Monday, 7 September 2020

Bishopsford Road Bridge - MCC objects to planning application

The Council has submitted its planning application for a new Bishopsford Road Bridge (Planning Application 20/P2438). Like many Merton residents we want to see this route re-opened as soon as possible, but have to object in the strongest terms to the design of this bridge. 

We submitted our objections to the Council on 7th September. The reasons for the conviction that this application should not be approved are:

1. A primary criterion for the design of this bridge carrying the A217 over the River Wandle is to be functionally adequate for 120 years. The application gives plenty of historical information but demonstrates no careful assessment of future use patterns.

2. The design does not meet the expressed intention of the designers, as set out in the Design and Access statement. It does not provide dedicated cycle lanes in both northbound and southbound directions as stated and therefore does not cater for the demands of the modern transport system as claimed.

3. The application gives no evidence of proper consultation with the only adjoining owner, the National Trust, but makes the adjoining owner an excuse for a compromised design. Despite the National Trust accepting use of their land if the bridge is to be widened for the inclusion of cycle lanes.

4. The application does not give confidence that this very public bridge is the result of a careful design process. This must be partly expected at the height of a pandemic, but at the same time, the validity of most of the associated design decisions can be easily and immediately verified on the internet.

Merton Cycling Campaign is the Merton branch of the London Cycling Campaign, an independent membership charity lobbying for better conditions for cycling in London, it is one of the largest urban cycling organisations in the world with 11,000 members and is a participant in establishing the guidance and design standards for cycling.

One of the questions asked by the Design Review Panel on the proposed bridge was: Have Merton Cycling Campaign seen and commented on the scheme at all?

The response from the bridge design team was that Merton Cycling Campaign commented at preapplication consultation and will be invited to comment again during the planning application process.

It should be noted that this pre-application consultation was the Public Consultation on a Borough’s design that had not taken account of established Borough Policy on active travel.

Merton Cycling Campaign’s response was: ‘The opportunity for a fit-for-purpose replacement bridge for Bishopsford Road across the Wandle must surely be taken and be designed to be wider than the failed bridge in order to safely accommodate walking and cycling alongside vehicular traffic. Thus, providing a bridge wide enough to take pedestrians and a protected cycle way in both directions’.

Merton Cycling Campaign were not involved in pre-application consultation for the design submitted in this application. We obtained a preview drawing prior to the Application on August 4th and wrote to the Cabinet Member for Transport on August 7th to say that the application proposal was seriously flawed.

There follow detailed explanation of Merton Cycling Campaign objections. 

1.Future Use Patterns

There can be no doubt in a world of climate emergency that active travel will be encouraged and that it will increase in popularity. We can look to Continental exemplars of accommodating active travel to predict the transforming nature of this trend. In particular Bishopsford Road, as a major road, is ideally arranged for segregated cycle lanes both sides with ample pavements. In fact this type of provision has been promoted in UK cities since the 1990’s but the political will has to date not sufficiently prioritised active travel.

What of future use patterns responding to a climate emergency? It is clear from current trends that deliveries by bike will increase giving a ‘trucking’ aspect to cycle lanes. It is also apparent that scooters may be regulated to use cycle lanes. At the same time there is every reason to expect an increase in pedestrian activity provided pedestrians feel safe. This means demarcation of function on busy contained thoroughfares so that pedestrians of any ability can be accommodated, including the blind, without fear of encountering silent two-wheelers.

It is very pertinent to an active travel policy that a new bridge included in such a system should be wide enough to take pedestrians and a protected cycle way in both directions if it is to effectively accommodate active travel for 120 years.

2. Dedicated cycle lanes

In contradiction of its own declared desire for a designated cycle lane in both directions, this application is proposing a shared-use pavement for southbound walking and cycling over this bridge, while offering a dedicated cycle lane on the northbound side. The Design and Access statement describes a fine example of where shared-use can be effective:

‘Shared use paths separated from roads help many people make their everyday journeys safely and are also important for leisure. Many people benefit from off-road shared paths, which provide valuable opportunities to travel in a traffic-free environment, and to relax, unwind and play’

This describes the Wandle Trail but does not describe the circumstance of an ‘A’ road on a bridge over it. It is a mis-use of shared-use to think that sticking cycling and walking together is a convenient compromise. This has to be particularly true when the cyclist has an intent encouraged by a reasonable approach velocity and the pedestrian has the opportunity to slowly take in the river views east of the bridge highlighted in this application’s Design and Access statement. It is hard to read the statement ‘Schoolchildren that go to the nearby schools and those who attend the adjacent sports facility at Tooting and Mitcham hub will benefit hugely from the safer passage afforded to them’ and believe that it is referring to this particular and hazardous shared-use pavement.

