Last week the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee in Sutton signed off Sutton Council’s new ‘Cycling Strategy’. It’s supposed to be the framework within which all cycling decisions will be made and will be the lead document that holds future cycling developments together. Bits of paper are all well and good, but the critical issues are a) what sort of Cycling Level of Service (CLoS) score does the route receive (i.e. do the routes provide a quality experience), and how close is the nearest route. The document promises that ‘All new schemes and improvements should be designed and delivered in accordance with TfL’s latest London Cycling Design Standards’ (3.6), which is good. And how easy will it be to get to this network of LCDS compliant cycle routes? This is answered in the map in figure 3.1.
The routes shown here have not been audited yet (due April 2016-2017) so there are no guarantees that the yellow and green routes shown are both safe and pleasant to an LCDS standard. The purple dots are routes under proposal. Paragraph 2.3.2 in LCDS says that central London should be aiming at a 400m by 400m mesh density. In other words, a cyclist should not have to go more than 400m to find a parallel route of similar quality. Looking at the map there are large gaps, which I’ve highlighted below.
In Sutton the largest three gaps are shown in black. These are from Worcester Park to Cheam, which measures some 3000m, Middleton Road to Westmead Road, approximately 2480m, and from Belmont to South Carshalton it is about 2360m. Clearly parts of Sutton’s grid are well away from achieving a mesh density of even 1500m, let alone 400m. One of the amendments the Council made to the Strategy was to insert a long-term aim that the majority of the borough’s residents will be within 400m of a cycle route, but a cycle route that only goes in a N/S direction is no good if the user want to go W/E! It seems the map above is a reflection of cycle routes being installed where it’s possible, but with little regard to where they might be necessary.
So what would a network look like if it were to be redesigned? Get Sutton Cycling are passionate about enabling school kids to cycle to school, so perhaps it would be good to start with safe cycling routes outside all the schools. They could be joined up using quiet residential streets, parks, main roads where there would seem to be space for segregation, and streets that should be quiet, but aren’t. If you add in areas where adult residents may want to go to, such as train stations, shopping centres and other public amenities, this is the result:
175km of cycle routes
It’s not perfect, but I hope it will form the basis of future discussion. The aim is for it to strike a balance between where it is necessary to put safe cycling routes, and also where it is possible. On the Council’s current map, just 11 out of the 61 schools are on the network. On the above map nearly all of them have the cycle network passing in front of the school gates (and those that don’t have a route very close). Perhaps the Council will adopt and adapted version of this network as their long-term aim and ensure that all school kids will be able to cycle to school? After all, if a cycle route is safe enough for an eight year old to use, it should be safe enough for any of us to use!