Making a difference … one person, one meeting at a time.

A guest post from one of our members in Twickenham.
You can find Stephen on Twitter

first attended our local Police Liaison Group a couple of years now. It all started (like so many things these days) because of a twitter-fit: after almost being run off the road again on my ride home by an inattentive driver, I tweeted Richmond police asking why they didn’t prioritise doing anything about dangerous drivers: “Police priorities are set at the local PLG meetings” I was told, if I wanted to change them, I would have to attend. I suppose like most people, I was sceptical of the impact these forums could have, but still: “decisions are made by those who show up” I told myself, and pencilled the next local meeting into my diary, more out of curiosity than anticipation.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 14.24.33

Riding on the pavement … of course.

At the first meeting I showed up to, there was deep hostility to anyone speaking up in favour of cyclists, and more balanced policing of the roads – this was a deeply conservative audience. The borough was overrun by a plague of cyclists, regularly knocking down pensioners on the pavement, and my motion to replace “Cycling on pavements” as one of the ward police priorities with “Dangerous road use (by all vehicles)”, was defeated, with only two right-minded people siding with me. After attending two or three more (of these quarterly) meetings, and now that my face was familiar, and the regulars knew I was actually an upstanding resident and not a rogue cycling campaigner, and with the help of a couple of other local cyclists, we managed to get the priority changed to “Road safety”… time to relax and celebrate, and enjoy the Twickenham road “improvements”.

Balance biking on the pavement

Here’s someone everyone would share the pavement with.

But….things don’t stand still….and as part of Boris’s update to community-police relations in London, “priorities” got renamed “promises”…’so what?’ I thought, and my attendance of the meetings waned. Big mistake! When the minutes of the next meeting came through, I discovered that the blue-rinse brigade had used the opportunity of the change in name (I am reliably informed, that it really was just a rebranding, and not a change of process) to re-insert “cycling on pavement” as a community promise. Deep sigh.

I was travelling on business for the next two meetings, so 3rd March, was my first chance to get this over-turned. Right, I thought….armed with statistics….how many KSIs in the borough due to motor vehicles, and how many due to bicycles? By now, people knew my face at the meetings, and I got a couple of polite “hellos”, as well as a question about how I found the new Twickenham cycling lanes (significantly more dangerous) – ironically, one of the spots often cited as being plagued by cycling on pavements (Cross-deep / King street corner) is also one of the most dangerous for cyclists, which the “improvements” have only made worse….sadly the irony is lost on the other attendees. I don’t objectively know how bad a problem cycling on the pavement is in that spot, but its undoubtedly true that those who do break the rules there do so largely from impatience at having to wait for the lights, rather than out of a fear for their own safety. It is however a good example of how a big and expensive recent set of infrastructure works completely missed the opportunity to improve the road for unmotorised road users – while the pavement is narrow further up the road, it is very wide on the corner, and a full cycle lane or even segregated filter, could have been accommodated, if the safety of cyclists had been a priority.

The ward police proudly trott through the number of tickets they have issued to cyclists jumping red lights of riding on pavements (18) and the number issued for motoring offences (23), and I hold my tongue. Then, near the end of the meeting, when the ward “promises” (or are they still “priorities”?) are set, I speak up: “I really think we should remove the focus on cyclists” I say, “in favour of all dangerous road users”. The chairman, Colin Heath, who has gradually come round to the correct way of thinking, or maybe has just be worn down by my stubbornness, murmurs something in agreement. “But cycling on the pavement is a real problem” exclaims an elderly lady in the corner. “I don’t deny that it happens” I respond, “nor condone it…but our priorities have to be proportional to the harm. How many of the KSIs (Killed or Seriously Injured) in our borough in the last year,” I turn to the two policemen present “have been caused by bicycles, and how many by motor vehicles?” We all know the answer. The usual prejudices now get trotted out…but noticeably quieter than when I first attended a couple of years ago: “but they just cycle off”, “its so difficult to identify cyclists”, “they all jump red lights”, “they should have number plates”, “they have cycle lanes right there, but still ride on the pavement”. The policemen explain that the law will soon change (I think its actually a guidance change, rather than a law change), and that going forward, only aggrevated or anti-social riding on pavements would be prosecuted. I explained that even as a considerate cyclists, I sometimes had to jump onto the pavement – normally to avoid a lorry that had veered into a cycle lane without checking his mirrors (at Barnes junction this happens almost every day), but that a collision with a cyclist caused significantly less harm than a 10-ton lorry, which distracted on their mobile phones, regularly speed down our residential road, which my kids have to cross to go to school. “I’m not condoning cycling on the pavement, or jumping red lights I explained, but there is no evidence that cyclists break the law any more than other road users, and our priorities have to be proportionate to potential harm”. “OK” said Colin, “lets change the ‘promises’ to target road safety among all road users, not just cyclists”, not looking up for anyone to object.

