On Friday, Darren Johnson is coming to Richmond to see what cycling is like here, so we’ve put together an open letter to him about using a bicycle in our borough.
Welcome to Richmond. Ours is a borough of extensive green spaces – like the marvellous Richmond Park – and we straddle the river Thames.
This is how we ride in Richmond …
But despite the green spaces, the busy town centres, and the significant growth in primary school numbers, we’re still a borough who don’t really like to encourage cycling by providing somewhere safe to do so.
And the recent, tragic death of Henry Lang, at Richmond Circus, is a reminder of just how far there is to go. This happened at a section of road and cycle way which is emblematic of cycling conditions in the borough. If you were driving along the A316 from just before Pools on the Park to Lower Mortlake Road, then you’d have to stop at up to three separate junctions. If you were choosing to use a bicycle, and the cycle lane, and were on the same route, you might have to stop on ten separate occasions to travel the same distance. (And that doesn’t include a junction we’ve previously called ‘the most dangerous cycle lane in Richmond’.)
Richmond Council will tell you that the A316 is part of the ‘Transport for London Road Network’ (TLRN) and is therefore not something that can be sorted out by borough engineers. If they say that, you could always ask them why Mini-Holland bid money was spent on the A316 rather than – for example – making the two lane highway through the centre of Richmond a nice place for families to arrive by bike.
You could also ask them why the last time they did anything for cycling, it involved a big pot of Dulux and a ruler, and the statement that “There are many examples where advisory cycle lanes of less than 1.50 metres [that] provide a safe and convenient facility for cyclists” (pdf) to create a laughable cycle lane which ends just before you need it, crossing Richmond Bridge.
Families ride together in Richmond. On the pavement, of course.
But if you really want to know about cycling in the borough, just look at how much effort has gone into Twickenham – and how much TfL money – for some wider pavements. Richmond Cycling has spent enormous effort to try to help councillors and council engineers understand what might encourage cycling, but our appeals have fallen on deaf ears: Twickenham is going to carry on being a great place to drive through, and a terrible place either to arrive by bike, or to get through by bike.
How we use the A305 cycle lane. Or ‘spot the bike’
So, Darren – welcome to our borough, it’s a real shame that there’s so little positive news we can offer you.
(Updated below – see the local 20′s plenty group, here.)
We think 20mph is plenty for our borough. Richmond has few roads where you ever really want to be doing 30mph, and the national (and international) evidence is mounting up.
You don’t think Three filmed this on a 30mph street, do you?
More and more, we’re hearing from other London boroughs, other areas of the UK, and from throughout Europe, about how slower speeds in residential and populous areas is a good thing for everyone involved.
But the council aren’t keen at all. Despite the Twickenham Action Plan including a 20mph limit, they’ve rejected a number of attempts to have specific roads go 20mph. Until recently, what you needed to do was this:
Ask all the people in your road if they wanted a 20mph zone.
Show the council that you had a majority – bearing in mind that anyone not answering is obviously a ‘no’.
Have the council come round and consult again.
And then get everyone to respond. And I mean everyone - because again, if they don’t reply, then the council will count that as a ‘no’.
So, you’d either need 51% of the voters to turn out, and every single person to vote for you, or if they all turned out, you’d need 51% of the voters.
Compare that to the council’s Heathrow referendum in 2013. On a 41% turnout, they had 72% against a third runway. If that had been a 20mph consultation, it would have failed. but here Lord True said “The people have spoken”. (Have a look at the lengthy discussion at the time on Twickerati, if you want to celebrate just how hard they made it.)
We think cycling needs somewhere safe, pleasant and calm, and if you read London Cycling Campaign’s ‘Space 4 Cycling’ pages, you’ll see how 20mph zones are a key component of this.
So take a moment and tell the council that you want 20mph using one of the consultations going on:
Current view of Twickenham filmed by local cyclist Mathieu
They’re starting the detailed designs for Twickenham, and it’s not good news.
We’ve tried hard to engage the council, and to push the focus that both LCC and the Mayor’s Office are giving to ‘Going Dutch’. A previous meeting seemed to indicate that things were really starting to look positive, but the new plans (PDF here) are very disappointing indeed. Advisory cycle lanes that share the width of the nearside motor vehicle lane and disappear where they’re needed most. At junctions, where most collisions occur, those on bicycles have to fend for themselves, great if you’re trying to cycle to school with your children. And the newly located bus stops, aside from inconveniencing those who visit Twickenham by bus, add new dangers along Cross Deep.
