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The A5, cycle policy and Cycle Highways

July 12, 2009 by David Arditti

Searching my emails,  I came cross this, written by Nick Bell, Barnet Council's transport strategy chief, on 4 August 2004, explaining Barnet's non-participation in the A5 CRISP :

The Council has two main concerns with regard to the proposals for providing
additional cycle facilities on the A5.

Firstly, the road layout and traffic conditions on the A5 do not provide a
particularly good environment for cyclists.  The combination of relatively
fast moving traffic and congestion in alternating stretches, numerous busy
junctions, and high bus and HGV flows make it very challenging to find ways
of improving the route.  Furthermore, as some lengths of the road have town
centre type retail frontage with the accompanying parking and loading
requirements and problems, any additional provision for cyclists is likely
to be both difficult to achieve and potentially create a hazardous situation
for cyclists and/or pedestrians.

With these issues in mind, the Council believes it is very unlikely that a
satisfactory and safe engineering solution can be developed for this section
of the A5, particularly where the route crosses the North Circular Road.  It
is precisely for these reasons that other routes such as Brent Terrace have
been identified in the past.

The second main issue is the proposed regeneration of Cricklewood (& Brent
Cross) and West Hendon.  Both these projects are at a stage where detailed
layouts have not been prepared, however they are sufficiently advanced that
the Council is confident that regeneration will proceed and that the scale
of the work involved will be significant.  This means that there is an
opportunity to provide high quality routes as part of the regeneration
schemes, but also that changes to the existing road layout may mean any
improvements for cyclists made now may have to be removed or altered and
would therefore not be good value for money.  TfLSM are aware of the scale
of the changes necessary in the area around Staples Corner.

Ultimately, as joint Highway Authority for some lengths of the A5, and sole
Highway Authority for one section, the Council would have to satisfy itself
that any changes to the road layout are appropriate, safe and value for
money, prior to implementing them.  From past work and local knowledge, our
belief is that experienced cyclists will not get significant benefits from
comprehensive measures on the A5, and may in fact find them unhelpful.
There is also a risk that novice and inexperienced riders may be attracted
to the A5 by the presence of any new cycle facilities and be given a false
sense of security.  The fact that the A5 offers a direct route when viewed
on a map does not necessarily mean that it is the best or most appropriate
route for all cyclists.

Quite apart from the ludicrous idea in his first paragraph that improving the A5 for cyclists would somehow harm conditions for pedestrians, all this is interesting when read in the context of the letter of 29 May 2009 from Brent Cross Cricklewood to us, where Jonathan Joseph, Development Director, writes of the plans for the development:

At this junction [Staples Corner], the fast commuter can either use the flyover or follow the general traffic route at ground level. The utility cyclist does have a safe route in both directions:
-North to south via the combined pedestrian and cycle bridge, which has cycle ramps at both north and south sides of the A406, and is a two way facility
-South to north via the toucan crossing of the A406.

The leisure cyclist would most probably travel along one of the new segregated north-south routes being provided within the scheme, which connect with the existing designated cycle routes at the perimeter of the regeneration area.
These quotes illustrate the double-bind we always face regarding cycle provision on the A5. On the one hand, the man in charge of these things in Barnet Council tells us, 5 years ago, that the road is not safe for cycling on,  that provision should not be made on the A5 for fear of attracting cyclists to an unsafe and unsuitable road, and that we must wait until the distant future for alternatives to be developed (which have still not come about and clearly will not for many more years).
Then, when the long-awaited  plans for the regeneration area are released, which have for so long been used by Barnet and TfL as an excuse to do nothing on the A5 for cyclists, we are suddenly told, well, sorry, actually the routes through here will not be suitable for commuting cyclists, they will be silly, indirect, low-priority, up and down things that will take all day to use (though the initial ludicrous cycle lift idea was later abandoned). So commuting cyclists are effectively being told to get stuffed, we know the A5 is dangerous and being made more so, but we won't do anything about it and you still have to use it.
It will be interesting to see how Barnet's transport chiefs react to Boris Johnson's Cycle Highway 11 - supposedly a "safe, direct, continuous, visible and comfortable" high-priority cycle route on the A5. Are they going to continue to argue on the same basis as Nick Bell's letter of 2004 that it should be somewhere else (a somewhere else that is never quite pinned down because it doesn't exist), despite the important words in the Cycle Highway specification direct  and visible? These words means that the policy is, rightly or wrongly, that the Highways should be on exactly this type of road, which Bell thought so unsuitable for cyclists.



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July 12, 2009 by ian, 7 years 33 weeks ago
Comment: 16

ian's picture

Bike bell trophy

Is Nick Bell still in the same post? Can we bring his words back to haunt him? And is that his real name, or just part of his policy towards cyclists?



July 13, 2009 by David Arditti, 7 years 33 weeks ago
Comment: 17

Nick Bell is still in the same post, and that is his real name.

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