The Design and Access statement says that the entire scheme has been informed by road safety reviews. It might be expected on a Planning Application for a major road bridge with a 120 year life that a formal independent safety report would be included and that it would be expected to consider safety associated with future trends. 

To understand the prevailing view of this arrangement it is necessary to refer to Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/20 ‘Cycle Infrastructure Design’ of July 2020. This claims to summarize all the lessons from Infrastructure in practise to date. It delivers principles associated with cycle infrastructure design in built-up areas:- Cyclists must be physically separated from high volume traffic, and must be physically separated from pedestrians. In fact cycles must be treated as vehicles and not pedestrians.

This clearly separates the functional difference between the off-road shared-use path experience of the Wandle Trail and an ill-advised shared-use pavement on a high volume road. 

The Planning Application design is a mis-use of shared-use that has every indication of being dangerous now and every prospect of getting even more dangerous into the future.

3. Adjoining Owner

In answer to comments made by the Design Review Panel the applicant makes it clear that any better arrangement to the compromised bridge design is prevented by National Trust land ownership to the east.

The National Trust is understandably protective in its ownership of places and properties and has a hierarchy divided into regions each with a Director responsible. In order to request cooperation in relation to the Bishopsford Road Bridge Merton Cycling Campaign wrote to the National Trust

Director for London and The South East, Nicola Briggs, who forwarded the request to the Director for London, Jim Foy, who stated that the National Trust was ‘currently working with the council to facilitate the rebuilding of the new bridge for Bishopsford Road but have not been engaged in the design thus far.’ And continued ‘ We would be prepared to consider the use of Watermeads to accommodate a wider bridge if the additional width was for cycle lanes’.

This was transmitted to Merton Council’s design team on the 15th June when it was confirmed that the legal teams were engaged in discussion. 

In such circumstances it might be expected that this application would make some reference to negotiations with the National Trust on expanding the bridge eastwards. The National Trust are named as consultees without a contact name and they are named as neighbours. They are not referred to in pre-application discussions.

If a shared-use pavement is considered to be a reasonable cheap alternative compared to a deal with the National Trust then it is beholden on Merton Cycling Campaign speaking on behalf of those who cycle, and come to that, those who walk, to make it clear that this application design is based on a dangerous false economy. Shared-use on this pavement should definitely not be an option.

The National Trust is a significant land owner in Merton and when this quite minor highway encroachment is necessary it seems extraordinary that a land area reciprocal agreement cannot be reached, as is the practise with the Mitcham Common Conservators.

4. Design Process

There is no doubt this is an urgent matter made more difficult by the pandemic. Despite that, there have been foreseeable procedural hurdles highlighted in this application that have added to the timescale. Such problems should not be allowed to force the pace of implementation to the extent that a very wrong solution for a 120 year lifespan bridge is constructed. The foreseeable procedural hurdles go from the design brief to detailed functional restraints. 

Time and resources were spent going to Public Consultation on a design brief that did not reflect Council policy, policy that had been in place some considerable time, and for a Council that has also declared a Climate Emergency hugely important - that of prioritising active travel.

The feedback from the e-mailing Design Review Panel included in this Application shows that the public consultation scheme and the subsequent scheme were both considered. The new scheme had had no public scrutiny and the Panel were expected to judge the form and functioning of the bridge.

They were told that Merton Cycling Campaign commented at pre-application consultation. Which suggests that Merton Cycling Campaign had seen the subsequent design, which is certainly not the case until August 4th.

Merton Cycling Campaign feel that there is some justification for feeling that the Design Review Panel were misled over the functional viability of the bridge design. 

With regard to functional restraints, the guidance on the appropriate inclusion of shared-use is easily accessible on the internet and clear. Local Transport Note 1/20 of July 2020 spells it out in absolute terms primarily due to the recognised potential for mis-use of shared-use on busy thoroughfares such as the A217 over this bridge.

Final Conclusion

Merton Cycling Campaign’s reason for strong objection to the bridge design of this application are given above. We recommend that this application is not approved and that urgent and immediate high level negotiations are convened with the National Trust over the minimal highway encroachment onto their land that they agree can be accommodated. If this is by reciprocal agreement so much the better but it appears to be the only way to produce a bridge design that is worthy of existing well into the 22nd century. 

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Inadequate cycling provision for the proposed for Abbey Wall Works, Station Road, Colliers Wood SW19 2LP

The cycle storage provision proposed for the new development at Abbey Wall Works, Station Road, Colliers Wood S19 2LP (application 20/P1672) is wholly inadequate and gives no consideration to the site's proximity to existing cycle routes. (You can see the full application and submit your own comments on the Council website here.)  Merton Planning Department’s acceptance from this applicant of repeat applications with this sub-standard provision, which can have a significant bearing on the ground floor plan, is surprising. Below are the comments MCC have submitted to the Council on the application. 

