A few days after the Sutton Cycle Summit in July 2015, an employee at the Royal Marsden Hospital got in touch with Get Sutton Cycling. He told us that the Cycle Forum representing both the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research in the south of the borough would like better cycling provision. Specifically, staff found Brighton Road, and areas in the vicinity of the Belmont sites, quite hazardous for cycling. Could we help them in their quest to have cycle lanes installed along Brighton Road?
Well, perhaps we could. After all, the provision of protected space for cycling on Brighton Road had been our Space for Cycling ‘ward ask’ for the Belmont ward in May 2014. One of the three councillors representing the ward, Cllr. Patrick McManus, has shown his support for this. We hope that Cllr. Jane Pascoe and Cllr. David Hicks will reconsider doing so.
“A cycle ride from Belmont to Sutton town centre, a distance of around 2km, should only take about ten minutes. But the only route for this journey, that does not require a considerable detour, is along the heavily trafficked Brighton Road. Protected space on this road, even if the provision of this requires, in places, land purchase from adjoining properties, is something that really needs to be explored. Transforming Brighton Road into a boulevard would enhance this gateway into Sutton, and benefit all road users and its residents.” Space for Cycling, Belmont ‘ward ask’ May 2014
At the Sutton Council’s quarterly Cycle Forum meeting held two months later, on 16 September 2015, council officers were informed of our conversation with the Royal Marsden. Officers were keen to know more, and requested that we supplied them with more information. So we contacted the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research Cycle Forum again the following day, and asked staff to write to us outlining their views, their concerns, their ideas.
Fourteen employees got in touch by email during the following ten days, all of whom either cycled to work relatively frequently (and would generally describe themselves as experienced cyclists) or have tried to cycle to work but have given up! All supported the idea of dedicated, safe, high-quality cycle paths.
“I would completely support having a cycle route from Sutton or Belmont to Royal Marsden / Institute of Cancer Research”
Not surprisingly, the roads that were of most concern included Brighton Road, Cotswold Road, Banstead Road South and Downs Road. The junctions of Cotswold Road with Brighton Road and Chiltern Road with Brighton Road were specifically mentioned too.
“I would love to see cycle lanes leading to The Royal Marsden in Sutton”
Nearby roads to the south, either on or beyond Sutton’s borough, including Sutton Lane, the junction of Downs Road and Cotswold Road with Sutton Lane (B2218), Belmont Roundabout, Banstead Crossroads and the A217 in general (questioning why there is not dedicated cycle lanes alone its entire route given the space available) were also highlighted.
“I currently cycle 2-3 times a week …. to the ICR campus behind the RHM and think that the cycle access is abysmal”
In the case of Brighton Road, the words ‘danger’, ‘unsafe’ and ‘frightened’ are used to express issues around vulnerability, linked to fast traffic (and traffic in general), unfriendly traffic calming, parked cars, pinch points, traffic passing too close, and movement through junctions. Congestion, and the lack of continuity on any existing cycle paths are also highlighted.
“I started cycling to work last year, but was too frightened of the traffic, so stopped”
“The combination of fast traffic, hills, cycle unfriendly traffic calming and parked cars makes for an often nerve racking if not dangerous journey to/from work, whether coming from Sutton or Belmont”
One or two respondents declared some specific benefits of cycling that would result from the provision of protected space, and these included promoting a healthier approach to getting to work, easing congestion (and therefore being of benefit to other road users too), being eco-friendly, and being good for the city.
“I think a cycle lane to RMH from Sutton would be an excellent idea. I sometimes cycle from the station and it can be a bit grim as the route is very congested and there is a lot of traffic. Building a cycle lane would promote a healthier approach to getting to work and would make the route safer for cyclists. It might also serve to ease congestion on that route”
One respondent explicitly noted that, to be useful, cycle lanes require proper separation from motor traffic (i.e. not just a painted white line which gets used as a parking bay), well thought out intersections and reasonable surfaces, as well as good drainage and adequate maintenance.
“My main concern is getting out of Cotswold Road onto the Brighton Road near the old entrance to Sutton Hospital. Turning right onto Brighton Road at this point is quite difficult”
Another respondent said that they would never choose to cycle on a cycle path on the pavement, citing these as very rarely fit for cycling, often having multiple obstacles along the route, and forcing cyclists to stop and give way at every junction. Furthermore, the respondent noted, the presence of cycle paths on the pavements often makes motorists more impatient with cyclists on the road (even though cyclists are perfectly within their right to be there), which often leads to more dangerous driving.
“Frankly, I’d be keen to see more cycle lanes around Sutton anyway as I don’t think it’s particularly cycle friendly at present”
We replied to all fourteen respondents, each reply tailored slightly to any specific issues that the individual had made, but all our replies included the general comment that Get Sutton Cycling has the aspiration for Sutton to become a great place for cycling. An aspiration for many more people to be able to feel that cycling was something they could consider as an option for some of their day-to-day journeys. Respondents were made aware of the Council’s forthcoming Cycling Strategy, and our response to the consultation on the draft strategy Time to make the case, and rise to the challenges.
The comments received were then fed back to Sutton Council Officers on 21 October. At the same time, we asked whether reference to Brighton Road could be included in the recommendation detailed in the report ‘Proposed cycle facilities on the Transport for London Road Network‘ that was to be presented to Members of the South Sutton, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee on 19 November. Even though Brighton Road is a borough road (as opposed to a Transport for London road), we asked about this possibility because we felt the project could be a mini-Holland, multi-million pound, type of funding proposal and therefore be linked to TfL A217 work (or be prioritised over it). Also, of course, any developments that are planned for the Sutton Hospital site will result in funding sources too.Officers replied, on 26 October, saying that the current report was going to the local committees to highlight all the schemes relevant to the A217, A24 and A232, and was to specifically ask the committees to agree, in principle, to schemes on TfL network. If approved by all committees, TfL would be told there was political support for the schemes. Therefore, it would not be appropriate at this time to include any non-TfL roads.
For an update on the response of local committees to the current TfL related report, see St Helier’s decision on Rosehill roundabout, Sutton Local Committee agree that cycling proposals be presented to TfL, Further support for A217 cycle path upgrades, Beddington and Wallington agree that cycling proposals be presented to TfL, and Destination North Cheam!
Although it was not appropriate to include Brighton Road at this time, officers were working on the rest of the schemes that we had highlighted (the ongoing review of our ‘ward asks’ which had started over a year ago), and these, along with Brighton Road, will be in a second report. Brighton Road could be investigated for a segregated facility, but will be recommended as a high priority. It is not known when this second report will be completed.
We were also told that there are on-going planning discussions about the hospital sites, and all transport options should be considered. We need to follow the progress of this development to make sure there is improved provision for cyclists. (Although, as we always say, there is a need to emphasise that this is not just for existing “cyclists”). Funding will be available from April 2016 from the TfL LIP programme, and this could be used to investigate the junction of Brighton Road/Cotswold Road.
Of course, that’s good to know. It’s just a pity that annual spending on cycling in Sutton from the LIP programme is currently only around £1.57 per head (i.e. about the same cost of three, second class, postage stamps). We are going to need quite a bit more than that to deliver transformative cycling infrastructure.
We would like to thank staff at the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research for their input and their support. We look forward to working with them, and with Sutton Council and councillors in Sutton South and Belmont wards, to see exactly how high we can set the bar. We make no apologies for being ambitious, especially now the borough has approved a new Cycling Strategy. This is a Strategy which seeks to achieve a step-change in cycling infrastructure, as well as leave a long-term legacy for future generations. By working together, we might just make these ambitions a reality.