Saturday, 20 June 2020

Inadequate cycling provision for the proposed for Abbey Wall Works, Station Road, Colliers Wood SW19 2LP


The cycle storage provision proposed for the new development at Abbey Wall Works, Station Road, Colliers Wood S19 2LP (application 20/P1672) is wholly inadequate and gives no consideration to the site's proximity to existing cycle routes. (You can see the full application and submit your own comments on the Council website here.)  Merton Planning Department’s acceptance from this applicant of repeat applications with this sub-standard provision, which can have a significant bearing on the ground floor plan, is surprising. Below are the comments MCC have submitted to the Council on the application. 

The applicant, having been able to maximise the ground plan through having to cater for disabled car parking only, shows a reluctance to even give usable space for cycle parking, despite showing on the access statement that the scheme is on a significant cycle-path cross-roads. It is a blatant flaunting of Council Policy on active travel for this applicant to offer cycle parking that is, for all to see, inoperable. The effort of manhandling a bicycle into and out of a 1.8 metre deep rack from a 1.5 metre wide corridor is enough to condemn the so-called bike store to emptiness.

In Chapter 8.2 The London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS) define ‘Fit-for-purpose’ cycle parking.

In ‘Two tier’ stands they recommend a 3.5 metre aisle width where there are racks on either side of aisles. 2 metres wider than the 1.5 metres this applicant is offering.

The Council have acknowledged the need to meet LCDS standards when dealing with cycling matters so can this application please be rejected until such standards are met?

It might also be noted that the LCDS warn of conflict with pedestrians using the surrounding area. Whether the applicant has taken enough notice of this in placing the internal bike stores opening directly onto the main entrance reception area is questionable.

The LCDS also say two-tier stands are not suitable for all users. Should there therefore be more of a choice in terms of cycle parking, in particular for the younger and older age groups?

We object once more to this application and reiterate our previous point that the applicant should also take responsibility for widening the Merantun Way arch of the Wandle Trail if the widening hasn't been done by the time this job might be on site.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

MCC responds to Merton Council's Covid-19 Transport Plan June 2020

We welcome Merton’s updated Covid-19 Transport Plan which has been submitted to Cabinet and takes on board many of MCC's previous comments, but we still have concerns that the reality of delivery won't match the ambition. You can read the Council's updated plan here. https://democracy.merton.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=146&MId=3689&Ver=4 

In proposing rapidly implementing 7 key cycling routes, 10 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and 20 school streets, Merton Council is displaying a level of ambition in relation to walking and cycling that we have never seen before, but there are still serious concerns. As ever the devil is in the detail and we have concerns in relation to timing, funding,  the proposals to support pupils safely walking and cycling to school, and an under-estimation of the scale of change that is needed in relation to cycle routes and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. The existing cycling facilities in Merton have been so woefully under-invested in over the years that we are concerned it will take all that is proposed and more to meet the demand for walking and cycling that we expect to see in the coming months. 

Timing 

The documents describe the proposals being delivered in the short, medium and long term. However there are no deadlines attached to 'medium' and 'long-term' measures. This is particularly concerning as the installation of temporary measures that improve or create cycle routes are 'medium-term'. The implication is that these will be delivered by September, but we would like the Council to confirm this. 

Funding 

We are pleased that the Council is submitting bids to both the Department for Transport and Transport for London, but the report states "that the extent of projects delivered will be dependent on the funding made available to the Council." It is unacceptable that the Council will consider taking no action to ensure safe space for walking and cycling if it is to be unsuccessful in receiving funding. It must make use of all funds available to it, both internal and external, including Community Infrastructure Levy funds. 

Measures to support school students safely cycling and walking 

Whilst 20 school streets are proposed, this doesn't cover the over 70 schools in Merton, and we have the following concerns: 

  • There just 20 school streets proposed, and these are just for primary schools. However the peak in the road traffic KSI rate is in fact 10-14 year age group i.e. secondary schools. There are notable omissions that we would wish to see rectified: 
    • Why is Rutlish School, one of the Borough's biggest, absent from the list? 
    • Ricards School is on the list. Why the girls' schools but not the boys' school?
    • Park Community School has really serious pollution and road danger issues but is also not included. 
  • The criteria for prioritising school proposals should include the size of the school, as the number of students protected by the scheme, and therefore the value, will be greater at larger schools.
  • School Streets are necessary but not sufficient for safe school travel. They must be accompanied by safe routes to school, which means Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, and for secondary/high schools, a safe network of cycle routes usable by school-age children, so that children are not forced onto overcrowded buses/trams/trains or driven to school.
Our view is that ALL schools should have school streets. They are simple and cheap to implement with very basic temporary infrastructure.

