A cycle tour of Beddington Village

Beddington Village tour: Some comments and observations

The fifth in a series of cycling tours of the borough, instigated by Cllr Manual Abellan, Sutton’s Cycling Champion, and the only councillor in London (of nearly 2,000 in total) to have attended all three London-based cycling conferences during 2015, took place on Saturday, 7 November 2015 in Beddington Village (Beddington North ward, Sutton). The tour is reviewed here in the hope that this will help guide the conversation in a direction that will, eventually, result in cycling becoming a real option, and the favoured choice, for many more of the residents of Beddington for some of their local journeys.

Previous tours with Manuel had been held in St Helier/Rosehill (10 August), Sutton town centre (26 August), Cheam (8 October) and Beddington South and Wallington (10 October), (with subsequent rides in North Cheam and Worcester Park (18 December) and Wallington/Carshalton (6 February 2016)). As has been the case on all other tours, Manuel was keen to make an assessment of the current cycling provision, and consider ideas for cycling improvements, in the locations visited.

The participants who joined Cllr. Manuel Abellan (Beddington South) in November 2015 were: Cllr. Pathumal Ali (Beddington North); Tom Sweeney (Beddington North Neighbourhood Forum); John Courtman (Get Sutton Cycling); Charles Martin (Get Sutton Cycling | Sutton borough coordinator London Cycling Campaign). Note that Charles revisited Beddington in January 2016 to make further observations, take additional photos, and to measure the width of the Wandle Bank Path.

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Photo 1: Tom, Pat, Manuel and John ready for the start of the Beddington tour. Our meeting point was Beddington Lane, by Derry Road (here seen on west side, looking north).
Photo: Charles Martin, 7 November 2015

The primary topics for consideration were:
  • Beddington Lane (B272) – a heavily trafficked road, running north to south through the village, that is arguably one of the most unpleasant roads in the borough for cycling [Google Maps | Streetmap | Open Street Map]
  • The existing designated cycle route (London Cycling Network (LCN) route 75), running east to west through the village, specifically where this intersects with Hillier’s Lane / Beddington Lane [Google Maps | Streetmap | Open Street Map]

On this occasion, it transpired there was more emphasis on the latter two points rather than the former.

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Photo 2: Beddington Lane, B272, (just south of junction with Richmond Road) looking south towards Hillier’s Lane, around 2pm on a wet Saturday in November. This photo is included just to give the reader an idea of what is going on. The heavy flow of vehicles on-carriageway, and the many parked vehicles off-carriageway, illustrate the challenges. The traffic signal mid-distance, provides the existing Toucan crossing point of the east-west London Cycling Network route 75 linking Wandle Bank with Guy Road (anticipated to form a future ‘Quietway’ alignment).
7 November 2015

Beddington North Space for Cycling ‘ward ask’, and the current situation

It is worth reminding ourselves that the provision of protected space for cycling on Beddington Lane, and a greatly enhanced crossing at Guy Road, featured in the Space for Cycling ‘ward asks’ (2014). Here is a reminder of the original text of the Beddington North ‘ward ask’:

Protected space for cycling on Croydon Road (A232) and Beddington Lane (B272)

Protected space for cycling on two of the busiest roads in the ward (Croydon Road and Beddington Lane) would join-up and improve existing facilities, and help to extract maximum value for cycling infrastructure.

Along with upgrades to the existing London Cycling Network route 75 (to be designated a Quietway), and the development of a new accessible Quietway in Beddington Farmlands (adjacent to the Hackbridge and Mitcham railway), protected space will provide coherent east-west and north-south routes.

The provision of crossing points to Dutch standards for Beddington Lane (e.g. Guy Road with Richmond Road) and for Croydon Road (e.g. Demense Road with Church Road) are also high priorities. Elsewhere, 20mph for all on-street sections of ‘Quietways’, unless segregation is provided, would be appropriate.

It is also worth noting that a few weeks after the Beddington Village tour took place, members of the Beddington and Wallington Local Committee agreed at their meeting on 1 December 2015 that it would be a good idea if a conversation with Transport for London, regarding options for Croydon Road (A232), be instigated (see Beddington and Wallington agree that cycling proposals be presented to TfL). This is good news, but there is still a long way to go.

Meanwhile, it is believed that Beddington Lane (B272), which, unlike Croydon Road, is the responsibility of the borough, is currently subject to a funding bid as part of the Major Schemes Programme for £2.5 million. This bid was made in 2015, following the rejection of a bid in 2009 for approximately £16 million. It is understood that the reduced bid is to focus on a number of smaller ‘gateway’ areas, and so inevitably will just continue the fragmented approach. Consequently, and despite the recent approval of the borough’s latest cycling strategy, it is unlikely that the experience of cycling along Beddington Lane will change a great deal in the foreseeable future.

Overview of places visited on the tour

The meeting point, suggested by Cllr Abellan, was the Shell garage on Beddington Lane, by Derry Road (location 1 on map, Figure 1). Consequently, the tour began by briefly discussing the existing conditions for cycling on Beddington Lane, before taking a look at the footpath-cyclepath link between Beddington Lane and Richmond Road (2). The tour continued with an assessment of the point-closure on Wandle Road (3), and then joined the LCN 75 at Bridges Road into Wandle Bank (4) and onwards to the crossing at Hillier’s Lane/Beddington Lane (5), before returning to the starting point by way of Guy Road and Meller Close (6). After the official tour, Tom Sweeney and Charles Martin continued with an assessment of Beddington Lane north towards the border with the London borough of Croydon.