The police then explained that in the future, motoring offences would no longer be ‘ticketed’ at the road side, but that all offences would be referred to the traffic unit, who would decide whether to summon offenders to court, or offered a speed awareness course or 3 points on their license. “Good” I said. I concluded by asking the officer whether the perception that they are reluctant to ticket motorists who infringe an ASL (advanced stop line) because they don’t think its as serious as running a red light, “absolutely not” was the reply, “the law allows for vehicles to stop in the ASL, where it would be dangerous not to do so, such as when breaking sharply when a traffic light changes, but we deal deliberate infractions of all traffic laws in the same way”. “Good” I said. Even though I suspected this wasn’t quite true, the point had been made, and who is to say, thats not just my prejudices talking too.

As I walked home, I felt a bit of a phoney…for the first time in years, I haven’t weathered the winter cold, and have been commuting on the train…never mind, it will be getting warmer and lighter soon, and when it is, I’ll need safe roads to cycle on. I’m not a campaigner, nor define myself as “a cyclist”…I’m just someone, trying to get from A to B in one piece…aren’t we all?

3 dead, 42 seriously injured. Time for the Crime Priorities to properly reflect this.

This is our response to the Crime Priorities Survey (See our earlier article). Please respond too, here, so they don’t unfairly focus on cyclists.

Dear Community Safety Partnership,

Richmond Cycling Campaign urge you to reconsider the suggested 2015-2016 priorities, in the light of your own data.

You are reporting:

  • a 20% rise in road traffic incidents Jan-Sept 2014, compared to the previous year
  • Three fatalities on our roads
  • 469 casualties in total, this year
  • 2,152 speeding incidents, a number which has risen 40% in April-December 2014

Because of the failure to show trend data, previous years’ data, or indeed to break down the types of incident, it’s hard to add a huge amount of interpretation to these numbers beyond “our roads are getting much less safer, and people are dying and being maimed as a result”.

Yet in the accompanying slides, the nearest you come to worrying about this is to put (at number 7 of 8 in your priorities) “Motor vehicle crime and theft of pedal cycle (including cycling on pavements and through red lights)”

Nowhere in your report is there any indication that cycling on the pavement, or indeed through red lights, is a particular problem in the borough. Whilst it is true that a number of your Police Liaison Groups have chosen ‘cycling on the pavement’ as something they’re worried about, this is not backed by any actual data.

We consider it unacceptable to pay so little attention to criminal activity which threatens death or serious injury, and it is frankly shocking that your use of of data is so poor that you can’t show why cycling on the pavement – which is the way a lot of children in the borough cycle – is more important than the excessive speed used on many of our roads, or the large numbers of killed/seriously injured on our roads.

If you’re actually worried about the safety of our community, you need to give greater priority to the things that are putting everyone in the borough at genuine risk, and read the message this data is telling you: road safety has just got a lot worse in the borough, and you won’t fix it by concentrating unfairly on people who choose to cycle.

Sincerely,

Richmond Cycling Campaign

You can respond to the survey here or email it directly to consultation@richmond.gov.uk 

Marksbury Avenue – Let’s just do the A316 properly, shall we?

This is a brief response to the Marksbury Avenue consultation.
Please add your response here

Dear TfL,

In response to your consultation on the changes to the A316 crossing opposite Marksbury Avenue, Richmond Cycling would suggest that this is not a very good use of time or money.

The proposed changes will make virtually no difference to cycling and walking at the junction, and still fail to provide a pleasant solution for anyone seeking to cross the road.

Instead of more piecemeal proposals like this, we’d like to see the Elsinore Way proposal built as soon as possible, and we’d like to see a plan from TfL which covers fixing the whole of the A316, rather than fixing bits and pieces without addressing the core issues the road has for walking and cycling.

Sincerely,

Richmond Cycling Campaign.

Roehampton Lane – Our Response to Transport for London

This is our response to TfL’s Roehampton Lane consultation.
You can see our earlier article here

Dear TfL,

The proposal to add additional traffic lanes to Roehampton Lane is, we think, a flawed and poorly considered one.
Richmond Cycling acknowledges that there are issues with traffic volumes along the lane, but the provision of additional lanes isn’t going to fix the problem, since the traffic issues will be moved to different parts of Roehampton Lane instead.
Yet looking at the road for almost its entire length, there is clear space to provide for safe, segregated cycling. We think this could be a great opportunity to trial a segregated route hiding low cost interventions which can help identify the potential modal share which is available.
Our simple summary is this, however: The proposed scheme will, at best, cause the queuing traffic to be moved to another part of the route. If the aim of this scheme is to reduce the number of problems relating to queues of traffic, then the best solution is to give people an option other than driving.

Roehampton Lane is going to change a bit, but only to fit more cars on.

TfL is worried about congestion along Roehampton Lane, so to fix this they’re proposing to pack more cars into the same space. It seems unlikely that congestion is going to be fixed by simply adding lanes – indeed evidence from the 1950s tells us that adding road space will end up with adding congestion, rather than easing it.

roehampton lane

Look like there might eb some space for cycling here?

Yet Roehampton Lane feeds down to a very unpleasant junction for cycling, and nothing in the proposed plans says “We’d like to make it a more obvious choice to cycle this way, rather than drive”. This road serves a number of educational institutions to which the most obvious option should be to get there by foot or bike, yet nothing will change to support that.

We’d like to see this opportunity being taken to begin the installation of proper cycling all the way along Roehampton Lane, to support people cycling to and from Richmond Park, to support getting to Roehampton University and Queen Mary’s Hospital along here, to support shopping and leisure trips to Roehampton High Street, and to make getting to these places by bike an attractive and practical option.

We’re preparing a response at the moment – if you’ve got any comments, please leave them here, or contact us at info@richmondlcc.co.uk or check the original consultations documents here.

The comedians are back in work at Richmond

Traffic incidents are rising significantly in Richmond, so the proposed ‘crime priorities’ include ‘cycling on pavements and through red lights’. (In the latest consultation.)

So the borough’s proposed priorities – when three people died on our roads in the last 9 months, 43 have been seriously injured, and 424 slightly injured – is to do nothing additional whatsoever to tackle these numbers.

Although, to be fair to the comedian – sorry “Safety Data Analyst” – who prepared this material, he did list anti-social behaviour as a top priority, and lumped cycling on pavements with motor vehicle crime and theft.  You might consider that being alive and having all your limbs in the right place, and not being maimed in some random road traffic incident, might be a top priority for most people. Yet that doesn’t seem to feature too highly in the consultation.

Asking the community

This is meant to be an opportunity to ask the community what its priorities are. Given that we receive a number of reports from Police Liaison Group meetings that speeding and road safety are key priorities for people, it is somewhat baffling as to why these don’t get a mention.

Of course, cycling comes up in Police Liaison Groups (PLGs) a lot, too, which is why they manage to mention cycling on pavements in every single document they produce (include the video). Since guidance on this from the Home Office is very clear (see this article), we will also be asking why this information does not filter down to the PLG meetings.

Data-Led Policing

There’s lots of data in the two documents supplied as part of the consultation (Word doc, PPT summary). For example:

  • speeding incidents have risen from 1,539 to 2,152
  • April-December 2014 saw 130 incidents involving cyclists (up 27%)
  • Annual target for collisions is 421. In 9 months we’ve made it to 469 incidents
  • No-one appears to be recording incidents involving pedestrians

We’re preparing a response this week, but we strongly urge you to tell the Community Safety Partnership (use this link) that safety on our roads – for everyone – really needs to be a priority.

Marksbury Avenue / A316 Consultation.

 

Richmond Cycling Campaign welcomes the removal of the pointless ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs at the Marksbury Avenue crossing of the A316, but we’d really like to see some other changes in the current TfL Consultation

Planned changes at Marksbury Avenue / A316 junction.

Planned changes at Marksbury Avenue / A316 junction..

The crossing is nicer

The new design improves the crossing, but we think it could be better: why not allow pedestrians to cross the whole road at once, rather than have to wait for up to several minutes to make two separate crossings?

Removal of the guardrails could accompany this change: if we are worried about pedestrian safety on this road, the best way to fix it is with much more rigorous enforcement of the speed limits.

How does It Join Up?

On the south side of this junction is a cycle lane which should be connected to the crossing. Instead of the minor changes in paving, the opportunity should be taken to repeat the design of Elsinore Way. This would mean that the cycle lane would have priority at this minor road, and would become a more attractive, useful place to cycle.

Elsinore Way will get priority for cycling.

Elsinore Way will get priority for cycling.

