Kingsbury Town Centre Proposed Public Realm Improvements Scheme

This is the response of Brent Cyclists to the consultation on Kingsbury Town Centre Proposed Public Realm Improvements Scheme (closed 1 December 2017).

We approve of this scheme, which is a major improvement on previous proposals, and on the existing design, but have some concerns on the design of the cycle facilities, as follows.

1) Surface and kerbs
The cycle lanes or tracks are said to be ‘on footway with coloured surfacing to match paving’. Quite what this means is not clear to us, but we see it as important that the cycle space is distinctive and obvious to all road users. We think the tracks should be a definitely different colour to the footways, and have a smooth surface. The current two-way cycleway on the south footway is green asphalt, but we think the best surfacing to use is reddish asphalt, as on the recently-completed cycleways on Lea Bridge Road, Waltham Forest. This is the most generally-recognised colour for cycleways internationally, and actually corresponds to some previous practice in Brent. (In both the Brent River Park and the open space behind Cambridge Close in Neasden, cycleways next to footpaths were coloured pink).

An issue with the current cycle track is that pedestrians walk in it a lot, as it is at the same level as the footway. The improved placement of the track in the current plan will help with this, but we believe using kerbs and a small level change, along with a distinctive surface colour, is the best way to make clear to all (including the visually-impaired) where cyclists are supposed to be.

2) Width of the cycle tracks
The 1.5m width specified seems un-generous, given the total amount of space available here. 1.5m is insufficient for one cyclist to overtake another with safety, and 2.0m should be the norm for one-directional cycle flow. If there are particular obstructions that are difficult or impossible to remove, then going down to a 1.5m minimum is acceptable in such places, but 2m width should be achieved where possible.

3) Priority of the cycle tracks
As they follow a main road, the tracks should have priority over side-roads and entrances (London Cycle Design Standards Sect. 5.3.4). The track surfaces should be continuous and flat across junctions and not be interrupted by kerbs. This applies to:

  • The exit from the the service road at the NW end of the scheme
  • Berkeley Road junction
  • Brampton Road junction
  • The driveway just west of Manor Close
  • Manor Close junction
  • The entrance and exit roads to the car park on the south side
  • The entrance to the service road at the SW end of the scheme

Paralleling the priority and continuity of the cycle tracks, that we would like to see, all these junctions could have continuous, uninterrupted footways also, for the best ’state-of-the-art’ public realm for a town centre street of this character. This was one of the things that was suggested in the ‘Imagine Kingsbury’ consultation process in 2016.

4) Bus stop bypasses
We are pleased to see that bus stop bypasses are envisaged for the stops at the NW and SE ends of the scheme. It is therefore unsatisfactory that they are not envisaged for the other two stops – the one outside the station, and the one just west of the park entrance on the north side. Ejecting cyclists from the tracks at these points into the carriageway to pass around the outside of stopped buses severely damages the whole scheme, breaking the continuity of the protection for cyclists, and removing much of the usefulness of the tracks.

The reason for this would appear to be the desire to maintain two flowing lanes of motor traffic when buses are stopped. As the road is only one lane in either direction, this results in a lot of wasted carriageway space ahead of the bus stops. This was not the approach taken in the Carlton Vale cycle scheme, and also the Walm Lane public realm scheme (on another town centre A-road), where a lane is blocked when a bus stops – an increasingly acceptable concept in street design, so much so that bus stops are sometimes moved out into the carriageway, so that buses moving off do not have to pull out into a stream of traffic.

However, if the designers here are determined to keep motor traffic flowing when buses are stopped, there is still space for cycle track bypasses of all the bus stops in this scheme. We don’t know if the omission of a bypass outside the station is connected with the blue block on the plan marked ‘Phase 1’, as if something else remains to be designed. In the case of the eastbound stop near the Roe Green Park entrance, a possible solution could be to move the edge of the park (which is marred here by an informal dirt track and the remains of some identifiable piece of old infrastructure, where the edge of the park is indented for about 1.7m distance) slightly inwards, and the bus stop slightly outwards (into the carriageway), to make space for the bus stop to be bypassed. This would make the transition from the eastbound cycle track back to the road at this end of the scheme much better.

