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In September 2015, Sutton Council Officers signalled their support, in principle, for a number of cycling infrastructure schemes on the Transport for London highway network (A217, A232 and A24). Subject to the proposals receiving support from all of the Local Committees, the schemes were to be presented to Transport for London for consideration. Officers indicated that Transport for London would be more likely to implement these proposals if they had the agreement of all Councillors.
The first Committee to receive the report detailing the proposals was the St Helier, Wrythe and Wandle Valley Local Committee on 8 October 2015. This Committee represents three wards in the north of the borough. Two proposals were presented to the Committee, both of which related to the A217 in the St Helier ward. Councillors resolved not to accept one of the proposals, namely to redesign Rosehill roundabout to provide protected space for cyclists with a fully signalised perimeter path. The minutes to the meeting gave ‘safety concerns’ as the reason for their decision.
We are extremely disappointed that Councillors have not agreed to the recommendation made by Sutton Council Officers regarding Rosehill roundabout. Equally, though, we are perplexed by the manner in which the report was presented to the Committee, and the way it was received by the Committee. Our report ‘St Helier effectively says no to cycling’ deliberates on the impact that the proceedings, and the decision made by Councillors, could have on the borough’s reputation for, and commitment to, sustainable transport. Here, we present a summary of some of the key points from that report:
1. The presentation of the report to the Committee by Sutton Council’s Head of Highways and Transport Services was luck-lustre and cavalier. There was no reference made to either the background of the proposals, or to the comments from Council Officers in support of the proposals. Councillors were effectively making a decision on proposals that were not fully presented to them.
2. Councillors appeared to lack understanding of what was being presented. The Committee was simply being invited to accept a recommendation for TfL to consider. Nothing more. Essentially, this was about starting the process of looking at the feasibility, and the options, for Rosehill roundabout. Importantly, it was about engaging with TfL.
3. The Chair of the Committee appeared to consider the report of little interest. Neither the Chair, nor other Councillors present, asked for any meaningful clarification in regard to the incomplete proposals being presented (although some Councillors may have felt too intimidated by the process to do so).
4. The presentation of the report, and the lack of a response from Councillors to the report, makes a mockery of the borough’s new Sustainable Transport Strategy and the emerging Cycling Delivery Strategy.
5. The printed minutes to the meeting state “Members were not happy with the proposal for Rosehill roundabout due to safety concerns”. This is ambiguous, to say the least. The proposals were all about improving safety for the most vulnerable road users. Furthermore, the limited detail provided in the minutes does not truly reflect the actual proceedings. This raises questions around the integrity of the reporting aspects of local committee meetings.
6. The decision to effectively reject any ideas for the provision of high-quality cycling infrastructure at Rosehill roundabout is counter to proposals presented in Sutton Council’s mini-Holland bid of 2013. This not only demonstrates a lack of awareness of current cycling issues by Councillors, it also vindicates TfL’s decision not to award significant funding to the borough at the time.
7. Councillors need to recognise the wider benefits of cycling. Unless attitudes change, Sutton is unlikely to be in line for future TfL cycle funding.
v2: 17.11.2015 (graphics added)