More Joining Up

Just south of here is Somerton Road, and a network of quieter residential roads. These could all be part of a wider upgrading of routes to allow cycling both ways on the one way street.

Signing It

Despite the welcome removal of the ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs, the only other sign changes are more ‘no cycling’ signs at precisely the place where most people will prefer to cycle. No opportunity has been take to improve the signing to key local destinations or other cycle routes. (Such as North Sheen station, Kew Gardens station, and into Richmond.)

It is Richmond Cycling’s strong proposal that this should be a straight through crossing for pedestrians with a single light phase, and that serious consideration is offered to the improvement of the connected cycling facilities.

Please respond to the consultation via their email consultations@tfl.gov.uk or using the form on their consultations page

Can Zac help fix Richmond Park?

Dear Mr. Goldsmith,

(Image by “The Cycling Dutchman”) http://thecyclingdutchman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/london-by-bike-in-three-days-east-west.html

Thank you for organising the meeting about Richmond Park, before Christmas. Richmond Cycling Campaign is really keen to help make the park a great place for everyone, so we’d like to share some thoughts and feedback.

The park is for everyone

This was a big theme at the meeting, although there seemed to be some element of consensus that Richmond Park is not merely a through-route for people moving around different parts of the borough. But we’d like to emphasise something else, here. Perhaps because the most visible cycling in the park is club or competitive or sport cycling, little thought was given to other forms of cycling. Whenever you talk to the Royal Parks, or indeed your working group, we’d like to remind you that not only is there an off-road trail which is consistent source of conflict, but that the park also needs to be accessible to everyone on a bike. This means that children need to be able to ride round, as does anyone else who is powering themselves – handcycles, trikes, people with shopping, etc.

Codes of conduct

Much was made by some panelists about having a code of conduct for park users, and indeed there’s one that was circulated at the meeting. Aside from the basic point that there’s already a perfectly usable set of legislation to govern use of the park, we would be concerned about issuing a code of conduct unless strenuous efforts were made to ensure that it is circulated to all users in the park, and not just those on cycles.

Some Data would be good

As Andrew Gilligan and a number of people observed, the whole conversation needs some actual data. The only data we’ve seen – the STATS19 data, and the Friends’ traffic survey – show that cycling is the most vulnerable thing to do in the park, yet can also provide a very significant majority of traffic at some points during the week. Unfortunately, as Gilligan also noted, cycling attracts a large volume of complaints despite causing virtually no danger to cars, and significantly less danger to pedestrians. We aren’t arguing for cycling to be treated differently, but just to be treated fairly.

Let’s try some things

In the last few years, New York has been very successful with ‘trying things out’ – using low cost trials which can be easily reversed. Recently, the borough of Camden has done the same. The outcome of these experiments is that for small investments, it is possible to get a good idea of what possible solutions might actually work. We think the same could be done in Richmond Park – your advisory panel could consider simple, limited ideas which run for a short period, in order to establish what longer term solutions could be good for the park.

Finally, cycling needs to be safe, and feel safe

Our biggest message though, is that thousands of people in the borough don’t cycle or cycle rarely, because they don’t think it’s safe to do so. And the Space for Cycling guidelines – which echo best Dutch practice – make it very clear that Richmond Park’s roads are simply not of a sufficient standard to make getting on a bicycle of any type an attractive option for many of the people who should – by rights – see the park as a great place to visit by bike, or to use as a safe way to get from Richmond to Kingston, Roehampton, etc. So if you believe that cycling is a good thing which benefits not just those who cycle but society generally – as we do – then you’ll support the Royal Parks in trying to make Richmond Park a place for everyone.

We welcome the opportunity to engage with your working group on the Park.

 

Yours sincerely,

Richmond Cycling Campaign.

Have your say on Cycling in Richmond Park

On December 17th, Zac Goldsmith is hosting a meeting about Richmond Park. We don’t want this to be another “cyclists ate my hamster” session, so we’ve got together with Kingston Wheelers, London Dynamo, Twickenham Cycling Club, Barnes Cycling Club, Chevaliers, Kingston Juniors, and Kingston’s own LCC branch, to make the case for why cycling in the park is a good thing, and why the Royal Parks need to be doing more for it.

Here’s our view, and you can find the meeting details here. Come along and support cycling for all in one of the finest natural reserves we have access to.

Richmond Park is there for everyone, and we want it to stay that way. The present situation, where cycling can comprise up to 75% of all the traffic in the park, is clearly objectionable to some users.