The applicant, having been able to maximise the ground plan through having to cater for disabled car parking only, shows a reluctance to even give usable space for cycle parking, despite showing on the access statement that the scheme is on a significant cycle-path cross-roads. It is a blatant flaunting of Council Policy on active travel for this applicant to offer cycle parking that is, for all to see, inoperable. The effort of manhandling a bicycle into and out of a 1.8 metre deep rack from a 1.5 metre wide corridor is enough to condemn the so-called bike store to emptiness.

In Chapter 8.2 The London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS) define ‘Fit-for-purpose’ cycle parking.

In ‘Two tier’ stands they recommend a 3.5 metre aisle width where there are racks on either side of aisles. 2 metres wider than the 1.5 metres this applicant is offering.

The Council have acknowledged the need to meet LCDS standards when dealing with cycling matters so can this application please be rejected until such standards are met?

It might also be noted that the LCDS warn of conflict with pedestrians using the surrounding area. Whether the applicant has taken enough notice of this in placing the internal bike stores opening directly onto the main entrance reception area is questionable.

The LCDS also say two-tier stands are not suitable for all users. Should there therefore be more of a choice in terms of cycle parking, in particular for the younger and older age groups?

We object once more to this application and reiterate our previous point that the applicant should also take responsibility for widening the Merantun Way arch of the Wandle Trail if the widening hasn't been done by the time this job might be on site.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

MCC responds to Merton Council's Covid-19 Transport Plan June 2020

We welcome Merton’s updated Covid-19 Transport Plan which has been submitted to Cabinet and takes on board many of MCC's previous comments, but we still have concerns that the reality of delivery won't match the ambition. You can read the Council's updated plan here. 

In proposing rapidly implementing 7 key cycling routes, 10 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and 20 school streets, Merton Council is displaying a level of ambition in relation to walking and cycling that we have never seen before, but there are still serious concerns. As ever the devil is in the detail and we have concerns in relation to timing, funding,  the proposals to support pupils safely walking and cycling to school, and an under-estimation of the scale of change that is needed in relation to cycle routes and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. The existing cycling facilities in Merton have been so woefully under-invested in over the years that we are concerned it will take all that is proposed and more to meet the demand for walking and cycling that we expect to see in the coming months. 


The documents describe the proposals being delivered in the short, medium and long term. However there are no deadlines attached to 'medium' and 'long-term' measures. This is particularly concerning as the installation of temporary measures that improve or create cycle routes are 'medium-term'. The implication is that these will be delivered by September, but we would like the Council to confirm this. 


We are pleased that the Council is submitting bids to both the Department for Transport and Transport for London, but the report states "that the extent of projects delivered will be dependent on the funding made available to the Council." It is unacceptable that the Council will consider taking no action to ensure safe space for walking and cycling if it is to be unsuccessful in receiving funding. It must make use of all funds available to it, both internal and external, including Community Infrastructure Levy funds. 

Measures to support school students safely cycling and walking 

Whilst 20 school streets are proposed, this doesn't cover the over 70 schools in Merton, and we have the following concerns: 

  • There just 20 school streets proposed, and these are just for primary schools. However the peak in the road traffic KSI rate is in fact 10-14 year age group i.e. secondary schools. There are notable omissions that we would wish to see rectified: 
    • Why is Rutlish School, one of the Borough's biggest, absent from the list? 
    • Ricards School is on the list. Why the girls' schools but not the boys' school?
    • Park Community School has really serious pollution and road danger issues but is also not included. 
  • The criteria for prioritising school proposals should include the size of the school, as the number of students protected by the scheme, and therefore the value, will be greater at larger schools.
  • School Streets are necessary but not sufficient for safe school travel. They must be accompanied by safe routes to school, which means Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, and for secondary/high schools, a safe network of cycle routes usable by school-age children, so that children are not forced onto overcrowded buses/trams/trains or driven to school.
Our view is that ALL schools should have school streets. They are simple and cheap to implement with very basic temporary infrastructure.

The change required is underestimated

The Council has reported that of the suggestions received the interventions with the greatest level of interest were cycle lanes, modal filters and school streets. This seems to reflect resident appetite for the inadequacy of Merton's current cycling infrastructure to be addressed. 

Yet the Covid-19 Transport Plan overstates the quality, quantity and connectivity of the current routes, and therefore understates the reality of what needs to be done in the reallocation of road space for cycling. This in turn points to an underestimation of the need for Low Traffic Neighbourhood intervention. The Transport Plan seems to heavily rely on the strategic routes proposed in the Council's LIP3, with no acknowledgement that what is currently installed is not continuous. Routes are broken by Wimbledon and Raynes Park town centres, and there are no connections to CS7. 

