Sutton’s first Cycle Summit, hosted by Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, took place on 22 January 2014. Caroline Pidgeon (Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group and Chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee), spoke at the event, alongside Stephen Fenwick (former councillor Worcester Park), Tom Bogdanowicz (Senior Policy and Development Officer at the London Cycling Campaign), and myself (in capacity as acting Sutton borough co-ordinator, London Cycling Campaign).
Not a great deal has been reported about the Sutton Cycle Summit 2014 since, although Tom did provide a short overview and subsequent update, and Caroline featured the summit on her website in Sutton’s first Cycling Safety Summit. Now, eighteen months later, and just days away from a consultation workshop (or Sutton’s second cycle summit with Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan), it’s about time that situation was rectified. So, on the basis of better late than never, I have finally found the time to write-up these notes.
These begin with an overview of the talks and presentations given by Tom Brake, Caroline Pidgeon and Stephen Fenwick (and there may be a further update to this post with Tom Bogdanowicz’s presentation at a later date), and conclude with my presentation “Love Sutton, Go Dutch… Go Global.. give Space for Cycling” available online for the first time (see thumbnails and pdf link towards the end of this post).
Tom Brake, MP Carshalton and Wallington
Tom started proceedings with a short introduction. He described himself as a cyclist, someone with a keen interested in cycling, and someone who sees cycling as just another transport mode. He regularly cycles for local trips, and often cycles to his local station where he will either park his bike or take it on the train.
Tom admitted that he felt a lot less safe on his bicycle now, cycling in Sutton, then he did when cycling around Europe thirty years ago. There were occasions now when he felt stressed enough to vocalise his views. [I would be very surprised if anyone who cycles in the UK had not shouted at drivers from time to time, but it was refreshing to hear Tom say this]. By way of example, he mentioned cycling along Park Lane and over the bridge into Boundary Road [Open Street Map], where he could guarantee that on one trip out of ten a car driver would pass him leaving “precisely the length of their wing mirror between my ear and their car”. It was an issue for “cyclists”. [We heard similar stories when we were preparing our ‘ward asks’ a month or two after the summit. Largely because of this, but also because Park Lane and Boundary Road (forming part of the National Cycle Network route 20 and the Avenue Verte – but who would know?) carry over 1,000 vehicles an hour at peak times, this road features in our ‘ward ask’ for Wallington North. Hasn’t made any difference yet though, none of the councillors representing that ward have shown their support for Space for Cycling].
One of the purposes of the summit, Tom said, was to get people together to try and identify such issues as Park Lane and also consider what Sutton, London and national government could do to resolve them. [As far as I am aware, nothing was subsequently produced outlining the findings of those discussions. Of course, nearly a year earlier in March 2013, the Mayor of London had already published his Vision for Cycling, and this had been closely followed by the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling. So, as a lot was know already really. Meanwhile, at the time of the summit, the London Cycling Campaign was preparing for Space for Cycling, and Get Sutton Cycling subsequently came up with lots of ideas ahead of the May 2014 council elections with Space for Cycling: action points for Sutton].
Tom ended his introduction by giving some feedback to a recent cycle survey that he had instigated. 320 people had responded, a large proportion of whom never cycled. The priorities identified were safer and better quality cycling routes and enforcement of traffic laws. Tom then introduced the first of the speakers, Caroline Pidgeon, London Assembly Member. He said that Caroline was fully committed to transport related issues in the capital, and specifically issues relating to cycling.
Caroline Pigeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group
Caroline began by giving an overview of cycling in London, noting that cycling currently accounts for around 600,000 trips a day in London [about twice what it was in 2000]. This is about the same, or nearly the same, she said, as the daily trip rate on the London Overground and DLR combined. A huge number of people were using cycling as a mode of transport, and recent surveys had shown that it accounts for about 15% of all road traffic in central London. In the morning peak, cycling was the second most popular form of transport accounting for 24% of traffic on the roads. Cycling has really seen a real step-change.