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Figure 1: Map of Beddington Village, showing the primary locations visited on the tour.
Source: Open Street Map (annotated by the author)

Some background on Beddington Lane

Beddington Lane runs for about 3km, linking Beddington with Croydon Road (A236) in the London Borough of Croydon to the north. South of the village, from the point where the road crosses the River Wandle, Beddington Lane continues as Hillier’s Lane for about 250 metres to its intersection with Croydon Road (A232). In addition to serving the village, Beddington Lane provides the primary access to several industrial sites, a large retail outlet, and a bus depot. All situated within the Beddington North ward.

Traffic volumes

Beddington Lane forms part of the B272, and this classification extends from the A23 in Streatham in the north to the A2022 at Purley in the south. Traffic data for Beddington Lane indicates that the average daily flow of traffic through the village in 2014 was close to 22,000 vehicles. This represents an increase of about 29% in just four years. Apparently, there were over 600 Heavy Goods Vehicles, 17,000 cars and about 60 pedal cycles a day.

Interestingly, the traffic flows recorded on the nearby A232 Croydon Road (part of the Transport for London Road Network), are not much greater. Here, in 2014, the average daily flow of traffic was around 27,000 vehicles of which over 800 were HGVs, over 22,000 cars and about 140 pedal cycles. Although, at 27,000, this is about 14% lower than the peak recorded in 2004, it is about the same level as during 2000.

Perhaps of even more interest is that the traffic flows recorded on the A237, London Road, near Hackbridge (a borough principal road, situated 1.5 km to the west and parallel with Beddington Lane) are currently lower than those on Beddington Lane. In 2014, the average daily flow of traffic on the A237 was around 10,500 vehicles of which around 400 were HGVs, 8,500 cars and about 102 pedal cycles. There appears to have been a reduction in traffic of 45% on this section of the A237 since 2000.

It should be noted that the Heart of Hackbridge project (A237) may have had an impact on traffic volumes recorded on the A237, A232 and B272 during 2014.

So, traffic levels on Beddington Lane (B272) are similar to those found on a nearby section of the ‘Transport for London Road Network’ (A232), and above those on a nearby ‘borough principle road’ (A237).

Traffic levels on Beddington Lane (B272) are similar to those found on a nearby section of the ‘Transport for London Road Network’ (A232), and above those on a nearby ‘borough principle road’ (A237).

Lane widths

But is not just traffic volume and composition that makes Beddington Lane feel unpleasant for cycling. The lane width, of around 3.3 metres (as measured on our visit near the junction with Derry Road), does not provide sufficient space for a motorised vehicle and cyclist to pass one another comfortably. The London Cycling Design Standards (December 2014), Chapter 4 ‘Widths for cycling on carriageway ‘, page 55, notes:

“The rule-of-thumb is to avoid situations where motorised vehicles and cyclists are expected to move together through a width between 3.2 metres and 4 metres. Where lane widths are between these two dimensions, there is uncertainty about space for overtaking and a high risk that other vehicles will seek to pass cyclists too closely thereby putting the more vulnerable road user at risk.”

Clearly, therefore, Beddington Lane, in its current incarnation, is not a place for comfortable cycling (to put it mildly). And, furthermore, the piecemeal approach taken over the last two decades or so to provide off-carriageway facilities for cycling has, frankly, been pitiful (as will be seen). Quite how the £2.5 million bid, referred to above, is going to help cycling, remains to be seen. But the answer is probably known: not a lot.

Beyond the carriageway

From viewing satellite imagery of Beddington Lane, it would certainly appear that there is great potential to provide dedicated space for cycling, and improved space for walking, adjacent to the existing carriageway over much of its length (although constraints are, admittedly, greater in Beddington Village). The provision of this space could greatly enhance the ‘corridor’ of the road. Although this would require land transfer, consideration needs to be given as to whether the costs associated with this could be offset by a subsequent increase in land value.

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Photo 3: A light industrial area on the outskirts of Groningen, Netherlands. Could Beddington Lane ever look something like this? You have to imagine a new Country Park on one side of the road, but you do not have to imagine the smoothness of the cycle path in contrast to what is currently provided (where applicable) on Beddington Lane. Indeed, this cycle path in Groningen is smoother, and provides lower rolling resistance (so higher cycling speeds, should you so wish), than on the adjacent carriageway. Of course, to get something as good as this it takes political will, aspiration, sustained funding, and an understanding of what provision for sustainable transport is all about. This photo is referred to again in the captions to several of the photos that follow, so please read on….
May 2012

Details on visited locations

[1] Beddington Lane (in vicinity of Derry Road and public footpath link to Richmond Road)

  • Shared-use section of pavement on east side of Beddington Lane (photo 4). This shared-use footway, at less than 200 metres in length, is isolated and not the sort of design facility that will deliver mass cycling. Options for providing high-quality space to enabling cycling along the entire length of Beddington Lane need to be considered. There is more on this later (starting with photo 26).
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Photo 4: Beddington Lane, east side, looking south (with Derry Road ahead to the right). This section of footway (from the signalised crossing by Derry Road (just visible here in the distance, also see photo 5)) and the path to Richmond Road (photo 7), to the entrance to retail units a short distance behind  this view (also see photos 26 and 27), was converted to shared-use (and widened) in 2013/14. A total distance of about 175 metres. It’s a pretty hopeless, add-on, facility, and a great example of the low profile status that has been afforded to cycling schemes for years. Put simply, this sort of lack-lustre idea continues to marginalise cycling. Until fit for purpose cycling infrastructure is provided (similar to that shown in photo 3), cycling will never appeal to the majority of people. 
7 November 2015

