Tuesday 28 February 2012

Friday 24 February 2012

More clear space for bicycles on Kennington Road

Good to see Lambeth have put in a cycle lane that not only gives some wide clear space to cyclists but also enables and encourages them to stay out of the door zone of the parked police vehicles.

Monday 20 February 2012

Albert Square & Fentiman Road: Tranquil with Free Range Kids or Rat-Run?

Residents of the Fentiman Road,  Tradescant Road, Dorset Road and Albert Square enclave have an exceptional opportunity before them as Lambeth Council is working with them on a two year neighbourhood enhancement programme. At present the residential triangle bounded by the A3 (Clapham Road), A203 (South Lambeth Road) and A202 (Harleyford Road) invites drivers to rat-run through the residential streets rather than follow the main roads.

Rat-running isn't a problem that the residents of nearby Cleaver Square or Trinity Church Square face. Passing an estate agent at the weekend I noticed the photo below advertising 10 new houses adjacent to Trinity Church Square, Southwark, priced at upwards of £2.35m (yes, each).  Let's see what Homes and Property include in the key selling points,
"The conservation area is one of the few neighbourhoods in this part of Southwark (postcode SE1) that survived the Blitz relatively unscathed. It is a tranquil, traffic-free enclave within a 15-minute walk of the South Bank, Tate Modern and Borough Market."
"You turn off busy Borough High Street and take a sharp intake of breath when the handsome terraces and garden squares come into view," says Tom Hawkins of estate agent Hamptons International. "It's unexpectedly tranquil and you can even hear the sound of woodpeckers."
The advantage Trinity Street (which I've also written about here) and Cleaver Square have is that the through-route is barred to motor traffic whilst remaining usable by pedestrians and cyclists. Residents can still access their parking spaces, there's still life on the streets, but there aren't the van drivers speeding through bouncing over the speed humps.

A traditional objection to stopping through-traffic comes from residents of adjacent streets who don't want the traffic blocked off from one street moving to theirs. This doesn't come into play here because Lambeth are working on the triangle of streets as a whole. This means they can ensure from the outset that the traffic remains on the main roads that it should be using, leaving the back streets as access routes for the properties there.

One huge advantage of this kind of scheme, beyond its undoubted effectiveness in stopping rat-running, is that it is cheap to implement and easy to remove or relocate if residents decide that it's not the right solution. It could even be trialled for a few months just with planters! I've doodled some thoughts here on a potential layout (not precise, taking into accounts places to turn around etc., just a starter for residents to play with - and I'm not a town planner or a traffic engineer!).

My guess, looking at the improvements that blocking through-traffic has had to the quality of life in Cleaver Square, Trinity Church Square and the area of De Beauvoir in Hackney, is that if the residents push the Council to give this kind of scheme a try they'll wonder why they never demanded it years ago.

The Council has the budget to implement a scheme of this kind strategically throughout the triangle. The alternative is continuing rat-running and children cooped up rather than able to enjoy their neighbourhood. 

Thursday 16 February 2012

Imperial College Healthcare St Mary's NHS Paddington

Undertaking an errand completely unrelated to Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, I wanted to park my bicycle adjacent to their 'International Centre for Circulatory Health' which also houses the 'North West London Diabetes Research Network'. There were car parking bays and motorcycle parking bays but no cycle parking stands in the entire street (okay, there was a Bike Hire docking station).

Given the health benefits of cycling to circulation and in warding off Diabetes the lack of cycle stands tickled me as quite an epic fail on behalf of the Trust and Westminster Council.

I then crossed over the canal and made my way past a Trust building with bikes locked inside to the stairway

Then past the wheelbender 'steal all my bike except my front wheel' stands that no sane person uses

and past the Trust Executive Offices. Someone there said they thought there was some cycle parking around the back of the building but not to take their word for it. I went and looked and there wasn't.

There's room for three or four bikes on railings for a ramped access to a building next door, but not today.

Down towards the road and there's the Paterson Centre with car park outside. No cycle parking though.

And on the road itself, no cycle parking in either direction.

I walked past St Mary's Hospital entrance (no cycle parking) to the Alexander Fleming Building which had no formal cycle parking but the railings were stuffed with bikes and the occasional sign saying 'don't park cycles here'.

I didn't go any further, and I'm left wondering whether a single building of this NHS Trust has purpose made, convenient and secure cycle parking outside it? Maybe the Imperial College Healthcare St Mary's NHS Trust's motto is 'Cure is better than Prevention'.

A practical solution to Westminster Bridge Ice Creaminals, but is if fair?