Cycling was rising up the political agenda, and Caroline suggested a number of reasons for this. In part it was simply as a result of more people cycling, and using it as their mode of choice. Some of it was to do with economic factors, such as fares going up and so cycling being seen as a viable alternative and far cheaper than driving. But also cyclists had become very much more organised, and Caroline paid credit to Tom Bodanowicz and his colleagues and members at the London Cycling Campaign for this. She said they had become very vocal, and very active, in lobbying members such as herself as well as MPs, councillors and others. The LCC was a formidable campaigning group, and the organisation was ensuring that cycling climbed the political agenda.
Caroline went on to say that cycling was also rising on the national agenda. The idea that cycling would be in a manifesto for a general election, 10 or 20 years ago, would have been unthinkable. Now it would be inconceivable for sustainable forms of transport not to be included in the manifestos of all political parties. Recently, the All Party Group in Parliament for cycling had produced a fantastic report, Get Britain Cycling, and the media were really starting to take this issue far more seriously. The Standard and The Times in particular had run some excellent campaigns on this, from very high profile reporters who cycle and were very passionate about this.
The 14 tragic deaths of cyclists on the roads in London last year (2013), coupled with an 18% increase in serious accidents year on year, was giving some really serious concerns about safety for cyclists. The associated publicity was quite rightly bringing cycling up the agenda [but for the wrong reasons].
The Mayor of London was committed to cycling, as were some of these unsung heroes in the London Assembly. The Transport Committee, of which Caroline is a member, had worked with cycling groups to really look at the issues across London. They had produced a fantastic report at the end of 2012, Gearing Up. The committee had taken a lot of evidence from British Cycling and LCC cyclists across London, and had made some serious recommendations around cycling. The recommendations that Transport for London should adopt included:
- doubling the amount they are investing in cycling;
- providing segregated cycle space;
- introducing greater adoption of 20mph zones and speed limits;
- introducing tougher enforcement against dangerous behaviour by road users.
Since the publication of Gearing Up, the Mayor had launched his Vision for Cycling document and appointed Andrew Gilligan as his cycling ambassador. The Mayor’s document contained a huge number of the ideas that had been first advocated by the Transport Committee. Caroline stressed that the issue for her now was how well Transport for London would implement the recommendations. In terms of modelling traffic TfL had some seemingly out-dated processes (for example, counting cycles as a fifth of a car) and Caroline suggested TfL needed to change far more quickly than many of them there perhaps would like to.
Nevertheless, there were big ideas, like redesigning cycle super highways for segregation. The Mayor was also talking about a central London grid of routes and Quietways and big, new, north-south and east-west cycle routes. In outer London, three town centres would achieve mini-Holland status, with Kingston and Merton included as forerunners amongst Sutton’s neighbouring boroughs. [At the time of this event, in January 2014, an announcement was awaited on the final three or four out of a shortlisted group of eight boroughs to ‘Go Dutch’ (of which Sutton was not included). Enfield, Kington and Waltham Forest were awarded full mini-Holland status in March 2014]. Caroline noted that there was also going to be funding for Quietways.
The budget for all of this was about £913 million over ten years. Caroline said this may sound like a lot of money, but that was not really the case. For example, 20% of the total was for the cycle-hire scheme which, Caroline suggested, did not particularly help people in Sutton, and £100 million was for the mini-Hollands. Caroline said that it was frustrating that so much of the money was going on segregated Cycle Superhighways to correct the issues with the blue paint [a reference to the first phase of Cycle Superhighways delivered from 2010], paint that had led cyclists to have a real false sense of security in many places.
Caroline went on to be critical of Transport for London for not spending the amount that had been allocated to cycling. This year (2014) TfL had planned to spend £99 million, she said, but were only going to spend £73 million. The London Assembly had challenged TfL about this, and the response had been that this amount could not be spent in the year. Caroline thought this was surprising, as London boroughs would be very happy to spend it on their roads to improve cycling facilities. [If these “improvements” were anything like Green Wrythe Lane Caroline, we rather they did not]. She thought it was quite shocking that Transport for London did not think they money could have been spent on some of safety schemes.