Spot the cycle lane - now you see it, now you don't (click for full drawing)
In the week that saw the first death in London on a hire bike, Richmond Council is again offering us a design based on the discredited and dangerous facilities that bloggers like Twowheelsgood and Citycyclists are directly linking with the continuing maiming and death of cyclists in our city. A painted line will do nothing to protect you from an impatient lorry driver.
Cycling *is* a safe thing to do, and our borough is a pretty safe place to do it, as well. But we know from report after report that the people who aren’t already using a bicycle have probably chosen not to get on a bicycle because they perceive it to be unsafe. And the new Twickenham plan isn’t going to help.
We’ve written to the council to tell them how concerned we are (you can see the full text at the bottom of this post). Perhaps Richmond can win its Mini-Holland bid, because there’s indications that Twickenham might be partially fixed with that, but we can’t risk it: right now the borough is bidding to spend £8m of TfL’s cash on the new Twickenham, but it’s neutral at best for cycling. We think Twickenham is somewhere that should welcome families and visitors by bicycle, whether they’ve come from nearby, or from the station, or are just popping in to get a loaf of bread or a coffee.
The Cycling Liaison Group meets this Thursday – the meeting is open to everyone so join us to ask the council why they’re giving so little priority to persuading people that cycling is a pleasant attraction option for getting around our area.
If you’re planning to come, drop us a note at email@example.com if you need any more info.
Thank you for sending us the detailed plans for Twickenham.
Unfortunately, it is very hard to see how RCC can offer any endorsement for the plans as they stand. As you know, we were very pleased to see Andrew Gilligan and Boris Johnson bring together a real commitment to cycling for everyone. We believe that getting on a bicycle can – and should – be the most obvious travel choice for the majority of journeys in our borough. We also believe that to get people to consider cycling as a transport choice it needs to be safe and feel safe. Survey after survey tells us that people who don’t cycle equate sharing the road with HGVs and buses with a very visceral feeling of danger.
You’ll have seen recently that the local police are finally enforcing the cycle lane across the bridge by the station: the ongoing issues here are a perfect demonstration of why cycling needs its own space in the new Twivckenham, and yet the nearest concession to any new space comprises a couple of advanced stop lines.
These plans give little confidence or succour to mums and dads who want to cycle with their children to school, or indeed anywhere else in Twickenham. Instead they combine all the features which make cycling in the United Kingdom a specialist contact sport. They include; incomplete routes; junctions that require a cyclist to force her way into the main traffic flow; conflict-inducing pinch points, and hair-raising junctions.
RCC members have made a concerted effort to talk to the council about what might make Twickenham a good place for cycling, and it’s worth looking back to some of the meetings and discussions we’ve had, and some of the ideas which don’t seem to have made it out of our minutes of these meetings:
We discussed the broad (1.5m) central reservation, which could be narrowed to provide more space for cycle lanes. Not Present
We discussed colouring used to indicate cycling provision. Not Present
We discussed using ‘armadillos’, soft kerbs and a range of other techniques to indicate lane provision. Not Present.
We discussed how someone on a bicycle makes it from York Street across Cross Deep to Heath Road. Your new design doesn’t even provide a cycle lane for most of this journey.
A key point from the Gilligan review is that you can’t have a meaningful cycle route if you do nothing at the junctions. Yet this plan offers virtually no improvement at junctions compared to Twickenham currently. The mayor of London has a compelling vision for cycling for everyone in our city, and it is with huge regret that I have to tell you that I don’t think the plans that we’ve seen do anything to advance that vision.
Richmond Cycling. Campaigns Coordinator.
You can see our minutes and notes about previous meetings at these links:
The borough is hoping for Boris’ cycle funding. To do that it will need to construct a network of quiet routes to the standard of the Mayor’s Vision. The good new is that we are lucky in having some good sections already (eg due to Royal Parks) the bad news is that they are not joined up to each other or to town centres.
It’s beginning to look like the Twickenham Plan is now going to have many more improvements than we’d previously thought, to support people who want to cycle in the area. (If you want to see where we’ve been, you can check out our last post on the subject here.)
And although Twickenham isn’t going to be a Dutch style cycling paradise, we think that what has been described to us is a radical departure from the first set of plans we saw. (For a great suggestion for what Twickenham could really look like, check out the ideas that Paul, one local father has been looking at.)
Some of the highlights
Perhaps most importantly, Twickenham was accepted to be a ‘major project’ in TfL terms. This means that we can expect it to fall into this statement in the latest ‘Vision for Cycling‘
.. we will closely monitor all major new planning applications, schemes and developments, such as Earl’s Court and Nine Elms, to promote meaningful pro-bike content and discourage antibike content.
Which means that we can hopefully rely on TfL to refuse to pay for this, unless they’re satisfied that being able to access the area safely by bicycle is a key element of the project.
