I thought I’d do a super-quick post on an issue which I know frustrates many residents: traffic speed along Forest Lane. Forest Lane is very narrow, and can feel very unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists and others, especially when enormous coaches are going past at high speeds.
We’ve had a few queries and complaints about speeding there: one resident who was so horrified by the speed of a coach she photographed it, another who is concerned about the location of the bus stop, and more who are worried about speeding vehicles as they carry on up Woodgrange Road and up Centre Road. I know myself that when I walk along there with my children on scooters, the traffic makes it feel very hostile, and I am sure I would use the park on Magpie Close more if the route there felt safer.
There are a few possible solutions here: we may be able to improve things a bit as part of the Crossrail redevelopment. There is some money available here for improving the space (known in official-ese as the ‘public realm’) outside the station. So if improving access from Forest Lane is your priority, please do take part in the consultation when it opens and let us know. We will publicise the consultation when it starts, of course. Another is the opportunity afforded by Quietway, where Seyi has been discussing with officers how some works to create a quieter and safer route for cyclists can also contribute to calming the traffic. There is talk about rerouting coaches entirely, as I tweeted relatively recently, but that isn’t confirmed yet. Another resident had been tweeting National Express to ask about the routes they use, and their permission, which was a conversation I became part of, and was given an email address to discuss the issue further.
Today, whilst working through my to do list, I wrote a quick email to National Express, letting them know residents’ concerns, and hoping there was something we could do together. I am delighted to say that I received a reply incredibly quickly (I am simultaneously pleased and embarrassed by people who respond to emails so fast, I have to admit). The email said,
‘Thank you for bringing the issue of coaches on Forest Lane to our attention. Whilst technically coaches on non-local services can indeed use roads that are not specifically barred to them, National Express, as a responsible operator, do not wish to see our coaches operating along wholly unsuitable roads. We would include Forest Lane in this unsuitable category and we do not wish to see our coaches operating along this road, except perhaps in the most wholly exceptional circumstances, such as being directed by a police officer etc due to a road closure along the normal route.’
He added later on, ‘Whilst a bus route, Forest Lane is clearly configured for local traffic only and its use by our coaches does nothing either for our community relations or our customer experience. All those speed bumps are hardly conducive to a good journey.’
He finished by saying, ‘We will re-issue a reminder to all drivers on our network who use routes through Stratford of the routes that they should be taking and will advise them they are not to use Forest Lane under normal circumstances.’
There are several interesting things about this – not including how fast some people respond to their emails. The first is that I have a bit of a theory at the moment about writing polite complaining emails. So I specifically decided not to get hot under the collar but instead to write something very measured to National Express saying that residents were concerned, as was I, and I was keen to know how we could improve things. Possibly my friend at National Express is always on top of his inbox, but equally, it’s possible that striking a friendly tone helped things along. Another point to make is that when thinking about this, I kept coming back to this issue, and getting embroiled in pondering how I would find out about who has permission to use what road, and who would know this, and how I could check it, and what I could then do. I then decided that whatever the answer to these questions was, I would just try getting in touch with National Express first, and see if I could just ask them to use another route, and what they might say.
The last thing, of course, is that I would be hopelessly naive if I thought this was the answer forever. Terravision coaches also drive along Forest Lane (so I will also contact them and test my ‘polite email enquiry’ theory a bit further…!), also a reminder to drivers isn’t necessarily immediately effective.
So if you are a local resident, if you see National Express coaches using Forest Lane, can you let me know? I can pass it on to them, and hopefully we can keep giving feedback, and improving things along there bit by bit.
I’ll be really interested to see how well this actually works. I used to regularly cycle commute down Forest Lane, and it’s far from just National Express coaches that make it uncomfortable. Would Newham ever consider installing speed cameras along the route? Actually getting compliance with a 20 limit would go a long way to making the route more comfortable.