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.
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]
- The potential for enticing more people to cycle through, and around, Beddington Village [Goggle Maps | Streetmap | Open Street Map]
On this occasion, it transpired there was more emphasis on the latter two points rather than the former.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Details on visited locations
 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).
- 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.
- 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.
 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!
- 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.
 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.
- 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).
 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).
- 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.
- 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 . Furthermore, “Cyclists Dismount” signs have (relatively recently) appeared at either end go the path too . 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).
- 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.
- 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);
- 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).
 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).
 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.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!:
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:
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.
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 ……
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.
 “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).
 “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