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Stand up for better streets, says champion of Enfield’s Mini-Holland

After inauspicious beginnings, Enfield’s Mini-Holland is starting to deliver healthier and safer streets, the council’s former deputy leader Daniel Anderson tells Deniz Huseyin

24 May 2019
Daniel Anderson: People referred to me - and still do - as the idiot who built the cycle lanes. But I can live with that. If I didn’t believe that it was the right thing to do I wouldn’t have done it
Daniel Anderson: People referred to me - and still do - as the idiot who built the cycle lanes. But I can live with that. If I didn’t believe that it was the right thing to do I wouldn’t have done it

Right from the moment Enfield became one of TfL’s Mini-Holland boroughs back in 2014, the rumbles of dissent began. Cllr Daniel Anderson, who until recently was the council’s deputy leader, recalls being verbally abused at public meetings: “It’s fair to say we faced considerable opposition. People referred to me - and still do - as the idiot who built the cycle lanes. But I can live with that. If I didn’t believe that it was the right thing to do I wouldn’t have done it.

“Very personal complaints were made against me from people trying to stop us on the most spurious of grounds. Many thought that if they could break me they could stop the scheme, but they were wrong.”

Last week, five members of Enfield council’s cabinet, including Anderson, decided not to stand for re-election at the Labour group’s annual general meeting. Despite no longer overseeing Mini-Holland, Anderson said he would be keeping the programme under “close scrutiny” to ensure that further progress is made. 

A realistic schedule

Mini-Holland laid the foundations for the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme, which is awarding £139m over the next five years to improve local environments across the capital by making it easier to travel on foot and bike and to use public transport. The first round of funding was in 2017/18, with £89m awarded so far.

Seven boroughs were awarded funding in phase one, and in March TfL announced phase two funding for another 11 London councils including Enfield.

As the boroughs draw up plans for Liveable Neighbourhood schemes, Anderson offers councillors the following advice: “You’ve got to hold your nerve. If you crumble then you’re finished.”

Nearly five years on from the winning bid, Anderson believes that attitudes towards Mini-Holland are changing. “Things have moved on. There are still those who are vehemently against such schemes and always will be, believing that all cyclists jump red lights and think cycle lanes are a complete waste of money. But those attitudes are diminishing.”

Anderson concedes that mistakes were made during the early days of the programme. He thinks the original schedule to implement the whole programme in 17 months was wildly optimistic. “The first major scheme alone [the A105] has taken 18 months to complete, but the reality is no one had done anything like this before. It was only when it came down to the detailed planning of major construction works on a live network that it became obvious that the timeframe was completely unrealistic.”

In the early years, the council became entrenched in long, drawn out consultations. Anderson took over the responsibility for the programme in 2015 when he became a cabinet member for environment, a year after Enfield won its Mini-Holland bid.

With the wisdom of hindsight, Anderson urges any authority considering pedestrian and cyclist-friendly routes to ensure their vision is realistic. “You need to be clear from the outset when involving the community that that they understand that they have a voice, but not a veto, something experience has taught us. Indeed, I don’t think we particularly helped ourselves during the initial consultation period by asking questions such as ‘do you agree or disagree?’, which sort of implied that the scheme wouldn’t happen if sufficient numbers objected, which just wasn’t the case.  

“It is also essential to have detailed plans in place well before you start construction. You really don’t want to be redesigning parts of the scheme as you are going along, which we were doing with the A105.”

Minimising traffic disruption

With the A105 project, the council took the decision not to roll out the changes sequentially one section after the next. “We wanted to reduce disruption to traffic as much as possible. So we avoided doing work on the busiest junctions at the busiest times of years. We avoided Christmas periods and did as much as possible during the quieter summer holidays. However, this led to other knock-on effects, such as segments being completed disjointedly, and so it was quite some time before reasonable stretches were completed and thereby useable.”

