North Cheam and Stonecot Hill could, in time, become two of the most cycle-friendly district centres in Sutton. Councillors representing the Nonsuch, Stonecot Hill and Worcester Park wards, have agreed that ideas for possible new cycling infrastructure on London Road (A24), recommended by Council Officers, be presented to Transport for London for consideration.
A report entitled “Proposed Cycle Facilities on the Transport for London Road Network”, was considered by members of the Cheam North and Worcester Park Local Committee, along with its sister document “Appendix A: London Cycling Campaign Ward Asks on Transport for London Roads”, at their meeting held at St Bede’s Conference Centre, St Anthony’s Hospital, on 3 December 2015. The only Committee Councillor who was not in attendance was Cllr. Nick Emmerson, who had sent his apologies due to feeling unwell. The recommendations were unanimously agreed by the members present: Cllr. Richard Marston (Chair), Cllr. Samantha Bourne (Vice-Chair), Cllr. Richard Broadbent, Cllr. Adrian Davey, Cllr. Arthur Hookway, Cllr. Miguel Javelot and Cllr. Daniel Sangster.
This positive response comes just one week after the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee approved the borough’s new Cycling Strategy (a strategy intended to instigate a ‘step-change’ in provision), the daughter document to Sutton’s Sustainable Transport Strategy (June 2015). Cllr Adrian Davey set the cycling report in the context of the Cycling Strategy, and the Committee Chair, Cllr. Richard Marston, went on to mention the Sustainable Transport Strategy. The Sustainable Transport Strategy and the draft Cycling Strategy are available from the Sustainable Transport Policy area of Sutton Council’s website. One attendee asked “who is paying for it?”. Attendees were assured that if these proposals went ahead they would be funded by TfL and not the Council. Clearly, the current level of direct annual spending on cycling in the borough, of around of £1.57 per head (i.e. just under the current price of three, second class, postage stamps, at £0.54 each, and also from TfL through the LIP process) is not going to go far.
The Cheam North and Worcester Park Local Committee was the last of five committees to receive this report during the autumn of 2015. The cycling report had been favourably received two days earlier at the Beddington and Wallington Local Committee (1 December), and also at the South Sutton, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee on the 19 November, and the Sutton Local Committee on the 3 November. When presented to Members of the St Helier The Wrythe and Wandle Valley Local Committee on the 8 October, a proposal relating to Rosehill roundabout had been rejected (although a second proposal relating to the existing cycle paths on the A217 was agreed). Sutton’s sixth Local Committee, Carshalton and Clockhouse, also features in the report. There is more background on the cycling report in Major cycling schemes for TfL roads to be presented to councillors. Extracts from the appendix to the cycling report are shown below.
As can be seen, for the Cheam North and Worcester Park Committee area, the specific proposals for cycling improvements relate to the provision of protected space for cycling on the A24, including at major intersections, and for this protected space to be linked in to high-quality cycle crossings across the A24 linking Fairlands Park with Lloyd Road and Nonsuch Park with Sparrow Farm Road, in the Nonsuch and Stonecot wards. It should be noted that the idea of simply providing “an off road cycle track running alongside the A24 London Road from the borough boundary/Nonsuch Park to The Spinney” is not the sort of “infrastructure” Get Sutton Cycling have in mind. The map below gives a better idea.
The crossing between Fairlands Park and Lloyd Road currently forms the alignment of a London Cycle Network route. It is anticipated that this former LCN route will become part of a greatly enhanced cycle route linking Worcester Park with Sutton, Carshalton and Beddington within the borough (and Kingston and Croydon beyond), part of the Quietway programme. Consequently, a major scheme is required here to facilitate a crossing that is of high-standard and fit for purpose. It is thought unlikely that this will be delivered prior to 2018.
The only cycling features that currently exist on the A24 are painted lines on the carriageway (in places) and some signage (considerately provided a year or two ago from the Outer London Fund for North Cheam and Worcester Park). Clearly, the provision of dedicated space for cycling would be a major project requiring significant funding from Transport for London.
Our thanks go to all Cheam North and Worcester Park Local Committee Members for their help in taking Sutton another step towards becoming a London borough of distinction! There is a long way to go yet, of that there is no doubt. But by agreeing to these recommendations, and with the Cycling Strategy in place, the direction of travel has, perhaps, now been set.
Why ‘perhaps’ rather than ‘definitely’? Well, without wishing to end on a negative note, here are still plenty of indicators to suggest that the case for cycling is not being made right here, right now. Put simply, the default condition, of not considering cycling as a serious form of utility transport, persists.
Consider, for example, the two-page document “Proposed residential development of Victoria House, North Cheam, London Borough of Sutton” that was made available to those attending the meeting on 3 December. This provided an overview on the project objectives, and current design proposals, of a mixed-use development planned for the site of Victoria House in the centre of North Cheam. Included was an illustration of how the finished development may look when it is completed in 2018, and this is reproduced below (apologies for the poor quality of the scanned image).
Perhaps it would be too much to expect that such an image would show a future streetscape that included dedicated cycling infrastructure, even though the development would be a wonderful opportunity to secure an element of funding for this, and even though Sutton has the aspiration of becoming London’s most sustainable suburb (and apologies for quoting, yet again, from the foreword to the Sustainable Transport Strategy). On the other hand, just including a “cyclist” in the image, frankly, disappoints.
The text of the design overview informs readers that the issues raised by the community at a pre application meeting included parking provision, the height of the development, and building aesthetic. These concerns have resulted in a reduction in the number of proposed residential properties (from 93 to 90) and increase in parking provision (from 50 to 55). Although this suggests there is the expectation that many of the households occupying the new development will be expected to have a car-free lifestyle, (at least in the conventional sense of car ownership) there is no mention here of cycle parking.
All of this gives the impression that it is business as usual. Cycling will only ever be for the few, never be for the many. The expectation, it appears, is for nothing to change. Thankfully, the new Cycling Strategy indicates a new approach.
Another indicator has to whether we can realistically expect much to change is this. If something as simple as providing cycle parking in the vicinity of a conference venue situated on the A24 cannot be facilitated, what chance is there of getting a multi-million pound scheme to deliver cycling infrastructure constructed on the same road?
Incidentally, the St Bede’s Conference Centre is not the only venue used for Local Committee meeting around the borough where cycle parking is not available. Although Overton Grange School and Wallington County Grammar School both had cycle parking facilities, the facilities provided are not available for visitors to use in the evening. Could the provision of cycle parking at these locations be a quick win for the new Cycling Strategy?
On the other hand, can we realistically expect residents to cycle to a “local” committee meeting when the roads appear to be dangerous, the experience would be stressful, there would be nowhere to park you bike when you got there, and, anyway, driving is easy, habitual and the expected thing to do? Let’s hope that that is not a question people will be asking in twenty years time. Perhaps, just perhaps, the decision at this meeting, they won’t have to.
It is very good news that councillors representing the Cheam North and Worcester Park Local Committee have agreed with the recommendations of Council Officers that proposals around the theme of protected space on main roads and at junctions on the A24 should be presented to TfL for consideration. Given that councillors in the northern wards were not happy to see similar ideas progressed at Rosehill roundabout, perhaps the proposals for the A24 at North Cheam and Stonecot Hill will now take priority over proposals for the A217.
Either way, we look forward to ongoing discussions with Sutton Council, with councillors, TfL and residents in the coming months to help our borough’s new Cycling Strategy deliver is objectives. A Strategy that is not just about “cyclists”!