Save the segregated cycle lanes in Wandsworth and Tooting Bec Commons
This post was edited by SimonS at 04:33pm 31 Jul 2013.
This post was edited by SimonS at 04:33pm 31 Jul 2013.
Thanks Simon. Congratulations on organising this petition.
This is a very important issue. It took some of us 10 years to get the council to agree to cycle/pedestrian paths in the firstplace. I have signed the petition and emailed it to our local Furzedown email group of some 1600 people to alert them as well. As you will know I conducted a survey on behalf of WCC last year to the council last year and it showed high and increasing usage of these paths. The council's proposed course of action to remove the segregated usage is the exact opposite course of action that the survey indicated.
Best wishes Bob
Valid points can be made on both sides of this argument, but I think the wording of the petition conflates a number of issues and somewhat overstates the case. To begin with, these are not 'cycle lanes'. They are shared-use paths on which one side happens to have been demarcated as the side on which cycling is permitted. The petitioner then points to statements made by Wandsworth Council and Mayor of London in favour of segregated cycling infrastructure. But such statements clearly refer to highway infrastructure, where the issues are very different to the situation in parks and other green spaces.
Furthermore, Sustrans is as far as I know actually in favour of unsegregated shared use generally. To quote from their publication 'Segregation of Shared Use Routes', Technical Note No. 19, published September 2012:
"Sustrans’ default position is that there should be a presumption in favour of unsegregated paths where the width is shared by all users; segregation may be appropriate in certain situations such as where there is a high level of use and adequate space can be provided for each user group."
In Hackney Cycling Campaign, our long-standing preference has been for paths in our parks to be in almost all cases unsegregated. This is because, in our experience, demarcating a 'cycling side' to paths tends to promote the mistaken belief that cyclists have priority on it, leading to inappropriate speeds and even rudeness towards people who may happen, quite within their rights, to be standing or walking on that side.
We supported the recent removal of demarcation from the main path through South Millfields, which was initiated by the park user group. Going back to unsegregated shared use has reportedly succeeded in reducing the incidence of inconsiderate cycling.
Our policy was confirmed at our most recent meeting, at which we also decided to recommend to the council that, when the main (but quite narrow) east-west path through London Fields is resurfaced, the current demarcation indicating a 'cycling side' should not be replaced.
This will leave only one path in Hackney's parks on which one side is demarcated for cycling, viz the main north-south path in London Fields. Although we would not rule out consideration of removing the demarcation here too, this path is exceptional in being rather wide (4.8 metres) and having very high flows of cycles at peak times (300 or more per hour). A professional observation study in 2010 showed high compliance with the demarcation and low incidence of conflict, so we are minded not to push for a change here.
Not being familiar with the paths in Wandsworth and Tooting Bec Commons, I won't venture a definitive opinion on whether or not all or some of them should feature a stripe of paint. However, the balance of informed opinion does seem to be in favour of unsegregated shared use as the default these days, so perhaps Wandsworth council's proposal isn't necessarily quite as crazy as is being claimed.
I've not seen the specific paths in question, but given the involvment of Sustrans in the generally pitiful take-up of cycling in this country, it's quite hard to views theirs as 'informed opinion'. Basically, the clip from the Sustrans guidance reads very much like the usual "Well, if there happens to be enough space, maybe we should consider segregation, otherwise let's just force pedestrians and cyclists to co-exist, because we don't have enough belief in what we want to suggest that actually cycling should take road space rather than pedestrian space."
If this path is indeed busy, either for pedestrians or cyclists, it's hard to see how increasing the opportunities for conflict is going to be an improvement for either.
Hackney's preference here makes no sense. The best design depends entirely on the circumstances. If a path is a busy commuting route, and broad enough, it makes perfect sense that cyclists should have priority on one side, and pedestrians on the other. They'll be moving at different speeds, so it's safest that way. If there isn't plenty of room for both two-way cycling, and pedestrians, then the path shouldn't be divided, and there should be slower speeds and negotiation.
It would be nuts, for example, to de-segregate the north-south cycle track in Hyde Park parallel to Park Lane...
Don't worry about it Simon. In no way does the lack of formatting detract from what you have to say.[ It probably works better as a "rant"! ]
Sadly, after all the years of campaigning, it remains that cycling infrastructure is present where you don't require it and the moment it becomes essential it's missing.
