The excitement that followed the Space for Cycling petition handover to the Leader of the Council towards the end of July, complete with the declaration that the political will is there and that all that was now required was action, has subdued a little in the last few days. And this is not just because of some recent reports that tend to indicate that cycling is still seen as a low priority by developers of properties adjacent to the Wandle Trail or contractors working on Sutton’s roads (however poor and outdated the current “cycling infrastructure” is, and however temporary and inconvenient the interventions may be). No, a certain malaise has also set in as a result of receiving notification of the third phase of the LIP funded Green Wrythe Lane off-road (on-pavement) cycle facility. And coming just a few days after the Cycle Summit, this has made the contents a little more disappointing to read than perhaps otherwise would have been the case.
The notification, dated 27 July 2015 and from the Highways Design and Delivery Manager on behalf of the Executive Head of Safer and Stronger Communities, was addressed to Stakeholders. It details the latest proposals for Green Wrythe Lane, Carshalton [Open Street Map | Google Maps | Street Map], and signals the beginning of an informal public consultation. Here is an extract:
Green Wrythe Lane – proposed improvements for pedestrians and cyclists
“As part of a continuing scheme to introduce an off-road cycle facility along the length of Green Wrythe Lane, the Council is proposing to convert the western section of footway between just north of St Andrews Road and William Street, to shared use/segregated footway.
It is proposed to widen sections of the existing footway in order to provide sufficient shared space for both cyclists and pedestrians. Consequently, in order to maintain sufficient carriageway widths it will also be necessary to introduce partial footway parking on the eastern side between Nos. 46 & 66. The remaining footway width will still be adequate for pedestrians. The details of the proposals are shown on the attached drawing T30070/PL/20 [see below]. The proposed entry treatments will slow the vehicles at the junctions and provide a level crossing point.”
An email address is then given for the receipt, by 24 August, of any comments or observations to this initial informal public consultation, before continuing:
“A summary of the responses received will be submitted to the Local Area Committee on 8 October 2015 and should it be agreed to progress the scheme, a subsequent formal Statutory Consultation will be undertaken whereby notices will be attached to lamp posts, advertised in the Sutton Guardian and London Gazette and also on the LB Sutton Website.”
Green Wrythe Lane Drawing T30070-PL-20_Option1 PDF document | 269 KB
As detailed in the proposal, this third phase comprises modifications to sections of footway on the west side of Green Wrythe Lane, to either shared use areas (south of a point just to the north of St Andrew’s Road (near the allotments) and St James Road), or segregated areas (between St James Road and William Street by Wrythe Green). It effectively links the first phase to the north with a path upgrade at Wrythe Green that was completed last year (although, ‘completed’ is not really the correct word to use, the phone box straddling the path at the northern end has not been moved (see figure 2) and the alignments of the crossing points over Wrythe Green Road and West Street are, it has to be said, a bit of a mess).
This latest scheme also introduces partial footway parking on a section of the footway on the eastern side of Green Wrythe Lane. There is an accompanying declaration with this, offering some reassurance that “the remaining footway width will still be adequate for pedestrians”. Nevertheless, this does tend to highlight further that “cycling infrastructure” can only be provided at the expense of active people on foot, rather than through the relocation of parking spaces that are currently on public land adjacent to private properties. It is noted, however, that on the west side (where the footway is to be converted to shared use) entry treatments are proposed at St Andrews Road, St John’s Road, St Andrews Road and at William Street. These will be a benefit to people walking here (provided, of course, the masses of people on bicycles do not materialise as a result of the conversion). See figure 3.
In the summer of 2014, Get Sutton Cycling responded to a consultation on the second phase of the Green Wrythe Lane footway conversion to shared-use. Our comments appeared to initially go unheeded, and the scheme went on to receive approval by the St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley Local Area Committee in October 2014. However, three months later, in January 2015, Transport for London asked Sutton Council to put the proposed scheme on hold, until the suitability of the scheme could be assessed by Brian Deegan, Principle Technical Planner for Transport for London. An intervention from the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan resulted in a compromise being reached whereby the scheme would go ahead without any changes, but would only be described as a pedestrian scheme and would not be part of Sutton’s cycle network. So as to how proceeding now with the continuation of a footway conversion reduces the likelihood of Green Wrythe Lane being seen as cycle route, is not clear. Sutton Council may well say, of course, that having gone so far with the scheme it makes sense to complete it and provide the missing link. But then again, that would have been all the more reason a year or so ago to have made the decision not to proceed with the second phase.