At a minimum, the Council needs to quickly deliver a connected network of continuously safe cycle routes. This will need to be built to a cost and may involve compromises in directness but cannot sacrifice connectivity or safety: we expect filtered permeability to play a significant part in the network as this is the cheapest way to reduce traffic volumes and speeds to acceptable levels. Furthermore the DfT funding effectively requires them.

The Transport Strategy stands or falls based on successfully implementing low-traffic neigbourhoods. Without them, rat-running traffic will quickly saturate residential areas, creating road danger and suppressing cycling, which in turn will drive up car use still further, and conditions approaching gridlock may prevail for much of the day. It is thereofre not sufficient that the Councill will 'aim' to deliver 10 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods - it must do so. Or it must develop a strategy for what it is going to do to support safe cycling in areas where there is no LTN. LTNs are the cheapest way to deliver safe cycling, socially-distanced walking and safe routes to school. 

The cycling section of the report ‘Healthy and Active Travel’ starts:  ‘At the moment approximately 20% of Merton residents live within 400m of the strategic cycle network. However CS7, which ends in Colliers Wood is the only route that could be considered strategic, and only 3% of Merton's populated area is within 400m of the strategic cycle network. 

Figure 8 attached shows the cycleways within Merton’s boundary that TfL recommended and which are included in the LIP3. None of these is currently complete, one is not started and they cannot be described as a strategic cycleways on the strategic network. (Cycleways for the strategic cycle network are currently routes defined by TfL and required to be designed and built to standards set in TfL’s Cycling Action Plan).

The Northernmost route with an elbow shape (not a direct route) includes the entire length of South Park Road which Merton Cycling Campaign have submitted is not suitable due to discomfort and danger from inadequate width for cycles alongside vehicles and minimal passing spaces.

The route to Sutton from Colliers Wood has not been started. It is held up by Morden town centre decisions and is negated by the National Trust who will not satisfactorily accommodate it in Morden Hall Park.

The cycling section of the report ‘Healthy and Active Travel’ continues with targets for the percentage of Merton residents to live within 400m of the strategic cycle network.

Figure 7 shows the cycleways within Merton’s boundary that TfL recommended that, if constructed,  would increase the number of residents living within 400m of the strategic cycle network from the current 3% to 50%. This is the target from Merton's LIP, but was set before Merton declared a Climate Emergency and before the implications of Covid on Public Transport. In the current climate there is every justification for Merton itself to aim to have every resident living within 400m of the strategic cycling network, but this can only be achieved if Merton carry out the work shown on the proposed cycle network within Merton’s LIP Transport Strategy LIP3 and provided that all Merton’s routes meet satisfactory standards defined in TfL’s Cycling Action Plan.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Active Travel - for everyone, for ever, we hope!

On the 7th of June we wrote to the National Trust asking for their support with ensuring there's safe space for walking and cycling in response to Covid-19 but also in the (slightly) long-term for support with the widening of the new Bishopsford Bridge to accomodate cycling lanes by the Council. 

We've been heartened to hear back from Jim Foy, the National Trust's Assistant Director of Operations for the London & SE Region. He says in his e mail today:

'We would be prepared to consider the use of Watermeads to accommodate a wider bridge if the additional width was for cycle lanes'.

An abridged version of our initial letter follows... 

The impact of the Climate emergency and also Covid 19 is presumably associated with a London Region Policy. We note the National Trust’s commitment to net-zero carbon and the gradual opening up to the restraints of social distancing and expect that the National Trust’s visitor’s and staff will need to make increasing use of ‘active travel’.

In the London Borough of Merton a declared Climate Emergency coupled with the Covid 19 risks involved with public transport, have influenced a major public impetus towards the benefits of walking and in particular cycling.

In Morden Hall Park the National Trust has been imaginative in successfully popularising the Park with the local community. In terms of active travel the Park’s prime location on the Wandle Trail gives it the opportunity to include cycling as one of the benefits described in the National Trust Morden Hall Park brochure, along with its attraction to walkers.

In the move to encourage active travel we hope that the National Trust can play its part. There are two aspects to this regarding the River Wandle that we would like to raise.

First, the Wandle Trail.