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Photo 5: Beddington Lane, east side, looking south, Derry Road to the right. The is 50 metres or so further on (heading south) from photo 4. The shared use footway narrows significantly and stops just beyond the signalised “toucan” crossing (photo 6). By the crossing, there is a pathway (separate footway/cycleway) leading to the left towards Richmond Green (photo 7). “Cyclists” can also cross at the toucan crossing and cycle across the footway on the other side of the road towards Derry Road. Nothing has been facilitated for cycling straight-ahead through the village (which is presumably where many people on bicycle here would wish to travel). 
7 November 2015

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Photo 6: Beddington Lane, east side, looking south, another 50 metres so beyond the view in photo 5. Here the footway converts to simply being what it is, a footway. What is on the other side of the fence? Any potential for making space for cycling? (Also see photo YYY)
7 November 2015

  • Public right of way path linking Beddington Lane with Richmond Road (photo 7). This is a wide path, with separate delineation between walking and cycling space. Design solutions that ensure cyclists ride appropriately, and are aware of the proximity of junctions, would be welcome. The existing chicane barriers do not promote inclusive cycling.
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Photo 7: Path linking Beddington Lane with Richmond Green (at the Beddington Lane end). The path is wide, there is plenty of space for walking and cycling, it’s lit, the surface is reasonably smooth and free from potholes. But chicane barriers take the place of a good interface between it and the roads it connects with. Is it old thinking, or just not thinking? Either way, it’s time to rethink (see photo 9) and get some cash for that scrap metal!  
7 November 2015

  • The toucan crossing on Beddington Lane provides access to the path linking Beddington Lane with Richmond Road. Although this may work reasonably well as a link across the carriageway, the facility here is less good for those wishing to access the path from the carriageway (i.e. from Beddington Lane). New and better crossing designs, that separate those on foot from those on bicycles, are emerging. There is more on toucan crossings in section 5 below.

[2] Richmond Road (in vicinity of public footpath link to Beddington Lane)

  • Public right of way path linking Beddington Lane with Richmond Road (photo 8). As was the case at Beddington Lane, the need for chicane barriers at the Richmond Road end of the path is questioned. More than questioned, they need to be removed. Design improvements, where the cycle track emerges across the footway and onto the carriageway are required, and if implemented would negate the need for barriers (photo 8). And yes, this is not the last the we will hear about barriers on the tour! There is more under section 4, Wandle Bank, keep reading!
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Photo 8: Path linking Beddington Lane with Richmond Green, at the Richmond Green end. Not quite so wide here, but there is good colour distinction and contrast between the area designated for walking and that for cycling. Just a pity that there is a chunk of metal in the way. Not that everyone takes any notice, as the warn patch of grass on the right clearly indicates that some people have simply avoided the chicane manoeuvre completely. Well, why wouldn’t you? But, as noted in photo 7, it does not have to be like this. There are visibility issues at the point where the path crosses the footway at Richmond Road, and these need to be addressed. But with good design, conversations with land-owners and neighbours, full usability, inclusivity, safety can be built-in to provide a great facility (and so that leads us nicely to photo 9).
7 November 2015

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Photo 9: Now here’s a thing. How about some “new thinking” when it comes to designing for walking and cycling? This is an example of a fully inclusive, barrier-free, cycle path (with adjacent footway) that connects with everything that surrounds it. It’s effectively a “cycling is welcome here” sign, and it’s certainly appealing. Importantly, it is not cycling on the footway, and or even shared space. If the path in Beddington Village looked a bit more like this (and a little less like photos 7 and 8), it is highly likely that more residents of Beddington Village would be enticed to make some of their shorter journeys by bicycle.
Our thanks to @RantyHighwayman for the use of this photo

  • Richmond Road (photo 10). Richmond Road forms part of the Beddington Village Conservation Area. The street is narrow, and over much of its length heavily parked on both sides, providing just sufficient space for a vehicle to travel in one direction only. Richmond Road provides the only vehicular access to, and egress from, the Richmond Green area (noting, however, that other routes are available when travelling by bicycle or on foot which is a good thing). The traffic levels are relatively low here for most of the day, but given the narrowness of the available carriageway the road can potentially be intimidating to cycle along especially at busier times. In the medium term, Richmond Road could become a ‘cycle street’ (i.e. designed for cycling but where other vehicles are guests) or a ‘home zone’. In the short term, Richmond Road would benefit from a low speed limit (the existing 30 mph permitted speed limit is highly inappropriate) reflecting the current status and feel of the road.
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Photo 10: Richmond Road (as it western end by junction with Beddington Lane, looking east). In the past, consideration had been given to re-routing the London Cycle Network 75 here, rather than along the Wandle Bank Path. This was alluded to in the Beddington North, Space for Cycling, ‘ward ask’. (Item 4 discusses Wandle Bank Path in some detail). (In fact, for a short period of time (in 2013?) the alignment of LCN 75 was signed between Guy Road and Richmond Road (but no infrastructure was provided to facilitate this as being a particularly worthwhile option that felt safe).   
24 January 2016

