686007,176m/data=!3m1!1e3

I don’t know why the bike lane is blocked; there are some works being done in this area but I could not see anything to do with this bus stop. What this photo shows, that the Guardian video does not, is that this is not a tiny, cramped area but the island is large. However what this photo does not show, and what I suspect having cycled around the area, is that during rush hour the non-bus lane part of the road will be solid and totally impassable, even on a bike, meaning that all cyclists will want to use this cut-around.

So there are the bus boarder and bus bypass in their native environments. I had intended to take some video but frankly, nothing of interest happened. I’ll leave the reader to form their own opinions about how these designs might work in Enfield.

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Enfield to Haringey

Enfield To Haringey, by bike

http://www.youtube.com/papadeltasierra

This is a description of my journey from Enfield to Haringey by bike, along the A105 route that is the subject of plans by CycleEnfield, formerly miniHolland. and if you have 18 minutes and don’t mind the shaky camera work, then you can watch the whole journey, in real-time, with commentary by me, on YouTube.

The precis is that this is a route with real potential as a cycle route but it’s let down by a road layout that could be greatly improved. We need to be getting people ‘on their bike’ along these key routes, so that cycling because a safe, fast option for many more journeys in the borough.

I’m 50 years old and a competent and confident cyclist but I would not recommend this route for a child or someone who is nervous. And that’s a pity because the A105 is a wide road and has real potential as a route for cyclists. Already, I see more cyclists using this route and so people are ready to get on their bikes, they just need a road layout that helps make the journey safer and quicker.

The recurring themes throughout my journey are parked cars, stationary traffic and junctions. Starting off from Enfield, parked cars along London Road and Village Road immediately force me out into traffic. There’s plenty of space to have all the parking on one side of the road and then the extra lane could be used to provide clear cycle ways.

The junction with Bush Hill Road/Church Street is then typical, having two lanes for cars but not no cycle filter or priority zone to enable cycles to avoid the queues that often build up here. The junctions often have long queues of stationary traffic but a better layout would get cyclists quickly past and on their way.

The Ridge Avenue stretch is uphill with a bus stop half way up and when there are buses stopped there, I again have to move out into traffic despite moving slowly as I ascend the hill. A floating bus stop would allow me to continue on, away from the traffic.

Swinging left past ‘Le Peleton’ and Masons Corner, we hit Green Lanes and we’re starting to see shops. Again I’m having to weave in and out around parked cars.

The roundabout at Station Road/Fords Grove can also be improved. Two rows of cars approach the roundabout but the slight right turn causes cars to bunch up. The result is jockeying for position which cyclists have to thread their way through. And again, no way for cyclists to avoid any queue of stopped cars waiting at this junction.

Green Lanes onto Bourne Hill/Hedge Lane is wide but here it’s ‘street furniture’ causing a problem. This car overtook me very tentatively which meant he was alongside me, with not a lot of space, for much longer that I would have liked.

The Bourne Hill/Hedge Lane junction normally has a queue of cars and no provision for cyclists to get past (this is becoming somewhat repetitive). Then driving through Palmers Green is more of the same at the Fox Lane roundabout and Aldermans Hill junction.

The Broomfield Lane/Oakthorpe Road traffic lights are a fine example of frustration. I’ve just left the bus lane approaching the lights, the bus lane restarts after the lights but as you can see, I’m stuck behind two solid blocks of cars and no cycle filter lane. I quietly scream each time I reach here, especially when the approach to the A406 is blocked and traffic doesn’t even move when the lights do change.

Then it’s a whizz down the hill to the A406 North Circular junction where you can play ‘spot the cycle lane’. Yes it’s is there somewhere under that bus. Totally useless because it’s far too short and almost invisible making it impossible to safely reach the cycle priority zone at the front of the junction.

The last leg towards Haringey is pretty straight forward except that today there seems to be a hold-up and since there’s no cycle way, we cyclists have to thread our way in and out to avoid sitting in choking fumes before reaching Haringey.

The return journey is essentially ‘more of the same’ except for the nasty little hill from the A406 up towards the Broomfield Lane/Oakthorpe Road junction. Again there’s a bus stop and although bus drivers are often polite and let me get up there, sometimes there’s already a bus ahead of me so I have to come right out into traffic half-way up the hill whilst going slowly; that’s never fun.

So that’s Enfield to Haringey, a route with great potential for cyclists if the Enfield council has the guts to bite the bullet and get stuck in. In the past, Enfield council has given back monies intended to improve cycling in the borough but let’s keep the pressure on and ensure they don’t do so again.

I would be most interested to hear your views on CycleEnfield, whether for or against, to:

paul@pauldsmith.org.uk

And if you want more information about CycleEnfield, and current best practice in road design for cycling, I recommend the links below.