In Morden Hall Park there is a pleasantly cohesive approach to paths and the surfacing, but it does not seem to take into account the extra wear associated with the Wandle Trail as a route. For Climate and Covid reasons the Trail needs to be encouraged and therefore accommodating. The surfacing needs to be of a robust specification not susceptible to easy degeneration and erosion through heavy use. In addition, with social distancing, the vegetation needs to be cut back. Further downstream on the Wandle Trail there has been discrete lighting installed with particular attention to minimising disturbance to wildlife, which means the route remains functional as the days shorten. Such discrete lighting would be particularly useful between the Morden entrance and the tram track before Deen City Farm. We hope the National Trust can look favourably on these matters for the benefits of promoting active travel.

Second, Bishopsford Road bridge over the Wandle.

The Borough of Merton is fortunate to have the River Wandle passing centrally through the Borough, but this coupled with the fact that the railways were here when the Borough was largely agricultural, means that elderly road and river bridges and ‘cattle’ arches can be extremely limiting if the need for adequate space for active travel alongside vehicular traffic is taken into account; Bishopsford Road bridge, upstream from Morden Hall Park was an example; before it recently gave up.

A new replacement bridge for Bishopsford Road across the Wandle would ideally be wider than the failed bridge in order to safely accommodate walking and cycling alongside vehicular traffic. The approach roads may have to wait for funding before modification but the bridge is a once in 200 years event. In order to widen a new bridge the design would partly affect a river bank in the National Trust’s Watermeads Nature Reserve and we respectfully ask for a favourable view towards this encroachment.

The slogan for active travel could well follow the National Trust’s optimistic slogan ‘For everyone for ever’ so we hope that you can find these proposals agreeable.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Bishopsford Road Bridge Consultation - a missed opportunity

On Tuesday 25 February 2020, Merton Council's Cabinet gave the go-ahead to demolish and re-build Bishopsford Bridge, following its partial collapse into the River Wandle after heavy rainfall last June. In May, the Council has been consulting on the design options for the new Bishopsford Bridge

MCC are alarmed to see that the proposals are not demonstrating Merton Council's policies for promoting active travel, particularly cycling. The designs show no segregated space for cycling and the Consultation asks only for opinions on the designs of the bridge's handrails and reflect a 'heritage' design ethos. Of the two options offered Option 2 handrail design looks as though it will take up least width. The greater imperative is that the new bridge does not maintain 'heritage' space standards, and we would hope that they do not become a reason for denying a bridge fit for everyone and which meets the future needs of the Borough. The impact of the Merton's declared Climate emergency and also Covid 19 is that active travel is the future for Merton. 

The Borough of Merton is fortunate to have the River Wandle passing centrally through the Borough, but this coupled with the fact that the railways were here when the Borough was largely agricultural, means that Merton's elderly road and river bridges and ‘cattle’ arches are extremely limiting in providing adequate space for active travel alongside vehicular traffic. The now defunct Bishopsford Road bridge was an example of this bridge/arch heritage, although Bishopsford Road itself demonstrates a generous approach to road design. 

The unfortunate collapse of the old bridge presents an opportunity for a fit-for-purpose replacement bridge for Bishopsford Road across the Wandle. As we face the challenges of climate change and potentially radical changes to our travel patterns in a post-pandemic world, that opportunity must surely be taken and the new bridge designed to be wider than the failed bridge in order to safely accommodate walking and cycling alongside vehicular traffic. The new Bridge must be wide enough to take pedestrians and a protected cycle way in both directions. It would not be satisfactory for cyclists to have to cross the carriageway to get to an ancillary bridge.  

Ideally this would be implemented at the same time as measures that provide safe space for cycling on the road as it approaches the Bridge, but modification of the bridge layout is potentially a once in 200 years event that should not be wasted while funding is secured for the road approaches.  If 'active travel' can dominate immediately, then providing a cycle/pedestrian bridge without any vehicular crossing could be an option, but looking some way ahead to a more populated Merton there is no question that a wider bridge for Bishopsford Road which accommodates all the future need is desirable.

If the river bank of the Watermeads Nature Reserve is to be locally affected by a widening it is possible to visualise a slim cantilevered footway design that would minimise the impact and land required from neighbouring land owners, the National Trust. The slogan for active travel could well follow the National Trust’s optimistic slogan ‘For everyone, for ever’. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Covid 19 and Cycling - How you can help

There's no doubt we live in unprecedented times. We face a huge challenge to change the way we travel to school, work and the shops in order to keep ourselves and those we love save. This means huge and rapid changes to our roads to create safe space for cycling and walking so that people can get where they need to safely and confidently. People of all ages are returning to cycling or taking it up for the first time.

Everyone is facing at least one challenge of some sort at the moment (we're no different) and we're really heartened by how many people are getting in touch to offer to help make sure that people can safely walk and cycle and enjoy the benefits of improved air quality, better health and economic benefits for local shops and businesses that comes with that. So we've put together a list of ways that you can help.

