With London seemingly blazing a trail here in the UK for cycle-friendly urban planning there has been a lot of talk about “Mini Holland” schemes.
Now that we know that we are going to get their “cycle superhighways” by 2020, we wondered what it would be like if we had the odd Mini Holland scheme here in Cardiff as well.
What is a Mini Holland scheme then?
Put simply, a Mini Holland scheme is a collection of measures aimed at reworking urban areas in favour of walking and cycling.
However, there doesn’t appear to be a standardised way to do this and designs seem to vary from street to street and particularly across political boundaries. However, the schemes borrow a few design elements from the Dutch and, let’s face it “make the area less awful to live in” isn’t quite as catchy or marketable.
However, what you can expect to see is a selection of the usual techniques for calming an area down, such as traffic lanes re-allocated to something else such as a cycle lane, or perhaps more outdoor space for a café or restaurant. You may well see a one-way systems employed; side streets blocked off or filtered permeability established, allowing people to pass on foot and on bikes but with car access prevented.
One key benefit is that through traffic, or rat-running, can also be curbed, particularly useful for villages like Tongwynlais where people would often drive through the village to skip a stretch of the A470 that always blocks up during the morning rush. There will often be a 20mph limit in place too, but that should be a given anywhere people are trying to live their lives.
The same would apply in Whitchurch, where people may cut through the village to skip a section or two of Manor Way.
Do they work?
Aside from the inevitable moaning from motorists, who may well take it as a personal affront to their very existence, or businesses that still conflate cars with customers, initial signs seem to suggest that they do, although it is probably too early to say categorically.
Traffic levels in 12 key roads in the “village” area of Walthamstow fell by 56 per cent, or 10,000 fewer vehicles a day, Waltham Forest council has told residents. The results sparked calls for other cities and towns, including Manchester, and other parts of the capital, such as Southwark, to follow suit.
However, as with any change there will inevitably be a period of transition where people start to realise that their old ways are not working and that they need to embrace change if they are to get by.
Change has to happen, there’s no getting around that. Cars are not the future of urban mobility, regardless of how they are powered or what form of intelligence they are driven by –artificial or otherwise.
Towns cannot cope; the planet cannot cope; and the NHS cannot cope with the way things are. Whilst the Mini Holland schemes they have in London may not be perfect, Enfield, Kingston, and Waltham Forest are a stepping stone towards a shift in culture and a useful starting point on which to move forward.
The challenge for us in Cardiff would be trying to figure out where the first one should go. We would be keen to see some of our suburban villages given a Dutch-style makeover, particularly the ones plagued by rat-running traffic.
As we’ve already suggested, Tongwynlais may be a good one, or Whitchurch Village as both of these can and should be bypassed by the A470.
There would also be Station Road, Llanishen, where people may cut through the village to access Lisvane or onto St Mellons Road to the A48.
There are also a number of roads that have turned areas into fume-filled hellholes, such as Castle Street; Cowbridge Road East; Leckwith Road; Birchgrove; Newport Road; Heol Isaf through Radyr & Morganstown and countless others that escape us right now.
Another slightly more radical option may be Park Place. Sat in our newest cycle cafe on the weekend, bearing in mind they’ve already trialled closing Park Place for a day during the “car free day” last year, it occurred to us that you could drop this street down to one lane, perhaps also reroute the traffic coming into and out of the Civic Centre car park and turn the area into some sort of plaza. With all the people you’ll find milling around the front of the Museum on weekends it would be good to give people more space to roam.
It would also improve safety for students crossing from the main and law buildings over to the union and the train station. Not only that, they could do a proper job of the cycle lanes on Colum Road –perhaps even make them mandatory.
So, our question to you would be, if you could have a Mini Holland scheme anywhere in Cardiff, where would you put it and why?