In the week that we had expected to finally see the publication of Sutton’s new Cycling Strategy (approved November 2015), a strategy in which Sutton Council declare “we are ambitious about increasing cycling in the borough and we are committed to taking practical, innovative steps that will allow us, with the help of our stakeholders and support of our residents, to deliver a step-change in cycling…“, we learn that proposals to convert further sections of footway (i.e. the pavement) on Green Wrythe Lane (St Andrews Road to William Street) to shared-use are back on the agenda.
It had been thought that these proposals, originally provided to us in a notification in July 2015, were not to be taken forward. This was because the Council had not subsequently submitted a summary of the responses to these proposals to the St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley local committee on 8 October 2015 (as had been the stated intent in July). Furthermore, there had been no mention of the proposals being reinstated at the Council’s Cycle Forum in December 2015.
Now, a report has been prepared by Sutton Council, as a last-minute, urgent item, for this evening’s St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley Local Committee meeting (28 January 2016). The report, Green Wrythe Lane: proposed improvements for pedestrians and cyclists (PDF), has been produced as an ‘urgent item’ because the detail of the scheme needs to be agreed before it can be progressed to implementation and is to be funded from the 2015/16 Local Implementation Plan programme (for which time is running out).
The report recommends that the St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley Local Committee note the comments received during the consultation in July 2015 (including ours), and agree to pavement widening, entry treatments, amendments to traffic orders and various changes to parking restrictions, in order to “prevent any obstruction to the flow of traffic”. (Of course, if the proposed infrastructure was any good, more people would cycle and traffic levels could reduce (or at least stabilise) – but that appears to be way too ambitious an idea, even for a council with the ambition of being London’s most sustainable suburb). And the price tag? £100,000, or nearly half the borough’s annual cycling budget. We have already seen what similar levels of funding for Green Wrythe Lane have achieved (basically, removing hedges from front gardens and retaining on-pavement parking).
Rather than revisiting this idea of footway conversion on Green Wrythe Lane, and in doing so perpetuating the lack of ambition for cycling (as a form of transport for more people, for some of their local journeys) and providing yet further evidence of ‘we only do what is easy and not what is challenging’, it would be far better if members of St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley Local Committee were, this evening, to rescind their decision made in October 2015 regarding Rosehill roundabout (St Helier ward). To do this would at least send out the signal that councillors in this committee were more enthusiastic for cycling and had joined their colleagues in Sutton, in Sutton South, Cheam and Belmont, in Beddington and Wallington, and in Cheam North and Worcester Park in recognition of the fact that showing some interest now could ultimately lead to some ‘big money’ for the delivery of some transformative projects in the future. There is nothing on tonight’s agenda to suggest that this is going to happen though.
On the subject of Rosehill roundabout, it has been noted that, following a formal complaint from us, the original draft minutes to the October 2015 meeting (Figure 1) have been amended. However, the amended version (Figure 2) is still, in a word, nonsensical.
As to this urgent item on Green Wrythe Lane for this evening’s meeting, perhaps it is a case of “if we don’t spend it (by year-end March 2016), we lose it”. So, quick, we better spend it, anything will do. The “it” being the derisory £1.57 per head of population (the current cost of three second class postage stamps) that is the current annual allocation for cycling in the borough. If so, the LIP process requires a re-think. The current piecemeal approach (after how many years?) clearly does not deliver.
Meanwhile, Green Wrythe Lane has appeared in the Local Implementation Plan Funding Transport Submission for 2016/2017 (to be presented to the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee on 4 February 2016), with the description “corridor scheme between Middleton Circle and Bishopsford Road”, a statement of need “to improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists”, and an indicative funding of (surprise, surprise) £100,000. So, it looks as though we have not yet seen the last of Green Wrythe Lane or cycling on the pavement.
Perhaps, one day, Sutton Council will be true to their (expected) 2015 vision and produce a report called Green Wrythe Lane – Proposed changes to make cycling a natural choice for all of our residents. However, after this week’s news, such a report is not looking particularly likely any time soon. For the moment, Cycling Strategy, or no Cycling Strategy, it looks like the saga of Green Wrythe Lane, and the marginalisation of cycling in Sutton, is set to continue for the foreseeable future. All we can say to that is, no one said it was going to be easy…
“Our vision is to make cycling a natural choice for people of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities, for more of their trips in and through the borough”
Extract from Cycling Strategy (November 2015), London Borough of Sutton, (unpublished as of 28 January 2016)
Full details of the St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley meeting for 28 January 2016, including the minutes when published, can be found here.
Update 29 January 2016
At last night’s St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley local committee meeting, members agreed to the widening and conversion of the footway on Green Wrythe Lane (St Andrews Road to William Street) to shared-use for pedestrians and cyclists (along with the associated works) subject to a formal consultation.