CycleEnfield’s website

Cycle design handbook

Making space for cycling

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Benefits should match inflation

The government proposes to cap benefits at just 1%, a below inflation rise. Their argument is that benefits should not rise faster than general wages but this shows a total and complete misunderstanding of the purpose of benefits and a lack of empathy with those receiving them. It’s very hard for me to talk about this without getting very angry with people in government who clearly have never had to budget or decide whether to turn on the heating or be able to eat a meal but I have to try so here goes.

It seems almost mandatory to start a discussion of this area with "of course not everyone is a scrounger…" but since this scheme is in no way going to identify or target such people, there really is no need. What this scheme will do is reduce the ability of these at the bottom of society to pay the most basic of bills. The reason is obvious to anyone who has ever had to carefully balance their finances (which discounts most of the cabinet of course!). Living requires shelter, food and utilities. The cost of shelter is rising, often faster than inflation (especially in cities) whilst the cost of food tends to track inflation. But the cost of utilities, especially electricity and gas, has far outstripped inflation lately and, of course, those on the lowest incomes are the least able to switch providers and take advantage of "pay up front and save" offers. All-in-all, the basic cost of living is rising, at best in line with inflation but probably even higher.

So why is inflation low? Well how much did you pay for your last computer, phone or television? Was it the same, or even less, than you paid for the previous one? The cost of many such items has actually fallen, which means that for some groups whose spending is heavily into such items, their "personal inflation" figure is actually negative. But of course benefit recipients are not buying these items and their income is all used to pay for the basics of life, the cost of which is often rising faster than inflation.

So we should raise benefits more quickly than wages? Well yes and no. I believe that benefits should provide for the basics of life, no more, no less. So during "the boom" years, when wages were rising rapidly in many sectors, benefits were most certainly not keeping pace and that’s quite correct, but that works the other way; just because wages are not rising, it doesn’t mean that benefits can stop tracking inflation.

Or to put it another way, when times are good, the wages can reap the benefits and their spending power increases whilst in bad times, the waged have to cut back on luxuries. But for benefit recipients we iron out the boom and bust – they are supported when times are hard but not gifted extra spending power when times are good.

Or another way? Well if you can afford an espresso, you can afford to not have your wages track inflation but if you can barely afford a pint of milk, you cannot be expected to shoulder further cuts in your income – that’s the welfare state in a nutshell, as much as you need, no more, no less.

So that’s why Mr Cameron. I doubt he’ll get it though :-(.

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I’m running the #EnfieldMayorsFunRun – please sponsor me.

On Sunday 9th September some top Enfield athletes will be competing in the Mayor’s 10km Fun Run around Forty Hall and environs in support of local organisations nominated by the Mayor of Enfield. Some way behind them will be a bunch of other people, including me. We’ll also be running in support of these local organisations so I’m hoping some of you nice folks will sponsor me.

The key bits you will want to know are "who are these organisations" and "do you really expect to finish"? Well to start answering your questions, the Mayor’s Charity Appeal is supporting…

"the Enfield Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Organisation, North Middlesex Maternity Unit, Our Voice; a parent-led organisation aiming to improve services for children and young people with disabilities or special educational needs, and the Tottenham Hotspur E18HTEEN project, supporting young people aged 16-19 who are either in care or are care leavers into education and employment."

http://www.enfield.gov.uk/news/article/561/fantastic_fun_run_and_fun_walk_to_raise_money_for_mayors_charities

And will I finish? Yes! Having reached the age where those extra chips rather outstay their welcome, and the bath room scales start to complain about coach parties, I’ve been running regularly and can now run 15km without collapsing. That said, if you decide to come and cheer the runners on, you’ll have time for a nice coffee between the top runners finishing and me coming into view but yes, I will finish.

So please dig deep and sponsor me for this run.

You can drop me an e-mail to paul with:

1. Your name, address and postcode

2. The amount you wish to donate

3. If you wish to donate to a particular charity, or all of them equally.

4. Whether you can "Gift Aid" the donation.

Monies need to be received by Friday 12th October and I’ll drop you my address so you may send me a cheque payable to "Enfield Mayor’s Charity Appeal".

Thank you very much for your support – please do come along

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Is it time to build schools in town parks?

Enfield is facing a severe shortage of school places and something needs to be done. This is not just an Enfield issue, as all over London, boroughs find themselves in the same situation. But the question is what to do about this? I’ve been giving this some thought and more and more come back to a somewhat radical solution, but first of all, let’s consider where we are at present.

The first step in Enfield has been to shoe-horn more children into existing schools. A number of primary schools in the area have been given bulge classes, temporary extra classes which will work their way through the system and then return the school to its original size; sadly there’s a problem. These extra children have siblings, and these siblings can have the effect of making it even less likely that local children can find a school place at their local school. This year almost all of George Spicer Primary’s available places went to siblings with few places for "first children". And adding more children to schools where provision of lunch rooms, toilets, playground space was never planned for them, brings all the problems you might imagine.