However, the usual reaction – especially in the letters page of the local papers, and in frequent conversations even at the Police Liaison Group – is that cycling, and people who choose to cycle, are the villains in this piece. None of the groups representing cycling will tell you ‘All cyclists are angels’, because breaking the law on a bicycle is almost as endemic as breaking the law in a car. That makes it neither right nor acceptable, but we believe that it is time proper consideration were given to making sure Richmond Park can continue to be a recreational space for the thousands of people who flock there, week in, week out.

There are a number of issues that any proposed solution needs to address:

  1. The park is a wildlife haven and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is home to a huge variety of wildlife, large and small.
  2. The park is used by large volumes of traffic during the day which is avoiding roads outside, or ‘rat-running’.
  3. It’s a recreational space for walking and hiking, with the current road effectively acting as a continuous pedestrian crossing. The Tamsin Trail is also used extensively for walking.
  4. It is also a recreational space for cycling, with cyclists tending to use either the main circular route, or the Tamsin Trail.
  5. A number of businesses operate in the park, and require access for themselves and their customers.
  6. This is a park, and therefore street furniture such as posts, signage, etc. is not very desirable. (Although there is clear value in some signage to support safety needs.).
  7. So far as possible, the park needs to be accessible to everyone - whether able-bodied, or with some form of disability.

And there have been quite a few ideas previously floated for how to deal with this combination of issues. But what we think that The Royal Parks needs to consider is this:

What is the purpose of the park, and how can that best be fulfilled?

We think the park is a resource that everyone should be able to enjoy, however they visit it.

Of the proposals we’re aware of, we think there are pros and cons for each of them.

One way traffic

One way traffic will basically encourage the park to be used as a race track one way, and will encourage commuting / rat-running in the given direction, as well as actually requiring more driving (wasted time and pollution) round the park as people have to circumnavigate it in order to get to a particular place.

Congestion charging in the park

Charging people to enter the park if they don’t stay beyond a specific time (for example, charging those who stay for 20 minutes or less), will discourage through traffic.

More pedestrian crossings

Although pedestrians can (and should be able to) cross anywhere in the park, there’s a good case for providing clear places for crossing especially around the car parks. and particularly busy areas. It should not be necessary for a zabra crossing to have the full DfT-mandated paraphernalia of zig zags, Belisha Beacons, etc., as evidence from other 20mph locations indicates good compliance where the crossing is clear.

A new cycle-only route round the park

In the Netherlands, the usual guidance is to build separate provision for cycling when motor traffic is above a particular volume, and or a particular speed. We believe that while the speed of traffic in the park – where the limits are observed – might not require segregation, the volumes certainly do.

Through traffic bans

The park is an area for recreation and for nature, yet there is a significant volume of traffic which uses it as a cut-through to various locations. Especially given the sensitive nature of the park environment, and the very real danger that is posed to wildlife and to other park users by high volumes of traffic which is keener to get somewhere than to enjoy the surroundings.

And a possibly contentious point to make …

If we accept the premise of the public meeting that there is very real conflict in the park, experienced by all users, then we should follow the logic of many such conversations, which come round to “Well, whose fault is it?

On a fundamental level, the conflict which is experienced in the park reflects the day to day experience of driving, walking and cycling in London generally. Many conversations that we’ve heard tend to pick out ‘cyclists’, and often ‘club cyclists’ as significant offenders, and anecdotal evidence is usually called upon to demonstrate how cyclists ‘intimidate’ other road users, including the slightly bizarre assertion in the last Friends of the Royal Park newsletter, that cyclists are a danger to wildlife. (We’ve yet to find someone who wouldn’t stop their bike to avoid hitting a deer …)

At the same time, we hear stories of intimidation, dangerous driving and actual assaults from people who cycle in the park. (As well as stories of dogs causing riders to fall off on the Tamsin Trail, and cyclists intimidating pedestrians there.)

Our response to all of these is simple. Firstly, what does the data say? An investigation of the STATS19 data shows that bicycles are overwhelmingly the victims in Richmond Park incidents, with the other party invariably motor vehicles. Secondly, we argue that no amount of discussion around sharing, mutual consideration or other such proposals is going to resolve the problems in the park, because there is simply too much traffic on the small area allocated to it. .

And this is, very simply, because it is inappropriate to have this volume of cycling and driving traffic in the same place. People who drive, walk and cycle through the park are no more or less lawless than anyone else in London. The solution to this problem is the same as the solution which is about to be implemented in central London – proper and safe separation of the modes, so that both can be done without conflict.