In relation to this, Caroline mentioned continuing issues about safety around HGVs and lorries. She said she had been working with Sara Ludford, London Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament, trying to get tougher rules on HGVs coming into Britain. They had been pushing the mayor on the safer lorries scheme, trying to make the roads safer [an announcement on this was made shortly afterwards in Lift off for London-wide safer lorries scheme]. At the borough level, a condition of planning applications could be to make sure that all the HGVs used in building developments have the highest safety standards possible. [At the event, Sutton Council signed London Cycling Campaign’s Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling pledge. A short report on this featured in the Sutton Guardian].
Junctions need to be made much safer too, Caroline said, and she also would like to see trial segregation in some places. Trials do not have to be all dancing, all singing, or very expensive. They enable to see what works, prior to spending larger sums for the money. They can be quicker too.
Caroline then turned her attention to Sutton, saying that there was great potential for cycling in the borough. Although Sutton has one of the highest car ownerships in London, with 77% of households having at least one car, and 46% of households having two or more cars, the borough had looked at school travel plans and had done a lot of work around getting people to look at more sustainable forms of transport. She could understand that the idea of cycling to central London would not be practical for many people, but for shorter journeys around the borough, cycling to the station and so on, would be far more feasible for a lot of people.
Sutton is relatively compact in size, so getting around by bike has huge advantages. Caroline said she thought it was really important to see cycling grow in outer London, and grow in this borough too. A recent survey, from Transport for London, had found that nearly 40% of vehicle journeys in Sutton could easily be made by bike. This equates to about 120,000 trips annually, and is one of the highest such proportions of any outer London borough. Consequently, there is huge potential that needs to be looked at. And it was not just about looking at junction improvements and Quietways or things for people who cycle daily. It was also to do with things for occasional cyclists. This included secure, covered, cycle parking, with good stands and lighting at railway stations, shopping parades and key public buildings.
Caroline said that she thought that Sutton Council had a good record of taking cycling seriously, with some forward looking policies. But it was time to move on from things like smarter travel, and see what the next steps were. There would probably be an announcement tomorrow (23 January 2014) from Transport for London saying that there may be £400,000 over three years coming to Sutton (out of a total of £17m for all the boroughs across London) for various cycling things. Caroline suggested that this would be very good news indeed and would help with some of that work. [Actually, if most of this £400,000 (a pitiful amount over one year, let alone three) was used to subsequently fund the second phase of the Green Wrythe Lane footway cycleway, then I would suggest that this was neither good news nor forward looking].
In conclusion, Caroline said that with more people cycling, there would be less congestion on the roads, air quality would improve, and the environment would improve for everyone. She looked forward to hearing the rest of the speakers, and the suggestions on how we could improve cycling, not only in in Sutton, but across London as well.
Tom thanked Caroline and, in relation to the HGV issues that Caroline had touched on, mentioned that he had recently arranged for drivers of a local firm, Hydro Cleansing, to meet with an officer from the Metropolitan Police. They had talked about the effects that a serious accident, or fatality, could have on the driver, whether or not the driver had had any responsibility in relation to the crash. The Met Police had taken a very proactive role. Tom went on to recommend that every cyclist take advantage of the schemes that the Met were running in partnership with a local HGV firm to demonstrate the view from the drivers cab. Cyclists need to understand the limitations on visibility around HGVs, even those vehicles with all equipment and mirrors fitted.
Tom then introduced Councillor Stephen Fenwick, who was going to talk about what Sutton Council was doing, and had been doing since the late 1980s and early 1990s, from a cycling perspective.
Stephen Fenwick, Councillor Worcester Park (Liberal Democrat at the time of the event, Independent from March 2014)
An overview of the Stephen’s presentation, Cycling in Sutton – what Sutton Council is doing to enable and promote cycling in the borough will hopefully appear here at a later date. But in summary, Stephen started by telling us that in the 1980s Sutton had created a cycling network by utilising the space in parks. He concluded by listing the cycling schemes for 2014/2015, and these heavily featured utilising the space in parks. How’s that for thirty years of cycling delivery?