King Street …
King Street (from Cross Deep to the London Road junction) will get 2m-wide cycle lanes beside a single 5m wide general traffic lane each way. In off peak hours – i.e. most of the day – this means you’ll be able to cycle quietly and confidently all the way along here. To complement this, the planners are aiming to make the Holly Road section bi-directional for cyclists, so that anyone going from Heath Road to London Road will not need to use the junction of doom (London Rd/King St/York St).
On the opposite side of the road, the engineers are looking at a cycling contraflow operating all the way along Church Street, so that you can approach from York Street, and cycle along Church Street, directly onto King Street, again without having to deal with the junction of doom.
A really important point about these lanes on King Street is that, although they won’t be mandatory lanes, the engineers are looking at ways to remove any chance of the conflict that cycling struggles with in other parts of the borough. As well as clear marking of the whole surface, they’re looking at some form of defined edge – such as the cat eye strips seen in the mayor’s new cycling vision – to really delineate the space.
… London Road …
London Road will have at least 1.5m of cycle lane along all of its length, although it looks like there’s still some design and thinking to be done at the fateful junction with King Street, because of the ongoing requirements to be able to get enough traffic through there, especially to allow buses to move smoothly.
… Cross Deep …
At the Cross Deep junction, they’re looking at including a new design for traffic lights which will give cyclists a head start, in an attempt to lower the level of conflict between transport modes (i.e. cars v. bicycles, bicycles v. pedestrians, etc.) This design is currently in testing at the Transport Research Laboratory, so we’ll need to wait on the results before we find out whether they’ll go ahead.
Also, the Cross Deep junction will apparently feature two 3m wide ‘general’ lanes, with a 2m wide cycle lane. This will ensure that anyone choosing to cycle on these sections will always be able to easily make their way to a safer position at the front of queuing traffic.
… & Parking and Railings
Not too much change here, partly because there’s no definite plan as to where all the cycle parking will go. There was some discussion around placing parking in the middle of King Street, like in Kensington High Street.
Kensington parking (from Google Maps)
Obviously this wouldn’t be the only way to park, but it’s under consideration as an option. The removal of large sections of railing will also make a significant difference to the volume of cycle parking available in Twickenham, so if you have any strong opinions on where you think we should be parking, please tell us, and we’ll make sure it’s fed back to the council.
The removal will extend over almost every metre of railing present in Twickenham, including London Road and all the way to the station, which is going to be a huge improvement to the urban realm in the area, meaning you’ll be able to stop off more easily, and pedestrians will be able to cross at a point of their choosing, rather than being penned in to specific crossing points.
Some bonus tidbits
While we were there, we discussed some interesting background with the engineers. For example, they’ve surveyed the car parking provided in Twickenham, and they know that the main car parks have spare capacity at peak times.
They also discussed the impact that TfL requirements were having on planning and, interestingly for us, these seem very focussed on making sure buses can get through, which means that there’s a real change in direction from the ‘smoothing traffic flow‘ that has been a TfL stalwart for quite a while now.
Finally, it sounds like traffic volumes in Twickenham have been falling for a while now – we’ll try to get the figures for this, but it’ll make interesting reading, when considered against the plans for how traffic flows through the town centre.
They want an “Olympic Legacy for all Londoners” and “a CrossRail for the Bike”. In fact, you just need to read the ‘key outcomes’ (page 9 of this PDF) to see the scope of their stated ambition:
1. A Tube network for the bike. London will have a network of direct, high-capacity, joined-up cycle routes … A ‘bike Crossrail’ will run, substantially segregated, from west London to Barking. Local routes will link with them. There will be more Dutch-style, fully-segregated lanes and junctions; more mandatory cycle lanes, semi-segregated from general traffic; and a network of direct back-street Quietways, with segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts.
2. Safer streets for the bike. London’s streets and spaces will become places where cyclists feel they belong and are safe. … With government help, a range of radical measures will improve the safety of cyclists around large vehicles.
3. More people travelling by bike. Cycling across London will double in the next 10 years. We will ‘normalise’ cycling, making it something anyone feels comfortable doing. Hundreds of thousands more people, of all ages, races and backgrounds, and in all parts of London, will discover that the bike has changed their lives.
4. Better places for everyone. Our policies will help all Londoners, whether or not they have any intention of getting on a bicycle. Our new bike routes are a step towards the Mayor’s vision of a ‘village in the city’, creating green corridors, even linear parks, with more tree-planting, more space for pedestrians and less traffic. Cycling will promote community safety, bringing new life and vitality to underused streets. Our routes will specifically target parts of the Tube and bus network which are over capacity, promoting transfers to the bike and relieving crowding for everyone. Cycling will transform more of our city into a place dominated by people, not motor traffic.