5) Pedestrian crossings
We are concerned that the priority for cyclists and pedestrians is unclear where pedestrians must cross the cycle tracks in order to use the two signalised crossings of the road (near the west end, and west of Manor Close), and this could lead to conflict and possibly danger. We recommend the cycle tracks be continuous but have zebra markings across them at the crossing points. This would make it clear that cyclists should give way to crossing pedestrians.

Kingsbury Road Public Realm Improvements Scheme

This is a response to this consultation, that closed on 7 April 2017.

This is the response from Brent Cyclists, the Brent Group of the London Cycling Campaign (LCC). We represent around 200 members in Brent, and aim to represent the interests of all who cycle or would like to cycle in NW London. We have discussed this scheme at a meeting, and agreed our response.

We would like to see a scheme in Kingsbury Road that provides properly segregated cycle tracks on both sides of the road. This route is a clear cycling desire-line, and features as a ‘short to medium-term link’ in Brent’s Cycle Strategy 2016-21 (p8). Hence it is essential that the opportunity is taken now to upgrade cycle provision on Kingsbury Road to the best standard.

The current consultation appears confused over what cycle provision is actually proposed, but as parking is located inside the cycle lanes or tracks, cars must cross them, so this is not quality, segregated cycle provision that is being proposed. Despite the provision of a buffer zone alongside the parked cars, the space between parked cars and large moving vehicles like buses is not an attractive, inclusive cycling environment that will support Brent’s policy objectives of widening participation in cycling. The design is not in accordance with our (LCC’s) standard for cycle routes, which is that we require physical segregation if motor vehicle flows are higher than 2000 Passenger Car Units per day. Also the design would score zero under the ‘Collision risk’ and ‘Feeling of safety’ categories in the Cycle Level of Service Assessment (TfL London Cycle Design Standards Chapter 2), so it is definitely not an optimum scheme for cycling. An existing segregated cycle track will be removed to create this scheme, so we feel it is actually retrograde.

We believe an optimal solution for cycling should be possible here because of the very great total width of the road (30m between buildings). Also the scale of reconstruction proposed suggests that the budget for the scheme should be capable of stretching to this.The distribution of space shown in the proposed Kingsbury Road cross-sction is quite actually good, but the spaces need rearranging. The parking needs to be located between the carriageway and the cycle tracks, protecting the cycle tracks. Cycle tracks should pass behind bus-stop bypass islands at the bus stops so the paths of cyclists and buses do not cross. The need to interact with buses in this way is one of the most off-putting aspects of cycling on roads for most people. We think there is space here for the general traffic lanes, for the parking, for two 0.5m segregation islands, and clear 2m wide cycle tracks on both sides, still preserving very ample pavement space.

There are welcome features in these proposals, such as the 20mph limit, the traffic -calming features and decluttering. But essentially the planned redistribution of space amounts to removal of the existing short segregated cycle track, putting cyclists on the carriageway with little or no protection, and moving parking on to the pavements. This is not welcome to us. We would also question the need for the scale of on-street parking envisaged, when there is an off-street car park behind the shops on the south side. In this supposed ‘public realm scheme’, the quality of the public realm created would be improved by minimising the on-street parking, though this is not essential to achieving good cycling infrastructure.

Kingsbury Road plans need a re-think

Following the advent of the Carlton Vale cycle scheme in Kilburn, we have also been hoping to get a similar high-quality cycling scheme in the north of the borough, and last year consultancy Urban Movement produced an excellent redesign of Kingsbury Road incorporating segregated cycle tracks on both sides (to replace the current short, ineffective pavement track on one side).

We are therefore disappointed to see that the current consultation proposes provision that falls far short of this, with a layout (below) that implies just painted advisory lanes in between parking and moving traffic. The huge (30 metre) width of this road means it should be possible to get an optimum solution for all traffic here, and we are urgently seeking discussions to try to get this plan improved.

In the mean time we ask supporters to fill out the survey (by 7 April) by clicking on the link above, disagreeing with the scheme, and commenting that ‘The cycle tracks should be properly segregated and placed inside the parking, with bypasses provided at the bus stops’.