2014 Campaign - Space for Cycling

Our Space for Cycling local election campaign is all about local issues. So how do you go about identifying problems in your neighbourhood?

We’re planning for 2014 to be a milestone year for the London Cycling Campaign. We’re organising a hugely ambitious campaign to put safe space for cycling on the agenda of thousands of councillor candidates in the run up to the local elections next May. Our councils control 90% of our city streets, and it’s vital the authorities take steps to improve them so they’re safe and inviting enough for cycling to be a genuine choice for every Londoner, whatever their age or ability.

Our campaign will target local election candidates, many of whom will go on to become councillors and make key decisions about how our neighbourhood streets are designed. Crucially, our local election campaign will also serve as a timely ‘mid-term’ reminder to Mayor Boris Johnson that cycling is a major issue for hundreds of thousands of Londoners. Finally, our campaign will also be an opportunity to get positive coverage for cycling on mainstream news television and radio programmes, as well in print and online.

What are we asking for?

The message our Space for Cycling campaign is sending to politicians and the media is the same as we proposed during our successful Love London, Go Dutch mayoral election campaign in 2012: “Londoners need streets that are safe and inviting for everyone to cycle”. We know there are other important issues affecting cycling in London — lorry design, driving standards, the justice system, cycle parking, theft, cycle training — but none of these is as critical as the way our streets are designed. Badly designed streets subject existing cyclists to significant and avoidable risks, and they prevent new people from getting on their bicycles at all.

That’s why our message to our 2014 local election candidates is that redesigning our streets, something they have direct control over, is essential to encourage mass cycling. We define safe Space for Cycling as streets that either have protected tracks or lanes, or motor traffic volumes and speeds are at a low enough level that ordinary people can cycle in safety and comfort (see page 26 for more details on our recently endorsed policy). Because the biggest barrier to cycling is fear of motor traffic, then it’s essential to keep people on bicycles away from heavy volumes or fast-moving motor traffic. Any street design that forces cyclists to jockey for space with thousands of motor vehicles per day or ride among motor traffic travelling over 20mph fails to provide an environment where ordinary people are likely to be willing to cycle. Our Space for Cycling campaign has the ambitious aim to make every street in Greater London suitable for ordinary people to cycle.

When we say ‘ordinary people’, we include young people cycling to schools and colleges, the elderly doing their shopping or visiting friends, disabled cyclists riding to work on adapted bicycles, parents taking young children to nursery or the shops, as well as fast commuters and others who already have the confidence to cycle. Providing protected cycle tracks or lanes often requires significant investment and excellence of engineering, but it’s a solution that should be embraced in the right circumstances. This type of solution towards creating safe space for cycling is essential to provide safe passage through major junctions and along busy and arterial main roads.

Reducing speeds and volumes of motor traffic can be achieved quickly and without great expense, often requiring only signage and enforcement to create new area-wide speed limits, and imaginative use of street furniture such as bollards and planters to remove through motor traffic. Whole neighbourhoods that are hostile to cycling can be transformed quickly and at relatively low expense into safe space for cycling. The policies that underpin our campaign have been formulated by our elected Policy Forum, which is chaired by Dr Rachel Aldred, an elected trustee and respected sustainable transport academic. Our policies were also ratified by members at our October 2013 AGM. Our call for a mix of protected cycle lanes/tracks and motor traffic reduction/calming treatments is based on the Dutch model of Sustainable Safety, where designers attempt to design away conflict between motor vehicles and bicycles, reducing the risk of collisions.

You choose your local issues

We’ve defined the treatments that can turn streets into genuine space for cycling, but we want you to choose what issues we campaign on in your local area. Our elected Policy Forum has helped by highlighting six areas that are vital to improve cycling in Greater London:

1. Protected space on main streets and through major junctions

2. Removal of through motor traffic from minor streets

3. Introduction of 20mph speed limits

4. Safe cycling routes for schoolchildren

5. Safe cycling routes for town centres

6. Safe cycling routes through parks and other green spaces like along canals

We want you to tell us which of these is most important in your neighbourhood in order to encourage more local people to cycle. The issues preventing mass cycling are different in every neighbourhood in Greater London, which is why we’re inviting our tens of thousands of supporters to tell us how the streets in their area can best be improved.

By the time you read this, you should have been emailed our brief survey asking you to rank the six measures in order of importance in your area. If you want (but you don’t have to), you can give specific examples of places where these problems exist. If you haven’t seen it yet, please find our short survey at www.lcc.org.uk/2014survey. We’ll collate this information and work with our local groups to come up with a single Space for Cycling demand for every neighbour­hood in Greater London.