Nonetheless, some disruption to businesses is inevitable during major construction works, though mitigation measures were put in place to seek to limit the pain as much as was possible, Anderson says. “During the entirety of the works our contractors have ensured that a public liaison officer is in place to engage with businesses on a daily basis to help support them where and when it matters most, such as enabling and facilitating deliveries. We have also supported and encouraged businesses to apply to the Valuation Office Agency for possible business rate relief.”

Not surprisingly, taking steps to alleviate disruption slowed down implementation. Besides which, unforeseen problems can arise, particularly when involving utility works. “Believe it or not, we have no powers over utility companies and are very much at their mercy, and when it comes to working underground, utility workers can find things they didn’t know about such as low level electric wiring or gas pipes. This then delays our work while we wait for the utilities to resolve the issue, which can take weeks, if not months.”

Anderson was clear from the outset that the Cycle Enfield project was more than just about cycle lanes, and therefore set about building an interdisciplinary team. “I believed it was essential to involve our public health and business development teams to engage with the health sector and the business community. A number of businesses that were initially cynical later went on to support the programme. However, many have been keen to keep this low key given they have faced huge intimidation from objectors.”

Loss of parking spaces

One of the key concerns for businesses was the loss of parking spaces. The borough tried as much as possible to retain parking bays outside shops and developed innovative ways of providing more off-street parking. For example, in Winchmore Hill town centre, the council introduced a combination of pay & display and 45-minute free parking at the previously unregulated car park. “This was previously a 150-space car park used by people commuting who weren’t benefitting the local shopping area.”

Though Anderson stresses his support for local businesses, he feels that too much emphasis is placed on parking provision. “Research across Enfield and elsewhere has consistently shown that, at most, 25% of shoppers arrive by car. The vast majority of car users simply drive through our shopping areas. The majority who shop in our high streets come on public transport or walk.” 

Far more important are regeneration projects that make town centres more appealing places to visit. “Take Enfield Town, for example. It has suffered years of decline. We are now looking to reinvigorate the town. Aside from the cycle lanes, which will be coming forward in the next couple of years, we want to open up more public space.”

The council is working with Deutsche Bank to improve the main shopping centres as well as working with the charitable trust that runs the market square.”

Anderson says there are three principles at the heart of Enfield’s Mini-Holland programme: to create safe cycling lanes; promote more active travel; and transform high streets and town centres. 

As part of the Cycle Enfield programme, the council has planted more greenery along the new cycle routes. It has incorporated rain gardens, designed to take water off the highway and into soft landscaped areas so that water filters through the ground and is soaked up by the plants and shrubs. “Rain gardens are an effective way of dealing with surface water run-off.” 

A joined-up network

Semi-segregation has been a key feature of the new cycling network. Rubberised orcas and wands are fitted on the highway to create a divide between motorised traffic and cycle lanes. This provoked concerns that orcas could be a trip hazard. Anderson is adamant that segregation in some form is an essential feature of the scheme, whether they are orcas or any similar product and asserted that “there are no orcas at zebra crossings and other scheduled crossing points”. He says: “We all have a duty of care when we cross the public highway. They are certainly not the threat that doom mongers said they would be.”

The programme’s detractors argued that all cycle routes should be on Quietways or along riverbanks. “The bid was very clear; to create a network of cycle lanes across the major areas so they were easily accessible. If you confine cycle lanes to back routes then that’s not going to encourage lots of people to use them. Yes, the council is looking at incorporating Quietways as part of the solution. As for using river banks, they are not all under the council’s ownership and there were also safety concerns about cycling along them at night.”

In May 2017 a group called Save Our Green Lanes took the council to the High Court arguing that the Mini-Holland programme diverted private cars from Enfield’s high street while cycle lanes installed in Palmers Green and Enfield Town would worsen air pollution and have little or a negative effect on business.

However, the High Court dismissed the case – as they did on two further occasions – and ordered the group to pay the council’s costs.

