Hampton Consultation – Why we think it sucked.

Richmond’s Hampton consultation was fatally flawed, and we were very disappointed that this was the first major consultation from the new team at the council. You can see our original response here, but we’ve tried to explain it better as well.

Thankfully, it sounds like this one was started before the new team were in place, so we’re offering these notes in an attempt not to repeat consultations like this. We think the council has the skills, the knowledge and the will to start doing cycling right, and we’re going to do our best to help. If you want to help us get cycling in Richmond for everyone who’s 8 to 80, drop us a line.


The proposed route to Hampton Court has apparently been abandoned. Richmond Cycling objected to it – as we find we’re objecting to more and more council plans – and it seems the council also didn’t manage to consult some key stakeholders.

The engineers on the project have been good at discussing with some of the interested parties, and we’ve looked through some of these back and forths. After doing a site visit with senior Hampton Court officials on Friday, it seems an appropriate time to talk in more detail about why we weren’t able to support the plan.

To be clear, the intentions in the plan are very good:

“Whilst the Council has invested significantly in the shared-use schemes at either end of the proposed section an investigation of the area identified that it is not possible for cyclists to travel continuously along the route without risking either their own safety having to join heavy fast moving traffic or that of pedestrians using narrow footway with poor visibility.

There are pre-existing National Cycle Route facilities coming across Hampton Court Bridge as well as popular cycle usage of Bushy Park. The scheme as proposed will serve to link all of these provisions into a unified network and reduce vehicle speed along the 30mph section of the A308, enhancing vehicle and pedestrian safety.

The proposed upgrades to the Bushy Park entrance will improve traffic flow and vehicle safety by increasing the sightlines into and out of the Park as well as providing better access to and from the Park entrance.”

But the resulting plan has a number of quite serious flaws. We’ve outlined our views on these below.

Cycling for Everyone

The most important problem with the plans is that they still provide for long stretches of on-road cycling on a busy route which can include very heavy good vehicles. When we did our site visit, the majority of people we saw cycling chose to use the paths and pavements, with only a few braving the unpleasant, busy conditions on the road. If that’s how people cycle now, we know from long experience elsewhere that making it marginally nicer is going to have marginal gains at best: where people are already cycling on a pavement, we know there’s demand, but we also know that demand isn’t going to be satisfied by simply making cycling on the pavement a bit easier.

But for most of the route, the intention was to widen pavements and to make them shared use with walking and cycling.

“Shared Use”

This seems to be a favoured option for far too many engineers in the UK, and RIchmond’s seem to be no exception. “Shared use” is engineer-speak for “making everyone walk and cycle in the same place”. On some routes, this can work Ok. For example, Richmond Riverside is shared use and, despite the occasionally very high volumes of both walking and cycling, it works for both.

But this is an attempt to build a route which is about getting people from place to place, and in these situations, everyone needs a bit of space. In fact the council’s consultation already recognises that people cycling on pavements isn’t a great thing, yet the proposal explicitly outlines a design which takes a space two metres wide and suggests that you can cycle and walk on it at the same time. To give you an idea, stand up and stretch your arms out with a wooden spoon in each hand. You need to walk in that space and feel comfortable having someone riding by at the same time – does that sound compelling to you?

Cost

A key area of issue that has been mentioned is that of cost. It sounds like the money for this scheme has been assembled from a number of different ‘pots’, giving a very limited budget, and also accepting a series of compromises, depending on where the money comes from.

This is an ongoing issue for Richmond’s transport department. The lack of money to do jobs properly means that, well, they don’t get done properly. Little bits of funding get sourced,and then things like the expensive crossing change on Kew Road, and the pots of paints splashed on the A305, south of Richmond Bridge.

“Dual Network”

Embedded in the consultation is the idea that you have fast cyclists and slow cyclists, and that therefore you can have two separate types of provision. TfL has abandoned this idea in its new flagships schemes in central London. Instead it aims – as the Dutch and Danes have for years – to provide a single, safe, pleasant riding experience for everyone on a bicycle.

The best to think about a dual network is like this: for any ordinary journey by car, would you expect engineers to build one route for people to go fast, and the other for people to go slow? Or one route for people who were brave and another for people who are more cautious?

Naturally not, you’d ask them to do the job properly, once. And that’s what we’d like them to do every time they build a cycle facility.

“Continuous Routes”

This is a good try by the engineers to provide a cycling route all along this unpleasant road. However, routes still need to be actually continuous. This one has a great big ‘stop’ in the middle, where you have to cross the road to keep on using the off-road cycle path.

For an idea of why this is poor, try and think of how you’d do it for a pavement or a road: would you suddenly stop it dead and make it cross a busy junction, because you can’t implement a suitable engineering solution?