At the Sutton Cycle Summit 2014 we were told that Sutton Council had created a cycle network in the 1980s by utilising spaces in parks. That’s interesting, because thirty years on, and the borough’s latest “cycling infrastructure” is another path in a park.
This time it’s Cheam Park. Last year, it was Cuddington Recreation Ground and also Overton Park, and the year before that Carshalton Park. Oaks Park is underway too, and so it goes on. Meanwhile, there still no sign of a useful cycle network in the borough, and only about 1% of trips in Sutton are made by bike.
So, although this new path, at 220m in length and a snip at £50,000, may well be an asset for park users, and although residents of Netley Close will soon be able to scoot and cycle traffic-free to Cheam Village (during the hours of daylight, and giving way to people on foot of course), in the big scheme of things this path, like all those before it, is unlikely to make much of a difference beyond occasional recreational use. It is simply tinkering around the edges of what is really needed (not just tinkering around the edges of the park).
Only when proper Space for Cycling is provided, out there in the real world, will cycling ever become the mainstream, wonderful, stress-free, appealing form of transport for all of Cheam’s residents to enjoy.
The question is, will the imminent publication of the borough’s Cycling Strategy start to see the real challenges addressed? On paper it is looking promising, and action, rather than just words, has been promised. It’s imperative that action is what we get, because another 30 years of tinkering around the edges will mean another 30 years of cycling in the park (and we are running out of parks to put paths in)!
Sutton’s parks are great, but it’s time to make cycling to them a real option for more people too. It’s time to do a lot less of what is easy, and time to do a lot more of what is potentially less so. Like, for example, seriously considering options for Park Lane in Wallington (Sustrans route NCN 20 links to Oaks Park), where space for cycling would make a real difference.
Remember, boroughs with aspiration (including Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest) get funding. We don’t want Sutton to get left behind. It’s time to start the conversation with residents, with those who work or study in the borough, and with employers. It’s time to make the case and rise to the challenges.
Extracts from “Cycling in Sutton: what Sutton Council is doing to enable and promote cycling in the borough” a presentation given by Stephen Fenwick at the Sutton Cycle Summit, 22 January 2014 are shown below.