This is the response from Brent Cyclists to the consultation on the Kensal Corridor Improvements. We are the local group of the London Cycling Campaign in Brent. We represent directly about 200 paid-up members who live in the borough, and we also attempt to represent all those who cycle or would like to cycle in the borough.
We do not support the proposals for any of the three sections.
We think these proposals will not achieve the stated objectives of the scheme, and particularly, will not encourage more cycling. This is because the proposals are largely cosmetic, and do not address the fundamental issue of too much motor traffic using the corridor.
We have a particular problem with the idea of the carriageways being narrowed to create a uniform width that is the minimum allowable for passage by large vehicles such as buses. We have discussed this with consultants and officers, and been told this is to ‘improve the flow of traffic’ by preventing illegal stopping. This may be right, but it is likely to cause extra problems for cyclists in terms of close or aggressive overtaking of cyclists by motor vehicles, and difficulty of overtaking stopped buses by cyclists. Making the road width uniform takes out the little extra bits that, when they are available, and not parked in, makes co-existence for cycles and motor vehicles slightly more tolerable. We do not accept the concept that cyclists should be required to cycle in the middle of the road in 20-25mph traffic (minimum) and suffer the harassment that inevitably brings. This stipulation inevitably excludes children, the less-fit, the elderly, most women, and anyone who does not wish to aggressively assert their right to road space. Even if we were to accept this, we would still have the problem of stopped buses making cycling inefficiently stop/start.
Further, even if we accept that the flow of traffic could be improved by the scheme, all experience shows this is just likely to attract more through-traffic from far outside the area to use this corridor, causing more queuing at the junctions, which will not be able to clear within the signal phases, leading to more pollution, an issue this scheme is supposed to be tackling.
Further, there appear to be few real gains for pedestrians in this scheme, as the pavement widening is counter-balanced by moving parking on to bays on the footway.
Further, the existing London Cycle Network route on Kilburn Lane, Chamberlayne Road up to Kensal Rise, into Dagmar Gardens and Station Terrace, with the useful westwards connection through the mode filter at Dagmar Gardens, does not appear to be enhanced, or even recognised in this scheme. The short section of cycle lane on Chamerlayne Road west side proposed seems little different to what is there now, and the advisory lane on the east side will be removed. On such a busy and congested road such painted lanes achieve very little in any case. The position of the London Cycling Campaign is that, where road widths are insufficient to allow quality segregated cycle lanes, motor traffic flow must be reduced to less than 2000 Passenger Car Units (PCU) per day to produce a high-quality and inclusive cycling environment. We believe current flows on the corridor are at least five times higher than this.
Some concepts that we suggest a better scheme for this corridor needs to recognise are:
1) The fundamental problem is the excess of private motor traffic trying to use the corridor. Despite being mostly unclassified road, the corridor is a natural easiest route from Willesden, Neasden and further north towards West London, via Ladbroke Grove. The A-road alternatives are a very long way away: Willesden Lane and Kilburn High Road over 1km away to the east, and Church Road (Willesden) over 2km away to the west. The rat-running this gives rise to is a problem not just on the Chamberlayne Road corridor, but on the Pound Lane / Robson Avenue / Harlesden Road corridor, on All Souls Avenue, and on the Brondesbury Park / Salusbury Road corridor.
2) Though it has been stated in some quarters that the volume of buses using Chamberlayne Road is an issue, in fact they are only 5% of the traffic (Brent’s figures). There may be a lot of queuing buses producing excess pollution at certain times, but this is more a symptom of the overall congestion problem than its cause.
3) The corridor has insufficient width to segregate cyclists if two-way traffic is maintained. However, a one-way system incorporating Salusbury Road and Kilburn Lane (E-W section), the only one-way system that is easily conceivable here, would result in opposite directions of buses being about a km apart, which is a significant disadvantage.
4) A radical filtering scheme is therefore necessary to remove the north-south through traffic from the whole area, to both meet residents’ concerns about pollution, enable easy and inclusive cycling, and create a quieter, more ‘liveable’ neighbourhood. This filtering needs to permit buses to go through. If camera-enforced, rather than physical, it could be introduced on a ‘peak hours only’ basis, at least at first, to cure the worst problems and make it politically more acceptable.
5) It would make little sense to filter the Chamberlayne Road corridor without doing the same for the Salusbury Road corridor, at least, otherwise there would be unacceptable displacement of the longer-distance traffic on to an equally unsuitable corridor. There would be effects on all the Souls Avenue and Harlesden Road corridors that would have to be monitored and possibly countered also. Brondesbury Park, being only one block away from an A-road (Willesden Lane) clearly should not be a through-road. Additional filtering on some of the E-W routes, such as Harvist Road and Doyle Gardens, could further reduce traffic across the whole area. These measures would solve the problem of how to extend the Carlton Vale (segregated) cycle route. There would then be a westwards route (Harvist Road and Mortimer Road) and a a northward one (Salusbury Road and Brondesbury Park) available on low-traffic roads.
In conclusion, we feel the substantial sum proposed to be spent on this re-vamping of the Kensal corridor will not be well spent on a scheme that tinkers with pavement and roadway widths and provides new paving and trees, without any proper re-planning of the traffic flows area-wide. For this reason, as well as because of the specific damage to the cycling conditions that we believe will be done by the pavement widening, we ask Brent to withdraw this scheme, and re-engage with campaigners and local people to develop a scheme that really addresses concerns about danger, a bad cycling and pedestrian environment, and pollution.