The twists and turns of an occasional cycle-commuter between Chigwell and the West End
November 2020: Whipps Cross Wishlist
Coming in from Chigwell, my heart always lifts as I hit Whipps Cross, or the Green Man. From here on cycling is so much better – proper London rather than the suburban badlands of Woodford and Essex. Fewer trees, more segregated cycle routes; fewer frightening cars, more fellow-cyclists. Whipps Cross is a frontier; the scrubby forest its nomansland, the shallow ponds its moat.
And how the junction has changed over the last few years. For decades I’ve known it as an intimidating mega-roundabout, forcing me to choose between Option A: hugging the coast – skulking round on the pavements with the pedestrians, or Option B: lurching out into the open water of the (fast) right-hand lane. But it’s now been tamed. A segregated track takes you to a wide, spacious T-junction: just keep straight on for the Lea Bridge Road and the bright lights of London. Separate traffic lights for cyclists protect you all the way across, to the dedicated cycle-way down past Lamb’s Café and the kebab shops, past the Uffizi pizza place (years ago the wonderfully named Aphrodite’s Waterfalls), and the pub they’re raising money for to convert into an Islamic Education Centre, and round the back of the floating bus stops.
And yet, for cyclists like me, travelling south from Woodford, it’s not quite right. First, there’s the confusion about whether cyclists should be on the pavement or the main roadway. Coming up Snaresbrook Road past the Eagle Pond, Pictures 1 & 2 show how cyclists are guided into the main roadway for the left turn towards Whipps. But then Picture 3 shows a pavement shared between cyclists and pedestrians – where should the cyclist ideally be? Picture 4 gives no indication; Picture 5 has a repeater on the pavement, which in fact is the place to be, for (Picture 6) the segregated cycle lane for the junction itself is inaccessible from the road.
Coming the same way from the Waterworks roundabout (Picture 7), it looks as if cyclists are supposed to be on the pavement, yet at the junction with Snaresbrook Road (Picture 8) it seems they should be on the main carriageway, which, as we have seen, leads to bumping up a kerb to join the segregated cycle lane. Picture 9 reveals that, if a cyclist does follow the indications and approach the junction on the pavement, there’s no provision for cyclists to cross Snaresbrook Road.
Second, when you actually reach the new junction (Picture 10), Picture 11 shows that to turn left (towards Whipps Cross Hospital and the Green Man roundabout) requires a pointless wait at traffic lights: unless you’re very lucky and find the light green you can’t just hang a left without either jumping a red light or naughtily avoiding the lights by bumping up on the pavement.
Perhaps I’ve misread this, but it seems as if someone hasn’t thought this through properly. A shame.
Thanks to Simon Munk for pointing out to me that cyclists coming from the Waterworks are now channelled onto the two-way segregated cycle track on the right (as they see it) of the whole carriageway. This takes them directly to the new junction, where there is provision for them to cross properly and rejoin the track on the left. I haven’t seen this for myself, but if true it’s certainly an improvement. There still remain, however, the problems with the approach from Snaresbrook, as well as the difficulties described above for any cyclists who don’t cross the carriageway after the Waterworks (I don’t remember any signage explaining the importance of doing this).