Kings College research shows better air quality and more active travel

With little more than half of the borough’s Mini Holland programme completed, research undertaken by King’s College London indicates better air quality will see today’s five-year-olds living for an extra six weeks thanks to air quality improvements since 2013. Their air quality report estimates that Waltham Forest residents could gain 40,000 years of human life in the coming century.
Researchers found that in 2017, 6,300 Waltham Forest households were exposed to more than the EU recommended guidelines for  NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) which is a highly significant improvement over 58,000 households suffering back in 2007.

The evidence just keeps stacking up for Mini Holland with research published in June 2018 by Dr Rachel Aldred on behalf of the University of Westminster. Her report shows that people living in the three Mini-Holland boroughs (Waltham Forest, Enfield & Kingston) are becoming more physically active year on year spending an extra 32 minutes per week walking, or 9 minutes a week cycling. Dr Aldred and her colleagues were surprised to find measurable change so early in our Mini Holland programme which has another two years to run. By making car use for short trips a little less attractive we can get more people walking & cycling, which frees up road capacity for those who have little choice but to drive, such as those with mobility impairments.

Whilst some may experience personal inconvenience because their driven trips could take a little longer, many appreciate the social justice implications of unfettered car use and the need to consider what’s best from the collective public interest perspective. Half of households in the southern part of Waltham Forest have no access to a car and thus experience few of the benefits, but suffer all the downsides – including the fear of road danger whenever they leave their homes, and the impact of life limiting air pollution. So far public health professionals have been seemingly unable to combat the relentless rise in obesity and inactivity with  its spiraling NHS costs. I believe Waltham Forest is leading the way in demonstrating that courageous and meaningful measures have the potential to deliver huge benefits for local communities.

The explosive growth in car use over the past 50 years is a major factor in driving climate change, so Mini Holland is also showcasing how communities can adopt more sustainable travel patterns.
Across the globe cities like London are struggling to deal with crippling road network congestion, casualties & pollution with their immense economic costs, but few are able to identify & deliver affordable solutions. That’s why our borough is getting visits every week from MPs, councillors, community groups, council officers and NGOs from across the UK, wanting to understand how its done.

Of course the programme isn’t perfect – changes on this scale will always be controversial. And there are a number of issues which need to be resolved, and many will be with continued political will and support from Transport for London.

Overall this is a huge step in the right direction which few in power seem brave enough to take, so I’m proud to live in a borough where its leadership is prepared to put doing what’s right ahead of risking short term popularity.

Paul Gasson

This opinion piece first appeared in the Sep 2018 edition of the  Waltham Forest Echo

Full reports here:

A further report was published by Kings College after this article was written, showing gains in life expectancy by at least 7 months from Waltham Forest residents walking and cycling (which has increased recently), which equates to a gain of around 204,000 life years for the borough’s population over a lifetime.

The study also looked at the impact of projections in increased walking and cycling during the school run in the borough (partially due to behaviour change following the Enjoy Waltham Forest programme). Assuming the largest increase in school run walking and cycling, there would be a gain in life expectancy of three weeks.

The full report is here:

Londoners call on Mayor to ‘be brave’ in face of Anti-Mini Holland petition

We Support Mini Holland Press Release 15 February 2017

Orford Road in Walthamstow Village, before the closures were implemented.

Waltham Forest residents, a disability charity and a leading transport academic have hit back against a petition presented to the Mayor of London which calls for residential streets to be reopened to through traffic.

The petition, put forwards by Jennette Arnold AM, calls for all roads closed to through motor traffic in Enfield, Waltham Forest and Kingston due to the Mini Holland walking & cycling schemes to be reopened so people in motor vehicles can use them as through routes again.

Carly Hayes, a member of the 800-strong We Support Waltham Forest Mini Holland residents’ group, said: “I’d be devastated if the streets around me were reopened as shortcuts for cars, vans and HGVs. Children from the local school can now walk in safety and without as much pollution, but we can still drive in and out of our road when we need to.

“This petition doesn’t propose any sort of alternative to the status quo in this city. Too many unnecessary car trips which are polluting our air and slowly killing us all. I’d beg the Mayor and my local council to be brave and leave our streets as they are. Despite what this petition says there are actually thousands of people already reaping the benefits of quieter, cleaner, safer streets.”

orford-rd-sunshineRoughly half of households don’t have access to a car in Waltham Forest, and recent figures showed that an area in Walthamstow which had been given the Mini Holland treatment had seen traffic fall by 56 per cent, meaning 10,000 few er vehicles a day – including on surrounding main roads.

