Tuesday 17 October 2023

St Helier Avenue

St Helier Avenue (A297) is an SRN (TfL-maintained) road between Rose Hill Roundabout (in Sutton borough) and the Central Road roundabout (in Merton borough). It is a mainly 4-lane configuration with a central reservation and a 40mph speed limit, which will be reduced to 30mph. We welcome the reduction in speed limit, but this needs to be the first step in developing the road from a hostile, motor-centric location into an environment that is more people-centred.

St Helier Avenue is a good example of how a major road can blight an area and negatively impact a community.
  • It is difficult to cross, dividing the community in two, and lengthening journeys that cross the road. There are distantly-spaced crossing points and long wait-times at crossings.
  • It has an extremely poor safety record, with 2 fatal collisions in the last 2 years, with clusters of collisions at both roundabouts and at the Middleton Road junction.
  • It has a high speed limit (40MPH), which worsens road danger, and increases noise and pollution.
  • It blights the green space that borders the road on both sides.
  • It brings an unloved, grubby and industrial feel to the area. Fly tipping is endemic.
  • It reduces house values.

A little history. The original St Helier Avenue cycle lanes have a claim to being the first in London. Leslie Belisha, Minister of Transport in the 1930s is claimed to have opened his first crossing on St Helier Ave.


On the southbound side:

There is off-carriageway provision that is actually not bad by Merton standards, but is below modern LTN1-20 standards.The track is separated from general traffic and this is of great benefit.

On the negative: The cycle track gives way to side-roads, which increases danger and increases journey times by slowing users down unnecessarily.

The separate cycle track gives way to shared-use in quite a few places, and signage is inconsistent or missing, which is confusing and potentially-dangerous as different road users are not aware of what to expect.

Sight-lines are poor, which creates danger.

Width is inconsistent. Given there is no cycle provision on the northbound side, width should be sufficient for 2-way cycling, which it isn’t in places.

There is a section south of Bristol Rd that has a significant camber and no drainage, which is likely a problem in winter and during heavy rain.

At the Rose Hill end, there is a “Cyclists Dismount” sign for a short section, which is very unhelpful, confusing to people on tricycles, adapted and cargo cycles, and also unnecessary. Signage here is also confusing and inconsistent.

Rose Hill Roundabout itself is very dangerous and poorly thought-out for cycling. There is liberal use of guard-rail and large corner radiuses that encourage high motor traffic speeds. (This is in Sutton borough).

On the northbound side:

Cycling appears not to be permitted, although there is plenty of space and there are two separate paths. Signage is poor; at the Rose Hill end, there is a shared-space sign but it is unclear where the shared space ends.

The lack of provision on this side means that cyclists must cross to the southbound side, and then cross back again, which increases danger and considerably increases journey times/distances, considering the distantly-spaced crossing points.

At the signal-controlled crossing at Leominster Walk, the central island is very narrow - not wide enough to accommodate a standard cycle, let alone a non-standard cycle. A cyclist crossing will have one wheel sticking out into a live traffic lane. The light cycle time should prioritize pedestrians/cyclists crossing; the actual time is unknown as the crossing wasn’t working at all when we visited.

General Observations.

A 4-lane dual-carriageway results in increased speeds and increased road danger for all road users. This is the case regardless of speed limit. If the limit were reduced to 30mph or 20mph, vehicles would still be free to overtake others who observe the speed limit. Even with a reduced speed limit, the road would still be very difficult and dangerous to cross.

Are 4 lanes necessary to support existing traffic volumes? We would argue that they are not. There is a 24/7 bus lane at the Morden end that narrows the general traffic carriageway to a single lane, which is the bottleneck. Having additional lanes before this point simply enables speeding drivers to jump the queue and does not increase capacity.

The central reservation also adds to the “motorway” feel of the road and encourages speeding. The central reservation is “dead” space that is of little to no value.

As noted previously, the road width and 4-lane architecture makes the road an overbearing, noisy, polluting presence and blights the surrounding area unnecessarily.

Alternatives would be a 2 lane boulevard, or to turn one general-traffic lane into a 24/7 bus lane. The latter would move the general traffic (and noise and pollution) away from the communities, reduce traffic speeds, road danger, noise and pollution, and improve bus journey times.

A 2-lane boulevard would really transform the area, reducing the road to a more human scale, and freeing up space for other uses. With a little imagination, new linear parks could be created, there could be business opportunities as well.

Additionally, there is an opportunity to make active travel much more attractive, particularly to under-represented groups including children, women and elderly people, who are currently put off cycling by fear of traffic. Routes that are obviously and continuously safe would for example enable children to cycle to school, and reduce school-run traffic.

Lastly, it is worth remembering that we are in a climate emergency. Motor traffic must be reduced if we are to have a chance of meeting Paris climate goals. Regarding existing motor traffic levels as fixed and immutable is a dangerous mistake; fewer motor journeys and more journeys switching to active travel are necessary steps to ensure the planet remains habitable for future generations.

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Cycling, Walking and Kerbside Strategy

 Merton Council is developing a Cycling, Walking and Kerbside Strategy.

Please let us know what you'd like to see in this Strategy, to make the borough more cycleable and promote active travel.

email us at hello@mertoncyclingcampaign.org.uk

or on X (twitter) @CyclingMerton

Wednesday 20 September 2023

 Our next meeting will be on Thu 9th November, 8PM, All Saints Centre.