Tell the Leader of Merton Council that you want to #StopTheTrafficTide

Take part in LCC's #StopTheTrafficTide Campaign and ask the Leader of Merton Council to commit to delivering a radical transformation of the roads, so that we can all cycle and walk safely across London. Send an email here 

Tell your local Councillor that you support creating safe space for cycling in Merton 

Merton Council must implement bold and ambitious changes to create safe space for cycling quickly. Councillors need to know that residents (that's you) support these measures to give them confidence to take this action.
Please write to your local Councillor with general support for safe space for cycling, or specific ideas for changes you'd like in your local streets or ideas for safe routes. You can find the contact details for your local Councillor here  (click 'search by address or postcode if you don't know which ward you live in)

Submit your ideas for cycling improvements to the Officers at Merton Council  

Merton Council have proposed an emergency transport response to the Coronavirus pandemic to aid social distancing in the borough. We think they need to go further, faster.
Email your ideas for changes you'd like in your local streets or ideas for safe routes to They can be the same ideas you sent to your ward councillor.

You can also read MCC's response to the Council's plans here. When you write to your local Councillor you can express support for our ideas, or submit the ones we've missed. (We know we'll have missed out some great ideas.)

Sign this petition 

This petition is asking Merton Council to do more to create safe space for walking and cycling on our streets. Add your name and don't forget to share it with your friends, neighbours or colleagues.

Join the Merton Transport Resident's group 

This is a group of residents and community groups who want to see Merton Council act more quickly to: make walking and cycling viable options for all (including children and older people) while maintaining social distancing; create low traffic neighbourhoods and make Merton a more pleasant place to shop, visit and live. If you'd like to join, take part, or just keep up with plans please go to:!forum/merton-transport-residents-group/join  and Request to Join. You can find out more and read the latest news of the group here. 

Tell everyone

Talk to your neighbours, workmates and friends about your ideas for where cycle routes could be provided or improved and why you support these changes. Get people talkign about how we can all benefit if more of us are able to safely walk and cycle - the more voices of support we have, the better!

Become a Member of London Cycling Campaign 

MCC is a Local Group of the London Cycling Campaign which is an 11,500-strong membership charity, making sure that everyone who cycles, or wants to cycle, has a voice in Greater London. They're working hard to ensure the GLA and TfL are implementing safe space for cycling. LCC membership means you’re helping to build a better London. But it also means peace of mind; the latest cycling news; great discounts; and the chance to get involved and #ridetogether.

Join up here - and don't forget if you work for a London NHS Trust or hospital and cycle to work, LCC is offering you free membership during the coronavirus crisis.

Come along to one of our meetings 

We're currently meeting via zoom on the first Thursday of the month at 8pm. We're only a small team so the more people who can help, the better. Find out more here.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Response to “Merton’s Active & Healthy Travel Response to Covid-19” Plan

On 2nd May Merton Council published their Strategy to implement measures to repurpose roadspace to facilitate walking and cycling to accommodate the tenfold increase in cycling that is expected as a result of the travel challenges presented by Covid-19. We’re pleased Merton Council has recognized the consequences of worsening air quality, road danger and congestion that will be caused by increased motor if they fail to act swiftly at this time. However, their proposals need to go further, faster if we are to meet the challenges we face. We have submitted a response to Future Merton, and this is set out below. You can read Merton's proposals and suggest a location where the Council could take action, by emailing

We note and support Merton’s acknowledgement that these changes are necessary not only to meet the immediate Covid-19 imperatives, but also to meet longer-term goals on air quality, climate action and public health. We fully back Merton's stated intention to make permanent improvements to cycling infrastructure to support the required modal shift to active travel.

But we have a number of concerns with the Council's proposals, which don't go far enough, fast enough. These are :

  • There are no cycling measures in the proposed ‘immediate measures’. This means people will return to work or school with no additional cycling routes introduced. This will not enable the switch to cycling that the document acknowledges is required.
  • There are no continuous cycle routes proposed in Appendix A, only “spot” improvements. Such key routes will have to be segregated end-to-end, and ensure that road danger to cyclists at junctions is  addressed. Additionally, the density of the network is key, and the topology needs to ensure that cyclists can access all destinations safely. Simply providing space along "key routes" is not enough: cyclists need to be able to get to and from the key routes safely. For example, the planned cycle lanes along London Rd between Mitcham Jct Stn and Cricket Green are welcome, but users will need to cycle all the way along London Rd through Mitcham to the Borough boundary at Tooting Stn. The same criticism applies to Merton High St to CS7.
  • There must be a clear commitment to safe cycle routes to all schools. The wording “promote measures for greater walking and cycling routes to schools” is rather ambiguous. The “school run” is notorious for its contribution to congestion, but school travel is almost all local and achievable by bike - if routes safe enough to be used by children are available. 
  • Introduce Low Traffic Neighborhoods so that residential areas don’t experience an increase in rat-running as car traffic is displaced from congested main roads. 
  • Work with TfL to leverage all available funding. The document, in particular the specific proposals in Appendix A, appears to have been prepared with budgetary constraints in mind. We believe this is problematic: the financial backdrop is changing on an almost daily basis, there is a need to determine what interventions are necessary to facilitate the travel needs (and particularly, active travel needs) of Merton’s residents and businesses. We need “shovel-ready” schemes that can be implemented in a logical order as funding and resources become available. Furthermore, it appears that with the revised Network Management guidance, that local authorities will be mandated to provide for safe cycling, so Merton’s plan will need to be oriented around that.

