Tuesday, 18 February 2020

MCC's Response to the Climate Emergency

The climate emergency requires us to act now, and we welcome Merton Council committing to making Merton carbon neutral by 2050. However, transport emissions have remained stubbornly high and must be reduced to tackle the Climate Crisis. Cycling is fast, cheap and is a near-zero-carbon alternative for many journeys but is unattractive to many potential users due to poor-quality infrastructure. Experience in Continental Europe is that cycling modal share is directly related to quality of cycle infrastructure. 

Whilst public transport and electrical vehicles (EV’s) have a part to play in decarbonization, it is difficult to imagine a credible climate action plan without a prominent role for cycling, as increasing cycling modal share is the quickest and cheapest way to decarbonize.  We have produced A Response to the Climate Emergency and submitted it to Merton Council’s Climate Emergency Working Group with both short and long term measures that we believe any credible response to the Climate Emergency Action Plan should incorporate and cycling is a key element of this. 

Quick Wins 

Our Response to the Climate Emergency identifies a number of “quick wins” that could be implemented in a short timescale and at low cost. These would significantly improve cycling conditions and demonstrate a clear commitment to cycling as a preferred transport mode.  These would both give a clear and visible signal that Merton is changing and now embraces cycling, and to make cycling easier, more direct and safer. It won’t be possible to build a Continental-quality cycle network overnight, but it is possible both to make meaningful progress towards that goal by picking the “low-hanging fruit”.

MCC’s proposed “Quick Win” interventions are:

  1. Cycle exceptions for no-entry and one-way restrictions. 
  2. Removal of chicane barriers. 
  3. Cycling allowed in most green spaces. 
  4. Shared-use on pavement. 
  5. Shared-use paths. 
  6. Filtered permeability by removing through-traffic from a route by closing one end of a road off using bollards is a cheap way to provide a low-traffic route. 
  7. Changing priority to favour cycle routes. 
  8. Replacing speed cushions with full-width sinusoidal humps which are more suitable to 20mph roads that Merton are introducing. 
  9. Improving existing traffic calming which creates pedestrian pinch-points or are dangerous for cyclists. 
  10. Dropped kerbs where needed, flush with the carriageway. 
  11. Restricting traffic in school streets which improves conditions for cycling, both for children cycling to school and for cyclists in general, as well as addressing air quality and road danger in the immediate vicinity of schools. 
  12. Upgrade existing poor-quality infrastructure, such as part-time/advisory cycle lanes/bus lanes, and remove parking on cycle infrastructure. 
  13. Promote School “Cycle Buses” to reduce school-run traffic. 

Strategic, Longer-Term Interventions 

While the “Quick Wins” provide useful short-term improvements to conditions for cycling, the longer-term goal is to provide a borough-wide network of consistent quality, so that anyone can cycle with confidence, secure in the knowledge that the route to their destination will be continuously safe, comfortable and clean in all weathers, easy to navigate and reasonably direct. With such a network in place, conditions for cycling modal share at Continental levels will have been created.
Merton Council at times gives the appearance that cycling is considered a separate subject to general highway engineering. Often road schemes are introduced with little or no thought given to the impact on cyclists, or to the opportunities for improving conditions for cyclists which would be possible in the affected area.  This culture needs to change. Climate impact - and in particular cycling - needs to be front and centre of highway engineering and needs to be everyone’s  concern. All road schemes need to make conditions better for cycling. There needs to be an end to the culture where preservation of existing traffic volumes are the sole measure of success. Instead, modal shift away from private motor traffic needs to be the goal, because without it transport emissions will remain at current levels. 

MCC have identified the following longer-term measures that should be considered by Merton in developing its response:

  1. Improve the permeability of routes for cyclists to quickly, easily and directly access a destination.  
  2. Increase the number of roads that offer Filtered Permeability - road designs that allows through-access for walking and cycling, but removes it for motor traffic on quiet streets. 
  3. Provide safe, smooth, well-lit Off-road Paths that both cyclists and pedestrians feel confident using.  
  4. Segregated cycleways on busy roads 
  5. Junctions that are designed with cycle safety as a priority. 
  6. Removal of gyratory systems which result in a particularly hostile environment for cyclists where conflict with motor vehicles is almost impossible to avoid, and makes many journeys longer, slower, more dangerous and more polluted than they could be. 
  7. An adequate supply of cycle parking that is conveniently located at people’s destinations and includes non-standard cycles.
  8. Initiatives that give more people access to bikes, such as storage and parking, short-term hire of cargo bikes, cycle-to-work schemes and training in bike maintenance. 

Saturday, 15 February 2020

LIP Service?

To most people ‘lips’ are those bodily elements that crack open for a good laugh, but in the singular the LIP has quite serious connotations, particularly for those who cycle or fancy cycling - and especially those think that encouraging more people to cycle is crucial to taking action to tackle the climate emergency.

Merton Council’s ‘Local Implementation Plan’ sets out how the Council hopes to satisfy London’s Mayoral Transport Strategy in order that, the keeper of the purse, Transport for London (TfL), can cough up the cash for cycling infrastructure.

The London Borough of Merton’s LIP follows the Mayor’s advice in proposing a local cycle infrastructure plan and it picks up those Strategic areas and corridors currently prioritised for TfL funding. The extent of Merton’s cycling infrastructure plan means that, if implemented, everyone can have reasonable access to a satisfactory cycle route. An essential provision in zero emissions initiatives.

The problem is that the first financial year of LIP action (2019-2020) has, thus far, produced little in results. Nine of Merton's ten proposed actions have yet to show signs of any action at all.

‘Quietways’ are part of the package- these have a tendency to get cyclists off the roads to share space with pedestrians- (‘roudy ways’ might be a better title). Four of the 2019-2020 LIP items involve connecting up Quietways. These are currently eligible for TfL cash but we have seen no progress on them.