Tuesday 3 May 2022

#ClimateSafeStreets Round Up

Along with Merton Residents' Transport Group, we've spoken with all of the potential Leaders of the Council after 5th May to ask them to make an urgent commitment to deliver #ClimateSafeStreets. 

Thanks to the actions of all our supporters and lots of other residents, all of them have responded and four have committed to our five pledges. Follow the links to read the individual pledges and statements and read more about why each party thinks active travel is key part of tackling the climate emergency:

Whatever the outcome of the election on Thursday, we're looking forward to working with the new Administration over the next four years to make progress with the five commitments which will play a part in tackling the climate crisis:  

  1. Develop an Active Travel Network and Delivery Plan for the Borough in the first 12 months and implement the top five highest priority interventions to the highest standards before 2027.
  2. Make 75% of suitable residential areas in the borough safer and more appealing for walking and cycling. 
  3. Improve at least 5 of the most dangerous junctions in the borough to high standards, provide pedestrian signals at all signalised junctions and improve facilities for pedestrians to cross the road where there are strong desire lines or existing safety risks.
  4. Tackle high levels of congestion and HGV movements in the Borough by  cutting freight motor vehicle movements by at least 10% and Rapidly rolling out shared mobility points.  
  5. Make it easier and cheaper to park a cycle than it is to park a car everywhere in the borough. 

Click to read more about each of the asks 

Merton Conservatives' response to #ClimateSafeStreets

The Merton Conservatives have replied to our request to sign up to the #ClimateSafeStreets pledges with the following statement setting out how they would promote walking and cycling to help tackle the Climate Emergency. 

Find out more about the measures we would like to see to cut road transport emissions fast and enable lots more walking, and cycling, as well as email the candidates to show your support for the measures here:  https://lcc.org.uk/campaigns/climate-safe-streets-merton/

Statement from Merton Conservatives:

"Merton Conservatives have championed improvements to our local walking and cycling infrastructure in our last few budgets, however, the ruling Labour party did not share our concerns and our proposals were voted down. 

A future Conservative administration will focus on new, safe, walking and cycling routes in Merton as part of our commitment to active travel. We will review safety for all road users and look at how our transport network can be improved to make it safer for everyone. 

Much of the HGV movements in the borough is across A roads that are controlled by TfL, we know that this is an ongoing problem in many areas of Merton and we will work with other London boroughs and lobby the Mayor of London for improvements that help residents in their daily life."


Wednesday 27 April 2022

Labour Party sign up to #ClimateSafeStreets Pledges

The Labour Party have signed up to our #ClimateSafeStreets pledges to take bold action to get to zero carbon roads by 2030. Check out current Cabinet member for Housing, Regeneration, and the Climate Emergency, Martin Whelton explaining why encouraging more walking and cycling is a key part of the Labour Party's plans to tackle climate change. 

Find out more about the measures that will cut road transport emissions fast and enable lots more walking, and cycling and email the other candidates here: https://lcc.org.uk/campaigns/climate-safe-streets-merton/

And here's what he had to say about the pledges:

"Over the past four years we have implemented several measures to actively promote active travel including the introduction of 28 school streets, four further permanent low traffic neighbourhoods which sees Merton having the second highest number at 34% in Outer London if we include historic ones. Many of our communities see first-hand the benefit they bring in reducing traffic and making them more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists. We will work further in developing active travel plans working alongside resident and transport groups and building the evidence base to undertake further measures, but also using the 68 Breathe London air quality sensors and Vicacity digital sensors which is the highest number in London.

Currently much of our funding for implementing measures comes from Transport for London which has been impacted due to their budgetary issues. We will look to use Community Infrastructure Levies, S106 along with using funds generated from  traffic fines on measures that improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

In terms of junctions, we have seen some improvements to made to our most dangerous ones, we will look to work to tackle other ones subject to funding. We will also look to work with Transport for London who are responsible for traffic signals

We have seen already the first 19 bicycle sheds and subject to funding we will look to introduce more across Merton at a cost which is both reasonable and fair. The cost is already below many other London boroughs but we do recognise their popularity and the need for more to be introduced.

Tackling HGVs and freight movement requires a co-ordinated approach across London boroughs and we will look at working with London Councils and Tfl on ways we can reduce movements and promote shared mobility points."


Monday 25 April 2022

Liberal Democrats sign up to #ClimateSafeStreets Pledges

The Merton Liberal Democrats have signed up to our #ClimateSafeStreets pledges to take bold action to get to zero carbon roads by 2030. Here's what Cllr Anthony Fairclough had to say about why the Liberal Democrats think that walking and cycling is an important part of tackling the climate emergency: 



“We must take the climate emergency seriously. The leadership of Merton’s Council needs to show courage, energy and the willingness to do things differently. And if things don’t work, it must be honest, listen to what went wrong and then act.

Ultimately, we want an open, competent and caring Council – one focused on winning both hearts and minds to its proposals and measuring the effectiveness of its actions.

In our manifesto, the Climate Emergency and Pollution is one of the 4 key challenges for any Council.

We believe that our manifesto is consistent with LCC’s asks. We hope you agree.” 

Find out more about the measures that will cut road transport emissions fast and enabling lots more walking, cycling and wheeling here and email the other candidates here: https://lcc.org.uk/campaigns/climate-safe-streets-merton/