Opening up new routes

Work is underway on a cycling route along the A1010 from Edmonton, through to Ponders End. The southern section is almost complete, after which work will start on the northern section, from Ponders End to Freezywater close to the border with Hertfordshire.

Lessons were learned during the A105 project, which has resulted in the A1010 works progressing more quickly, says Anderson. “Given our experience with the delivery of the A105, our quantity surveyors and engineers are now far better equipped to deliver the next major stretch of this extensive project more swiftly and efficiently.”

Anderson predicts that support for Mini-Holland will grow once a joined-up cycling network is in operation across the borough. “Once the north and south sections of the A1010 are completed and we get linking connections over the next four or five years, I think the borough will be a very different place.”

However, to encourage more residents to cycle, Anderson is clear that supportive infrastructure is essential, such as a reliable bike hire scheme, along with bike hubs and hangars. The council went live with a dockless hire scheme in March 2018, but just at the point of expansion a change in management and company direction saw Urbo withdraw from Enfield, Waltham Forest and Redbridge stating that deployment across London no longer suited their business model.

Since then, Enfield has been trying to source an alternative scheme and is now working with London-based dockless bike hire firm Beryl, initially offering a trial pool of bikes to council staff, but with plans to roll out the bikes across the borough later this year.

Anderson is convinced that dockless bike hire will take off. “People have told me it makes sense for them to use hire bikes, particularly those that live in flats where it’s hard to store a bike. Hire bikes offer them a quick and convenient way of getting around.” 

The council is also working with contractor Cyclehoop to provide secure cycle hangars – each of which can hold six bikes – as well as large cycle hubs at Edmonton Green and Enfield Town rail stations that can store up to 50 bikes.

Anderson believes that the new infrastructure, along with training, will open up active travel to more people. “Most journeys in the borough are two miles or less. Those are journeys that could easily be made by bike or on foot. It is these short car journeys that are clogging up our roads. Given our growing population if we don’t do anything our roads will get even more congested and air pollution will worsen. Our schemes are deliverable and we are already starting to see people of all ages and from different backgrounds getting on bikes. The only way we are going to reach out to people not used to riding a bike is to give them safe cycle lanes, otherwise they’re not going to do it.”

Daniel Anderson will be speaking at the Liveable Neighbourhoods conference at Alexandra Palace on 10 July. The 64-page Liveable Neighbourhoods Guide, produced by Landor LINKS in partnership with TfL, will be launched at the event. To register for a digital copy email: 

Enfield's Mini-Holland programme

Enfield council received £30m from the Mayor of London’s Mini-Holland programme in 2014, together with a further £12m primarily from Transport for London via their Local Implementation Plan (LIP), private developers under Section 106 of the Town & Country Planning Act. Re-branded as Cycle Enfield, Enfield Council have embarked on a range of measures to improve cycling and walking conditions. 

The first major project was the A105, with separate cycle lanes using a combination of full and semi-segregation measures along much of the route from Palmers Green to Enfield Town. Safe crossing points have been installed for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Work is nearly finished on a further route along the A1010 from Edmonton to Ponders End. 

Phase two of the A1010 project will see infrastructure changes to the northern section of the A1010 from Ponders End to Freezywater close to the border with Hertfordshire. The council is planning to install separate cycle tracks, again using semi-segregation measures, along most of the route, with safe crossing facilities at the major junctions. The scheme is due to be completed by late Summer 2020.

The Cycle Enfield programme has seen the conversion of the Edmonton Green roundabout into a Dutch style roundabout, with separate lanes for cycles and improve pedestrian crossings.

Cycle hubs have been installed at Enfield Town and Edmonton Green stations along with a number of bike hangars on residential streets.

Complementary measures include free bike training, guided rides and second-hand markets offering affordable bikes.

The council hopes these changes will help cycling in the borough rise from the current 0.7% to 5% of modal share over the next decade.

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