Sisyphus is stil with us.

Sisyphus was condemned to push a boulder up the hill, so it could roll back down again. Endlessly.

And that’s what we seem to be doing in Richmond – as at countless other places across London. Every time you make a step forward, you can take one back.

 

This character – William Webb – seems worryingly unclear on quite a lot of things. (Including where he lives, unless he’s ex-directory – surely the letter isn’t a lazy plant by local councillors?)

He thinks Twickenham’s heart will ‘beat more effectively’, because it’ll cease to be a passing through area but will become a destination. Since the only change here is to remove a bus lane (making it worse for bus users and cyclists), his logic seems faulty.

But never mind that minor bit, because Mr. Webb thinks that Twickenham – with traffic levels close to the A316 at some junctions – can be ‘shared space’ like Exhibition Road. (See here for a good overview of the issues with shared space.) But whatever you think of shared space, we know this isn’t even what the council has planned, because they’ve failed to include any features to support it. In ‘proper’ shared space, you don’t need road markings, pedestrian crossings, kerbs, yellow lines, etc., because everyone knows how to share it. Whereas Twickenham is going to have pavements separated by four lanes of traffic, the same number of traffic lights – probably with pedestrian countdown timers so you can just get the fuck off the road and let the traffic flow – and lots of lane marking.

So Mr. Webb’s ‘special treatment for pedestrians’ looks like the blather it is. At the very best, pedestrians will no longer be penned in at key junctions. That’s it.

Honestly, any Dutch traffic engineers would be screwing their face up with disgust at the suggestion that their work directly leads to what we’re planning in Twickenham. It’s time we reclaimed our borough for walking and cycling, over the ceaseless primacy of traffic fumes and danger.

 

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What can you learn from Starbucks?

This week I went into Starbucks. And I saw a lot of drinks advertised which didn’t sound much like coffee to me (pumpkin latte is the obvious example).

But Starbucks is one of the most successful coffee businesses in the world, and they talk an awful lot about their coffee. And I was reminded of the “Understanding Walking and Cycling” report, which was bemoaned for saying “If you want to know what you need to do encourage cycling, you need to ask people who don’t cycle.”

Because someone in marketing at Starbucks, quite a while ago, went out to ask people who say they drink coffee but actually don’t, what they wanted to drink. And hey presto, you’ve got a worldwide cycling business worth billions of pounds a year which has sucked people into cycling without asking them to become coffee purists lycra-clad, hi-viz wearing   cycle geek.

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Links and Resources – the Twickenham Area Action Plan

This post is simply a collection of links and resources, primarily focussed on the council’s ‘Twickenham Area Action Plan’. It includes data gathered by others, and long links

1. https://peoplesfrontofrichmond.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/13573_1.xls
2. https://peoplesfrontofrichmond.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/13573_2.xls
3. https://peoplesfrontofrichmond.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/13573_3.xls
4. https://peoplesfrontofrichmond.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/13573_4.xls
5. https://peoplesfrontofrichmond.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/13573_5.xls

Other places you can see comment or discussion of the plans:
Cycalogical blog: http://cycalogical.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/who-killed-high-street.html
Eel Pie Island Association’s submission on the TAAP
One of Twickerati’s numerous posts on the TAAP

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20mph probably won’t make Twickenham any safer, or any different.

In a data set the council released a few weeks ago, we now know that, in 2008, most traffic speeds through Twickenham, when not queuing, peaks at 42kph (~26mph) in two locations, but rarely makes it to the 32kph (20mph) line in many cases. (See the data here.Notes on the attachment: AADT – average daily traffic counts. LDV – light duty vehicle. HDV heavy duty vehicle. )

So the thing that the council and its officials have focussed on as a key safety measure is probably not going to make the blindest bit of difference to actual traffic speeds through the area. Potentially the changes in street furniture may cause drivers to slow down, but the removal of bus lanes and cycle lanes means there will likely be less potential conflict as vehicles move between lanes, and thus less reason to slow down.