Tom Bogdanowicz, Senior Policy and Development Officer, London Cycling Campaign
Tom gave an overview of the work of the London Cycling Campaign, Love London Go Dutch campaign, the forthcoming Space for Cycling campaign, and looked at Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling and the associated pledges from councils around London.
Then it was my turn to speak…!
Charles Martin, acting Sutton borough coordinator London Cycling Campaign
Love Sutton, Go Dutch….Go Global…give Space for Cycling, was a rather long title, to quite a lengthy presentation. The presentation was so extensive, in fact, that there was not quite sufficient time at the 2014 event to show all 104 slides (and I’m thankful to Tom for kindly letting me continue to about three quarters of the way through)!
The title was chosen to provide the link between the LCC’s Love London, Go Dutch campaign of 2012, and the Space for Cycling initiative that was just about to launch in early 2013. ‘Go Global’ added the international perspective, reflecting both my own experiences from attending David Hembrow’s excellent Cycling Infrastructure Study Tour in May 2012, and the research findings from an International Cycling Infrastructure Best Practice Study the following year (which were subsequently presented by John Dales at the December 2013 StreetTalks event – with the report and appendix published ahead of the new London Cycling Design Standards in December 2014).
My thanks to everyone mentioned in the presentation, including David Hembrow (Cycling Advocate, Hembrow Cycling Study Tour), John Dales (Director, Urban Movement) and bloggers Mark Ames (i B i k e l o n d o n), Mark Treasure (As Easy As Riding) and Danny Williams (Cyclists in the City). Thanks too to many organisations for helping to provide the motivation, including London Cycling Campaign, Living Streets, Movement for Liveable London, EcoLocal Cycling, and Wheels for Wellbeing. I am also very grateful to Tom Brake and his team for inviting me to take part in the summit (even though I was a little critical, but hopefully in a constructive way).
Love Sutton, Go Dutch..Go Global..give Space for Cycling can be downloaded from this link:
Love Sutton, Go Dutch | Sutton Cycle Summit 2014 PDF document | 28 MB
To view the presentation as a slide-show, click on a thumbnail below. The story that this presentation attempts to tell is hopefully fairly clear from the text on the slides. However, I would just like to add some context to slide 24, the scene in Holland Avenue, Sutton [Open Street Map]. (Holland Avenue?!)
Such a scene on a residential street close to a school around school opening time is, of course, only too commonplace in the UK. When talking this through at the Cycle Summit, I explained that some traffic calming had been installed by the entrance to the Avenue Primary School, 200 or so metres to the south of this location, about 15 years previously. But all that this intervention had effectively achieved was to displace the mayhem caused by the school-run from a point immediately outside the school to a point about 200 metres from the school. Not a particularly impressive achievement over 15 years for a council with the ambitious, on-going, aim of becoming London’s most sustainable suburb. Whether the boy standing with the bicycle beside “the sea of traffic” ever got an opportunity to cycle right up to the gates of his school is something that we can only speculate upon. But the lost opportunity for childhood independence is clearly not something that his Dutch cousins need to worry about (slides 26 to 28).
There is no doubt that actually experiencing some of the best cycling infrastructure first hand (and there is no better way to do this than attend David’s cycling infrastructure study tour), is essential to fully understand and appreciate what is meant by ‘Go Dutch’ and ‘Space for Cycling’. In this presentation, therefore, I endeavoured to compare and contrast the street scenes and high-quality, constantly improving, cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands (slides 10 to 22) with the lamentable, un-changing, infrastructure (where infrastructure exists) in this outer-London borough (slides 65 to 70 and 83 to 90).
Quite how the landscape for cycling will change in Sutton in the coming years as a result of the publication tomorrow of Sutton’s latest draft Cycling Delivery Strategy remains to be seen. Meanwhile, we will have to enjoy the ride as best as we can – smooth in the Netherlands, generally bumpy in the UK.