A ‘Liveable Neighbourhood’ is not something that estate agents have cottoned on to yet; they have always assumed that any neighbourhood is liveable provided you can drive to it. But more TfL cash is available to make neighbourhoods more liveable by encouraging cycling and walking. Three of the 2019-2020 LIP items involve preparing a TfL ‘Liveable Neighbourhood’ application for either Pollards Hill or Western Road. Both areas could benefit from cycling and walking encouragement but Western Road is more strategic and more likely to attract the cash. The opportunity is lost for 2019; will the Council decide to act in 2020?

Two top-of-the-list items still crying out for action are:
The Beddington Lane/Croydon Road junction; right in the middle of Mitcham Common. Half a million pounds worth of shared-use path converging on a cross-roads that can’t be crossed safely by pedestrians or cyclists. There is an approved  design and until it happens TfL’s half a million is wasted.

The South Wimbledon junction; the busiest in the Borough. After much modelling, scrutinising and blue-sky thinking TfL conclude it is over capacity and irredeemably unpleasant for anyone using it. For the fourth time in recent memory they are having another crack at it in 2020-21 (So the LIP predicts). The, still-to-be-enacted, action in Merton’s 2019-2020 LIP is for cyclists to have sign-posted by-passes to the junction as an option.

With 9 actions outstanding for 2019-2020 there are 9 new actions listed for 2020-2021, that’s 18 before 2021. Having declared a Climate emergency Merton might like to consider the benefits of quickly moving to take action on cycling in order to take action on the climate. You can read the full LIP on Merton’s website here, but here are the details of the schemes that will need to come forward over the next 6 years to achieve their ambitious targets, and we’ll be pushing them to do just that.

Merton's "Proposed Cycle Infrastructure Delivery Programme"

The project numbers match the Plan at the bottom of the page. 

Financial year 2019/2020 

1) Install a Toucan/Pedestrian phase across Windmill Road and Croydon Road. Works are due to commence summer 2019 and will require uptake of common land.
2) Investigate walking/cycling connections in the region of Pollards Hill including connections into Croydon (links to liveable neighbourhood bid at Pollards Hill).
3) Investigate improvements on Sandy Lane and Streatham Road, including wayfinding interventions.
4) Signed wayfinding scheme connecting Mitcham/Tooting & Colliers Wood (avoiding the northern end of Western Road). 5) Investigate bus depot area for improved cycling facilities to link up Colliers Wood to City cycle route with Colliers Wood to Sutton cycle route.
6) Investigate measures to link up the cycle superhighway (CS7) with Clapham Common to Wimbledon quietway.
7) Tighten up kerb geometry at junction of East Road/South Road and the mini roundabout on North Road/East Road.
8) Signing and wayfinding scheme to avoid the South Wimbledon junction.
9) Improve pedestrian/cycle timings at junction of Coombe Lane/West Barnes Lane financial year 2020-2021.
10) Segregated path to link Raynes Park with New Malden alongside railway line. Works expected to be complete June 2019.

Financial year 2020-2021 

11) Provide a 2.5m shared use path in town green alongside Commonside West. This is likely to need Secretary of State sign-off, if stakeholder comments are negative.
12) Improve existing footpath alongside western side of Lavender Park. This will involve resurfacing existing block paved path and possibly widening by relocation the fence line in the park.
13) Proposed compacted gravel path through Abbey Park with minimum width of 2m shared-use.
14) Potential cycle contra-flow on Lingfield Road
15) Proposed toucan crossing across Bushey Road
16) Improve existing link from Whatley Avenue to grand drive to create shared-use path. This will need approval from the land owner, which is currently being investigated.
17) Investigate measures to improve cycling infrastructure on Martin Way
18) Investigate measures to improve cycle infrastructure between Motspur Park/Wimbledon Chase and Merton Park
19) Investigate walking/cycling connections in the region of Willow Lane Industrial Estate.

Financial year 2021-2022 

20) Investigate potential 2-way cycle track on common land between Cedars Avenue and Watneys Road (subject to approval from the Mitcham Common Conservators).
21) Re-explore improving south Wimbledon Junction incorporating measures to make the junction safer for cyclists.
22) Investigate improvement measures for roundabout and improve cycle infrastructure on Garth Road, Lower Morden Lane and Hillcross Avenue.
23) Explore improving Bushey Road junction particularly the east bound movement from Bushey Road into Martin Way. Investigate improvement measures on approach to junction from Kingston Road.

Financial years 2022-2024 

24) Morden Town Centre Regeneration scheme to provide cycle improvements. Works estimated to commence 2022.
25) Improve cycle facilities on London Road between Figges Marsh and Mitcham Town Centre.
26) Investigate bridge widening/improvements at Durnsford Road.
27) Develop cycle proposals for "missing link and bridge crossing along Wandle
Trail in partnership with Wandsworth Council.
28) Investigate potential to upgrade existing tracks on Wimbledon Common with hardbound gravel surface.
29) Proposed new walk/cycleway through railway embankment improve safety for cyclists crossing of Lower Downs Road from Railway Path.
30) Proposed wheel channel on footbridges subject to rebuilding.
31) Investigate measures to improve the north/south link from Home Park Road to Morden Road via Gap and Trinity roads.
32) Investigate measures to improve cycling infrastructure on Morden Road.
33) Investigate measures to improve cycling infrastructure on Merantun Way and use as a night time alternative to using Morden Hall Park for the Colliers Wood to Sutton Quietway.
34) Propose improvements to existing traffic free route from tandem way to Fleming Mead and improve link to London Road.
35) Investigate measures to improve cycling infrastructure from Ridgeway to Kingston Road.
36) Investigate measures to improve cycling infrastructure on Church Road.