[3] Wandle Road

  • Point closure (photo 11). Wandle Road contains a point closure, currently facilitated through the placement of bollards. Point closures ensure that the only cars and vans that access any particular section of the street are those used by residents or by their visitors, or are service, delivery or emergency vehicles. Essentially, point closures are about local roads being only used for local traffic. Consequently, traffic levels are much lower than they would be if traffic were permitted to use the street as a short-cut. The benefits that a point closure brings to residents, in terms of reduced traffic, reduced noise and reduced pollution, as well as giving their street a enhanced sense of place, almost certainly outweigh any dis-benefits associated with the journeys they make by car to or from their homes (e.g. slightly greater distance travelled or a marginal increase in journey time). It would be worth asking residents for their views on this, perhaps by asking whether they would prefer the point closure in Wandle Road to remain or for it to be removed. The conclusions from this could help make the case elsewhere. Certainly, from the perspective of making journeys on foot of by bicycle, the difference that a point closure makes is immeasurable.
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Photo 11: Wandle Road, looking north. A point closure, giving the residents of this street the clear benefit of not having non-local traffic using it as a short cut. The only thing is, a point closure is not a design that is intended to keep people on foot (or those using a mobility scooter) or bicycle out. It would be quite handy if they could actually get through. So, you get some paint, write Access Point Keep Clear in big lettering, and what happens? Presumably, the borough’s forthcoming Parking Strategy, in conjunction with the Sustainable Transport Strategy and the Cycling Strategy will help with issues like this. Let’s hope so, this needs to be addressed.
7 November 2015

  • Issues with parking and access. The main issue in Wandle Road, found at the time of our visit, was that the Keep Clear signage on the carriageway either side of the point closure was being effectively ignored (photo 11). Vehicles were parked across the full width of the street adjacent to the bollards, and this resulted in some difficulty negotiating the street by bicycle (particularly those who use bicycles as their mobility aid). This is an issue that needs to be addressed.
  • More prominence for cycling. The existing link between Kingston Gardens and Richmond Green, a path wide enough to provide access for people on bicycles as well as foot, requires greater prominence for cycling. This link currently lacks legibility, and would also benefit from improvements to access. (About 150m further along Richmond Green, a footbridge links Richmond Green with Lavington Road and the LCN 75. It’s a footbridge. If cycling is to be “built-in” to our urban landscape (rather than just promoted and encouraged), a replacement wider bridge here would be appropriate).

[4] Wandle Bank

  • A missing link. Wandle Bank is the name given to an un-adopted cul-de-sac lane on the north side of the River Wandle tributary, and also to the footpath that runs parallel with this on the south side of the river. The Wandle Bank footpath, with its unique character, is a wonderful place to stroll (photo 12). For many years, this narrow path has also formed the alignment of the London Cycle Network route 75, running east to west, Croydon to Sutton, through Beddington. At about 130 metres in length, it provides the current link between Bridges Lane/Bridle Path (a low-trafficked street), at its eastern (Croydon) end, and Hillier’s Lane/Beddington Lane, at the western (Sutton) end. Although the path, from it’s eastern end, is initially about 2.6 metres wide, it narrows to about 1.5 metres from about 30 metres along when the wall on the south side curves in to the path. After another ten meters, or so, the first of five buttresses, used to retain the wall, reduce the useable width of the path in places to a mere 90 centimetres (photo 12).
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Photo 12: Wandle Bank path, approximately 40 metres west of the eastern end (looking west towards Beddington Lane). At its narrowest point (by the nearest buttress shown here), Wandle Bank path is less than one metre wide.
7 November 2015

  • The width of the path is also constrained near the western end (to a width of around 1.3 metres). But it not buttresses causing the restriction this time, but rather the encroachment of property boundaries (photo 13). Taken together with the buttresses, and poor positioning of some of the lamp-posts, Wandle Bank path’s suitability for anything other than the occasional use by recreational cyclists is clearly at question.
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Photo 13: Wandle Bank path, approximately 30 metres east of the western end (looking west towards Beddington Lane), where the path narrows again. A sneaky peak over the fence on the southern side, reveals the cause of the confinement. Effectively, under-utilised space. Raising the question, does it really have to be like this?
24 January 2016

  • In relatively recent times, chicane barriers have been installed at the Bridges Road end of Wandle Bank (photos 14 and 15). The barriers were not in situ in 2008, as can be noted from Google Streetview images, and this, perhaps, indicates that there have been concerns by some users over the appropriateness of this path for use by people on bicycles. As discussed above, chicane barriers are physical barriers and, as such, are not appropriate for use on cycle routes [1]. Furthermore, “Cyclists Dismount” signs have (relatively recently) appeared at either end go the path too [2]. If someone has decided that a “Cyclists Dismount” sign is necessary, then the route is not suitable for cycling. Of course, it is far easier to install barriers and put up a “Cyclists Dismount” sign, then it is to provide a suitable environment for a mode of transport that would suit a fair proportion of those  journeys currently made by car (bearing in mind, that 50% of all journeys by car in the borough of for distances of less than 3 miles (5km)). And that, in a nutshell, goes someway to explaining why, in 2015, we are where we are at (photo 2).
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Photo 14: Approaching Wandle Bank from the eastern end (by Bridges Lane). And the first thing we notice are (newish) chicane barriers, proudly displaying two signs. One sign declares “Cyclists Dismount”, while the other confirms that this path nevertheless forms the London Cycle Network route 75.
7 November 2015