Isabelle Clement, Director of disability cycling charity Wheels for Wellbeing said: “Opening roads that have been made safer for pedestrians and cyclists would definitely be a step backwards. Only by keeping improving the safety of our local roads for people on foot and on cycles will we ensure disabled and elderly people have equal access to active travel and all its benefits.”

Rachel Aldred, Reader in Transport, University of Westminster said: “”Over a hundred Londoners are killed on our roads every year and thousands more seriously injured. Thousands of us die prematurely each year due to air pollution.

“TfL has estimated that across London, a fifth of current car trips could be walked and two fifths could be cycled. This would substantially improve our health, but it won’t just happen. A key reason why people don’t walk and cycle, and don’t let their kids walk, cycle or play locally, is that they are scared by traffic danger or put off by pollution. So one way of encouraging walking and cycling is to reduce the amount of motor traffic using residential streets, so they become calmer and safer.

“In London prioritising sustainable modes of transport works – bus priority in the 1990s and 2000s helped shift large numbers of people out of cars, by making bus use more attractive. Creating streets that encourage walking and cycling can continue this process and ensure everyone who wants to has the opportunity to walk or to cycle.”

We Support Mini Holland is a group of more than 800 pro-Mini Holland Waltham Forest residents who want to show their support for the planned traffic filtering and cycle lanes while finding ways to positively influence the design of the project. We want to create a space where people can share their stories about how the Mini Holland schemes are improving their lives, streets and communities.

Residents Respond to Mini Holland Protest

really mattersWe Support Mini Holland in Waltham Forest, a group of more than 600 residents who back the scheme to get more people walking and cycling, has released a statement in response to the E17Streets4All protest outside the Town Hall:

“We urge our Councillors to remember the results of the extensive consultations they have undertaken, which show a clear majority of residents who respond are actually in favour of Mini Holland. We hope they ignore the misinformation and myths propagated by the E17Streets4All group.

“As our population booms, we desperately need more journeys made on foot and by bicycle to help ease congestion and reduce pollution. We want to save the NHS money as more people exercise and reap the health benefits. We want the streets we live on to be quieter, safer places where we and our families can walk and cycle with less fear of motor traffic.”

Campaign material from E17Streets4All has claimed that there are 70 streets closed due to Mini Holland – the true number is 26 which all received majority support from residents who responded to consultations.

Local group ‘amazed’ by turnout at better streets event

IMG_8086A local Facebook group with over 500 members gathered to meet, chat and enjoy the community spirit that is building following the implementation of Mini Holland areas around the borough at family-focussed community event at Walthamstow’s Wildcard Brewery on Sunday afternoon  (15th May).

Membership of the group which supports changes to make the streets of Waltham Forest safer, quieter and more pleasant for residents has snowballed in the last few months.

“We had a sense that many people in the borough were generally supportive of the Mini-Holland but their voice was not being heard. So a handful of us set up a Facebook group and membership has gone through the roof. There were so many positive stories of people learning to cycle in their forties, walking to work and children playing in the filtered streets that we decided to hold an event so we could to meet in person,” said Fiona Stevens, local resident and member of We Support Waltham Forest Mini Holland.

“It was short-notice and informal on a nice Sunday so we were expecting a small gathering. But there were hundreds of people at the Wildcard Brewery – families and neighbours from all over the borough turned up to share thoughts about the common goal of a better and safer local environment, along with a commitment to improve air quality. We were amazed to see so many people from all walks of life, from babies to pensioners, all speaking so positively about the changes being made to the borough.”

Sadiq Kahn has already made addressing air quality a key issue and he made pre-election commitment to Mini-Holland schemes across London. It would be great to see other Londoners benefit from the positive outcomes we are already seeing in Walthamstow and other parts of the borough.”

Following yesterday’s successful event, We Support Waltham Forest Mini Holland is planning further events and activities in the next few months.

Hoe Hoe Hoe – Wood You Believe It?

Howard Road E17
Howard Road, Walthamstow

The council surprised many of us last week with an early festive present.

It announced it would proceed with construction for the Hoe Wood villagisation scheme largely as per the consultation. But due to local opposition and the development of the Forest Road Mini-Holland scheme, no changes would be made to The Drive, Rectory Road, Howard Road, Hurst Road and Falmer Road. And the council would reconsult in summer 2016. (click here for the Hoe St & Wood St update).

So its unfortunate that a small minority of residents with cars choose to challenge the scheme because they did not want to add a few extra seconds to their journeys. 50% of households in the Hoe St Ward do not have access to a car, and its a reasonable assumption that the majority of them would like calmer streets, and that few car free households responded to the consultation.

