Friday, 22 March 2019

MCC's response to Melrose Ave Consultation

Merton Council consulting on changes to the existing cycle lane layout on Melrose Avenue. We welcome this review of the Melrose Avenue contra-flow and we would welcome improvements to this cycling route, about which we have had concerns since 2004, but the current proposals will make things even worse for cyclists and that is not acceptable.

We believe the current proposals reduce the quality of cycling provision rather than improve it, prioritise car use over safe cycling provision, and do not address the issue of rat-running on the roads. We believe that a high-quality proposal that promotes safe cycling can be brought forward.

You can read our full submission here, or a summary below.

Issues with Merton Council’s proposals 

The existing segregated cycle lane, despite being only 1 metre wide (as painted) and occasionally reduced by untidy car parking, is advantaged by not suffering from cars pulling out and, in relation to car door opening, parked car drivers are always facing the oncoming cyclists and therefore as aware as possible of their approach. Most importantly the segregated cyclist does not have to contend with the discomfort of moving together with motorists in confined road space.
If the current unsafe proposals are pursued, they would see cyclists riding a one-way street on an unmarked contra-flow where the lane width is 3.7 metres wide.

Reduction in quality of provision

The Cycling Level of Service may not be great on streets such as Melrose Avenue, but it is better than the alternative - being restricted to routes that are usually busier, more dangerous or more polluted.
The proposal of an unmarked cycle contra-flow on a street widened from 2.7 metres, by removing the cycle lane, would leave a 3.7 metre width between continuous parallel car parking. The first disadvantage of this arrangement is that there is inadequate space for a defined contra-flow cycle lane. At 3.7 metres with the lack of any let-up to the solid parking there is another problem, that when motorised vehicles and cyclists are expected to move together through this restrained width, safe overtaking is not possible, and a motor vehicle passing a cycle at any speed is hazardous. The only way to resolve this discomfort is to remove two car parking spaces at intervals to allow for giving way.
The problems of car door opening and cars pulling out unexpectedly are highly relevant for any narrow lane between parked cars. However, the present 2.7-metre-wide one-way lane in Melrose Avenue has considerable benefits for cycling because overtaking is impossible, so the motorist is not inclined to try and no reason to get frustrated if the cyclist holds the road.
The London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS) have a ‘golden rule’ which is that traffic lanes restricted to dimensions between 3.2 and 3.9 metres should be avoided, because of the discomfort it causes cyclists moving together with motor vehicles.

Prioritisation of cars over safe cycling 

The Consultation leaflet suggests that the proposals have been made in part to address an issue with damage to car wing mirrors. This is somewhat disingenuous as these are vulnerable when parked in most London streets and vehicles are well equipped for wing mirrors to be folded in, if considered obtrusive. If it is required that the segregated cycle lane should be made clearer, then a layer of colour on the lane might make motorists more aware, and also pedestrians wanting to cross it more aware, that it is active.
The increase in car parking spaces in the proposals, at the expanse of providing safe pull-ins or overtaking spaces for cyclists also clearly prioritises car parking over safe cycling.

No measures to reduce rat-running 

Whilst we oppose these proposals in their current form, we are not however opposed to contra-flow provision in principle which can work well when well-designed and in appropriate locations where the traffic volumes and speeds of vehicles using the road are low enough. In fact, we would argue the predisposition should always be to allow contraflow cycling on one-way streets and cycles should never be excluded by restrictions that are intended to manage motor traffic.
However, we do not believe that Melrose Avenue is an appropriate location for one and the proposals do nothing to address the problems of the road layout, and lack of traffic calming which encourages inappropriate speed, and does nothing to reduce the volumes of traffic along the road.

Changes we would like to see to the proposed design 

Raising the existing contra-flow facility to footway level to allow a wider passage for cyclists would improve cyclist safety and avoid the intrusion of parked cars onto the cycle lane as they are limited by the new kerb line.

Full-width sinusoidal speed humps, passing places and a protected turn in for cycling would be standard for most councils proposing such a contra flow and we would like to see these incorporated at the very least.

If Merton wants to achieve its objectives for sustainable transport set out in the Draft Local Plan, then we would welcome a more ambitious proposal that addressed the traffic volumes on the road, either by introducing opposing one ways, or for full bollards: Ryfold already has a filter, so there is precedent for this in the Borough. Filters on Melrose between Ashen and Stuart and between Stroud and Ryfold would fix this entire corner of the cell. But could still leave corner-cutting between Replingham and Merton. Filters on Brookwood, Lavenham and Revelstoke near the Merton Road would finish the job.

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