By the time we’ve finished, all 624 electoral wards will have a Space for Cycling demand, with the decision ratified at a local group meeting in the New Year. We’ll tell you about this meeting by email. Once the local Space for Cycling demands have been agreed, that’s when we’ll encourage our supporters to bombard their local election candidates with emails supporting it... simple!


2014 in my area...

LCC staffer Mike Cavenett writes:

Here I describe what I consider to be major barriers to cycling in my area. The term ‘my area’ is fairly arbitrary: I live in the electoral ward of Brockley, but the places I visit regularly don’t conform to political boundaries. Indeed, because I live in Lewisham, but close to the border with Greenwich, it shouldn’t be surprising many of the places I describe aren’t even in my borough. However, it’s much more important to fully describe the barriers to cycling in our neighbourhoods than to constrain ourselves with artificial boundaries.

Everyone’s experience of London is going to be a litte bit different… and we want to know what affects your cycling the most. Below, I describe how the six policy themes affect my cycling, both positives and negatives.

1. Protected space on main streets and through major junctions

The lack of protected lanes or tracks on main roads is a major barrier to cycling in my area. Large junctions like the crossroads on the A2 at Deptford Bridge (pictured right) are awful even for experienced cyclists to navigate. Pedestrians, too, have to scurry across the road without safe crossings. There’s lots of roadspace here, which could easily be reallocated to make cycling safer and more inviting.

Heading east, there are five motor traffic lanes, including a nasty motorway-style slip road, while westbound there are four lanes, which actually merge into a single lane less than 100 metres ahead. Nowhere at this junction is cycling provided with any protection from turning or merging motor traffic. Tens of thousands of vehicles per day pass through this junction, with many hundreds of them lorries. This is the worst junction, but there other horrors too: Deptford Church Street is intimidating for cycling. Multiple 30mph lanes and a motorway-style central reservation give all the wrong signals to motorists. It’s actually a residential street, with parkland, a family-oriented leisure centre and a pub and a restaurant nearby, but you’d hardly know it.

Brookmill Road nearby is another wide road that’s plagued with speeding motor traffic. While Loampit Vale to the south is another street that’s suffered a cycling fatality in recent months. And don’t get me started on the New Cross one-way system or Old Kent Road.

2. Removal of through motor traffic from minor streets

I’m fortunate to live next door to a private estate that doesn’t allow through motor traffic. To be strictly accurate, anyone can drive through if they buzz security, but waiting at the barriers adds a significant delay so most drivers don’t bother. Living on what’s pretty much a cul-de-sac makes my street very quiet and safe.

Cycling south to Lewisham train/DLR/bus station, my journeys are also along quiet streets. Coldbath Street isn’t useful as a short-cut to anywhere, so most traffic is residential. Slightly further afield, Blackheath Rise and Morden Hill (pictured right) are two streets that have in the not-too-distant past been used as rat-runs by car and van drivers cutting between Lewisham Road and Blackheath. Now, cycling-permeable barriers prevent this. There are similar barriers in the nearby Ashburnham Triangle streets too.

My back-street commute to/from the LCC office in Southwark benefits from many streets — particularly those running parallel with Old Kent Road — being blocked to through motor traffic.The section along Oxley Close and Abercorn Way is especially quiet and safe. Other streets through industrial areas in Bermondsey do have some fast-moving motor traffic, and attempts at traffic-calming humps only have a partial effect. Verney Road springs to mind as somewhere you need to be alert, and the Trundleys Road junction is notoriously dangerous to cycling.

3. 20mph speed limits

Neither the authority in which I live, Lewisham, nor my neighbour, Greenwich, has a borough-wide 20mph speed limit. Disappointingly, Lewisham explicitly rejected a borough-wide 20mph speed limit when it was proposed earlier this year by one of my local councillors, Darren Johnson (also a London Assembly Member). The measure was rejected on the (spurious, in my opinion) grounds that it wouldn’t be enforceable by the police.

The Royal Borough of Greenwich has introduced 20mph on a number of routes, including in Greenwich Park, and is planning to introduce more 20mph using a zoning system. There are certainly streets near me that would benefit from lower speed limits. For example, Coldbath Street — just around the corner from where I live — has a 30mph limit, which is inappropriate for a narrow street lined with parked cars, and in an area of high-density housing. It’s not unusual to see unaccompanied children playing on the pavements here, and we should be doing everything in our power to encourage healthy outdoor behaviour.

Another road that would benefit from 20mph is the route to Greenwich town centre, which takes me on busier roads like Greenwich High Road (pictured) and Greenwich South Street, both of which can be intimidating even for experienced cyclists. These are both streets that are wider, longer and straighter than most of the residential streets around, which encourages drivers to put their foot down, creating extra noise and danger, and making these streets less inviting for cycling.

