New broom. New faces. New wheels. New feel … new Cycling Liaison Group?

What a breath of fresh air was the recent Cycling Liaison Group! The change at the top – with a new Cycling Champion (Councillor Jean Loveland), and a new Cabinet Member for Transport (Cllr Stephen Speak) gave the whole meeting a very different feeling indeed.

You may remember from earlier reports that going to the Cycling Liaison Group has been less than a pleasant experience, these last four years. Rather than weeping into our coffee hearing how nothing has been done, nothing is going to be done, and the council has only been prepared to spend money on a few pots of paint, we appear to have a sea-change (step-change? maybe ‘gear change’) at the top of transport.

We heard about the new cycling strategy – a refreshingly simple set of principles and statements, including:

  • Make cycling an option for everyone
  • Making it an every day option
  • Creating a connected cycling network
  • Recognising the economic benefit to our high streets and businesses that cycling can bring

There’ll be more details soon, and there was extensive discussion around some of the recent schemes which have been done in the borough and which are being considered. Of greatest interest is that the engineers are planning to try an ‘all ways green’ junction, which would have a green light phase at all arms when cycling and walking get priority while motor traffic waits. These junctions are very popular in the Netherlands, and have been talked about over here for some time. (Another borough may also be looking to trial these, too.)

Also, Richmond has received £100,000 from TfL to investigate ‘various aspects’ of our Mini Holland bid. Sadly this will apparently be spent on looking at the railside cycle routes, which we think were the weakest part of the final bid. Not only would they require extensive linking up with routes down which people actually want to travel, but they ignore the fact that we already know where people want to go – it seems less than desirable to build an entirely new parallel set of routes which could require costly and lengthy negotiations with dozens of land owners, when the roads and cycle routes we already have provide clear links between key destinations.

There was good news from local police, with a significant fall in cycle theft – down 27% on last year apparently. But there was also clear input from officers that they felt they were getting a hard time at local Police Liaison Groups about cycling on the pavement, red light jumping, etc., etc.

To be clear, Richmond Cycling Campaign does not endorse anyone breaking the law when using a cycle. However, it’s clear that Richmond has a lot of cycling on the pavement either because routes aren’t clear, or because they’re unsafe. Here’s the view of one group dedicated to improving cycling, and we’ll be trying to write something soon, too.

The key thing for readers to note is that there’s going to be a marked increase in enforcement activity with, apparently, a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to running red lights. We’re told that this will apply both to cycles and motor vehicles, and that they will also be policing cycling on the pavement ‘on a case by case basis’.

We think cycling needs to be better represented at Police Liaison Groups, and we urge all members to do this – we’ll try to do a post in the next few weeks on how best to approach this, but do email us (info@richmondlcc.co.uk or http://www.richmondlcc.co.uk/contact-us/) if you’d like some advice.

So what next? We’ll be keeping up the pressure: the recent incidents in our area, along with yet another fatality in central London, show that cycling needs somewhere safe, and needs to be part of a wider strategy.

If you’d like to come along to the Cycling Liaison Group, or indeed to our monthly meeting, here are the details:

CLG homepage   RCC Monthly Meeting

 

The Cycling Liaison Group – YOU HAVE BEEN CONSULTED!

(What’s the Cycling Liaison Group? It’s a consultative council committee, with sadly no power and no burning urge to meet too often, or actually publicise itself. See the council’s summary, here. )

Tuesday night was the last Cycling Liaison Group in its current form. Our Cycling Champion is moving to Oxford, and there are local elections in May. Since one in three CLG meetings has been cancelled, there probably wouldn’t be one between now and May even if it had been scheduled.

Frankly, it’s been a shameful talking shop for its entire existence. The most consistent themes of the CLG have been hearing about theft of bikes, and the minimal ‘cost-effective’ schemes that have been whizzed up by harassed council officials.

But what did happen? On the positive side, it sounds like substantial funding is finally going to make it to cycling in Richmond. Not the £30m that successful Mini-Holland bids will get, but still there’s going to be millions of pounds over the next few years to try to make the borough a place where we can cycle safely to schools, the shops or to work.

An officer from the local Safer Transport Command discussed the Operation Safeway figures. This saw officers stalking a number of junctions in the area, and handing out an awful lot of tickets, both to drivers and cyclists. We’ve asked for a full copy of the figures, but inspection on the night suggested that proper enforcement had a significant impact on behaviour, with tickets issued falling significantly as the weeks went on. We’re delighted that enforcement activity does seem to be taken more seriously now, but since this operation is now over, we’ll be watching carefully to see how long this change lasts.

Everyone involved in the Mini Holland bid seemed genuinely surprised and disappointed by the borough’s failure to secure the funding. We think that parts of the bid were very strong, and we’d really like to see them implement the proposed changes in Twickenham. Officials think we’ll hear about the next round of funding in around four weeks’ time, so we’ll see what comes out then.

There’s also confirmation of £60,000 a year for cycle parking, and officials indicated they’re prepared to consider paying for residential parking for bikes as well. We’d love to see bike hangars popping up all over the borough, to make it easy and simple to store and access your bike, so please let us know if this is something you’d like!

Will things change after May? That’s up to you. We’re preparing to ask all the candidates to tell us what they’ll be offering to make the borough a great place for everyone by improving it for cycling, so watch this space!