The change required is underestimated

The Council has reported that of the suggestions received the interventions with the greatest level of interest were cycle lanes, modal filters and school streets. This seems to reflect resident appetite for the inadequacy of Merton's current cycling infrastructure to be addressed. 

Yet the Covid-19 Transport Plan overstates the quality, quantity and connectivity of the current routes, and therefore understates the reality of what needs to be done in the reallocation of road space for cycling. This in turn points to an underestimation of the need for Low Traffic Neighbourhood intervention. The Transport Plan seems to heavily rely on the strategic routes proposed in the Council's LIP3, with no acknowledgement that what is currently installed is not continuous. Routes are broken by Wimbledon and Raynes Park town centres, and there are no connections to CS7. 

At a minimum, the Council needs to quickly deliver a connected network of continuously safe cycle routes. This will need to be built to a cost and may involve compromises in directness but cannot sacrifice connectivity or safety: we expect filtered permeability to play a significant part in the network as this is the cheapest way to reduce traffic volumes and speeds to acceptable levels. Furthermore the DfT funding effectively requires them.

The Transport Strategy stands or falls based on successfully implementing low-traffic neigbourhoods. Without them, rat-running traffic will quickly saturate residential areas, creating road danger and suppressing cycling, which in turn will drive up car use still further, and conditions approaching gridlock may prevail for much of the day. It is thereofre not sufficient that the Councill will 'aim' to deliver 10 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods - it must do so. Or it must develop a strategy for what it is going to do to support safe cycling in areas where there is no LTN. LTNs are the cheapest way to deliver safe cycling, socially-distanced walking and safe routes to school. 

The cycling section of the report ‘Healthy and Active Travel’ starts:  ‘At the moment approximately 20% of Merton residents live within 400m of the strategic cycle network. However CS7, which ends in Colliers Wood is the only route that could be considered strategic, and only 3% of Merton's populated area is within 400m of the strategic cycle network. 

Figure 8 attached shows the cycleways within Merton’s boundary that TfL recommended and which are included in the LIP3. None of these is currently complete, one is not started and they cannot be described as a strategic cycleways on the strategic network. (Cycleways for the strategic cycle network are currently routes defined by TfL and required to be designed and built to standards set in TfL’s Cycling Action Plan).


The Northernmost route with an elbow shape (not a direct route) includes the entire length of South Park Road which Merton Cycling Campaign have submitted is not suitable due to discomfort and danger from inadequate width for cycles alongside vehicles and minimal passing spaces.

The route to Sutton from Colliers Wood has not been started. It is held up by Morden town centre decisions and is negated by the National Trust who will not satisfactorily accommodate it in Morden Hall Park.

The cycling section of the report ‘Healthy and Active Travel’ continues with targets for the percentage of Merton residents to live within 400m of the strategic cycle network.

Figure 7 shows the cycleways within Merton’s boundary that TfL recommended that, if constructed,  would increase the number of residents living within 400m of the strategic cycle network from the current 3% to 50%. This is the target from Merton's LIP, but was set before Merton declared a Climate Emergency and before the implications of Covid on Public Transport. In the current climate there is every justification for Merton itself to aim to have every resident living within 400m of the strategic cycling network, but this can only be achieved if Merton carry out the work shown on the proposed cycle network within Merton’s LIP Transport Strategy LIP3 and provided that all Merton’s routes meet satisfactory standards defined in TfL’s Cycling Action Plan.



Monday, 8 June 2020

Active Travel - for everyone, for ever, we hope!

On the 7th of June we wrote to the National Trust asking for their support with ensuring there's safe space for walking and cycling in response to Covid-19 but also in the (slightly) long-term for support with the widening of the new Bishopsford Bridge to accomodate cycling lanes by the Council. 

We've been heartened to hear back from Jim Foy, the National Trust's Assistant Director of Operations for the London & SE Region. He says in his e mail today:

'We would be prepared to consider the use of Watermeads to accommodate a wider bridge if the additional width was for cycle lanes'.

An abridged version of our initial letter follows... 

The impact of the Climate emergency and also Covid 19 is presumably associated with a London Region Policy. We note the National Trust’s commitment to net-zero carbon and the gradual opening up to the restraints of social distancing and expect that the National Trust’s visitor’s and staff will need to make increasing use of ‘active travel’.

In the London Borough of Merton a declared Climate Emergency coupled with the Covid 19 risks involved with public transport, have influenced a major public impetus towards the benefits of walking and in particular cycling.

In Morden Hall Park the National Trust has been imaginative in successfully popularising the Park with the local community. In terms of active travel the Park’s prime location on the Wandle Trail gives it the opportunity to include cycling as one of the benefits described in the National Trust Morden Hall Park brochure, along with its attraction to walkers.