It is clear that many people choose not to cycle because they think sharing the road with other traffic is just too dangerous. Creating new cycle lanes where people can ride safely, through the provision of comfortable, direct routes that connect communities, is an essential part of Space for Cycling.
But footway conversion is not the way to achieve this, despite the good intentions…..
Extract from “Green Wrythe Lane, Carshalton – proposed Shared use Footway Cycleway” St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley Local Committee, 16 October 2014:
“The purpose of allowing cycling on the footway in this area is to encourage new cyclists to start using a bicycle for some of their local journeys. The routes are designed so cyclists will use the footways at slow speeds. The cyclists will have to slow down and give way to traffic at each of the side roads”
…. and the many reasons for this are documented in our response last year. But it is worth highlighting two again here:
- Simply converting footways to shared use marginalises cycling. Other road users will see some people cycling on the shared footway and think that is where all cyclists should be. This could have implications for the safety of those who continue to cycle on the carriageway (the majority of “cyclists”). On the other hand, providing dedicated, fit-for-purpose space for cycling, generally free of intrusion by heavy and/or fast moving motor vehicle traffic will transform the experience of cycling and make cycling a practical choice of transport for nearly everyone.
- Some people (typically children, but also others who simply do not feel comfortable sharing space with vehicular traffic) will cycle on the footway anyway (even though in most cases it is illegal to do so, although usually this is not enforced when people cycle responsibly). Consequently, this raises the question, what is the point of spending most of the limited cycle funding that is available for the borough (which, in the case of Green Wrythe Lane could be of the order of £500,000 over about four years) just to legitimise something that will only be a “benefit” to the people who already cycle on the pavement and to which the council admits will increase cycling levels by only 1%?
It is accepted that the funding levels for cycling, as currently provided through the LIP process, are derisory. Nevertheless, Sutton’s traffic engineers need to understand the benefits of producing cycling infrastructure that does not just appeal to the few, but works for the many. Cycling needs to be considered as an entirely legitimate, everyday, ‘grown-up’ mode of transport, and worthy of investment even if current cycling levels are comparatively low. The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in March 2013 gave a clear indication of the changes that were expected to transform cycling, and it is about time Sutton caught up.
It is to be hoped that Green Wrythe Lane will be the last time that proposals to either convert footways to shared use (even if the footway is widened as part of the process), or to provide short, inconsequential, sections of segregated cycle paths on footways, are ever considered as cycling schemes in Sutton. We can do much better than this, and we need to do much better than this, if we are serious about starting a cycling culture that will last for years to come. And what is required to start that cycling culture? Ah, yes, of course, political will…
 Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding is the process through which Transport for London provides financial support to London’s boroughs for schemes to improve their transport networks. See LIPs guidance at TfL.
 The first phase of the Green Wrythe Lane footway cycleway scheme, the conversion of a section of the footway on the west side of the road, south of Muschamp Road to a point just to the north of St Andrew’s Road, was completed in December 2012. The second phase, the continuation of the conversion north of Muschamp Road to Thornton Road (near Middleton Circle), began in March 2015 and is believed to be nearing completion (August 2015) – or is it? See figure 5.
 Unfortunately, this may not be the case though, as recently published reports for Local Committee meetings, in preparation for 2016-2017 LIP funding bids, suggest there are plans to extend the footway conversion north of Middleton Circle to the borough boundary with Merton.
Previous posts on Green Wrythe Lane:
23 January 2015: Green Wrythe Lane: an update
24 March 2015: A compromise is reached on Green Wrythe Lane
Subsequent posts on Green Wrythe Lane:
21 December 2015: Green Wrythe Lane – one year on
28 January 2016: Green Wrythe Lane back on the agenda
v2: 13.08.2015 A list of links to the previous Green Wrythe Lane posts provided
v3: 25.10.2015 Links to subsequent Green Wrythe Lane posts added