At the Cycle Summit on 23 July 2015, St Helier resident and keen cyclist John Courtman, asked newly appointed Cycling Champion Cllr Manuel Abellan if he would care to join him on a ride around Rosehill. Manuel said yes, and the time and date was duly arranged for 10 August! Quick work!
On 7 August, John and I took a ride around part of the planned route. Here is a summary of where we went, what we saw, and some of the thoughts we had on the way. But before we begin, it has to remembered that the big picture for the area was presented in the Space for Cycling ‘ward ask’ for the St Helier ward in 2014. A longer-term aspiration perhaps, but ultimately a total redesign of the Rose Hill roundabout is required to unlock the potential for cycling in St Helier.
(1) We started on Wrythe Lane by the crossing point linking Rosehill Park East with the St Helier Open Space and Robertsbridge Road [Google Maps Street View]
- The bollard at entrance of Rosehill Park East path is a barrier against easy movement when attempting to cycle on to the path from Wrythe Lane. Consequently, it needs to either be moved (about 1 meter into the path) or, better still, removed completely (and the area redesigned to improve sight-lines). The width across entrance without bollard is approximately 2.2metres (the maximum existing width with bollard is 1.2 metres, compared to 1.6m at the other end of the path and 1.9m on path at Rosehill Park west). This width could be narrowed slightly by placing a wooden post (similar to this already in situ) at the side of the path. This bollard is something that has annoyed me for years, and first mentioned to Sutton Council over five years ago. Now could be the opportunity to get rid of it once and for all!
- The signs on all existing poles, demarcating where cycling is, or is not permitted, are missing. Quick win for the councillor (although will make absolutely no difference to levels of cycling of course).
- All paths ultimately to be relaid with smooth surface (as smooth as road carriageway).
(2) Robertsbridge Road [Google Maps Street View]: Despite not being a particularly busy road (although carries more traffic than should, and is a rat-run), cycling here can be stressful due to usable width (with parking one side) and drivers impatient to pass. A high quality cycle path adjacent to Robertsbridge Road (east side) would greatly assist this street upgrade to Quietway status (currently London Cycling Network route 29). Unfortunately, the existing Arena fence restricts available width at one point to just 1m. Consideration should, frankly, be given to moving the fence. A cycle path would not need to be fully segregated, but raised up from carriageway with 45 degree kerb separation. As with all future cycle paths, the surface needs to be at least as smooth as the carriageway it is replacing. Alternatively, the road could be considered for closure to through traffic. Electronic bollards could allow the S3 bus and emergency vehicles access (as shown in this Steetfilms video made in Cambridge: http://road.cc/content/news/160103-new-video-streetfilms-explores-cambridge-britains-cycling-capital).
(3) Newstead Walk [Google Maps Street View]: John pointed out the poor access by bicycle here – in fact use of the bicycle has been designed out. Newstead Walk leads to Bishopsford Road at a point opposite Malmesbury Road (Merton). Bishopsford Road is a barrier when it comes to trying to cross between residential areas by bicycle.
(4) Bishopsford Road [Google Maps Street View]: Major upgrade as a medium term aspiration (Cllr Abellan needs to know we want the best infrastructure, and are prepared to wait a little longer if that’s what it takes). There is plenty of space for dedicated cycling, but would be a significant project (not to be done on the cheap). To work with London borough of Merton.
(6) Bishopsford Road – Rose Hill roundabout [Google Maps Street View]: A short cycle path from St Benet’s Grove to Rose Hill roundabout (100 metres?) actually exists, but is substandard and runs close to a bus stop shelter, then stops to give way to traffic exiting the Coop (should be the other way around of course). Again, this will need a major upgrade and not just tinkering around the edges (of either the bus stop shelter or the Coop).
(7) Rose Hill roundabout [Google Maps Street View]: A disaster! See our ‘ward ask’ for St Helier. Again, this will need collaborative work with the London borough of Merton and with Transport for London, and is a medium to long term project (unless miracles really do happen)! No short cuts, or tweaks, allowed (unless they are declared as interim proposals with robust evidence that a major project is planned).
(8) Reigate Avenue [Google Maps Street View]: Vehicles parked on cycle path, posts and poles in cycle path. Poor path surface, not maintained, litter and gravel left on surface….. A217, miles of it to Cheam.
(9) St Helier Avenue [Google Maps Street View]: Did not visit today, but St Helier Avenue path surface upgrade required and linked to Rose Hill roundabout and beyond. Currently disappears in a bus stop shelter of course. So “1970s” (or even “1930s”)! So much potential!
Update: A second tour with Manuel, this time in Sutton town centre, took place about two weeks later on 26 August. To find out what happened, see A Ride around Sutton Town Centre with Councillor Manuel Abellan.
This post was published on 31 August 2015, with an update on 2 September 2015.