Readers of this blog over the past couple of years will know that I've marvelled at the inability of the authorities to stop Ice Cream vans parking and trading on the red route in the cycle lane in the bus lane on Westminster Bridge, part of the the high security zone around Parliament.

I'm delighted that a seemingly sensible solution has been found, given the clear demand to purchase ice cream at this spot. A stall has been erected on the pavement at the base of the Coade stone lion.

I want to be reassured however that the decision to award the contract to Piccadilly Whip followed a fair and reasonable process and that they're paying through the nose for the pitch.

If you look at the photos of the ice cream vans trading where they shouldn't park you'll see one company time and time and time again. That's right, Piccadilly Whip.

I doubt any competitor in a tender process could more accurately judge the potential income from the site than the company that has parked in breach of the regulations to trade there over many years. That's assuming there was a tender process rather than Lambeth or TfL just striking a convenient deal with the culprits.

I can't help but wonder whether Piccadilly Whip will have the gall to add a van or two on sunny days that have the tourists out by the million. Watch this space!

South Bank Employers Group (SBEG) have let me know they are responsible for the pitch on Westminster Bridge.  They say,
"The pitch is one of four and is part of a pilot project to reduce illegal trading in the South Bank by licensing a small number of pitches in trading hotspots.  We have not yet completed the evaluation of the pilot, but at this stage, as you point out in your blog, it seems to have been successful in reducing the problem of ice cream vans pulling up on the Bridge and blocking the cycle lane, which I know you have a particular interest in.
I can assure you that the selection process for the pilot was transparent and fair.  We interviewed a number of different traders and selected the two that best met the assessment criteria.
Once the pilot is complete in March I can be clearer about whether we will seek to extend the scheme, but it would not be appropriate to speculate on that yet as this is a matter for the SBEG board."

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Newington Gardens Women's Cycling Group

FREE: Each Saturday from 4 February to 24 March 2012 between noon and 2pm
Newington Gardens Women's Cycling Group SE1
A friendly, sociable meeting of women (with participants from the local Bengali community particularly welcome) wishing to improve their cycling skills with a view to going on short, entertaining rides. The initial weeks are focussing on developing riding skills, within the park.

We have some bicycles available to use by those who haven't their own.
Meet by the sport pitches in Newington Gardens, Harper Road, Southwark.SE1 6PX

A 'Freesport' activity funded by the Mayor of London

Monday 13 February 2012

Cycling advice from a bicycle manufacturer and from Kate Hoey MP

"Thank you for writing to me about the Times Cities Fit for Cycling Campaign. I certainly agree that the number of cyclists who die on our streets each year is a concern that needs to be addressed. The Times Manifesto lists some interesting proposals, and I would add the need for cyclists to clearly understand their environments and not put themselves in danger.

I fully understand your concerns and have been happy to raise them with the Transport Minister."
Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall and its gyratory since 1989.

(Cyclists in the City got the same letter and commented here.)

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Will TfL's junction review be feeble or robust?

Transport for London have started a cycle safety review of some 200 junctions. The first batch they've started work on include several in our backyard and there's a commitment to implementing change as a result of the review so it's really important to get involved.
Once a preferred option is agreed we'll start design and construction work, subject to our consultation and approval processes.
The immediately local junctions are:
Lambeth Bridge (northern roundabout)
Albert Embankment (Lambeth Bridge/Lambeth Road), aka Lambeth Bridge (southern roundabout)
Waterloo (inc. IMAX roundabout – York Road / Stamford Road / Waterloo Road / Waterloo Bridge)
Oval triangle
St George’s Circus (Blackfriars Road / London Road / Borough Road)

My biggest fear about the review is that TfL will concentrate on making the junctions safer for those who cycle, rather than making the junctions desirable for those who aren't currently cycling but would like to.

Putting aside actual casualty statistics for a moment, the reality is that all of these junctions feel bloody horrible to use as a cyclist. Parents are hardly likely to encourage their teenage children to cycle across Lambeth or Waterloo Bridges as things stand, and the children are hardly likely to feel inspired to cycle there in the first place.

For a review and subsequent works to have any validity, the minimum outcome must be that teenage cyclists are routinely using these junctions and bridges, and that their parents feel it's safe for them to do so.

TfL also need to be mindful that while being hit by a truck is one way of lessening life quality and/or length, another way is being obese and unfit. If our population are too scared of the road network to choose active means of travel then TfL's junction review will have been inadequate.

With the current mega development and high-rise residential growth of Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea as one specified area, Waterloo as a second, and the Elephant & Castle as a third, it must be made clear to our politicians that it is time to fundamentally change the way our road network operates in this patch of central London in favour of the pedestrian and cyclist and against the hegemony of the motorist.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Is this why Vauxhall Cross and the E&C roundabout fail our community?

