Environment Committee and cycling. Another missed opportunity.

Richmond just doesn’t have a plan to actually persuade more people to cycle. It’s a council which is good at fine words about cycling, but when it comes to action, there’s little on offer.

Last night, at the Environment committee meeting we heard councillors and officers tell us that they were delighted that “consultation with cycle groups has significantly improved cycling provision in the new Twickenham design”. But the improved facilities seem primarily to be a few disconnected stretches of advisory cycle lanes.

(You can see the new plan here (6.2Mb PDF). Note that it’s dated 13 November, but wasn’t shown to Richmond Cycling until January 7th. So they had a day to look at it before the meeting. Classy, Richmond.)

You might think to yourself that a council  committed to cycling would have initially produced plans with some meaningful provision for cycling, but they’d dropped the ball on that one, so extensive lobbying was required just to get the three pots of Dulux that the plans promise at the moment.

We also heard the officers’ views on cycle lanes. Apparently, the provision of a 1.5m advisory lane is “generous”, and this is what they will be “aiming for”. It’s worth noting from the plans that we saw didn’t have separate cycle lanes, though – that’s 1.5m painted over an existing vehicle lane. So every time there is:
- a crossing
- a bus stop
- a taxi rank
- a junction
… then the cycle lane disappears.

One council official told me that they were significantly improving safety r cyclists by moving bus stops from King Street, where they believe a number of incidents occur because cyclists need to pull out of the bus lane, into the main traffic flow. Apparently this won’t then be a problem elsewhere in the area affected by the plan, now the bus stops are moving.

We heard a suggestion from one councillor that they could instead allocate more space to the pavement section and mark that up for cycling instead. Regardless of what you might think of such shared space concepts, at least it gave the officers a chance to tell us why they really wanted advisory cycle lanes: because you can’t let cars  drive on pavements.

One councillor daringly asked about more radical ideas: could we route the cycle lane behind bus stops? That one didn’t need long to shoot down – of course there’s no space for such radical innovations, even where we can fit in broad pavements and twonor kite lanes of traffic. (They didn’t even look at the plans in front of them before saying this one wasn’t possible.)

How about using Holly Road? Look! You could make people use another entrance for the car park, and provide a safe through route for cycling which allows them to avoid a 40,000 vehicle a day junction! Oh yes, well, that wasn’t part of the consultation, so we’re not doing anything there. And you can’t make cats go another way, because that would move traffic elsewhere.

I was also told by council officers that the proposed scheme is the best they can do for the various travel modes, and this is the only way they think they can get the scheme approved.

But for me, a key note was struck when they began talking about whether the pavements could actually be widened further, so that they could be marked up for cycling. A positive part of this idea is that it involves dedicating space to cycling away from motor traffic. But this was where it fell down for council officers, because such an idea means that they can’t push cyclists to the side of the road when there’s a lot of traffic.

And to round it all off, not a single person round the table questioned the discussion about ‘confident cyclists’ and ‘less confident cyclists’. I don’t think anyone at the table thought that they should build one set of roads to race on, and one to commute on, or one set of pavements for the elderly and one for everybody else – but they seemed to think that it was somehow acceptable to suggest that we should provide different cycling facilities, based on the type of cyclist involved.

In fact, the only positive thing I can think about this scheme is that, if they choose to fully paint the cycle lanes, there’s the vaguest chance that cycling through some part of the new Twickenham might be an improvement.

So, things we know about how Richmond sees cycling and walking, viewed through the lens of what they’re actually proposing:
1. There’s no stomach to take road space away from motor vehicles, and give it to cycling
2. There’s no analysis within the borough as to what might encourage cycling.
3. Unsupported evidence that “drivers do take note of advisory cycle lanes” is used as evidence that they’re a good thing.
4. Given **any** street scene design by the council’s planning officers, Even the most half-arsed cycle campaigner can think of improvements that would benefit cycling and walking compared to what the council can think up. .
5. The council officers have no idea how to encourage cycling in the borough.

(By the way, that consultation with cycling groups they were so proud of? One meeting which they didn’t even bother to minute.)

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Richmond’s Strategy to get people cycling

This post is about the borough’s strategy and plans to get more people cycling, in line with their target of increasing cycling by 40% in the next few years.

[End of post]

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WIll the borough grasp another chance to make walking and cycling number one?

Tonight is the council’s environment, sustainability and something or other committee. They’ve got another chance to send the rubbish plans for Twickenham back to the drawing board. Will they choose Paul James’ excellent suggestions instead?

Probably not, but I’ve written to them all anyway:

Dear Councillors,

Tonight you’re going to have another look at the street scene and highway plans for Twickenham town centre. Before you do, can I urge you to look at these:

Firstly, Ealing’s report from their visit to Copenhagen and how it has become one of the world’s top cities to live in, partly through the provision of cycling for all: http://media.urbed.coop.ccc.cdn.faelix.net/sites/default/files/Report%20of%20Copenhagen%20Study%20Tour.pdf

Secondly, have a look at Paul James’ alternative suggestions for how Twickenham could be a great place to walk and cycle: overlaid on a Google map here.