Or did they? From listening to a recording of the proceedings made available today (29 January) on Sutton Council’s website St Helier The Wrythe and Wandle Valley Local Committee audio recordings, it seems that the committee, chaired by Cllr. Jean Crossby, may have thought that they were just agreeing to the consultation.
Sutton Council Officer Mike Francis presented Agenda Item 16 ‘Any urgent business brought forward at the direction of the Chair’. He began by making reference to an earlier informal consultation about a proposal for introducing a shared-use footway for pedestrians and cyclists along Green Wrythe Lane between St Andrews Road and William Street (and later noted that comments received had been considered).
The purpose of the scheme, Mr Francis explained, was to tie-up two existing shared-use cycle schemes along Green Wrythe Lane to form a complete length of shared cycleway for cyclists who may not be confident cycling on the road (and, in this regard, he added “younger children and those kinds of cyclists”).
The officer went on to say the the scheme would be complemented through the installation of raised entry treatments at the junctions with St Andrews Road, St John’s Road, St James Road and William Street.
In conclusion, Mr Francis recommended to the committee that they agree to the shared-use footway, and to the necessary formal consultations for the raised entry treatments and parking changes, and to the implementation of the scheme (after resolving any objections that may be raised during the consultation).
The Chair, Cllr. Jean Crossby then asked: “So we are just agreeing that the consultation can take place? Is that my understanding?”
Mike Francis replied, saying “That’s correct. The formal consultation.”
Well, no, that is not strictly correct. Mr Francis clearly said “We are recommending to the committee that they agree to the shared-use footway, and we proceed to the necessary formal consultations….”. Furthermore, of course, the report Green Wrythe Lane: proposed improvements for pedestrians and cyclists (PDF), gives the stated recommendations, and these include the committee agree to widening the pavement and to convert the widened pavement to a “cycle track”.
This does again raise the question as to whether the committee actually considered the report. But it’s not really the minutes that we await with interest this time, but the outcome of the scheme.
Cleary, we do not believe that this footway conversion will prove to be a great success for cycling, for the many reasons previously given. However, if we are proved wrong, and the shared-use path is a hit with the residents of The Wrythe ward, so much so that they ask for proper cycling facilities, we will be delighted.
Finally in this update, it can be reported that the committee agreed the minutes to the the 8 October 2015 meeting. As far as we are aware, nothing was said during evening about our formal complaint to the original draft minutes to that meeting, or that changes asa result had been made. It also looks as though the committee’s decision in October, not to accept Sutton Council’s recommendation that proposals be presented to Transport for London regarding Rosehill roundabout, is unchanged. So, from all that, we can only conclude that St Helier is still effectively saying no to cycling.
Update 15 March 2016
Confirmation was received at today’s Council’s Cycle Forum meeting that the proposal to convert the the footway on Green Wrythe Lane between St Andrews Road and William Street to shared-use (to “join-up the other sections”) would go ahead in the summer of 2016. This is despite confirmation at the previous Cycle Forum meeting in December 2015, that the idea had been shelved. It is believed that Cllr. Colin Stears (Liberal Democrat – The Wrythe) is the driving force behind this, and may explain why the scheme was put back on the agenda at the St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley Local Committee in January as an emergency item (see update 29 January 2016 above). As reported in Green Wrythe Lane – on year on, Cllr. Stears had said in January 2015 that “the design chosen for the cycle route along Green Wrythe Lane is considered the best practical option for that particular road”. Thankfully the councillor added: “Future schemes will … be designed in accordance with the new London Cycle Design Standards, in close consultation with local cycling groups and TfL, and in anticipation of an increase in cycling”.
We are of the view that there is unlikely to be much of an increase in cycling on Green Wrythe Lane as a result of this intervention (for reasons set out in November 2014), but we would love to be proved wrong.
It appears that completion of this “missing section” will take the the total expenditure on the Green Wrythe Lane footway-cycleway conversion to around £250,000 (our thanks to Cllr. Neil Garratt (Conservative – Beddington South), and unofficial cycling champion, for having previously asked for this information).
A year ago, in March 2015, we learned that a compromise had been reached on Green Wrythe Lane and that the converted footway would “be promoted as a local safe cycling route rather than as a part of Sutton’s cycle network”. Let’s hope that from now on the focus will be on creating a cycle network in the borough that will deliver a step-change in cycling, rather than on half-hearted, low-aspirational, schemes such as this Green Wrythe Lane saga.
There is some hope, because we learned today that any future “cycling” schemes on Green Wrythe Lane (i.e. north of Middleton Circle, towards Bishopsford Road, which may be proposed for 2017/2018) will not include shared-use footways. Sutton Council officers will advise councillors that cycling facilities are required, but not on the footway. That, in turn, will be one step towards Sutton demonstrating that it deserves more substantial funding for cycling. And that could be very good news for Sutton’s future residents.
Previous posts on Green Wrythe Lane:
23 January 2015: Green Wrythe Lane: an update
24 March 2015: A compromise is reached on Green Wrythe Lane
21 December 2015: Green Wrythe Lane – one year on