Look at Vauxhall and the Elephant and Castle across the duration of a day and it is apparent that there is very much more road space than the volume of motor traffic requires. The following two paragraphs, from this American article, make me wonder to what extent both these gyratories were built to the size they are to facilitate the smooth passage during rush-hour, let alone the rest of the day, of a predicted massive growth of motor traffic.  
"Many designers size a road or intersection to be free-flowing for the worst hour of the day. Sized to accommodate cars during the highest peak hour, such streets will be “overdesigned” for the other 23 hours of the day and will always function poorly for the surrounding community. 
If that isn’t troubling enough, LOS (Levels of Service and Travel) is often calculated using traffic predicted 20 years into the future, even in urban settings. Until the forecasted growth materializes, the roadway will be overdesigned, even during the peak hour. Overdesigned roadways encourage motorists to drive at higher speeds, making them difficult to cross and unpleasant to walk along. This degrades public spaces between the edges of the road and the adjacent buildings, encourages people to drive short distances, and generally unravels a community’s social fabric."
I think that sums up the Vauxhall and E&C experience, and the current development of these areas to be heavily residential means it is now, beyond any question, time to put the community's social fabric first.

TfL consider that making radical change is likely to require/force a 20 - 30% reduction in motor traffic and, tragically, seem to consider that a problem rather than something to celebrate..

My guess is that the gyratories aren't carrying the volume of traffic that was predicted and and that they were designed to accommodate. In which case some reduction in road space allocation would make no difference to drivers for the great proportion of the day while improving life for pedestrians and cyclists.

Take more space away and eventually there will be an impact on the motorist. Great, bring it on and force drivers to revise their travel habits.

The reality is that many of today's motor vehicle journeys are undertaken because our society has spent decades making motoring the easy choice in comparison with alternatives that need less space, make less noise, create less pollution and make for a more sociable, liveable environment.

It's time to reclaim central London for people rather than the motor vehicle..

Monday 6 February 2012

Positive police action against uninsured drivers

According to Detective Chief Inspector Alan Chambers at Sutton Police Station, “Research shows that 80 per cent of uninsured vehicles are driven by people who are involved in criminal activities or have a criminal record and are nine times more likely to be involved in a collision."

I was delighted therefore to hear about the action being taken by our:local police as part of a pan-London operation, a real example of reducing road danger by targeting those who are the cause:

"Lambeth borough officers teamed up with the Safer Transport Team (STT) in another targeted attack at un-insured drivers seizing 15 vehicles and making six arrests yesterday, Thursday, 2 February.

Operation Cubo swept across London’s 32 boroughs and saw officers take up fixed point locations across the boroughs.

Officers from the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams and local policing teams with assistance from STT’s held fixed positions in South Lambeth, Streatham and Norwood from which, they could stop and verify drivers’ details.

Alongside the seizure activity Lambeth Officers arrested two men for immigration offences, one for failing to provide correct details for a summons. One arrest of a woman for having no driving licence or insurance and drug offences. And two men arrested for driving while disqualified.

This action is part of the commitment by Commissioner Hogan-Howe to target criminals and disrupt their activities.

Lambeth Borough Police Inspector Nick Fallowfield said: “These results support our Commissioner’s Total Policing strategy, which encapsulates a war on crime. In essence this means a return to basics and old fashioned policing which means more cops on the streets catching criminals.

Operation Cubo entailed nearly 100 uniform officers across Lambeth stopping and checking nearly 300 cars to deny criminals the use of the road and to identify those driving without insurance or correct driving licenses.

It is reducing crime in Lambeth and is making the roads safer for everyone else. Several future similar operations are now planned”.

PS Tony Dodd from Herne Hill SNT was at the Norwood Op Cubo stop site said: “This was a successful operation and I am delighted with the results the teams achieved. We intend to continue running controlled stop sites on main arterial routes in Lambeth to target motorists driving with no insurance and to combat crime”.

To find out more, or to report dangerous or illegal road users, visit www.met.police.uk/roadsafelondon "

Friday 3 February 2012

All change for the E & C northern roundabout

The SE1 Community Website today suggests Boris may fork out £200m towards the remodelling of the Elephant & Castle tube station and the northern roundabout.

Let's see if we can turn the roundabout into a crossroads instead and create a wonderful public space.

The opportunity must be seized to achieve really significant change at the Elephant & Castle and St George's Road, Westminster Bridge Road and even Westminster Bridge - changes that will improve life for the residents, tourists and workers by favouring walking, cycling and public transport over the private car.

Unhappily TfL's current design, below, is still for a huge five-lane roundabout, though with surface crossings rather than underpasses for pedestrians and St George's Road remains a one-way multi-lane motorstrosity.