However the council’ s decision is in fact pretty good news for Mini Holland supporters because

  1. it shows that that the Council listened, which is a frequently heard complaint of mini-Holland detractors. Whilst we suspect many of those both in favour and against the proposals will not be happy with this decision, it does demonstrate that the council doesn’t always ignore local opinion by steamrollering schemes through regardless.
  2. the proposals consulted on were already a substantial compromise, and there were concerns that several rat runs remained which could result in an increase in motor traffic, thus making it very unattractive for cycling and walking. As TfL have demonstrated in Kingston, if schemes are watered down too far funding may be withdrawn. So this delay opens the door to the proposals being improved to make them more attractive to local people and better deliver safer streets.
  3. Many who did not respond will have assumed it was a done deal and was going in anyway, or were not too bothered either way. So next time round we’ll hopefully get a more representative turnout thus delivering a majority in favour of better streets.

Of course the risk is that at the next consultation the car dependent minority against the scheme will again lobby with alarmist & inaccurate propaganda to force a no vote, and will leave the council having no choice but to divert the funds to another residential area where locals do want calmer streets.

Just north of Forest Road is one obvious candidate – many residents there have been asking when Mini Holland can be extended to give them relief from through traffic. The likely consequence will be unfortunate – an increase in rat running through the streets between Howard Road and The Drive – which will be in few residents’ interests.

Paris COP21: How can we deliver?

Almost 200 nations have just agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than two degrees centigrade – but how are we going to achieve this?

We know we need to slash carbon emissions, but measures like national (and international) caps and taxes only go so far. What we need is ambitious action at a local level. So, what might this look like in terms of our daily lives?

Road transport accounts for nearly a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions, so one key measure has to be a reduction in the use of fossil fuelled vehicles. And tighter urban planning controls are also needed to create communities through mixed land use, offering a better combination of transport options and reducing the need to travel.

It sounds ambitious, but here in Waltham Forest, we are half way through a three year programme which aims to achieve just that. What is truly revolutionary about Mini Holland is that it is tackling relentless trends in urban areas that both national and local governments have seemingly been unable to reverse: congestion, air pollution, traffic danger and obesity related disease … not to mention CO2 emissions.

Mini Holland is about introducing measures that will make car use a little less convenient, and our streets safer and more attractive for alternative means of travel.

One benefiGrove Road shopst of the resulting increase in localised travel patterns is that residents spend more in the local economy. But it’s also an opportunity to rebuild communities devastated by uncontrolled car use, reducing the need for parents to escort children to tightly managed activities and offering instead the possibility of developing their confidence, resilience and social skills through more unstructured outdoor experiences.

Transforming how we perceive and use our streets means facing up to unpopular truths. Many of us in the western world must make big changes in how we live, so we tread more lightly on our over-stressed planet. And in Waltham Forest we are taking a big step in the right direction.



Getting the Facts Right: Residents Want Safer, More Attractive Streets

Hanna Chalmers responds to Dave Hill’s article in the Guardian on 7th November 2015  “Waltham Forest ‘mini-Holland’ row: politics, protests and house prices”.
It was with increasing dismay that I read Dave Hill’s article about Mini Holland in Waltham Forest. As a local his description seemed to entirely omit the voices of support from people such as myself. Mini Holland isn’t just for middle class male cyclists and estate agents – it’s for people like me.
I am a mother of two young children living in the Conservative northerly reaches of Waltham Forest and I am one of many thousands of residents desperate for streets, which are safer for pedestrians and more pleasant to live in. I don’t cycle regularly so Dave Hill’s description of support for the scheme coming from a minority of white, male cyclists and ‘estate agents’ does not speak for me.
When I heard there was a motion by Conservative councillors to contest both Mini Holland and the 20MPH speed limit that was proposed for my neighbourhood I felt compelled to stand as a speaker at the full council meeting that Dave Hill describes.
He was right to say there was a large crowd protesting outside the Town Hall, organised by the “E17 Streets 4 All” group. Mini Holland has been controversial. But the way fears have been presented as fact by some opponents of the scheme has led to confusion for many residents in Waltham Forest.
It was troubling then to read in the Guardian that, because of Mini Holland, business has ‘fallen through the floor’, that vehicles have been ‘unable to gain access’ and that ‘motorised vehicles now clog adjacent streets’ when there is absolutely no evidence of this.
These are just assertions made by the very same “E17 Streets 4 All” which on Friday was told by a judge their attempt to derail the scheme in the High Court had ‘no merit whatsoever’. They must now pay thousands of pounds towards legal costs incurred by my council. Should a journalist really be printing what this group says without balance or critique?
Well here are some assertions from the other side of the debate: Who is to say that Mini Holland will or will not be bad for the elderly and infirm? Yet, the ‘no’ lobby present as fact that these groups of people will suffer. I would say it is in fact, counter intuitive to see more pedestrianised streets as bad for the old and infirm.
Is it also fact that it will be bad for trade? Only time will tell but for the first time in 15 years every shop front on the newly pedestrianised Orford Road is occupied, restaurants have put out more tables.
In my corner of Waltham Forest we were door dropped with leaflets that said, ‘Say No to Mini Holland’. Heap on top of this further Facebook speculation that Mini Holland is part of the global conspiracy theory ‘Agenda 21’ and you have too many people in the borough in a state of total confusion about what is true, what is idle speculation and what is simply lies.
Dave you would be very welcome to run over from Hackney any time you like to check out what is happening with the scheme. If you’d like to pop in for a cup of tea I could give you my side of the story. And you could meet local people who support efforts to make Waltham Forest’s streets safer, greener and more pedestrian friendly. And there wouldn’t be an estate agent in sight…