Boris Johnson wants us to “Love London and Go Dutch”. A quarter of Richmond households don’t have a car. Car journeys are decreasing in the capital. Shoppers are voting with their feet by going to mega malls like Westfield where they don’t have to dodge multiple lanes of traffic to get from one shop to another.

We’ve still got a great opportunity for Twickenham to be a beacon to the rest of London for what a beautiful, pedestrian friendly, safe street scene can look like, but I don’t think the current proposal is it.

If you can find shoppers who welcome the opportunity to cross up to four lanes of traffic, and then get a coffee while staring at that traffic …

If you can find non-cyclists who want to weave around taxi ranks into the paths of trucks and buses …

If you can find parents who are going to persuade their children to cycle to school through a junction which gives them no marked space, but has up to 40,000 vehicles a day through it … 

If you think Twickenham is better served by people who drive through than people who stop …

If you think that a vibrant town centre hums to cars stopping right outside a shop, rushing in and rushing out …

Then you should stick with the council’s current proposals. TfL is currently predicting cycling rates in London to fall, yet we’re looking at plans which aren’t inviting for cyclists or for non-cyclists.

Please seize this opportunity to get this scheme looked at again. Make walking and cycling number one, for once.

 

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Barnes wants to make it easier for your car.

A major junction in Barnes is getting a consultation aimed at ‘reducing traffic queues‘.

The junction in question is the five-way one at the left of this image from Google Maps:

 

You can see the consultation, here, and there’s a response link at the bottom, to a two question survey.

If you do decide to respond – and I and Richmond LCC would urge you to do so – you might want to consider any of the following. (And I’m not a traffic engineer, so I bet there are lots of other angles they’ve missed…)

  1. There’s no mention of how the changes will affect cycling or walking.
  2. There’s no obvious data to suggest levels of traffic at particular arms or particular times, so it’s not really clear how they’re sure the changes will make a difference
  3. If the council want to stop ‘rat running’ down Elm Grove Road, why not just make it useful for residents only, by putting bollards half way down? Residents will be able to enter at any time, no-one else will bother, and you might even have an outside chance of making a space children can play in!
  4. Given that this is the main point of access to the Wetland Centre, would it not make complete sense to make pedestrian and cycle access easier? What better way to take traffic out of the junction?
  5. If nothing is being done to encourage other transport options, then this is just displacement activity: moving queueing traffic from this junction is surely going to push it out elsewhere.
  6. Elm Road is a good option for people who don’t want to cycle on the A306. Making it one way removes that option.
  7. The proposal is to extend the green signal time on one arm of the junction, but the junction needs all the light sequences evaluated for non-motorised vehicle use, so pedestrians have the opportunity to cross as well.
  8. Even, at the most basic, why not take the opportunity to paint some proper advance stop lines for cyclists at each arm of the junction?

Whilst the claim that ‘rat-running’ will reduced (see this) is obviously welcome, it’s hard to see how this isn’t going to be a bit more lipsticking of the proverbial pig by the traffic department. With no substantive change to layout, no attempt to adjust transport behaviour, and no recognition of other modes of transport, this is going to be an exercise in wasted money.

Perhaps worst of all, the junction will be simplified, and experience across the UK suggests that travel moves through less complex junctions at higher speeds, resulting in greater risk to vulnerable road user groups like pedestrians and cyclists. (Swindon’s magic roundabout is an object lesson in complexity leading to safety.)

 

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An open letter to Richmond’s Cabinet

Dear Councillors,

On Thursday, you’ll be looking at the Twickenham Action Plan and, specifically, the street scene proposal.

You were going to talk about this last month, but it was delayed so the engineers could make it a bit nicer for cycling.

And they might have done. A little bit. But I still don’t think they understand what’s so wrong with the plans as they stood a month ago, and as they stand now.

So let me try to explain what I and many people in the area thing is wrong: the council wants Twickenham to be more of a ‘destination’ – somewhere people come to visit, shop, hang around, have coffee, meet friends, and have a pleasant time. And that’s what we all want.

What we don’t want is a Twickenham which a place that people drive through, or which is just a massive thoroughfare to support articulated vehicles getting to and from the A316. Westfield have just spent millions on creating massive shopping destinations in east and west London, and the one thing that’s going to separate the Twickenham of the action plan from the Westfield centres is going to be motor vehicles.

