Sunday, 28 April 2013

Lambeth Cycle Conference - quick feedback

Lambeth Sustainable Travel team had worked hard to pull together the Lambeth Cycle Conference on Saturday, which kick started a new borough cycling strategy: Quoting the invitation:
Lambeth wants to make a leap forward to become a place where cycling is normal for everyone – young, old, women, men, rich and poor. Lambeth hopes that the Mayor’s recent Vision for Cycling will be an opportunity to tackle main roads and junctions which have put many people off cycling and we believe that the time is right to make a big difference to cycling in the borough.
 A big question was whether there will be the political will when it comes to the crunch, making the changes necessary to make cycling attractive for 8-80 year olds as has been achieved in the Netherlands. Never mind the main roads and junctions, what about the little niggles even?

In this pro-cycling borough,  the absurdity was clearly understood of not permitting residents in one part of Lambeth to cycle to another part of Lambeth across a short section of unmaintained paths on Wandsworth-managed Tooting Common.

Look at the width of the path under the railway

And then the short length of two muddy beyond walkable paths to the nearby Lambeth road.
 Anyone can see it's ludicrous that people have to trudgie their bike along one of two muddy-beyond-pleasant paths and then continue to walk the bike on the path under the bridge to the Lambeth road. The alternative is to cycle on a rat-run up a hill and then use a horrible  one-way major road by Streatham Hill station.

I'm certain that this kind of problem will be resolved, given the enthusiastic presence at the conference of the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Lib Peck; the Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability, Cllr. Imogen Walker; the Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration (including Strategic Transport), Cllr. Pete Robbins and urban realm improver and cycling champion Cllr. Nigel Haselden.

(Clearly Lambeth will have to talk with Wandsworth to get them to sort out that bit of the Common but I've no doubt the Mayor of London will do some straight talking if needed on something as straightforward as this). I'm also of course confident that Streatham High Road and the one-way road above will be made really cycle friendly.

Organised at fairly short notice and clearly intended to be the first of a number of events, the conference was attended by some 30-40 people, including several of Lambeth's staff and a representative from Transport for London,  plus Lambeth Cyclists' members and many others.

Sadly, it turned out that no-one was present representing the police, health service, education establishments or town centre managements. Given the major role that all of these sectors must play in making Lambeth an inclusive place for cycling, we need to ensure they participate in future. I think I'm correct in saying that there were no Liberal Democrat or Conservative Councillors present and hope they will contribute positively to future events.

After the conference we had a ride with Cllrs. Haselden and Robbins taking notes of issues, such as the Clapham street above, which is by a primary school and closed to motor traffic, where there's no provision for cycling and even a sign warning against it! I'm optimistic that problems such as this, and the poorly positioned , inadequate cycle parking at the nearby Clapham Leisure Centre, will be tackled quickly. We also many of the good things that Lambeth has done, such as Van Gogh Walk below, and is doing (such as two way cycling on Clapham Common North Side) which is one of the reasons that Lambeth has a higher amount of cycling than most London boroughs.

A summary of the conference points will be published shortly by Lambeth along with details of the next steps towards making Lambeth super cycle friendly.

It's clear to me that the politicians genuinely want to up the game on cycling in Lambeth, bringing it to Dutch standards of ease and enjoyment. It's also clear that, despite the benefits in health, equality, mobility, pollution and CO2 reduction from cycling, there are forces opposed to the necessary changes and those of us who want to see children and pensioners happily riding to the shops, libraries, leisure centres and from one bit of Lambeth to another will have to give Lambeth all the support we can.