The data also suggests that Cross Deep and London Road have around 20,000 vehicles per day moving through. This makes it an unpleasant enough environment for pedestrians and cyclists already, but in fact this data contradicts data from TfL’s Traffic Analysis Centre (5.7Mb PDF here.)

The TfL data shows that the King Street junction experiences in excess of 40,000 vehicles per day (scroll to page 11 and zoom in). How anyone thinks any part of Twickenham is going to create a cafe society with that many vehicles moving by is beyond me. And how anyone thinks you shouldn’t have dedicated facilities for cyclists in such a busy environment is beyond me as well.

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An open letter to Richmond Council

Dear Councillors,

Some of you were at the Cycling Liaison Group at the beginning of this month, and you saw the strength of feeling among cyclists about the Twickenham plans.

But I want to ask you to look at this differently. 

By choosing to provide dedicated, inviting cycling facilities in the new Twickenham development, you have a great chance to affect the lives of almost every person in the borough for the better.

There’s a lot of recent research which tells us: 
– People arriving by bicycle and foot are very good customers to have
– People don’t like hanging around in areas dominated by motor traffic
– Lots of people don’t cycle because they think it’s unsafe, and painting advisory cycle lanes on roads doesn’t make them feel safe
– If you build more space for cars, they will use it
– “If you build it, they will come”: towns and cities across the country have seen almost continuous growth in cycling as they provide dedicated facilities which don’t require cyclists to be in conflict with motor traffic. 
– That local people want to cycle

I believe that you can build Twickenham to be a really welcoming, vibrant place for the people who will visit in 2015, as well as for locals, and I believe that all the problems we hear about can be overcome:
– Deliveries can be scheduled or restructured so they don’t need to block cycle facilities
– Car parking can be provided without endangering cyclists or inconveniencing pedestrians
– Traffic in the area can be re-shaped to remove the need for so many journeys through Twickenham town centre

By making Twickenham town centre a genuinely inviting place to cycle, you can et the tone for the whole borough. Building quality cycle infrastructure has benefits for cyclists, pedestrians, and for drivers, and by showing local people how cycling really is an option, we can open opportunities across the borough to reduce congestion, increase life expectancy, and encourage more people to spend more time at our shops, in our leisure facilities, and enjoying our beautiful borough. 

If, however, you choose to carry on with the plans as they look at the moment, you’ll be re-creating a Twickenham which will continue to be a rat-run to the A316, a place where people stop for a minimal amount of time to do basic shopping, and a blot on our borough.

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I don’t want to lipstick this pig – how can I help stop it?

If you’re at all angry about what the council’s planning to do to Twickenham, there are actually quite a few things you can do, apart from checking out the excellent post over at Richmond Cycling.

1. Ask the council a question.

You can ask, in person or in writing, a question in front of the whole council, and they have to answer. They might bullshit you, of course, but nothing ventured. To ask a question, see the page here.

2. Write to the council cycling champion.

She’s called Katherine Harborne, and you can find her details here. She chairs the Cycling Liaison Group and has apparently been in contact with TfL.

3. Contact your councillor.

See here for details on all the councillors. Write to your councillors and tell them why you think the Twickenham Consultation and Plan is a botched attempt to put lipstick on a pig. (Some ideas here and here).

4. Freedom of Information them all.

If you head over to WhatDoTheyKnow, they’ll help you submit and track a Freedom of Information Act Request. You can ask pretty much anything, but pertinent questions might be things like “What specific requirements have TfL stated for the Highstreet and street scene changes?”, or “What traffic modelling has been done on this plan? Where is the data, and how do I obtain it?” or even “Do you have any idea how many cyclists use Twickenham now, and how many will be left after these disastrous plans?”

You can submit an FoI request to almost any public body, and they must reply, by law, within 30 days, unless they can demonstrate that the information would cost too much to obtain. (So don’t be too vague in your request!)

5. Write to the local paper.

You can email the Richmond and Twickenham Times at lettersrtt@london.newsquest.co.uk

6. Write to the man most responsible for this little gem, Councillor Harrison.

Be prepared to be told, however, that ‘cyclists get a share of the transport budget far above the 5% modal share of transport they occupy’. I’m not sure why this is a bad thing, but perhaps you can find that out while you’re there.

