london fields cycleway

Cyclists in London Fields, close to the Mare Street junction that the proposed new quietway route would cross

Proposals for a cycling “quietway” to take tentative two-wheelers across the rumbling thoroughfare that is Mare Street have been attacked by keyboard warriors on Twitter.

Under the plans, a newly designated route known as “Quietway 2: Bloomsbury to Walthamstow” would cross Mare Street, heading east at St Thomas’s Square. Hackney Council is currently seeking views on the scheme.

Quietway objectives include linking destinations “following backstreet routes, through parks, along waterways or treelined streets” with the aim of overcoming barriers to cycling and “targeting cyclists who want to use quieter, low-traffic routes and providing an environment for those who want to travel at a gentler pace”.

Critics say crossing Mare Street is too dangerous by far to feature in any form as part of a quietway.

This busy road is the opposite of a gentle, low-traffic environment suitable for cyclists lacking sufficient assertiveness or confidence, they say.

Some also fear cyclists would end up marooned on a traffic island or “refuge space” in the middle of Mare Street, where they would be vulnerable to any out of control motorists.

One anonymous Twitter user operating under the name “Hackney Cyclist” tweeted that the plan was “ridiculous” – inducing several others to take swipes at the scheme. Hackney Cyclist did not take up the opportunity to speak directly to the Hackney Citizen when approached for further comment, however.

Vincent Stops, an influential councillor who also blogs about designing cycle-friendly cities, defended what he said would amount to an “incremental improvement”.

He told the Hackney Citizen: “It will make crossing Mare Street a little easier, and there will be some area-wide benefit as well, because of the various possible closures or banned turns.”

He added: “What I want to see is incremental improvement to cycling, walking and bus services in this borough. I think that’s very different from the campaigning stance of this anonymous Twitter person you’ve seen.

“Hackney has done more than any other local authority area in the UK to improve its streets for cycling, and I hope it continues to do the good work it’s been doing.”

Some of the more radical changes proposed by some cycling campaigners were misguided, he said, adding: “The local authority has loads of different responsibilities in my view: to cyclists, pedestrians, bus users – and indeed motorists – and it’s got to walk a tightrope between them, and it’s doing really well.”

He did, however, say new types of road pricing for motorists could help reduce congestion in future.

Jono Kenyon from Hackney Cycling Campaign suggested that instead of the traffic island, traffic lights and a special “crossing point” might be put in place to allow cyclists to pedal across Mare Street “in one go”.

The Hackney Cycling Campaign supported the proposals, Kenyon said. But he added: “With quietway schemes, the problems we keep coming up against are the major roads.

“It’s about getting people who at the moment don’t cycle – because they feel it’s unsafe… how do we persuade them that a provision has been made for them to get across a very busy road? And let’s not kid ourselves about what Mare Street is: It’s a very big, fast, horrible road.”

The current proposals, which are the subject of a consultation set to close next month, envisage closing London Lane at its junction with Mare Street to all traffic except cyclists and emergency vehicles.

Under the plans motor vehicles would be banned from turning right when exiting the north side of St Thomas’s Square, but cycles will be allowed to turn right.

The existing islands on Mare Street will be widened to provide a safer “central refuge space” for cyclists waiting to cross the carriageway, according to the plans.

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