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Photo 15: Wandle Bank (Bridges Lane), location as photo 12. Cycling provision that contradicts itself is not cycling provision.
7 November 2015

  • Despite the path being assigned as part of a cycle route, it would probably be fair to say that it is not somewhere that someone cycling feels comfortable (unless perhaps part of a recreational ride), or where someone on foot feels particularly comfortable in the presence of someone on a bike. So, the issue here is the unsuitability of the Wandle Bank path as a cycle path (let alone as a cycle route).
  • Wandle Bank path always has been “a missing link” in the London Cycle Network, but its unsuitability as a link in a cycle route will only intensify if this alignment were to become a cycle “Quietway.
  • So what can be done? Two options were suggested on the day of our tour. Both would be relatively costly, require the loss of some trees and vegetation, and, in order to interface with the B272, would require extensive signalling arrangements to afford the safe crossing of Beddington Lane / Hillier’s Lane (more on this below). Nevertheless, serious thought needs to be given to these considerations.
  1. Construction of a platform (or boardway build-out) adjacent to the existing Wandle Bank path to facilitate additional width (this could be implemented as a separate structure, and need not be along the entire length (as seen in photo 13, for example);
  2. The installation of a cycle/footway bridge, minimum width of 2.5 metres and free of chicanes, traversing (forty-five degrees) across the river between the Wandle Bank  Path and the Wandle Bank street on the north side of the river, at a point approximately 30 metres west of the eastern end. This would keep most of the existing Wandle Bank path as a footway (the narrower sections), and divert cycling to use Wandle Bank (surfaced) on the other side of the river (see photos 16 and 17).

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Photo 16: View from Wandle Bank path, at a point approximately 30 metres west of the eastern end, looking across the river towards the north bank and the unadopted Wandle Bank cul-de-sac. Would the construction of a cycle / foot bridge here be a workable solution? 
24 January 2016

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Photo 17: Wandle Bank (same location as photo 16), this time with a panoramic view. This views gives a clearer indication of the path of diminishing returns. Over a distance of just a few meters, the path width reduces from 2.6m to 1.9m and then to 90cm (by the first buttress). The approximate location for a foot / cycle bridge is also shown. 
24 January 2016

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Photo 18: Looking back across the River Wandle from the northern bank (Wandle Bank lane) towards the southside (photos 16 and 17), from the point where a foot / cycle bridge could land.
24 January 2016

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Photo 19: Wandle Bank lane (private road) on the north side of the River Wandle, looking west (i.e. opposite direction to photo 18). Would residents be prepared to share their lane with people on foot and on bicycle if a bridge was constructed at the eastern end? Beddington Lane is at the far end (see photo 20).
24 January 2016

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Photo 20: Beddington Lane, looking south, at the western end of Wandle Bank. The existing alignment of the east-west cycle route (between the Wandle Bank Path and Guy Road) makes use of the signalised toucan crossing (seen about 40 metres south of this point) and inevitably requires cycling on sections of pavement. Hopefully, the days of toucan crossings are numbered. A far more robust signalised crossing for cycles (avoiding use of the footway) is required here, whatever alignment of the future east-west route takes, to make all movements by bicycle viable (also see photos 21-25).
24 January 2016

[5] Wandle Bank – Hiller’s Lane – Guy Road

  • The existing infrastructure at Hillier’s Lane to assist access by bicycle between Guy Road (on the west side) and Wandle Bank path (on the east side) is a “toucan crossing” (photo 20). Toucan crossings are not specific infrastructure for cycling, but are basically pedestrian crossings that cyclists can share. By definition, they presume that cycling levels will be low. Furthermore, cycling on the pavement is necessary for access and egress, and this often requires cyclists to perform tight 90-degree turns in constrained spaces. To ensure there is no ambiguity in areas surrounding crossings, the provision of specific, separate, facilities for pedestrians and cyclists is required. It is anticipated that the introduction of toucan crossings will diminish in coming years, in recognition of the fact that the peoples’ needs differ when on foot or on a bicycle. Put simply, toucan crossings are a throwback to a former age. (It is worth noting at this point that Andrew Gilligan, Cycling Commissioner, speaking at the Hackney Cycling Conference in June 2015, said, in reference to noted deficiencies in the cycling network on borough roads, that “traditional thinking, like “cycling on pavements” and “toucans”, still persists” in some boroughs. Hopefully, new, forthcoming, recommendations from the Department for Transport will endorse “new thinking”.
  • Unsurprisingly, access to and egress from the crossing on the west side of Hillier’s Lane requires the rider to use a short section of pavement and make two 90-degree turns. On the east side of the road a further two, tight, 90-degree turns are required. This provision is very poor for cycling. Cyclists need to be considered as vehicles, and any design, of what is effectively a crossroads at Hillier’s Lane with Guy Road and Wandle Bank, needs to be such that this is recognised.
  • A fully signalised junction (incorporating one of the two options for Wandle Bank discussed above) is the requirement here. This needs to incorporate the facilitation of cycle movements in all directions (so not just straight across on the alignment of the LCN route 75, but also to and from Hiller’s Lane).
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Photo 21: Beddington Lane, east side, looking north, at the western end of the Wandle Bank path. Interesting to note that direct access to the Wandle Bank Path was once facilitated.
7 November 2015

