Thursday saw the biggest Cycling Liaison Group ever. And all because the council has a Twickenham Area Plan which has no provision for cycling, let alone safe cycling (a few Advanced Stop Lanes aside).
Under pressure from a number of quarters, the council decided to allow us 30 minutes to talk about this, at the end of the meeting. It’s not clear why we had, as one attendee observed, unlimited time to talk about bat lighting but only 30 minutes on the biggest subject of the evening, but Cllr Harborne was considerate enough to extend the allotted time and give all the attendees a chance to speak.
The council’s engineer started off with some very interesting information: the engineers had wanted a single lane of traffic through Twickenham, but had been vetoed by TfL. Apparently, £150,000 has been spent on traffic modelling for the area by TfL, and it indicates that they need to keep multiple lanes through Twickenham. He also said that TfL seems to be working on a transport model which presumes 1% growth in traffic every year.
We were then told that bus lanes were primarily installed to protect bus stops. I’m no traffic engineer, but I always thought the primary purpose of a bus lane was to allow buses to avoid traffic queues, and Wikipedia (not always the best of guides, of course) confirms what I thought.
We were also told that, despite their being detailed plans to retain the 62 parking spaces, there were no plans for where cycle parking might go. This, we were told, would be looked at in ‘detailed planning’. You might choose to go and have a look at the current set of plans yourself and ask yourself what level of detail you need to go to before you start worrying about stuff like this.
Next, and perhaps most saliently, we were told that they’d now decided that the whole area would get advisory cycle lanes throughout the scheme. (If you want to see what many think of advisory cycle lanes, see this discussion.)
Of course the council probably knew a lot of people could be fobbed off with a statement like this, so it’s particularly lame that they also had a press release last week which admitted that the advisory lanes would be as useful as a chocolate teapot during rush hour – precisely the time when you’d most need them.
We then moved to ‘the floor’, and were asked only for constructive suggestions, and nothing too detailed please, because we were at an early stage of consultation.
But this led to yet another “Really?” moment:
Cllr Harrison, the member for street scene, told us that the scheme still had to go to detailed design with ‘consultants’, which was why they hadn’t bothered painting on the lipstick, sorry cycle lanes yet. And showed us this slide:
Myself, I’m confused what stage anything is at. Supposedly they spent an hour gathering ‘very useful’ and ‘very helpful’ feedback, and there’d be ample time to deal with this, but I’ve also had an email telling me the whole plan has already gone to the Secretary of State for ‘independent examination’. And to cap it all, there’s something about how the Twickenham Area Action Plan and “Twickenham Street Scene and Highways Scheme Consultation” fit together and do or do not require separate consultation.
Where to now, then?
We’re told that every suggestion and question was minuted. It’ll be another three months before we find out, which will ensure that whatever anyone said can be happily buried – there’s no indication any revisions will be publicised.
It’s my feeling that TfL have some answering to do, and that the council and TfL both need to be really clear:
- What traffic analysis has been done?
- Did it include cycling?
- What specific requirements have TfL stated?
- Why does the council have to kowtow to TfL? We have £40m in reserves, supposedly, which is enough to do this project five times over.
- What analysis was done for bus journey times?
- And no doubt a range of other questions that basically ask “WTF” in more detail …
(By the way, my suggestion was “Let’s keep the London Road cycle lane, because it’s the best piece of cycle provision you’ve got in the entire borough.” One councillor rather confusingly countered that he’d seen lots of buses using it. Personally, that sounds like an enforcement issue – it doesn’t make make it a bad facility.)