This month we visit Chigwell Lane in Loughton to look at a shared use path which runs from Oakwood Hill to almost Debden station. The A1168 Chigwell Lane recently had major works carried out to coincide with the construction of Epping Forest Shopping Park on nearby Langston Road. The works included the construction of an additional lane for northbound traffic so the rubbish infrastructure we see here had ample opportunity for correction.
We begin by Oakwood Hill with the sign indicating a shared path, though there is no signposting to indicate where the path might go or how long it is.
Looking right as we begin along the path we see our first two “Cyclists Dismount” signs. These signs are a general marker for infrastructure which has significant design deficiencies as good design would not require riders to stop their journey and proceed on foot. These signs also convey virtually no useful information about why they are there. We see the back of one behind the shared use path sign and another by the railings in the background. Incidentally, those railings and their adjacent dropped kerb are not the pedestrian crossing you might expect. While we are a stone’s throw from housing, an Underground station, offices and two major shopping centres, this junction (which is fed by 10 motor vehicle lanes!) doesn’t have a single formal pedestrian crossing. Woefully inadequate provision for active travel doesn’t come close to describing the unforgivable shortcomings in this design.
We move along the path, heading north, and there is a path which joins on the left. There is no signposting to suggest where this goes (it serves the Oakwood Hill industrial estate), nor is there any signposting to suggest whether this path is open to users on bikes.
Eventually we reach a signpost! Alas this is aimed at cars and contains precious little information for bike riders. Indeed, the signposting of Loughton straight ahead is fairly bad advice for active travel users, as a left turn at the top of the hill offers a shorter route to Loughton High Road, with fewer steep hills. It’s understandable that cars are sent on the larger roads but that approach demands bespoke signposting for other road users, signposting which is sadly absent.
At this juncture we see the path partially obstructed by household waste from nearby houses. Something could be built to solve this problem, sadly it hasn’t been.
At the railway bridge (a beautiful specimen and one of few locally which isn’t too narrow for the traffic needing to pass under it) we see evidence that the drainage of the path isn’t working, The pooled mud is a legacy of recent rain and while it was frozen solid on this February afternoon, it would in warmer weather render half of the path useless.
At last we reach the end of this short jaunt, the third “Cyclists Dismount” sign of the day appears ahead and there is again no signposting as to what a rider is meant to do. The crossing ahead which serves Debden Station is sadly not a Toucan Crossing (for pedestrians and cycles) and there is no other continuing infrastructure. There isn’t even an obvious route for cycles to merge back to the road, not that such a prospect is appetising up a steep hill with so many lanes.
Welcome is the appropriately installed tactile paving in a bright and contrasting colour for blind and partially sighted people, though with their needs in mind, perhaps a shared path wasn’t the most appropriate choice overall, given there is plenty of space to work with.
EFTAG’s proposed Route 41 would involve upgrading this path and making it truly fit for purpose.