If you drive to Westfield, you leave your car in a skanky car park, and then go to enjoy a pollution-free, safe environment where people can walk in any direction without looking over their shoulder, stop, chat, drink coffee, etc.: We know that people don’t want to shop among cars. They value their car as a perceived convenient way to get somewhere, but they don’t want to have to clamber over someone else’s car just to get into a shop, or across a road. Yet that’s the Twickenham you’re promising us: one with more space for cars and trucks over the current incarnation, rather than less. (Yes, there’s more space for pedestrians in a number of places, but the deeply imaginative way to make that work is to ditch the bus lanes. You do know that 25% of your borough residents don’t have a car, do you?)

Did you notice that traffic volumes are falling in London? That people are cycling more? That people actually like walking in a pleasant environment? The Twickenham plan has a nice surface for people to walk on, but to move from one side to the other you have to cross four lanes of traffic.

And anyone wanting to cycle to, or through, this revised Twickenham, is going to have to share those two lanes with heavy vehicles. In European countries where children cycle a lot – like the Netherlands and Denmark, and increasingly parts of Germany and Spain – they accept that families, children, and just ordinary folk going about their business, want to feel safe and unthreatened when they cycle, and that they cycle a lot more when offered the facilities to do so.

Twickenham has huge amounts of road space, but your plans focus on getting cars through as quickly as possible, and providing parking where it obstructs pedestrians and cyclists, but not cars.

“But TfL won’t let us do anything” you cry. To which I say: “So what? Get some courage and tell TfL where to go.” Someone recently said: “No-one remembers politicians who build motorways … except perhaps Hitler”. But the residents of Richmond and Twickenham will remember you for providing us – and our visitors – somewhere safe, pleasant and welcoming to be.

I can’t come to the council meeting on Thursday, but if I could, I’d say this: “Get some backbone, and throw this thing out. Build a Twickenham for people, not a Twickenham for cars. Build a Twickenham for being there, not a Twickenham for passing through. Give us a regeneration that is about something more than watching cars, buses and trucks endlessly queue. And if you want a local example: make your new Twickenham look more like Church Street, and less like the A316.”

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It’s not too late to stop Twickenham being gassed.

This Thursday the council’s cabinet will meet. You can read the 218 pages of papers here: Agenda meeting page reports pack

But the key bits you need to read are from page 45 of the reports pack.

There’s no diagrams included, but the key proposals now suggest:

  • Introducing cycle lanes to both sides of King Street
  • “Provide cycle lanes on London Road (between Arragon Road and junction of Whitton Road/London Road; including the retention of the mandatory cycle lane leading up to the railway bridge.”
  • “Subject to a feasibility study/negotiations to strengthen/widen the railway bridge provide mandatory cycle lanes along both sides of the road.”

Which is a big improvement on where we were six weeks ago. And reading through the rest of the document, there are some other interesting things that come out. Earlier on, talking about bus stops, the report observes (p45, s3.17)

“It was identified in the pre-publication TAAP consultation that these stops contribute to the dominance of motorised traffic and cause ‘pedestrian congestion’ on the footways. Furthermore it allows the widening of the footways to provide valuable and much needed space for pedestrians, particularly those in wheelchairs or those less able to negotiate their way through crowded spaces. “

Which is as close to an implicit acceptance as I’ve seen, that (a) motor traffic dominates Twickenham and (b) that this isn’t a good thing.

Unfortunately, the changes we’re seeing above – with the exception of what sounds like a full, dedicated cycle lane on both sides of London Road at the station – are still lipsticking the pig. We still have have four lanes of traffic entering Twickenham at each end, and nothing that’s going to encourage you to let your child, teenager, or probably yourself, cycle through there without being in fear.

While you’re reading the report though, do check page 47, section 3.34:

“By improving the cycle facilities, reducing congestion/conflicting movements it is anticipated that there will be a reduction in road traffic accidents, particularly in King Street. “

While it’s nice that there’s some acceptance that improved cycle facilities make things safer, what you have to ask yourself is this: how come it’s more than TWO YEARS into this project, and they’ve only just noticed this?

So, if you still think Twickenham can be a more pleasant place, pop over to see Paul James, who will show you a very attractive suggestion for the area, then take the opportunity to write to any of these people, and ask them why they think Twickenham is still going to be so well served by being a nice thoroughfare for going anywhere except Twickenham itself:

Cllr Chris Harrison - Cabinet Member for Highways and Street Scene Cllr.charrison@richmond.gov.uk

Paul Chadwick - Director for Environment p.chadwick@richmond.gov.uk

Andrew Darvill - Assistant Director for Environment a.darvill@richmond.gov.uk

Chris Smith - Integrated Transport Planning Manager c.smith@richmond.gov.uk

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Want to shop with people, or shlep with cars?

One of the biggest changes promised for Twickenham is that it will become a destination, and not just somewhere to drive through. But take a look at these two photos, and tell me where you’d prefer to come and have coffee and shop: (both from Horsham, by http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/) 

ImageImage

 

Because the people who wrote the Twickenham plan would rather get the traffic through – in the mistaken belief that through traffic generates business – than make it nice for people to loiter. 

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