A24 Epsom Road Cycle Safety Improvements

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Poster from the LCC’s 2016 mayoral election campaign Sign for Cycling


Transport for London (TfL) recently consulted on proposals to improve cycle facilities along the A24 Epsom Road, