News (and stuff) from London E3

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Local news for local people

Bow Riverside: If you've looked down into the River Lea from the Bow Flyover recently, you'll have noticed a metal armada has invaded. The entire river's now blocked to traffic, unless you're kayak sized, brushed aside by a platform of flat barges topped off with tall metal pipes. These'll be here for five months during the construction of a new footbridge across the Lea, plus a floating towpath which'll finally allow cyclists and ramblers to cross the Bow Interchange in safety. This will be similar to the floating towpath on the Limehouse Cut only prettier, if this design mockup is to be believed. I've also found a model of what the final scheme's meant to look like, and there's rather more being built here than I expected. The eastern riverbank is being artificially widened where the new footbridge lands, while opposite a new zigzag path will be driven up to road level through a "complimentary waterside habitat" (as the dyslexic press release has it). And the whole thing looks to be one link too excessive, to be honest, because this extra exit emerges a few yards from the existing ramp on the same side of the road, thereby providing no useful additional crossing of either river or roundabout. The floating towpath will be fantastic for those following the River Lea Walk, and about time too, but it's bugger all practical use to us locals who want to cross the roundabout without being mowed down by traffic. This is a High Street 2012 project, in conjunction with British Waterways and the Thames Gateway Development Corporation, and their £2.5m investment in my local area is to be applauded. But as for their laughable suggestion that the Bow Riverside project "will reconnect communities", I can guarantee that nobody who lives around here wrote that. [photo]

Water Chariots: While we're talking local Lea, you've probably heard that there are plans for a waterbus service to the Olympic Park during the 2012 Games. What you probably haven't seen is the company's website. They're promising a ferry service to Old Ford Lock every twenty minutes, from either Tottenham Hale or Limehouse, the latter of which seems a perversely inaccessible launching-off point. A return trip will set you back all of £20, which sounds like somebody's jumping on the profiteering Olympic bandwagon. Or maybe you'd prefer to take one of the company's pleasure cruises to Victoria Park, price unspecified, during the months leading up to the Games. A canal trip's always lovely, except that the Limehouse Cut perhaps isn't the loveliest of waterways for sightseeing purposes. According to the blurb, the route involves "cruising serenely under the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road" (you what?), then passing Three Mills, "an area of exceptional beauty, right in the heart of the city" (apart from the giant Tesco on the west bank, sure). The boat trips are "due to start in March 2011", apparently, although the blockage I mentioned in the paragraph above means there couldn't possibly be any cruises before July. I'd love to see a local waterbus float, but if this business model survives eighteen months without sinking I'll be amazed.

High Street 2012: Even more pre-Olympic money is being thrown at a cluster of buildings around Bow Church to spruce them up and reverse years of neglect. About a dozen historic buildings between 161 and 205 Bow Road are benefiting from restoration work, with a special emphasis on "crumbling pointing, peeling paintwork, cracked render and eroded brickwork." The scaffolding's been erected only just in time to preserve number 199, which is on English Heritage's At Risk register, and until recently looked more like a slum clearance than a 17th century shop. Up the road I'm dying to see what enforced renovation will look like at the King's Arms, once the local pub, now a tawdry guest house with the most ghastly unprofessional stickyback-plastic lettering flapping across the front. Repairs continue until November, in line with long-planned restoration deadlines. And by Olympic Marathon Sunday the scrubbed-up heart of Bow should be ready to face the world's TV cameras... if only any of them were passing by.

Cycle Superhighway 2: Aren't they making a mess trying to drive a blue bikelane along the A11? Weeks of digging up pavements, merely to make the road one metre wider. Traffic lights disassembled, fractionally shifted and realigned. Paving slabs relaid so that the surface level is no longer flat. Titchy strips of off-street cycle lane that'll improve rider safety for approximately six seconds. Etc etc etc. Next week a month and a half of reconfiguring starts on the Bow Roundabout, and I for one am fearing the worst. Expect a much longer post on this subject when managers finally claim the project to be complete.