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Photo 22: Wandle Bank Path, western end (same location as photo 21), and another “cycling not welcome here” sign on the LCN 75 – a sure sign that cycling is considered as a low priority, and there is the expectation that cycling will continue to be a marginalised  activity.
7 November 2015

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Photo 23: Beddington Lane / Wandle Bank Path (same location as photo 21). Lots to talk about here…
7 November 2015

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Photo 24: Beddington Lane / Wandle Bank Path (same location as photo 21) east side, looking north, …as another lorry rolls through the village.
7 November 2015

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Photo 25: Beddington Lane / Wandle Bank Path (same location as photo 21), east side, looking north, opposite Guy Road.
7 November 2015

[6] Guy Road – Mellor’s Close

  • An interesting relic of a former attempt to facilitate cycling in Beddington Village was discovered in the form of a path of about 100 metres in length, linking, in a circuitous manner, Guy Road with Mellor’s Close. The path makes use of a narrow footbridge across a tributary of the River Wandle at the southern end (Guy Road), then widens over part of it’s length to provide delineated foot and cycle areas separated by a painted white line, before becoming an alleyway on the northern end.
  • Although the path does provides people with an opportunity to avoid Beddington Lane when wishing to access Mellor’s Close, Crispin Cresent and Beddington Park Primary School from Guy Road, it does not ‘shout’ cycling. It is the sort of lack-lustre facility you get when you spend derisory amounts of money on cycling (currently around £1.57 per head per year in Sutton, equivalent to the price of three second-class postage stamps in December 2015), and when you spend that money in a piecemeal fashion, and when there is little or no aspiration, no strategic vision, or will, to change or to improve things. No surprise then really, just a disgrace.
  • To add insult to injury, it was noted that, shortly before our official visit, a vehicle had been parked across the entrance to the path at the Mellor’s Close end. A quick-fix to discourage such behaviour (especially given that there is ample parking and garaging space nearby), would, at the very least, be the application of double yellow lines here. It’s a pity, of course, that this appears to be necessary.
Elsewhere on Beddington Lane

When the official tour ended, Tom and Charles cycled north along Beddington Lane. Starting from the garage by Derry Road and using the footway on the west side (photos 26 and 27), continuing past Asda, and then crossing to the ‘out-of-nowhere’ and isolated cycle path on the eastern side (photos 29 to 36), it was possible to experience the not so good, the bad, and the outright unpleasant state of Beddington Lane in all its glory.

Taken together, photos 26 to 36 not only give a taster of why only the hardiest of individuals would choose to cycle here, but they also demonstrate that a piecemeal approach to cycling infrastructure provision (and not particularly good provision at that) is unlikely to make a great deal of difference to cycling levels in the borough that has the aspiration of being London’s most sustainable suburb.

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4374_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 26: Beddington Lane, west side, looking south (about 175m north of Derry Road, near Harrington Close). The pavement on the right in this view (i.e. the west side) is a pavement, whereas the pavement on the opposite side of the road is a shared footway /cycle way (but only to and from the left side edge of the photo, where, after the entrance to Wickes et al, the pavement reverts to a being a fully fledged pavement again (also see photo 27)). You learn something every day! Apparently hedgerows were lost to facilitate the widening of the footway /cycleway here, but that’s not really the issue (because hedgerows will grow again). The issue here is that there is so much under-utilised space behind the fence (and yes, space currently in the private, not public domain), space that currently serves absolutely no real purpose, that it’s an embarrassment. What could be done? Well, let’s start by buying up a three-metre wide strip of land, then move the fence back three metres, to deliver the sort of space for cycling infrastructure shown in photo 3. (And, yes, this is a serious suggestion that needs to be taken seriously if we are serious about cycling becoming a real, and inviting, consideration for most people). [Google Maps]
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4375_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 27: Beddington Lane, west side, looking north (i.e. same location as photo 26, but opposite direction). Harrington Close is to the left, and Commerce Way to the right. All the pavements in this view are, what they should be, pavements. The conversion of the footway, shown in photo 26, to shared use in 2013/14 was presumably to provide an off-road connection between the industrial road running parallel to Beddington Lane (with links to retail units) and both the toucan crossing south of Derry Road and the path to Richmond Road (photo 7). Pathetic really. [Google Maps]
7 November 2015

Google Maps, Satellite View, Beddington Lane/Harrington Close/Commerce Way (also see photos 26 and 27):

Google Maps, Street View, Beddington Lane, by the Asda complex, looking south. This is included in lieu of photos along this section of the road – photos that were not taken at the time due a heavy rain shower!:

