22 January 2018
Dear Transport Committee,
This response to your call for evidence is from Brent Cyclists, the local group in Brent of the London Cycling Campaign. We answer the questions from a viewpoint of those actively campaigning for better conditions for cycling in an Outer London borough which has had, traditionally, very little accommodation for cycling, and very hostile conditions for cycling.
1. What progress on new cycling infrastructure has been made under Sadiq Khan, and what are his long – term plans ?
It remains unclear what Sadiq Khan’s long-term plans may be. Though lip-service is paid, with a promise that he will make London a ‘By-word for cycling’, we see no clear, ambitious, practical plan coming forwards, certainly no plan comparable to that which we saw from the last Mayor and his Cycling Commissioner. Certain schemes planned under the last Mayor have continued, such as the completion of the East-West Superhighway (CS3) and North-South Superhighway (CS6) in Central London, but at a disturbingly slow pace. New Superhighways planned, in SW London (CS 9) and SE London (CS 4) are not as ambitious or transformative as those planned under the previous Mayor, and there are already signs that they may get bogged-down in local political processes.
Worst of all for Brent cyclists, the north-west quarter of London, beyond Camden Town, remains largely a desert for cycle infrastructure, and is set to be such for the rest of Sadiq Khan’s term. The cycle superhighway that we were promised by Boris Johnson, CS 11 from the West End to Edgware, then later curtailed to end at Brent Cross, then later curtailed to end at Swiss Cottage, appears now not to be on the cards ever to happen in any meaningful sense. The cycle superhighway planned into west London, CS10 via the A40, has been abandoned with no practical plan for its replacement. Both of these abandonments are huge blows for the prospects of increasing cycling in NW London, and not just for obvious reasons. The original plan for CS11 would have had to provide a solution to the severance created by the North Circular Road, that cuts Brent into two halves that are extremely challenging to cycle between. The consulted plan for CS10 included a vital connection to the Paddington area from the north, that would have solved the N-S severance problem created by the A40 and railway corridor that makes it hard to cycle from Brent into western Westminster and Kensington except via the busiest and most dangerous roads. The section of CS3 built north of Hyde Park to connect to the proposed CS10 has been left as a useless stub of infrastructure because of the CS10 abandonment. There seems no sensible plan here.
The last Cycling commissioner promised Brent a Quietway route that would parallel approximately the Jubilee Line, running from central London to Wembley. This has not happened in any meaningful sense, and there are no plans for it to do so. The Quietway that was ‘built’ was essentially the resurfacing of an existing cycle route that was not that attractive, and provided no new connections. The basic problem of the severance caused by the North Circular Road, with no adequate cycle crossings in Brent and Barnet for 5 miles between Park Royal and Golders Green, remains unsolved, despite many funded studies and concept designs for a new link produced over the years. Further Quietway plans in Brent and Harrow look half-hearted, do not address the issue of rat-running traffic on the narrow backstreets proposed for their use, and reman disjointed.
We conclude that the vast potential for cycling in outer NW London remains untapped, and this situation will continue for the foreseeable future. We need plans that would provide not only radial cycle connections into central London, as with Superhighways, but connections between local town centres such as Wembley, Willesden, Harrow, Hendon and Edgware. These are arguably more important in Outer London, as these are the orbital journeys not well-served by public transport. But there is no programme that is designed to deliver these. The Quietway programme does not, we have no Superhighways here, and Liveable Neighbourhoods would not, as these schemes likely will be too local, if and when they ever do come to our area. There is a basic lack of strategic cycling vision for Outer London.
2. Has TfL resolved the problems that delayed some cycling schemes under the previous Mayor?
No, as indicated above, progress has slowed under this Mayor. The basic problem is the existence of so many different road authorities. For example, the A5, as a straight, direct route from the NW suburbs to the West End, is a huge desire-line for cycling. But it is controlled by 5 boroughs: Harrow, Barnet, Brent, Camden and Westminster. There is no prospect of the co-operation between these needed to create good cycling conditions on this road. We believe roads such as the A5 must be taken over by TfL if we are to make progress.
3. Has segregation delivered the anticipated benefits on the Cycle Superhighways? How many cyclists are using these routes?
We believe it has. We have not counted them (TfL has done that), but it is obvious that the range of people cycling on the best of these routes (CS3, CS6 and part of CS5) is quite different to the normal demographic of cycling in London. These routes enable unaccompanied children, those carrying large loads, the less fit, those with mobility impairments, older people, and more women, to experience the benefits of cycling. They are a great success.
4. To what extent has segregation had negative consequences for other road users and , if necessary, how can this be mitigated?
There are no negative consequences that we can see. Motor traffic continues to flow satisfactorily, if not better than before, on these roads, after conversion, and pedestrian conditions have been improved. Emergency vehicles can, in an emergency, use the cycle tracks, allowing them to bypass congestion. Bus performance is improved by buses not being impeded by cyclists in the same lane.
