Save the segregated cycle lanes in Wandsworth and Tooting Bec Commons

  • By SimonS on at 12:02pm 25 July 2013
  • Posted in: General
  • Tagged with: Wandsworth Council plan to waste £82,000 to desegregate the cycle lanes in the borough's Commons. This is despite their own policy in favour of segregation, lanes that meet the required width to be segregated and popular opposition to the plans. They want to use TfL funding meant to improve cycling facilities to make them worse for all users. Even Sustrans now acknowledge that unsegregated lanes are only really suitable for quiet rural areas. Please take a couple of seconds to support our campaign to stop this crazy scheme. Thanks!

This post was edited by SimonS at 7:06am 26 May 2015.


  • By bob at 6:56pm 25 July 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. 

  • By idavid at 5:55pm 27 July 2013
Bishops Park Fulham was de-segregated recently and as a cyclist and pedestrian I find the new set-up is an improvement. Under the old regime the bike section was quite narrow and often caused conflict when I met someone riding in the opposite direction. Now, we have to think for ourselves and use common sense, echoes of Exhibition Road whose principles I totally support.

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...

  • By SimonS at 10:59pm 28 July 2013
To claim that the cycle lanes are not cycle lanes is madness. Like most people, to me the term 'cycle lane' means a lane that is for cyclists. The technicalities over whether something is a track, lane, 'demarcated path', or whatever are really not relevant and nit picking over such petty issues indicates a serious need to get out more. If the paths are not 'segregated' why are the council applying to 'desegregate' them FFS?! The change will mean that the segregated lanes will go. The petition is quite clear that we are calling for the lines to stay. There is no conflation of issues here. My main argument is that segregated paths are safer for disabled people. The 'evidence' of desegregation bringing peace and harmony to cycle paths is anecdotal tosh. Why some people feel that the views of RNIB and Guide Dogs should just be ignored is beyond me. Don't the needs of the most vulnerable come first? The paths in question are heavily used and so the guidance of Sustrans quoted above concurs with my argument. It seems as though some people are really grasping at straws to justify their arguments! And re Exhibition Road-WTF?! Cars fly down this street as fast as ever and it is horrible to cycle down; I have had numerous scrapes on this road since the changes. Trying to get into position to turn at the roundabout in the middle of the street is a nightmare now. Regardless of what dubious 'improvements' this scheme delivered (which seem to be mostly cosmetic), the cost of £30 million was a disgusting waste of money that could have delivered life-saving improvements to many dangerous junctions. My friend was killed earlier this year at a busy junction in Victoria that doesn't even have ASLs, never mind a protected cycle lane. How many more people have to die before we get our ******* priorities straight? People are killed and seriously injured on the roads around the Commons in question on an alarming basis. To spend money on relatively safe paths with no history of KSIs in preference to sorting the roads out is an absolute disgrace and my opinion is that those who think we should prioritise pet schemes with no evidence to support them should be ashamed of themselves. Some may find my language a bit harsh, but I don't care. I hope I do shake things up a bit. I am still grieving and I don't see why other people should suffer because of irrational arguments and messed up notions of what is most important. Even if I don't convince everyone, I hope I will at least enthuse some others to stand up and challenge people who claim to represent them, when in fact they seem more interested in justifying their own policy positions than doing what is right and are often incapable of admitting when they have made a mistake. I accept that the petition is not perfectly worded and I could have been clearer about the positions of Sustrans, but in my defence, I don't think I did a bad job in the limited space and time available to me. Having raised lines on shared paths is very common in many countries that have much better cycling infrastructure and usage than the UK. Having just spent a week in Stockholm, where cycling is very popular, I can assure you that the vast majority of shared paths there are segregated in the manner that they are in the Commons. We should be emulating such successful policies, not arrogantly assuming that we should do half-arsed engineering solutions that don't follow relevant guidance, and are justified by assumptions and pitiful anecdotal evidence. Those in favour of spending money on such unnecessary changes to safe cycle paths should bear in mind how many cyclists are being killed on our roads. Surely resources should be targeted at the areas of greatest risk and be spent on schemes that meet current guidance and respect the needs of disabled people? I'm getting fed up with people claiming to be well informed and then making utterly false statements that 'informed opinion' is generally in favour of unsegregated paths (that always lack any references to support that view). Unsegregated paths should normally only be used in very quiet, rural areas. That is the view of countless organisations, the DfT, TfL and even Wandsworth Council's own policy is in favour of segregation. Whether a shared path is next to a road or goes through a park makes little practical difference. We all have a right to our opinions but those who make unfounded accusations of others being misleading and then go on to make patently false arguments in an arrogant manner should expect to provoke anger and ridicule in response. Those in favour of this scheme got 60 people to support them. We already have over 250 people on record opposing it despite not having had much time to organise (due to the plans being so poorly advertised almost none of the users of the paths are aware of them). I will leave further comments to others as I am likely to say something I might regret if further provoked! Thanks a million to the many people who have signed the petition and argued in favour of it.
  • By SimonS at 11:00pm 28 July 2013
God dammit! All formatting removed from my lengthy rant. Not sure how to fix-apologies!!

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.

Main findings:

§  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.

  • By phufbl at 4:10pm 31 July 2013

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.

  • By phufbl at 4:33pm 31 July 2013

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".

  • By mickeyg at 6:06pm 26 June 2014

Of course there are some cyclists who ride like idiots. Does anyone in their right mind think that removing the line will slow them down?!? Of course it won't - they will still ride too fast but without a line they will whizz past other users on whichever side they choose and without warning!!

At the same time there are silly pedestrians out there who are oblivious to which side is which but this can be partly attributed to the degraded markings.

Shall we mention inconsiderate dog walkers? Who allow their dogs off their lead on the only cycle provision the common has. How selfish. They have dozens of path with no cyclists AT ALL but they still choose a busy cycle route to parade their untethered mutts.

This money could be saved and spent much more wisely and to my mind with the same effect...

We could organise work parties to repair the surface and repaint the markings. How about swapping the sides between Balham Hill and the bridge so that the cyclists and pedestrians don’t have to cross over? How about policing the speed limits? Or introducing measures to inform cyclists of the need to slow down a bit? Or installing some speed reduction measures? Or how about considering just about any proposal from the Meyer Brown report (there were MANY!) instead of focussing on this line.


  • By Jorge at 1:16pm 24 September 2014

I happened to read a small blurb in a SW local magazine that there is a meeting re: this proposal for Wandsworth Common on Sept 30th. Is there still a petition going around to oppose it? I'd like to send it to fellow cyclists.

Interestingly I was in Tooting Common the other day and noticed that they had finally repainted the cycle and pedestrian symbols on the pavement, so I guess it is only Wandsworth Common that is still under review?

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