Councillor clashes with ‘cycle bloggers’ over transformation plans of Hackney’s roads

Mare Street in Hackney Central could soon look very different. Photo credit: Hackney Cyclist

Emotions are running high over plans to remodel several major roads in Hackney’s congested town centre with the help of a £10 million Transport for London funding boost.

Since the scheme was announced in November last year, Hackney Central Councillor Vincent Stops has embarked on a bitter Twitter battle with Hackney’s cycling community.

Stops, who has been representing Hackney Central since 2002 and also chairs the council’s Planning Committee, supports the reduction of traffic in his ward but is fundamentally opposed to making more space for cyclists at the expense of pavements and bus lanes.

He told the Hackney Post in December:  “It’s better to create safer roads for everyone. I think cycle bloggers have too much influence.”

The councillor is known in the community for his long-standing opposition to town planning that prioritises the needs of cyclists over those of other road users, and expressed his scepticism towards the scheme in a number of tweets and blog posts.

“This is great news. However, the design must be inclusive and take account of all the multiple users and uses of Hackney Central,” he tweeted after the Mayor’s announcement.

In yet another tweet, Mr Stops wrote: “Closing residential streets to motors will change travel behaviour more far more than a few miles of bike lane.”

Many of his comments infuriated other Twitter users representing the interests of cyclists, who hit back with a barrage of tweets – with several bordering on mobbing.

In response, Stops seems to have blocked a number of people who disagree with his views.

One Twitter user created a poll under the heading: “Have you been blocked by Vincent Stops? Please respond & retweet so we get some idea of how many cycle campaigners he has blocked, thanks.”

Hackney is one of seven London boroughs that were able to secure a share of the £114 million pot from the ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ programme, a new scheme that’s part of the Mayor’s Healthy Streets Approach, which aims to improve air quality and reduce congestion.

A spokesperson for TfL said: “Key routes in [Hackney Central] town centre will be transformed by a reduction in traffic, the introduction of two-way protected cycle lanes on Mare Street, a ban on general traffic at the south end of Amhurst Road, and making three dangerous junctions safer, including Pembury Circus.

While people who share Stops’ views and those in the community he routinely refers to as “cycle bloggers” currently seem to have locked horns, Richard Lewis, 47, a local town planning consultant, said he hoped that the two parties could find a middle ground.

Lewis, who is an avid cyclist himself, said: “Vincent is not the enemy. I have criticised people on Twitter for attacking him. Vincent looks after the majority of people, while cyclists can be a bit inconsiderate towards non-cycling members of the public.”

Lewis added that both parties had views that were “extreme”. “Some of the cycling campaigners are really bloody dogmatic, they won’t compromise. And Vincent is also very black and white about this. I just want more people to ride bikes, but finding a solution that fits all is pretty difficult.”

Hackney Cyclist, a well-known blogger on Twitter among Hackney residents, described the proposals as “amazing” in a Tweet.

Hackney Cyclist told the Hackney Post in an email: “Mare Street in Hackney Central is one of the most dangerous routes for people cycling in Hackney. Traffic levels are far too high for there not to be segregated cycle lanes installed; nine bus routes serve this road with around 150 buses an hour using it at peak periods and Department for Transport traffic counts claims in excess of 15,000 motor vehicle per day, including hundreds of lorries.

“In their recent cycling plan Hackney Council stated that the main roads are where the majority of cycle collisions occur and listed this area as a particular blackspot. I’m delighted to hear that they now plan to put measure in place to tackle this terrible safety record right outside the Town Hall.”