4. Safe cycling routes for schoolchildren

Speaking to parents in my neighbourhood, it’s hard to find anyone who’s satisfied with their school routes. That’s reflected in the low cycling to school rates among children of all ages, and the small number of parents who can be seen cycling with children on their bikes.

Myatt Garden School is a good example of a primary school that isn’t pleasant to cycle to. It sits between two parallel side roads, Rokeby Road and Upper Brockley Road, with an entrance on each. In order to cope with the congestion caused by parents driving to school, both these streets have been made one-way, which inconveniences cycling journeys. The streets are narrow and often busy with cars doing the school run.

Sadly, a child on foot was killed in the recent past by a car pulling away having been parked on the pavement — which is typical during busy periods. Approaching the school from Lewisham Way (pictured), a very densely trafficked red route, it’s not at all easy to access the school in Upper Brockley Road. Even adult cyclists can be seen choosing the pavement instead, and there’s a complete absence of young children on bikes. Other journeys to Myatt Garden School involve travelling via Malpas Road or Shardeloes Road. Both these streets have 20mph limits but are also wide, which encourages faster driving and rat-running. Riding along them or trying to cross can be intimidating, especially for younger or less experienced cyclists.

These streets show amply that 20mph speed limits alone are not enough to make for a comfortable cycling environment, and motor traffic reduction should be prioritised. Shardeloes Road is a bus route, but narrow and intimidating at times. St James Hatcham primary school in New Cross Gate might have the unfortunate accolade of being the least cycling-friendly school in London because it can only be approached from one direction, from the nerve-jangling one-way system on New Cross Road. 

5. Safe cycling routes to and around local town centres 

Deptford High Street is only 500m from my flat, but access via bicycle is poor. First, it’s necessary to cross the major junction on the A2 at Deptford Bridge (see p16). There’s a toucan crossing, but delays can be long, plus it’s not unusual for motor vehicles to jump the red lights or block the crossing entirely, especially during rush hour.

To access Deptford High Street after crossing the A2, you cross two unsignalled crossings and then walk (or ride illegally) along the pavement to the shops. You can avoid this convoluted and potentially illegal route by cycling through Deptford Bridge junction on the A2. Sadly, you then you have to either make an illegal (and dangerous) right turn into Deptford High Street or pull over to the left on to the pavement, and wait to cross the A2 using a pedestrian crossing.

Cycling south to Lewisham town centre isn’t at all safe or enjoyable either, and nor is cycling comfortable when you get there. There are quiet streets as far as the train station, but then you meet the roundabout where the A20 meets Molesworth Road/Lewisham Road (pictured). This junction is everything I hate about London cycling, with multi-lane entrances and exits, and very high volumes of fast motor traffic jostling for space. I wince seeing experienced commuter cyclists using this junction, and you never see a child or elderly person on bike there. There are railings and raised central reservations all around, heightening the sensation that this isn’t a place that welcomes people on bikes or on foot. It’s a total disaster.

6. Safe cycling routes through parks and green spaces

The green spaces around where I live are very pleasant and provide good access for cycling. My daily commute takes me through Margaret MacMillan Park and Fordham Park, both of which have direct and convenient routes for cycling. The underpass under the East London Line linking these two parks is particularly helpful (although I wish the lighting was better). It’s a shame anyone trying to cycle to these green spaces is likely to have to overcome major barrriers such as main roads and major junctions. This goes some way to explaining why I’m often the only cyclist using these greenways even in rush hour. Nevertheless, these park links themselves are very useful.

Even though I walk and run there regularly, I rarely cycle in Greenwich Park because it’s not on one of my regular routes. For this reason, the relative paucity of cycling-permitted paths doesn’t affect me. However, as a local resident, I’m bemused through motor traffic is still permitted along The Avenue, with St Mary’s Gate (pictured above) open to motor traffic on weekdays 7am-10am and 4pm-closing. At least through traffic is banned at weekends, but I can’t understand why commuting motor vehicles must use a public green space at all. The 20mph speed limit agreed relatively recently (thanks to campaigning from Greenwich Cyclists) is a long overdue move.

Finally, the Waterlink Way, which follows the route of the River Ravensbourne, passes within a few metres of my flat. It’s a popular route with leisure cyclists (particularly at weekends), but it’s not one I use for local journeys. Over longer distances, the route is rather indirect, and not always that easy to follow. For that reason, when I’m visiting places for which the Waterlink Way might appear to be useful, such as going to Crystal Palace, I tend to brave the main roads instead. Going around Catford one-way system isn’t exactly pleasant, but the slowness of the off-carriageway route puts me off using it.