In the move to encourage active travel we hope that the National Trust can play its part. There are two aspects to this regarding the River Wandle that we would like to raise.

First, the Wandle Trail.

In Morden Hall Park there is a pleasantly cohesive approach to paths and the surfacing, but it does not seem to take into account the extra wear associated with the Wandle Trail as a route. For Climate and Covid reasons the Trail needs to be encouraged and therefore accommodating. The surfacing needs to be of a robust specification not susceptible to easy degeneration and erosion through heavy use. In addition, with social distancing, the vegetation needs to be cut back. Further downstream on the Wandle Trail there has been discrete lighting installed with particular attention to minimising disturbance to wildlife, which means the route remains functional as the days shorten. Such discrete lighting would be particularly useful between the Morden entrance and the tram track before Deen City Farm. We hope the National Trust can look favourably on these matters for the benefits of promoting active travel.

Second, Bishopsford Road bridge over the Wandle.

The Borough of Merton is fortunate to have the River Wandle passing centrally through the Borough, but this coupled with the fact that the railways were here when the Borough was largely agricultural, means that elderly road and river bridges and ‘cattle’ arches can be extremely limiting if the need for adequate space for active travel alongside vehicular traffic is taken into account; Bishopsford Road bridge, upstream from Morden Hall Park was an example; before it recently gave up.

A new replacement bridge for Bishopsford Road across the Wandle would ideally be wider than the failed bridge in order to safely accommodate walking and cycling alongside vehicular traffic. The approach roads may have to wait for funding before modification but the bridge is a once in 200 years event. In order to widen a new bridge the design would partly affect a river bank in the National Trust’s Watermeads Nature Reserve and we respectfully ask for a favourable view towards this encroachment.

The slogan for active travel could well follow the National Trust’s optimistic slogan ‘For everyone for ever’ so we hope that you can find these proposals agreeable.


Monday, 1 June 2020

Bishopsford Road Bridge Consultation - a missed opportunity

On Tuesday 25 February 2020, Merton Council's Cabinet gave the go-ahead to demolish and re-build Bishopsford Bridge, following its partial collapse into the River Wandle after heavy rainfall last June. In May, the Council has been consulting on the design options for the new Bishopsford Bridge

MCC are alarmed to see that the proposals are not demonstrating Merton Council's policies for promoting active travel, particularly cycling. The designs show no segregated space for cycling and the Consultation asks only for opinions on the designs of the bridge's handrails and reflect a 'heritage' design ethos. Of the two options offered Option 2 handrail design looks as though it will take up least width. The greater imperative is that the new bridge does not maintain 'heritage' space standards, and we would hope that they do not become a reason for denying a bridge fit for everyone and which meets the future needs of the Borough. The impact of the Merton's declared Climate emergency and also Covid 19 is that active travel is the future for Merton. 

The Borough of Merton is fortunate to have the River Wandle passing centrally through the Borough, but this coupled with the fact that the railways were here when the Borough was largely agricultural, means that Merton's elderly road and river bridges and ‘cattle’ arches are extremely limiting in providing adequate space for active travel alongside vehicular traffic. The now defunct Bishopsford Road bridge was an example of this bridge/arch heritage, although Bishopsford Road itself demonstrates a generous approach to road design. 

The unfortunate collapse of the old bridge presents an opportunity for a fit-for-purpose replacement bridge for Bishopsford Road across the Wandle. As we face the challenges of climate change and potentially radical changes to our travel patterns in a post-pandemic world, that opportunity must surely be taken and the new bridge designed to be wider than the failed bridge in order to safely accommodate walking and cycling alongside vehicular traffic. The new Bridge must be wide enough to take pedestrians and a protected cycle way in both directions. It would not be satisfactory for cyclists to have to cross the carriageway to get to an ancillary bridge.  

Ideally this would be implemented at the same time as measures that provide safe space for cycling on the road as it approaches the Bridge, but modification of the bridge layout is potentially a once in 200 years event that should not be wasted while funding is secured for the road approaches.  If 'active travel' can dominate immediately, then providing a cycle/pedestrian bridge without any vehicular crossing could be an option, but looking some way ahead to a more populated Merton there is no question that a wider bridge for Bishopsford Road which accommodates all the future need is desirable.

If the river bank of the Watermeads Nature Reserve is to be locally affected by a widening it is possible to visualise a slim cantilevered footway design that would minimise the impact and land required from neighbouring land owners, the National Trust. The slogan for active travel could well follow the National Trust’s optimistic slogan ‘For everyone, for ever’.