Comments on the specific proposals 

The national government is encouraging new commuting cyclists onto the roads en masse creating an urgent need for safe, continuous cycle routes. The specific proposals in Appendix A contain no such routes. There are some "spot" improvements, but no proposals for continuous routes that form a network that would enable safe cycle journeys. It is worth noting that our understanding of the revised Network Management guidance issued on 9th May requires that such routes be implemented. This document does not meet this requirement and will need to be revised.

A few spot improvements will not fix a network which is of very variable quality, discontinuous, and largely requires interventions to bring it up to a basic standard of safety required so that the many new and inexperienced commuting cyclists will not be brought into conflict with motor traffic. Cycling must be subjectively safe if people are to choose to cycle rather than drive and for us to avoid widespread gridlock on our streets.

According to the "Costs" section of the main document, it is implied that this plan is for 6 months. The government is already asking people to go back to work. Safe cycle routes - whether by virtue of LTNs, segregated lanes on main roads, or a combination of both - are needed immediately. Not in 6 months. It appears this document was prepared with a budget in mind. This is a flawed approach. The funding picture is changing on a daily basis. The Council needs to plan what needs to be done and if there is a budgetary issue, priorities will need to be determined.

We would like to see the following changes made to the proposals: 

  • Wimbledon Bridge: This location is very congested and problematic for cyclists, and because of the railway, there are no alternative routes nearby (nearest being Ashcombe Road and Lower Downs Road, both 1km distant). There needs to be proper provision for cycling in this location.
  • Wimbledon Hill Road: Traffic always accelerates sharply away from the lights at the St George's Rd crossroads, and road width is compromised, worsened by the presence of the traffic island making it a dangerous location for cyclists. Reducing the width without mitigating measures will make a bad situation worse. The St Georges Rd Wimbledon pavement widening outside Elys will be unhelpful for cyclists who will find it even more difficult than ever to get through the traffic backlog from the crossroads. We reecommend taking a lane out of the westbound carriageway. 
  • Kingston Road: While removing the footway parking is welcome, far more needs to be done to make Kingston Road safe for cycling. The existing cycle lanes are dangerous, encouraging cyclists to position far too close to the kerb. Segregation is required due to high traffic volumes and speeds (20MPH is almost universally ignored). 
  • London Road: We support the proposals, but this but must be 24/7. Cycling doesn't only take place in peak hours; people need to know they can get home safely if they get delayed plus fewer people will work 9-5 as companies are encouraged to stagger their start/finish times.
  • Wimbledon Village High Street: The proposed narrowing of lanes needs to be mitigated; at a minimum "DO NOT OVERTAKE CYCLISTS" signage and camera enforcement.
  • Haydons Rd Bridge: We support this proposal, but just having lanes over the bridge doesn't achieve anything in isolation. There need to be continuous safe routes to and from the bridge, not just a route that is safe for 100 metres.
  • Merton High Street: Remove parking and provide properly segregated cycle lanes.
  • Wimbledon Mini Holland: Implement segregated two-way cycling along the Broadway.  Cycle routes to Wimbledon need to join up with this, creating continuous safe routes.

Additional Measures

The proposals in the existing plan simply do not go far enough to provide safe space for cycling on key routes. This will hamper people returning to work, kids getting to school, and locals visiting our shops and high streets. Merton Council must do more in our Town Centres, introduce Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, work with TfL to provide segregated routes on all of the TLRN routes in the borough, and introduce segregated cycling routes on key routes through the Borough. We’ve outlined our proposals below, along with some comments on enforcement and signage and information.