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4381_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 28: Beddington Lane, looking north, by entrance to Beddington Sewage Works (about 500m north of the location shown in photos 26 and 27). The footway/pavement on the west side just stops. But then again, who would want to walk here anyway? About 50 metres ahead on the right-hand side, the footway on the eastern side of the road widens, a white lane painted down the middle to demarcate a shared footway /cycleway (photo 29). Pretty poor condition in places, poor rolling surface throughout, next to hopeless in isolation, but at least away from the traffic (although nothing like it could be  – remember photo 3?)
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4382_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 29: Beddington Lane, looking north, at a location about 50 metres north of the view in photo 28. Here is the start (or end) of a so-called, cycling facility. This continues, almost intact (photos 30 to 36), for about 700 metres, to a point just south of Therapia Lane (photos 37 and 38). Pretty poor condition in places (as will be seen), poor surface and rolling resistance throughout, next to hopeless in isolation, but at least away from the traffic (although nothing like it could be – remember photo 3?). If anyone knows when this piecemeal “facility” was commissioned, please let us know. From Google Streetview, we know it was in situ in July 2008 (and stopping/starting exactly where it does now, over seven years later).   
7 November 2015

Google Maps, Street View, Beddington Lane. Another view of the southern end of the widened footway, and it’s abrupt dive back on the carriageway: 

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4393_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 30: Beddington Lane, about 20 metres to the north of the location shown in photo 29, this time looking south. The widened path, to facilitate off-carriageway cycling is clearly evident. Segregated, rather than shared provision here, but although it may look smooth this path is not. Rolling resistance is mentioned again, because the feel of the ride on cycle paths needs to be as good as, if not better than, than it would on the carriageway. Anyone cycling in this direction will shortly have to rejoin the carriageway anyway, as has been the case for at least seven years. At least during the same period, a bus shelter has been provided here (and subsequently upgraded a year or so ago). Of course, if Beddington Lane was being widened to a dual carriageway, presumably construction would not be made in stages, with seven or more years between each stage? However, it would seem that this is quite an acceptable approach for  cycling provision. No vision, no need, why bother?  
7 November 2015 

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4404_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 31: Beddington Lane, now looking north, approximately 20 metres north of the location in photo 30 (and just beyond the excessively wide access road shown in photo 32, for which users of the cycle path have to give way to intermittent traffic using this road – not something required for on-carriageway users, so should not be for decent cycle facilities adjacent to the carriageway either). The undulations of this poorly constructed path can clearly be seen. Mind you, poor drainage or poor maintenance (or both) of the carriageway, results in considerable spray. Not so bad if you are in the coach perhaps, but hard luck if you happen to be cycling past at the time.
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4410_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 32: Beddington Lane path, same location as photo 31, but looking in the other direction (south). Those cycling on this path, parallel to Beddington Lane, should have the same priority as those driving (or cycling) on Beddington Lane. And what is the deal with 20-metre wide access road anyway? [Google Maps satellite view
7 November 2015 

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4422_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 33: Beddington Lane path, as it crosses yet another access road to industrial units (Beddington Cross), looking south. This location is about 300 metres north from photo 32. Recent rain clearly demonstrates the inadequacy, and poor maintenance of the crossing here. Again, having to give way to minor road traffic.
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4438_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 34: Beddington Lane path, looking north, about 150 metres  north of photo 33. Here, at last, quite a pleasant section of route. A well-maintained landscape, with grass verges and green embankment (rolling surface still an issue of course). Too good to last? Well yes, shortly beyond the curve ahead, the intersection with Greenland Way appears and the “add-on” nature of cycle path facilitation once again manifests itself (photo 35) just before the whole thing gives up anyway (photo 36).
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4443_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 35: Beddington Lane path (footway standard) at its intersection with Greenland Way. When you see things like this, you know that the cycle facility is really only a glorified footway. 
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4448_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 36: Beddington Lane path and the end of the line if you are cycling. Not quite sure what you are supposed to do here (from either direction). Presumably, someone has decided that you cannot have a bus at the bus-stop blocking the carriageway, so a lay-by has to be provided. So it all gets too difficult, let’s just give up. And who cycles anyway? We’ve only put paint on the footway to spend the derisory sum we get for cycling, and to be able to say we have done something. 
7 November 2015

So, to sum up Beddington Lane north of Beddington Village. Although off-carriageway provision is provided for cycling on the east side, over about half (800m) of its total length of around 1.6km (Coomber Way to Guy Road), the two sections that exist are really nothing more than glorified footpaths. This brings many associated disadvantages, including a surface quality that is less good than the carriageway (potholes excepting), the requirement to give way at intersections, and potential conflict between pedestrians and cyclists (although, admittedly, footfall here is low). It is clear that the facility at the northern end of Beddington Lane has not been maintained.

A cycle facility is only as good as its weakest link. Clearly the existing facility does not provide a continuous route, and it gives up when the going gets tough. The marginalisation of cycling, and the piecemeal approach to its provision, continues.

East from Beddington Lane, towards Croydon

Having arrived at Therapia Lane, the opportunity was taken to explore an area towards Croydon. Photos 37 to 44 illustrate what was found.

