Mini-Holland London cycle plans spark protests in Waltham Forest

Road closures divide locals, as council says “no turning back”

A road closure scheme aimed at rejuvenating town centres has been hit with angry protests after business owners claimed the lack of cars are “suffocating” business.

The TfL scheme, in which London boroughs were encouraged to bid for £30m to implement the “mini-Holland” cycle-friendly infrastructure, has run up against stiff opposition in Waltham Forest, where locals, business owners and politicians are arguing over the perceived benefits.

In addition, some have complained that the trial road closures caused more traffic on nearby roads.

At a council meeting, local resident Aarif Gearay said businesses were losing “50 to 60% of their business”, while Theresa Anderson, 67, of the Ratepayers Action Group, said: “We’re going to stop this. I’ll chain myself to the railings if I have to,” the Evening Standardreports.

However, many welcomed the changes saying the streets had been transformed. Paul Gasson, 59, said: “This is visionary. It’s tackling a lot of issues like health, obesity and climate change. I see happy people on the streets.”

Despite the large protests, the council is determined to push ahead with the scheme. Council leader Chris Robbins said there was now “no turning back” from implementing the infrastructure changes permanently, adding that he was “immensely proud” of the progress made, the Waltham Forest Echo reports.

“For too long the car has dominated our lives,” he said. “We are committed now to changing the borough.”

The Waltham Forest scheme is the first of three “mini-Holland” schemes which TfL is funding. The other two will go ahead in Enfield and Kingston.

The “mini-Holland” moniker is apt, as the process the Dutch went through in the 1970s to implement bike-friendly infrastructure also saw fervent opposition initially, but subsequently led businesses to see higher numbers of customers due to the improved car-free environment.

Modern studies in Portland, San Francisco, Dublin, New York and Wellington all found that closing roads to cars increased spending on the streets.

The studies also highlighted just how skewed perceptions are of how people currently use cars to get to shops. Business owners consistently overestimate the proportion of customers they think are driving to them.

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