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.