It seams that cycling infrastructure is put in to use up budget at the end of the financial year and as a result tends to be ill-concieved and poorly implimented.
The, previously segregated, paths on Shepherds Bush Green were removed and made 'shared use' last year when the area was renovated. I complained to LBHF about this, as I think it makes conditions worse for cyclists.
The response I got back is copied below. Personally I think the position on cycling in parks and common areas in London verges on chaotic. Lambeth supposedly now treat all parks as shared use - use marked routes or cycle with care elsewhere. In other London parks (Battersea for example) the parks Police will fine you for being off the (legal but unmarked) proscribed route.
[LBHF claims that] The London Cycling Campaign advises that, over the past few years, there has been a move away from 'highways' style treatment of pathways in the country's Parks and Open Spaces and a move towards more shared use. This move is supported by research carried out by the University of Surrey in 2002 investigating the behaviour of different users on shared routes through parks and open spaces. The study calls into question the findings of much previous work.
§ Conflict between users is infrequent and when it does occur it is generally slight
§ In the main, route users accommodate others by changing their speed and pattern of travel: cyclists slow down while walkers straighten their pattern of movement
§ Perceptions of conflict are much higher than that actually experienced
§ Most people’s experience of meeting others on a route through a park or open space is peaceful, unobtrusive, co-operative and agreeable
§ Path width and speed of travel were significant determinants in people’s judgement of conflict
§ There are particular situations in which perceived and actual conflict is most likely to occur – inadequate surfacing, signing or lighting, blind corners or pinch points.
Is that LCC's official position? It seems very convenient for the councils
Anecdotally and personally, I agree with the Hackney response. Having 'shared use' paths means everyone has to look out for everyone else. When you decide one side or other is for cycling and the other for pedestrians you simply add a reason for argument - "why aren't you in the cycle lane?" or "this is a bike lane - get out of my way".
Anyway, pedestrians ALWAYS have priority, even if they're walking in designated cycle lanes.
Not knowing the area in the petition I won't comment on specifics, but to make good, life-saving alterations to roads and junctions would cost a lot more than the £82,000 quoted for this desegregation.
The London Cycling Campaign certainly does support segregation for cycling on roads where there's fast-moving and heavy motor traffic.
And our local groups lobbied for nearly a decade to allow people to legally cycle across Tooting and Wandsworth Commons.
However, these cycle paths have never been suitable for fast journeys because there are so many pedestrians walking near them and often across them - quite often parents with children using nearby amenities.
There's a strong argument for demarcating these routes as shared-use facilities so it's clear that pedestrians have priority.
This doesn't mean we don't support high-quality cycle tracks to make cycle journeys safe and inviting for everyone, but pretending these shared-use paths are actually high-quality segregated routes suitable for fast commuter journeys isn't the answer.
We'd like to see Wandsworth Council address main road routes nearby so there's safe space for cyclists of all abilities.
I live locally to Tooting Bec Common and use it as a pedestrian, runner and cyclist and I think the demarcated cycling "half" and pedestrian "half" are a bad idea.
The marked off area creates an inflated sense of entitlement amongst cyclists and seems to encourage excessive speed on what is actually quite a busy pedestrian path.
Pedestrians do not tend to stick to their side of the path as it is not wide enough to walk more than two abreast, so if you are out for a family stroll across the common, or want to overtake a slower walker ahead of you or just meet someone coming the other way you have to encroach onto the cycling part of the path - much to the ire of any impatient cyclists.
There is also a very strange section as the path goes under the railway bridge where for a reason I don't know the cycling side of the path and the pedestrian side of the path mysteriously and confusingly swap sides!
I think demarcation would encourage more considerate cycling at lower speed, giving pedestrians right of way at all times and would reduce conflicts based on any misplaced sense of entitlement or legitimacy.
With regard to the cost. Does anybody know if it really costs £82,000 to remove the segregation, or is it that the paths are due to be resurfaced at a cost of £82,000 and a decision has been made not to repaint the cycling markings?
If the cycling segregation is to go then I hope some signage is introduced to make it clear that considerate cycling is permitted on the relevant paths otherwise we will have cyclists who are not causing any problems or danger being confronted by angry pedestrians saying "you shouldn't be on here, it's not a cycle path".
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