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Waltham Forest builds on success of 10-year Mini Holland programme

Deniz Huseyin
21 May 2024
Will Norman and Clyde Loakes at last week`s Enjoy Waltham Forest event
Will Norman and Clyde Loakes at last week`s Enjoy Waltham Forest event
Clyde Loakes
Clyde Loakes

 

Waltham Forest Council is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Mini Holland programme, which has evolved from an initial focus on cycling infrastructure to addressing public health, net zero, climate resilience and flood mitigation.

In 2014 the council secured £27m funding from the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson to improve conditions for cycling. However, ‘Mini Holland’ soon turned into ‘Enjoy Waltham Forest’, with a wider and more ambitious remit, seeking to improve air quality, encourage active travel and tackle climate change.

Over the past 10 years the council has rolled out segregated cycle tracks, modal filters, bike hangars, cycle hubs next to every Tube and Overground station in the borough, parklets, rain gardens, School Streets and EV charging points (see table).

The council is planning further schemes including new walking and cycling infrastructure on High Road Leytonstone, an upgrade to the Snaresbrook Road/Woodford New Road Junction and the completion of the Forest Road corridor.

“We will be filling in the gaps on the network to improve permeability,” said Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Climate and Air Quality, speaking at an event last week.

He said that alongside infrastructure improvements, the “wonderful leadership” of community groups such as JoyRiders and Cycle Sisters has been pivotal in promoting active travel, supporting healthier lifestyles and tackling social isolation.

“By creating the infrastructure, we have unleashed the passion of these groups, making it safe to cycle to school and back,” said Loakes.

Waltham Forest support community groups through training and bike loans. “There is simply no reason why the work JoyRiders and Cycle Sisters do cannot be replicated in every single local authority area in this country, whether you're a county, a city, a district, or a town,” said Loakes. “There's no reason why the councils in all those places couldn't supply a stock of bikes. It’s something that can be simply rolled out - it doesn't take huge amounts of cash.”

Loakes expressed astonishment at the emergence of cargo bikes on the boroughs streets. “I didn’t even know they existed 10 years ago!” he said. Meanwhile, the demand for bikehangers continues to be higher than supply even though another 122 (each storing six bikes) were installed last year, and there are now more than 700 hangars across the borough. “And we are having to retrofit some now to take cargo bikes.”

Landor LINKS helped organise the two-day event alongside Waltham Forest Council and event sponsors Project Centre and Riney. The event was attended by more than 200 local authority officers, councillors, campaign organisations, researchers and suppliers. 

During the conference, Clyde Loakes was joined by Will Norman, London’s Walking & Cycling Commissioner in a session chaired by Project Centre’s Head of Communication and Engagement Steph Bortoli.

Although there are “evangelicals” on both sides of the debate, most people are “in the middle”, said Loakes. “They aren’t passionate about cycling – they just need some evidence and need to get a sense of how their neighbourhood will change.”

Will Norman stressed the importance of good data in building the case for the sort of improvements seen in Waltham Forest. “You can use data to tell those success stories, which then creates a virtuous circle because that creates positivity,” he said.

Councils should give local “champions” this evidence so they are not “caught on the backfoot when challenged by people who say it will cause more traffic on their road”, said Norman.

Community support is “essential to counter that vocal minority who are the first to write their MP, the first to talk to the local press or take to Twitter”.

“Local communities are vital for driving change - officers and politicians can’t be at every school gate, but those communities can be, saying ‘it’s not fair that my kids are breathing in toxic air’ and ‘it’s not fair my kids are at risk every day when they walk to school’ – those messages cut through.

“Engage and empower your communities,” said Norman. “They are your champions on every doorstep, community centre, school and cafe that is a really important part of the Waltham Forest and other borough’s recipe for success.”

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