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4449_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 37: A path linking Beddington Lane (footway) with Therapia Lane (or, at least that’s what we thought)…. [Google Maps]  
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4458_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_TherapiaLane

Photo 38: … but the path became effectively a pavement on Therapia Lane, with a white line down the middle. And then the pavement became a parking lot.
7 November 2015 

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4461_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_TherapiaLane

Photo 39: Therapia Lane becomes traffic free (just a pity it’s a bit of a mess)! [Google Maps]
7 November 2015

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Photo 40: Therapia Lane (from the same location as photo 39, looking in opposite direction back towards the footway also seen in photo 38).
7 November 2015 

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4488_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_EndeavourWay

Photo 41: Endeavour Way, deep in the light industrial heartland, about 200 metres further on from photo 39, and some interesting street furniture… [Google Maps
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4489_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_EndeavourWay_ProtectedSpace_Joke

Photo 42: Endeavour Way, a few metres further east from photo 41. …..could this be an early attempt, or experiment, by Sutton Council to provide protected space for cycling?
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4492_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_EndeavourWay

Photo 43: Towards the eastern end of the Endeavour Way, and a path is provided through to Coomber Way. Is that metal fence, blocking access/egress to the cycle half of the path, really necessary? (The answer is no, but it looked good on a planner’s drawing).
7 November 2015

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_4510_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_CoomberWay_EndeavourWay

Photo 44: Coomber Way at the point where the Endeavour Way path “joins”it. A painted cycle lane in the gutter (west bound), or use of half the footway (also looks like it westbound). All a bit of a mess really. The boundary with the London borough of Croydon lies ahead, just the other side of the roundabout in the distance. [Google Maps]  
7 November 2015

And then there is the issue of parking…

What else did we learn the tour? Well, it was noted that although making space for cycling in Beddington Village was at best haphazard, and at worst non-existent, when it comes to providing space for parking – well you just get on with it ……

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Photo 45: Beddington Lane by Derry Road. Garage forecourt. Well, of course, you would expect parking here….
7 November 2015

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Photo 46: Beddington Lane, and the Village Hall … you would expect some parking provision here too (although, if this space is primarily used by the residents of the village, do you need quite so much)?  
24 January 2016

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Photo 47: Beddington Lane, and 20 metres or so south of the village hall,and this is where it starts to get interesting. Parking is permitted on the footway here, but there appears to be quite a large area that could be used for parking off-footway in the area to the right.
24 January 2016

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Photo 48: Beddington Lane, in the opposite direction shown in photo 47, and showing even more starkly the choices we make when it comes to parking provision. How much more inconvenient would it be to facilitate parking on the hard standing to the left, in comparison to how much more convenient it would be for those on foot or in a mobility scooter to pass unhindered. These are the sort of conversations that need to be had, and questions that need to be asked, if the Council’s sustainable transport strategy (June 2015) is worth the paper it is written on. Let’s hope the borough’s emerging parking strategy will get to grips with this too.  
24 January 2016

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_8830_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane_Copy

Photo 49: Beddington Lane, ten or so metres south of photo 47 (looking north). Parking on the footway, in public space that could be a bike lane. As alluded to in the text to photo 26, it really is time to consider how we make better use of the space we have. If that means that fences need to be moved back in order to accommodate the growing number of parked vehicles, whilst at the same time ensuring there is sufficient space for everyone to get around on foot, on bike, or in a car, then new ideas and perhaps tough and challenging decisions are required. It is unlikely to get any better, and could get a whole lot worse.  
24 January 2016

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_8887_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 50: Beddington Lane, almost opposite the Village Hall, this time looking north. A narrow footway (clearly too narrow for parking), constrained by an historic boundary alignment. Carriageway space takes priority over footway space, so that if anything has to give it’s the latter. But what would be the impact on the owners of the land to the right, if there was a negotiation to move the fence back two metres to facilitate a cycle way? Would a village that embraced cycling, help to make it a better, or worse, place to live and work? Again, conversations that have to be had.
24 January 2016

BeddingtonTourNovember2015_IMG_8890_Sutton_BeddingtonNorth_BeddingtonLane

Photo 51: Meanwhile, a typical “cyclist” rides through the village. Unless you are fit, and prepared to do battle with traffic, Beddington Lane is almost a no-go area of cycling. But it really should not be like that, we just need the bigger vision for the future.
24 January 2016 

And finally…

The question now is will (or can) Sutton’s new Cycling Strategy (approved in November 2015 but still unpublished three months later) set a new course for delivery? Only time will tell, (and if you are reading this in 2026, or later, you will already know the answer). One thing is certain, though. Action is required now (February 2016), if a step-change in provision for cycling is to be realised within the next ten years. The focus does not have to be on Beddington Lane at the moment, but the conversation across the borough needs to start soon. Otherwise, even that paltry 4% target for cycling by 2025 will have little hope of being achieved.

It is hoped that this review of the Beddington cycle tour gives an indication of our high aspirations. Our thanks to Cllr Abellan and Cllr Ali for taking part, and we look forward to the ongoing conversations in the coming weeks and months.

Footnotes:

[1] “The main interventions on the vast majority of the (Quietway) network will be direction signing, surfacing improvements, removing barriers such as chicanes and improving the flow of the route.” (Emphasis on “removing barriers such as chicanes” by author) London Cycling Design Standards (November 2014), Chapter 1, Section 1.3.1, Delivering high-quality infrastructure. (Of course, if these main interventions (direction signing, surfacing improvements, removing barriers such as chicanes and improving the flow of the route), are the only interventions, Quietways will not be the success everyone had hoped they would be: Quietways require more than ‘lines and signs’ (and cycling will fail to become main stream in the process).

[2] “Unnecessary small obstacles and diversions should be removed. Chicanes and ‘cyclist dismount’ signs must be avoided. Currently, many routes appear deliberately designed to break the flow.” London Cycling Design Standards (November 2014), Chapter 1, Section 1.1.6 Guiding principles

v1: 18.02.2016

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