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. 

Our concerns 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.