Opinion: Jean Dollimore

This article was originally published in the December 2014 edition of London Cyclist

As the winner of LCC’s Outstanding Contribution to Cycle Campaigning award, Jean shares with us a typical week in her life

Monday started with writing an agenda for next week’s quarterly meeting with Camden Council officers; they’ve been so busy designing new schemes and auditing recent ones that it was hard to decide which topics could be left off!  About a year ago we negotiated with Camden Council to use some spare cash to implement a variety of small measures that would make cycling more pleasant — part of our list of ‘quick wins’, such as dropping kerbs for better cycle access and improving cycle signage and road surfaces.  They’ve also asked if we can discuss LCCs views on ‘protected space’ and when we need it, so I needed to ensure I had the latest policy positions to hand.

On Monday evening, I went to a workshop with fellow Camden Cyclist members Angela and John to discuss the Brunswick Square enhancements with a local Residents’ Association and council officers. I explained to them that we don’t want cycle lanes on the footway in the square and that any cycle routes must provide total permeability. 

On Tuesday morning I took a quick call with Camden New Journal and gave them a quote in support of the use of canal freight for the new Hawley Wharf development. Then I had to rush off to a meeting in the council’s great new premises at 5 Pancras Square, for which gaining access requires some kind of conjury. Our local group is working with the council on an east-west CycleGrid route, via Pratt and Delancey Streets into Regent’s Park at Gloucester Gate, and we took a look at a few innovative solutions for safe space for cycling at some of the key junctions on this route.

Space for Cycling on a local level

On Thursday, I tried to put together some arguments about traffic evaporation in order to recover the support of a local councillor who has had cold feet over their pre-election promise to support a Space for Cycling improvement in their ward. They had agreed to support an upcoming scheme to eliminate rat-runs, but local car-owning opponents are arguing that it would cause gridlock and be detrimental to businesses and people in the neighbourhood. They only represent a minority of local households, but I’m hoping we can convince the councillor to keep their support.

I spent Friday morning replying to emails from two TfL officers. I thought carefully about how to be positive about TfL’s promises for improvements to the Camden Town area, while at the same time expressing our utter disgust at their refusal to allow the council to implement a ‘hold the left’ scheme at Cobden Junction — after a signal audit rejected it based on what we believe are spurious arguments. 

That evening, I rode down to Brunswick Square (the topic of Mondays’ workshop) to observe the movements of motor traffic on the roundabout and along Guilford Street to Calthorpe Street. I noticed several possibilities for justifying the closure of Lansdowne Terrace and for reducing motor flow on Guildford Street which is on the proposed route of Quietway 38. As usual, I enjoyed my ride home up Royal College Street where the autumn foliage is doing well in the planters, despite of some of them looking a bit battered.

A flagship scheme in Camden

If you’re not aware of Royal College Street, this is a stretch of road in Camden that currently has cycle tracks on each side of the street, and one-way motor traffic. The cycle tracks are wide and are separated from vehicles by attractive planters and ‘armadillos’. It was installed last year to upgrade the previous two-way cycle track. I noted that very soon the cycle counter installed in April will reach a quarter of a million!

On Sunday evening I was very pleased to see @VoleOSpeed’s new blog post: “While focus is on the Mayor’s Superhighways, Camden plans to double its length of segregated track”. It gave a very fair assessment of the council’s ambitious plans for northern and southern extensions of Royal College Street. 

Before I know it it’s Monday again and Camden Cyclists’ monthly meeting. After regular business we’re joined by police officers from Camden’s Safer Neighbourhood team and Safer Transport Team who talk about their work within the area, and we followed with some time to chat socially.

A lot can change in 10 years

When I first became involved in campaigning about 10 years ago, colleagues in Camden Cyclists thought it was essential to have a Borough Cycling Officer who rides a bike and knows the London Cycle Design Standards inside out. With the end of the LCN+ project, most dedicated cycle funding came to an end and improvements for cycling, for example two-way cycling in one-way streets, had to be included in area-based schemes. The role of cycling officer was declared redundant, so we started to have regular meetings with the two team leaders in Transport Planning at the council — and the outstanding result is the second generation of the Royal College Street cycle tracks. 

These meetings were very well established when funding from the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling came along and Camden Council was quick off the mark in securing funding and designing new schemes. It’s an exciting time for our group with several projects in the pipeline, so why not join us?