Wednesday, 27 August 2014

This is surely not acceptable? Residents in exclusive residential square seem to be preventing safe cycling for people of all abilities on new Quietway in Southwark

Cyclists try to negotiate the insane chicane in Trinity Church Square. Residents in this
very smart square are objecting to plans to make this gate usable by people of all abilities.
The Wheels for Wellbeing charity demonstrates why these gates don't work for a Quietway
A couple of weeks ago, Southwark Council published its draft plans for a section of the new Quietway planned between Waterloo and Greenwich. This section of the Quietway is designed by Southwark Council. The sections further out will be designed by other partners, including Sustrans. The most exciting element of the scheme, in my view, is that there will soon be a brand new link around the back of Millwall football stadium, utilising the new cycle and footbridge at South Bermondsey (installed last summer) which will open a really brilliant brand new, direct and off-road route into inner London.

I want to talk about a few aspects of the plan. 

Firstly, I think there are some very useful new parts. At two junctions along the route, TfL has agreed to install new traffic lights. Whatever else you might think about elements of the route, this is great news as it gives people safe ways to cross two very busy streets. Southwark Cyclists rightly welcomes these new cycle crossings

There are some good improvements at a number of other junctions as well - semi-segregated tracks that approach some junctions where cyclists currently have nowhere to go, other than sitting behind streams of spluttering motor vehicles. There are also some sections which currently feature horrible cycle chicane gates and the gates are for the chop, to be replaced instead by much more sensible cycle speed humps. There are also some great new connectors that eliminate some of the wiggly sections of an existing cycle route here and make it much more direct and generally nicer. 

No more of this. Webb Street will link up as these barriers will
be removed and the area landscaped to improve things
for residents alongside a new segregated bike track here too.
Unlike their posh neighbours in Trinity Church Square,
these residents are fully supportive of sensible win-win plans. 
But I have one general and one very specific concern. Let me start with the more specific concern. Pictured above is a cycle 'gate' in Trinity Church Square. The gates were installed a few years ago with a lot of involvement from the local residents association. Don't get me wrong, Trinity Church Square is gorgeous. It is full of beautiful flats and houses and all very charming. And very expensive. It is also heartening to see the way that residents have campaigned to keep motor traffic out of their streets here. 


I'm going to speak to Isabel about this more in a couple of weeks' time but, as you can see for yourself, getting through that gate on a hand bike or any non 'conventional' bicycle is no easy task. 

My understanding is that the residents of the Square are fiercely opposing any changes to the gate and kicking up all sorts of eloquent fuss with local councillors. The insanity is well profiled by blogger Alternative Department for Transport who points out the residents have consented to allow the gate to be widened by a whopping 30cm on either side.

I mean, come on. This is pathetic. Why is a cycle Quietway being held ransom in a way that  makes it near-as-damn-it useless to anyone on a trike or mobility scooter (oh, and the pavement has a similar chicane as well). Sorry, but I just don't think it's acceptable. Full credit to the residents of Trinity Church Square for blocking their streets to rat-running motors but discriminating in this way feels downright ugly in my view. 

My more general concern, as Alternative Department for Transport also points out, is that in some parts, the plans are extremely over-engineered. What that means is that money is being spent where it simply doesn't really need to be spent. So, what you have is lots of existing (and perfectly adequate) infrastructure being spruced up, fancy paving being added all around it and generally made to look a lot nicer. That has benefits for local residents, I suppose. Is it strictly necessary? Not really. Then again, these things have to involve some give and take - getting residents on side is a good thing. 

But there has to be a line somewhere: allowing residents of this square to veto safe cycle routes for all-ability cycling is just not on. It's even less acceptable when you consider that all along the rest of the route, these sorts of discriminatory cycle gates are being ripped out in favour of other solutions.