Hanna Chalmers

Local residents overjoyed as walking and cycling scheme overcomes latest hurdle

Orford Road
Orford Road

On Friday Nov 6th, a legal challenge to Waltham Forest’s Mini-Holland scheme was rejected by the High Court.

In response to this judgement, Lee Hayes, speaking on behalf of We Support Mini Holland, an independent group representing over 400 local supporters of the scheme, said:

“We are delighted with today’s High Court decision, as it means that Waltham Forest can continue with its ambitious programme to promote walking and cycling in the borough.

“We appreciate that not everyone agrees with all aspects of the programme and that it will have an impact on many people. We believe that this impact will be positive  – for example, it was announced this week that for the first time in 15 years, every shop unit in Orford Road, E17 is occupied and two local restaurants on the street have expanded since a stretch of the road was recently pedestrianized. 

“Local knowledge is essential and we encourage anyone with comments, suggestions or criticisms to engage with the Council. As a result of feedback provided by local residents and businesses, Council officers have made changes and adaptations to initial proposals and really do take people’s suggestions on board.”

Mini Holland protest… and what happened indoors

Town Hall protest 22nd October 2015
Town Hall protest 22nd October 2015

Prior to the full council meeting on Thursday 22nd October, a noisy protest was attended by around 500 people (note this is from our count –  the Met Police estimate was 150 – 200 **) most of whom were unhappy with some or all of the Mini Holland proposals. Placards were waved and speeches made. The ‘We Support Mini Holland’ organisers had previously encouraged supporters to stay away in order to reduce the risk of unhelpful conflict being recorded by cameras filming for a programme called “Britain see red”, so pro Mini Holland attendance was low.

Inside the Town Hall a Conservative motion attacking the council’s Mini Holland and the 20mph programmes, plus a Labour amendment,  was debated by Waltham Forest’s full council for nearly two and a half hours. 10 local residents spoke, half in favour and  half against, and Conservative councillors expressed considerable opposition.

Many Labour councillors and cabinet members made a strong case for the programme to continue, and made it clear they were not going to back down as they wanted to leave a positive legacy for local people.

So Mini Holland and the 20 mph programme survived, albeit with a sensible decision to make a few tweaks and put some additional emphasis on engagement and consultation via the following wording:

“Council therefore calls upon the portfolio holder and his officers to:

  1. Continue to build upon and develop the engagement and consultation methodology with residents, businesses and the emergency services around the delivery and implementation of individual Mini-Holland schemes.
  2. Recognising concerns raised; to prepare a new bespoke strategy for improving the engagement and consultation further with those residents with mobility needs and visual impairments and those who provide services to them around the individual schemes and the opportunities of Mini- Holland.
  3. Continue to consult and roll out the Council Borough wide 20mph policy as adopted by Full Council in April 2012
  4. Continue to prepare Equality Impact Assessments for each scheme and recognise that repeated research shows that if you prioritise the highways space and improve the infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians then more incl. those from disadvantaged groups will use these modes of transport.
  5. To measure air quality through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research throughout the programme lifecycle and beyond including the placing of an additional 18 nitrogen dioxide monitoring tubes in locations across the borough.
  6. To work with the TfL Health team to develop monitoring frameworks for a number of indicators by which the success of the project will be measured including air quality implications.”

**Two Mini-Holland supporters counted on the night and estimated a turnout of 500. A figure of 150 – 200 was provided by the Metropolitan police following an FoI Request Ref: 2015110000265.

Click here for the full opposition motion and council decision.