7. Put 18th October in your diary.

That’s the ful council meeting at which they’re planning to adopt this whole sorry mess. There’s a fat chance that they’ll have done much beyond some token paint for advisory cycle lanes by then, so there may be a demonstration planned.

And finally, whatever you do, let the local guys at the London Cycling Campaign know, by emailing them at info@richmondlcc.co.uk or leave a comment below.

 

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Why Cycling in Twickenham Matters

You might not ever get on a bicycle, you might be an occasional user, you might be someone comfortable with high volumes of traffic.

Whichever you are, you should still be concerned about the provision of cycling infrastructure in Twickenham, and here’s why.

1. There’s a reason the M25 isn’t lined with shops

If you look around ‘shopping’ London, you’ll notice two things: (1) someone’s spending a huge amount of cash building malls like Westfield. And the most striking feature of these places is the absence of the motor vehicle from anywhere near the shopping areas. (2) Everywhere else, they’re making it harder, or just impossible, to bring a car. Wardour St. is effectively pedestrianised, Regent Street and the Oxford Circus junction have been significantly modified in favour of pedestrians.

Everyone developing in London has recognised that if you want people to arrive somewhere and hang around, it needs to be a place focussed on pedestrians. Even Mary Portas’ review stressed it.

2. Your life expectancy is being lowered for the sake of expediency

The current plans simply provide for more vehicles through Twickenham, at a slightly slower pace when the place isn’t gridlocked. And the on-going classification as A roads for most of the area is going to ensure that gridlock is what you’ll get. What this means is that, on your slightly wider pavements, you’ll just have more opportunity to breathe in the fumes those vehicles are pumping out. (And remember, bus lanes are going, so those buses will be sitting in the queue as well.)

3. It’s not all about shopping

For Twickenham to be a vibrant centre, it needs to encourage people to come along and spend money on something other than stopping by the supermarket for a pack of cereals: call it cafe culture, whatever, but for people to stay in Twickenham and spend money there, they need to spill out onto the pavements, cross roads easily, come and go easily. The current plans provide for large areas of Twickenham to be kept apart by four lanes of traffic. And when there isn’t bumper to bumper traffic, it’s going to be really interesting to see how well traffic sticks to the 20mph limits when offered two full lanes to churn down.

4. It’s not just about Twickenham

All of these plans are symptomatic of the council’s inability to see beyond the private car as a way to get around the borough. The recent less-than-stellar addition to Richmond Road, on the way to Richmond Bridge, is a classic example: a couple of pots of Dulux which probably cost less to put down that the largely ignored consultation they engaged in.

This isn’t really about hating cars, it’s about how we choose to allocate our urban space, and how we think our borough should look and feel. The only council transport policies of substance have been about parking: making it cheaper to travel short distances to already congested shopping areas, and then being ‘humane’ about parking enforcement in those areas. But then, despite the lead from the Mayor of London, Richmond isn’t prepared to consider trying to persuade people to try an alternative mode of transport.

5. Won’t someone think of the children?

Because the council is failing, once again, to take the opportunity to provide safe infrastructure which separates cyclists from cars (and pedestrians), we’re continuing with the stale idea that everyone prepared to get on a bicycle wants to share the road with HGVs, buses, and boy racers. That doesn’t encourage parents to say “Why not cycle to school, children?” It doesn’t encourage anyone of any form of nervous disposition to think “Oh, I can just go on the bicycle” – they feel safer in their car.

Which means that this generation is going to hear all about how granny and grandad cycled to school (and anywhere else in a lot of cases), whereas they’re just learning to sit around in cars and be shuttled from place to place.

But what’s that got to do with cycling?

Richmond Council has a not-quite-once-in-a-lifetime chance to really kick-start a true cycling revolution. By allocating meaningful space in Twickenham to cycle infrastructure, the council can build a town centre which is pleasant to use, easy to get to, and a beacon for excellence in London. By choosing to allocate space to cycling instead of cars, the council can make Twickenham a really great destination, however you want to get there.

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