diamond geezer

 Thursday, April 29, 2021

This was Clarnico Lane in the Olympic Park. It was a road on Monday. It's not a road any more.

It had been a road for the best part of 100 years, conveniently carrying traffic over the North London Line railway . For most of its life it was the southern end of Waterden Road, the spine road of a backwater industrial estate in Hackney Wick. When the Olympics arrived it was remodelled slightly to bend more sharply, and also renamed Clarnico Lane after the former sweet factory which made peppermint creams alongside. But the alignment of the curve down from the railway bridge survived 2012 unscathed and has been a key part of the QEOP road network ever since. Until this week.

A parallel road has been built which extends across the railway line but then continues towards the stadium without curving down. If you came here during the Olympics or have been since you'll remember it as the central walkway linking the northern and southern halves of the Park. As of this week it's no longer just for pedestrians, it has a segregated cycle lane and a brand new roadway with actual traffic. It's called Marshgate Terrace and it joins Waterden Road to Marshgate Lane.

It's part of a remodelling of the road network designed to service Sweetwater, a new Olympic neighbourhood which as yet has no residents nor building sites, just roads. It's also designed to connect to a new road bridge onto Fish Island, the sorry tale of which I told two years ago when construction began. I thought they'd wait until this bridge was open before closing Clarnico Lane and opening the new road but that's still some weeks off. Instead traffic heading for Hackney Wick gets to weave in a horseshoe through a non-existent neighbourhood, and the direct pedestrian/cycle connection's been lost too.

I've watched the new road being built, oh so slowly, throughout lockdown. It's kept dozens employed adding carriageway, laying cycle lanes, perfecting paving, tweaking signage, shifting barriers, installing lampposts, remodelling junctions, painting lines on tarmac, digging trenches, planting trees and generally standing back and admiring the results. Posters originally suggested the work would be complete by summer 2020, but in fact it's taken until spring 2021. Still, here it is and there's no going back now.

The new road opened at 10am on Tuesday morning. Its first hours unfortunately coincided with a closure of the A12, bringing unexpected queues of traffic down previously uncharted streets while the Balfour Beatty workforce stood around and looked on. It's quietened down since but a significant number of vehicles now find themselves diverting round the back of the Olympic Stadium and trying to find their way out. Directional signage is at best vague, with several signs featuring the unhelpful phrase 'All other routes'. The biggest faux pas is for northbound traffic where a recently-planted tree partly obscures the main sign (and will completely obscure it after its leaves unfurl).

My other favourite "what on earth were they thinking?" moment is the entirely unnecessary kink in the segregated cycle lane. It bends to avoid a bus stop, or at least where a bus stop is intended to be according to the yellow letters painted on the road. But there is no stop or shelter, nor indeed any scheduled bus route intended to come this way, so the lane squishes the pedestrian gap to a bare minimum for no good reason whatsoever. I've already watched one elderly cyclist ignore the bend and carry on straight ahead regardless, and a father and son ignoring the restrictive lines on the tarmac altogether.

The biggest transformation is the remodelled T-junction in the centre of the Park. With Clarnico Lane closed off and the new sidestreet opened all the traffic lights have had to be nudged a few metres east, bringing the heart of the crossing much closer to the pedestrian desire line. The left filter lane has yet to be unblocked so we're not yet in final mode, but I was impressed by the speed with which the lights changed in reaction to gaps in the traffic. What I didn't enjoy, as a pedestrian, was the sensation that I was now crossing a busy tarmac chasm where previously it'd felt more like crossing one road. Indeed I'd say this is the week when QEOP feels like it's shifted from being a park of two halves to two parks connected by a road.

And that's it for Clarnico Lane, formerly Waterden Road, which is now sealed off at both ends. Its destiny if you hadn't already guessed is to become flats, as a fair chunk of Sweetwater's residential massing replaces its gentle slope. Best not mourn too loudly as pretty much everything else that was here pre-Olympics has already been destroyed. But I expect to be mildly annoyed every time I can't go this way and have to follow the swish new road over the bridge instead.

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