So what about Richmond?
Now ask yourself which of these you wouldn’t like to see in our borough. And especially considering where we’ve been with the Twickenham Action Plan, it’s hard not to hope that our councillors and officials have read this vision from cover to cover. Phrases like
“Timid, half-hearted improvements are out – we will do things at least adequately, or not at all.”
leap from the page (page 10, in this case).
But most excitingly for Richmond, the mayor wants to create some ‘mini Hollands’ – “a fantastic opportunity for these boroughs to achieve dramatic change – not just for cyclists, but for everyone who lives and works there.” Richmond could bid to be one of these, with tens of millions of pounds being earmarked for real change, showcasing just how great cycling provision can enrich the lives of everyone in our city.
How can I help?
If you think this sounds like a great vision, tell us, tell your local councillors, or maybe write to the local paper. Or, just bask in the naked optimism and real ambition that this vision represents.
You might remember the furore a while ago over the Richmond Magazine’s editorial on cycling, and the excellent article on cycling they subsequently published on children cycling (PDF here).
The kind of cycling we might see more of in a 20mph Richmond (Image from cargocycling.org - http://bit.ly/zb6dB2)
Well now there’s another excellent article, this time looking at speed limits, and how Surrey and Richmond seem desperate to swim against the 20mph tide.
We’d urge you to read the article, and then vote in their online poll (appears half way down the home page), if you agree that wide-scale adoption of 20mph limits on our borough roads could be a good thing. And if you still need convincing about the merits of the argument, check out the extensive data assembled by “20′s plenty for us” or head straight to their briefing papers on all the basics, like:
Image from 'the 20 effect' https://twitter.com/the20effect/status/249165890908733440/photo/1
So in the first of an occasional series, take the opportunity to check out some of the data, and then vote in the Richmond Magazine’s poll, as a simple thing you can do to tell our councillors of all stripe how much you’d like to see cycling improve in the borough.
This year, Richmond Cycling Campaign will be looking at, amongst other things, cycling to school. It’s our belief that every child, at primary school, secondary school, and college, has the right to cycle safely there without either children or parents having to worry about whether they’re going to get there safely. Very much, in fact, like they do in the Netherlands – have a look at the video on David Hembrow’s post on the subject.
We know from endless studies and a whole range of recent reports that cycling is good for, at an individual and social level, and that it even helps children start the day well:
Mum and son (c) European Cycling Federation @ Flickr
And you can read an excellent article about what Richmond Cycling Campaign is already doing to help kids learn to cycle, here. (The author finishes her article: “Taking space away from cars to build a safe, separate infrastructure for bikes is no longer just fighting talk: it makes good planning sense. And the place to start is at the school gate.”)
Not that cycling is inherently a dangerous thing to do. Statistically, choosing to cycle – both for children and their parents – is a very wise choice, because the benefits so easily and quantifiably outweigh the risks.
However, we also recognise three very important factors:
1. The greatest barrier to getting more people cycling is their perception of danger from having to cycle with motorised traffic.
2. Countries where cycling is an easy, often-selected choice for children and adults all have decent cycle infrastructute to support such a decision.
3. We know a lot of people – especially children – *want* to cycle.
So this campaign has two key themes: asking the council and TfL to better support cycling to school by providing safe, inviting, well-designed facilities and designing for it; and asking children and parents how we can help them to use their bikes more.
Family cycling - cc by European Cycling Federation @ Flickr
And it’s really important to provide these facilities, and to make them good. Countries that have lots of cycling all provide safe, inviting places to cycle, and they don’t ask you to get off your bike at every road junction. The facilities that we want for schools should be usable by everyone, and should benefit everyone – even non-cyclists will appreciate not having to trip over bikes on the pavement, or weave round them on the road.
But how can you help? We want you to share your experiences, as parents, children, school staff or carers, on getting to and from school, and the reason you do or don’t cycle. We’ll be sharing these experiences as blog posts throughout the year, as well as looking at the resuiting data.
You can also talk to your friends at school and college: why don’t they choose to cycle? What would help change their mind?
Want to know more? Want to help? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
LCC are organising a Mass ride in London on 28th April in support of “Go Dutch”. We will be meeting on Richmond Little Green at 10.00 to ride to the assembly point in Hyde Park and home again after the ride.
About 30 of us braved a rainy morning to cycle up to London. The actual ride of 10,000 cyclists was impressive – just imagine how many might have turned out on a sunny day. On the return most seem to have opted for a dry train but two father and daughter duos with trailer bike/trailer cast an eye on CycleSuperHighway 8 and enjoyed Battersea Park and Wandsworth Park.