The second step has been to permanently expand existing schools and Merryhills School is undergoing just such an expansion. But there are problems here too! Many community schools like Alma, Bush Hill Park or George Spicer are on severely constrained sites and although classroom space might be available, this would leave children "cheek-by-jowl" during break times. Splitting lunchtimes helps in some ways but it means that children are expected to work in class whilst their school mates are enjoying break time – and we all know how quiet children at play can be!

Other community schools such as Worcesters have great sites, but terrible access along narrow residential streets. Yes, I know we should really walk our children to school (and mine walk almost every single day to and from school) but not all parents have the luxury of the time that takes.

Then we have the issue of voluntary aided school, typically religious schools whether Catholic, CoE, Jewish or other. Some have shouldered their part of the burden and accepted expansion, but some have thus far resisted. The council seems reticent to take on the boards of governors, even though the council, as the LEA, does have the right to force expansion if they can show it is in the best interests of the borough as a whole.

So where does this leave us? Well we still need new primary school places and really the only sensible solution is to build new primary schools – but where? A huge problem in London is the price of land, but of course there already large tracts of land dotted around the borough, the parks, so could we use these and if we did, how might we limit the impact to other park users?

Well let’s start with some ground rules. We don’t want to take an entire park and leave nothing for the community, and wherever possible, we would want to replace lost park land, perhaps with smaller new parks elsewhere, perhaps on small existing brown field sites. We would also want to maximise the amount of shared space; although hard-core playgrounds are required, there should be no "fencing in" of playing fields – during the week they can be used by the school, and during the evenings and weekends, by walkers, dog owners and weekend footballers. Finally, the school should be build not only to the highest modern building standards, to blend with the local communities, but also with an eye to use as community facilities outside school hours. At the weekend I was at a new school in Islington which provided excellent facilities for small conferences because the design of the school permitted use of the main halls without having to permit people into classrooms.

I appreciate that this will be far from a preferred solution and many will rail against it, but we’ve already past the time when the borough should have been building new schools and we need to catch-up. I hope article this will start not only a dialog, but a flurry of positive ideas whether in support of this suggestion or even better ones which could provide the borough with the school places it so desperately needs, in real, purpose build schools, equally accessible to all the borough’s children.

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I’m married – give me some money!

No, really, that wedding cost a fortune and I don’t care if the wife and me are at each other’s throats and slapping the kids around each night. What’s important is that we have a wedding certificate!

This seems to be the logic behind giving married couples a tax break. As Iain Duncan Smith said, the tax breaks for married couples were not “about government interfering in family life” but “about government recognising that stable two-parent families are vital for the creation of a strong society.”

I might even agree with him, but his quotes don’t say “married”, thjey say “stable two-parent families” and these are not the same. We can probably all think of married couples who frankly shouldn’t be – should we reward their making each other’s, and their family’s, lives miserable? And what about my friends from university who have been in a stable, loving relationship for almost 25 years and have two wonderful children? They never wanted to marry and they haven’t, so why should the absence of a piece of paper be a tax burden to them?

Oh, and let’s not forget that there isn’t any money in the coffers. So if married people are gaining, everyone else must lose out to balance the budget.

But let’s step back for a moment and consider something which does trouble some of my married work colleagues. If two parents work, perhaps both working reduced hours so reduced wages, then they both get taxed – but they each get tax allowances which mean their first few thousand of earnings are tax free and their individual earnings might mean that they pay no more than 20% tax on any earnings. Compare this to a couple where one parent stays home but the other works a long day; the single earner gets a single tax allowance and the combined earnings could well hit the 40% tax threshold. So, two parents working means far less tax for the same total income.

In the US couples can “file jointly” with the tax allowances etc shared; should we do it here? Nice idea but once again the devil’s in the detail. As we roll this out, some tax income will drop, so we need to ramp up elsewhere. And what is a couple – bugger, we’re back to the “married” argument.

How about a different approach? Should we provide children with a transferable tax allowance which can be used by either parent or guardian? This means that a “couple” becomes “two people with shared legal responsibility for children” regardless of gender or marital status. But if you’re earning sufficient to be paying tax, do you even need the tax breaks? Well Lib Dems took some of the poorest in this country out of tax so perhaps this is just another logical extension, raising the tax threshold so that more at the bottom end up paying no tax at all.

What do I think? Well my marriage is between me and my wife and it’s got nothing to do with you, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A tax break is going to do nothing to change my marriage, and I think a tax break for married people is simply wrong. But that idea about child tax allowances… well have you seen the price of children’s shoes?

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