Additional Town Centre proposals

  • In Raynes Park from the station east to the railway arch should be closed to traffic except cyclists and pedestrians; consider incorporating a large batch cycle park. Alternative covered cycle park in the skew arch.
  • In Morden all traffic should go down Aberconway Road. Morden station east to Morden Road should be pedestrian except for bus and cycle lanes. Remove two-stage signalled road crossing and railings and rephrase traffic lights for full carriageway crossing. 
  • In Mitcham it’s good that London Road is being treated to facilitate cycling. This should be for its full extent as well as approaching the town centre.  Commonside West needs to be added and continuous cycling segregation with proper connection between the Mitcham Town centre cycle facilities and Croydon Road. Remove the two-stage signalled road crossing and the railings and rephrase traffic lights for full carriageway crossing.

Safe Routes to Schools 

Safe routes to all schools are essential. These can be provided for to a significant extent using Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs).

Introduce Low Traffic Neighbourhoods 

Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs)  need to be implemented as soon as possible in all residential areas that do not already have filtered permeability, to manage the potential for motor traffic displacement from main roads. LTNs have the advantage that they are easy/cheap to implement, initially with filtered permeability provided by a few carefully-located planters. These could be replaced by more targeted measures over time, if need be.
Additional measures may be needed in some locations in addition to filtered permeability, to ensure cyclist and pedestrian safety.

Strategic Roads

All TLRN roads should be treated for segregated cycle lane access:

  • The entire length of the A24, the A238 through Merton High Street to Bushey Road, A236 through Western Road to Croydon Road the A297 and St.Helier are not too badly provided but may require extra help at the A297 St Helier roundabout
  • Elsewhere it would be good to push for Parkside through to Tibetts corner (and the length of London Road A217 through Mitcham mentioned above).
  • Martin Way, West Barnes lane and Copse Hill could also benefit. (the Strategic Cycling Analysis shows Copse Hill as surprisingly cycle active)

Create additional cycle routes to support Covid-Cycling travel

  • Create safe cycling routes to schools for every Merton school  
  • Colliers wood to Mitcham: implement item 34 from the LIP3 cycling proposals map: Tandem Way to London Road Mitcham
  • Morden to Mitcham: implement route through Morden Hall Park to east-west section of Phipps Bridge Road then Miles Road and Love Lane.
  • Raynes Park to the South: implement Item 15 LIP3 proposals map: Proposed toucan crossing Bushey Road.
  • Implement route along the eastern perimeter of Mitcham Common Pollards Hill to Croydon Road.

Severely constricted roads

There are several key routes that are very narrow at one or more locations. These will require special consideration and potentially bold and creative thinking.
The introduction of ‘road works’ style one-way traffic control lights with segregated cycle by-pass lanes, and the use of the Japanese type one-way pedestrian streaming on opposite pavements, could be implemented where roadways are particularly tight. Alternatively, the cycle route could
bypass the location provided the bypass is reasonably direct, does not delay unreasonably and safety is not compromised.
Locations where measures like this should be considered:

  • Durnsford Road railway bridge
  • Western Road at the Colliers Wood end
  • Kingston Road through Merton Park 
  • The Parkside squiggle (close to the Wandsworth boundary) where housing is on both sides of the road.

Cycling and pedestrian shared use

Shared use routes are likely to see an increase in both cycling and pedestrian use. These routes will need to be well sign-posted and managed to prevent conflict and confusion.
It is important, particularly at this time of year, that a broad swathe of vegetation is deliberately cut back around shared-use paths.  Suggest a minimum of 6 metres wide for social distancing and overtaking.

Wimbledon and Mitcham Commons Conservators and the National Trust should consider their Covid 19 policies in Merton. In terms of cycling accessibility, and especially in winter, these policies should include the installation of discreet artificial lighting. (This particularly applies to the National Trust in terms of lighting the Wandle Trail between Colliers Wood and Morden)

Regarding the Wandle Trail constrictions, the arch work at Merantun Way should be carried out forthwith. The northern Wandle Trail approach to the tram crossing should have a new generous rivulet bridge installed.

Signage and Information 

Due to the unfamiliar nature of new road layouts, it is important that everyone understands how they work. Pedestrians and cyclists need to be aware of how to stay safe in the new environment, and drivers need to know what to expect and how layouts work.

New cyclists will need information on where to get advice and support about the range of bikes available for different journeys, (including electric-assist bikes, cargo bikes for the weekly shop or passenger bikes for the school run) as well as cycle training.


This would also be an appropriate moment to consider factors that support cycling:
Implement existing laws and guidelines.  Enforcing the 20 mph limit, publicising the safe passing
distance and clearing ASL boxes for legitimate users would be three obvious examples.

Cycle Hire

Merton Council should be  engaged with all cycle hire schemes, including electric bikes, to ensure that these schemes are expanded and promoted across the borough.

Cycle Shops

Finally, cycle shops are one section of our local economy that is booming. They should be provided with help to provide a safe and effective service to their customers (old and new). Thought should be given to staff safety, as well and queuing.