The London Borough of Waltham Forest has taken bold steps to clean up its air and get people moving, with its multi-million pound ‘Enjoy Waltham Forest’ scheme. The result is improved health and an environment that residents are proud of. 

Waltham Forest, like many busy urban areas, suffers from air pollution and traffic congestion. After trying incremental approaches with mixed success, its council decided on a radical programme to encourage walking and cycling while improving Waltham Forest’s public spaces.  

What’s happening here is a model for the rest of the UK’s urban areas. It’s a massive way of reducing carbon emissions. It’s so powerful. People from across the country want to come and see this stuff because it’s working. The borough has really stepped up and gone way ahead of others.

Paul Gasson, Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign 

The council have used £27m of Transport for London funding to improve cycling infrastructure, create a safer environment for walking and run a comprehensive behaviour change programme encouraging residents out of their cars. Taking inspiration from cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, the council have introduced segregated cycle lanes on seven major routes, and created 91 ‘blended crossings’ which slow down vehicles as they enter and exit side roads.  

The council have closed 43 roads to cars, making them safer for cyclists and more pleasant for residents. To minimise the impact of road closures on goods delivery to and from local businesses, the council have introduced a zero-emission cargo bike delivery service (Zed). 

Every train station in Waltham Forest now has a large secure bike hangar, encouraging residents to start and finish their daily commutes on two wheels. The council also delivers cycle training to thousands of residents each year, and has launched digital tools to show safe cycling routes. Waltham Forest has a thriving community cycling group that was involved in all aspects of the programme, and local residents take the lead in maintaining new public gardens created by the scheme. 

Independent research commissioned by the council reveals residents are more likely to walk or cycle in areas of the borough where infrastructure has been improved. Cycle journeys are up on most of the main routes across the borough, and air pollution has improved, though this is also a result of national and city-wide policy changes. Local businesses including cafes have reported stronger sales, as customers now want to stay longer in quieter streets where access by car is restricted.