If TfL's plan, based on the existing or higher volumes of motor traffic, goes ahead E&C and central London will remain as choked up with motor traffic and unpleasant to walk and cycle as it is now. It's time to find ways to restrict the traffic and the multi-lane gyratories that foul up our area.

Here's a quick sketch of one idea (avoiding spending £15m+ to move the Faraday Memorial and electricity substation marked in blue) - maybe you've got a better one. Let's get them being discussed and researched. There has to be a better solution that the one TfL currently propose.

I envisage St George's Road made two-way and only used by buses and cycles. General traffic uses London Road to approach Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges. At Elephant & Castle there's a simple crossroads as shown, with a t-junction from St George's Road. Pedestrians get more space and easier crossings.

A bonus of removing private motor traffic from St George's Road is that it facilitates doing the same on Westminster Bridge. In turn Parliament Square can cease being an inhumane traffic island and become a place deserving its World Heritage Status..

Big, bold ideas. Maybe my crossroads flight of fancy, on examination, won't turn out to be the right one, but the underlying principle of stopping central London being dominated by the motor vehicle is absolutely what is needed. We mustn't end up with just a multi-million pound minor tweak of the existing dismal arrangement.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Are TfL too slapdash to achieve a professional result?

On 13th December I blogged about TfL moving the Pelican crossing for the eastern Cycle Bypass at Elephant and Castle along the New Kent Road. I wondered why they didn't take the opportunity to replace the old Pelican crossing with a Toucan crossing permitting cyclists to use the Bypass without having to dismount.

The truth, I subsequently thought, was that they made a concious decision not to support cyclists in favour of supporting the motorist.

But now I think the true reason is that TfL are just too slapdash to put in the care and effort needed for a professional result for vulnerable road users. Why else would they move the crossing point from the right side of the junction to the left but not move the related signs? It's now six weeks since TfL moved the crossing and the original signage remains untouched.

16,000 homes; 25,000 jobs; Where's the Cycle Plan?

The Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea Opportunity Area continues to take shape with buildings going up and planning applications going in. Meanwhile we continue to await the finalised Planning Framework that developers are working to.

A planning application has just been made to Wandsworth for One Nine Elms (illustrated above). In the background is 'The Tower' at St George's Wharf which is under construction and on completion will be a metre taller than the Gherkin.

Meanwhile Lambeth has an application in for the 3 acre site between Bondway and Wandsworth Road, called Vauxhall Square. 604 flats; 416 student rooms; 500 seat cinemas; shops, 438 room hotel....Car Park entrance ramp, taxi drop off point and servicing along Bondway.

Cunningly the Vauxhall Square website has no images showing the height of the buildings planned, so here's one from a year ago (though without the proposed One Nine Elms, Kylun Towers and other skyscrapers planned for this area).

I'm not going to argue about whether there should be these tall towers or whether the planned population density is too great here. What I do want to see is a detailed plan of how cycling will be encouraged and facilitated across the whole area, and motor traffic reduced and calmed.

I know for example that Vauxhall Square propose 1096 cycle parking spaces predominantly on basement levels one and two. The plans suggest there will be 10 ground level short-stay stands on their property and a further 44 racks on the highway. But, given there will be some 16,000 cycle parking spaces for the homes along the VNEB corridor, is this sufficient short-term parking? Does the masterplan for the area intend people to be using their bikes or leaving them in the basement of their flats?

I'm also intrigued as to how cycling is perceived in relation to the Linear Park. I note, for example, that the Vauxhall Square application shows a one-way cycle crossing from their bit of public space into the Park - i.e. you can cycle across Wandsworth Road into the park but not the other way into their square. Do they intend to ban cycling at all times through their patch, or is another mellow cycle route planned from the Park. What are the other developers planning for their patch of the Park?

Will Nine Elms Lane have beautifully smooth, wide cycle lanes? Will Vauxhall Cross become a pleasure to cycle through, rather than a gruesome gyratory?

What news on the pedestrian/cycling bridge mooted to cross the Thames? Will it be a reasonable width for walking and cycling, or as skinny as the pedestrian only Wobbly Bridge between Tate Modern and St Pauls?

Will the ENVAC style vacuum waste disposal system that also sucks dustcarts off our streets be going in throughout the area? I can find no sign of it in the Vauxhall Square plans (or any drinking water fountains for that matter).

I really, really hope that Wandsworth, Lambeth, the GLA and the developers are putting as much time and effort into making this area a cycling nirvana as they are clearly putting into the hugely expensive Northern Line extension. They are unlikely to get a similar opportunity in the future.