5. Have Quietways delivered their anticipated benefits? How many cyclists are using them?
Again, we have not measured numbers. We hope TfL has. In our view, the Quietway in Brent has delivered little benefit. There is little evidence of an increase in cycling on that route, as the main problems with the route, in Camden, particularly the traffic on West End Lane, have not been addressed, and the North Circular issue has not been addressed. Large-scale infrastructure changes are needed to enable routes in Brent to work, owing to the severance cause by numerous railway lines, major roads, and watercourses. The scale of investment, and limited political will that backed the Quietway routes, was never going to address these problems.
6. What are the differences in infrastructure between inner and outer London? How can TfL ensure infrastructure in different areas is sufficient and appropriate to the location?
We have largely addressed this above. In our part of Outer London, the main cycling potential is not for commuting into the centre, as we have very efficient rail links for that. The main potential is for school journeys, other trips by children, leisure trips, shopping, and cycling to railway stations, as well as commuting journeys between local town centres that are poorly connected by public transport. Some of these could be address by Liveable Neighbourhoods funding, if the schemes were very high-quality, the remit correct, the areas covered correct, and the funding adequate. The Walthamstow and Enfield mini-Holland projects offer the best examples for Outer London, but we have doubts they will be reproduced again without clearer guidance, more rigour in awarding, and higher funding levels from TfL.
7. How will TfL’s new ‘Strategic Cycling Analysis’ help determine where and how to invest in infrastructure?
If will help if it is seriously used. However, most of the routes and corridors identified have been identified many times before. For example, the potentials of the A404 and A5, covered in the SCA, have been examined in numerous (now forgotten) studies over the years. It is not really the analysis that has been lacking, but a governmental system that can deliver the needed changes. These changes seem impossible to be delivered on roads controlled by multiple authorities with contradictory political attitudes and objectives for the roads. For example, Brent Council has, due to our campaigning, recently delivered a good semi-segregated cycle route on Carton Vale, Kilburn. But where this road runs into Westminster, the infrastructure disappears, thus it does not connect with the A5 or other cycle routes. At best, the SCA may deliver good infrastructure on roads entirely controlled by sympathetic councils, but the end result will not be ‘strategic’. There is also a problem with some ‘beating about the bush’ with the CSA, in its insistence that the corridors it identifies are not specific roads. We can see what roads in Brent need cycle infrastructure: they are the main ones already used by cyclists, principally the A404 and A5. There are no possible roads that can be used as alternatives, owing to the limited crossing points of the railways and other barriers. A lack of honesty about this in the SAC leads, for us, to a lack of confidence that it will lead to the right solutions being delivered.
8. How appropriate is the 400 – metre target set in the draft Transport Strategy ? Can we equate proximity with access?
The target is resonable, if the routes are of good quality. It needs to be recognised that some of the existing Cycle Superhighways, and all the Quietways, are of inadequate quality or continuity. The access question is a good one, however. Without low-traffic neighbourhoods, many people might still remain isolated from even high-quality cycle routes, as the weaest link in their cycling environment may be right outside their front door: for example, a miror road filled with rat-running motors.
9. Is TfL’s approach to public engagement working effectively to improve scheme designs and meet stakeholder needs?
We have to say no, since popular Superhighway schemes that received over 60% support are not going ahead. It seems a higher political level of decision-making is over-riding the public engagement process. This is not good for democracy.
10. Are Londoners sufficiently aware of the cycling infrastructure available to them, and how can awareness be increased?
This is not a very relevant question in an environment like that in Brent, with so little useable cycle infrastructure. In our experience, awareness of what exists is surprisingly good. The demand is for cycling infrastructure to actually come here.
11. How is TfL using infrastructure to attract a more diverse range of people to cycle in London?
Already addressed in 3. A diverse range of people will be attracted when cycling is very largely separated from motor traffic, and when the routes are efficient, comfortable, high-capacity, and direct. A few of of the Superhighways meet these criteria, but none of the Quietways.
12. Is there sufficient cycle parking in London, and is it in the right locations?
There is a particular lack in Westminster. However, lack of cycle parking is not the dominant issue even here: it is a lack of good routes. There is an issue of ‘defunct’ bikes not being removed from parking outside stations in Brent, which restricts capacity. This needs tackling, but the borough seems incapable of it.
13. How are the lessons of the Mini-Hollands and other previous cycling schemes being applied elsewhere?
They are being applied in places. The Carlton Vale scheme in Brent applied some of them, and a forthcoming scheme for Kingsbury Road, in North Brent, may also do so. However, the big reluctance in the boroughs is to restrict through motor-traffic to the principal roads, enabling local neighbourhoods to be calmed. There is a lack of understanding of the principles of traffic filtering and road network cells. It is early days however, and there is some spread of knowledge from the existing mini-Holland projects.
14. Should cycling infrastructure be oriented toward longer-distance commuting journeys, or more localised trips?
Both, as stated above. A connected network that enabled the latter comprehensively would also enable the former, by default, so there is really no choice here.