At the Sutton Local Committee meeting on 3 November, Councillors representing the Sutton Central, Sutton North and Sutton West wards agreed that proposals, which could ultimately see major upgrades to the cycle paths along sections of the A217 Sutton by-pass, be presented to Transport for London for consideration.
Members of the Committee were responding to the report “Proposed Cycle Facilities on the Transport for London Road Network”, details of which are available from Major cycling schemes for TfL roads to be presented to councillors. This is the same borough-wide report that includes proposals for Rosehill roundabout, but which were rejected by the St Helier The Wrythe and Wandle Valley committee on 8 October.
Following the presentation of the report by Lynn Robinson, Senior Engineer, Highways and Transport, Cllr. Wales, who had already shown his support for the Space for Cycling initiative last year, Cllr. Heron and Cllr Dombey all spoke in favour of the proposals.
We are delighted that the Sutton Committee has effectively moved the debate forward, and hope that Councillors in the St Helier ward reconsider their decision on Rosehill roundabout. These proposals are just based on general principles, and no detailed designs have been undertaken. It is all subject to the availability of funding, and on TfL’s priorities. But it is a step towards Sutton becoming a much more cycle-friendly borough.
Here is a transcript of what Cllr. Ruth Dombey (Sutton North and Leader of the Council) had to say:
There is a definite theme to the meeting this evening. I know that a lot of people are here this evening because they want to talk about problems with parking in their roads. I know for a fact that our borough, compared to other boroughs across London, has one of the highest levels of car ownership. Some of the reason for that is because actually if you want to get anywhere public transport is not very good.My husband was trying to get to Kingston the other day, and he decided he wasn’t going to drive he was going to do the right thing. So his options were either to sit on the 213 bus as it crawled through Cheam, Worcester Park and New Malden that would take well over an hour, or go by train. We tried every possible combination. It takes 17 minutes by train to get in to Wimbledon. That’s fine, and takes 12 minutes to get from Wimbledon to Kingston. The trouble is, you have to wait 29 minutes for the train from Wimbledon to Kingston, so in the end it takes an hour.
So we have got an issue with connectivity. We have got an issue, not about getting into central London, but getting round London. Going to Bromley, going Kingston, going down south as well. So we have got to do something about it. And I think cycling has to be a very important part of that solution. Not everyone will want to cycle, that is absolutely fine. But we need to do everything possible to encourage people who are interested and able to cycle to do so.
“We need to do everything possible to encourage people who are interested and able to cycle to do so“.
So I had a look at this proposal and I actually walked along the stretch of the A217 that we are talking about and I was quite horrified to see the state that it is in. I am not a particularly fit and sporty person, but I am perfectly capable of getting on my bike and I think I would have really struggled to cycle down that cycle path. The tarmac is in very, very, poor condition. There is a lot of litter, and at certain points there are also cars parked.
“..if we are serious about encouraging people to use their cars less…we should do everything possible. I think this is a really good idea, and I am very supportive of it“
So I am very supportive of this scheme, and I think if we are serious about encouraging people to use their cars less – that is not stopping anyone – but it is actually encouraging people where they have that interest to use public interest and to use bicycles. I think we should do everything possible. I think this is a really good idea, and I am very supportive of it.
This is very encouraging, and goes some way to help bolster the claim, made by Ruth in July, that the political will is there, now we need action. But the opportunity could have been taken to extend the perspective a little.
For example, it would have been useful for Ruth to have focussed perhaps a little less on the idea of cycling to Kingston or to Bromley, and bit more on the fact that over 50% of car journeys in Sutton are less than 5 km (3 miles) in length. Speaking at the Sutton Cycle Summit in January 2014, Caroline Pigeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, and Liberal Democrat candidate for the London Mayoral election in 2016, talked about the “great potential for cycling in the borough” and how “nearly 40% of vehicle journeys in Sutton could easily be made by bike” (in terms of distance and purpose, but less in terms of stress-free cycling).
It would have been useful for Ruth to have taken the opportunity to mention that Sutton has the aim of becoming London’s most sustainable suburb (Sustainable Transport Strategy (June 2015)) and that part of this was about creating “the conditions that will encourage walking and cycling for shorter journeys including creating a less car dominated environment and making town centres more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists”.
And it would have been an ideal opportunity for Ruth to have mentioned that the Council was about to publish a Cycling Delivery Strategy that will, if the draft strategy is anything to go by, talk about delivering a step-change in cycling in the borough.
Residents who attended the meeting may have not taken a great deal of notice of what was said on this agenda item, or may have left thinking this cycling business was a one-off topic. I can’t help thinking that it would have been much better if they had left the meeting knowing that this was the start of a bigger longer-term vision for cycling.
v1: 04.11.2015; v2: 14.11.2015; v3: 18.11.2015 (Graphics of extracts from Appendix A added)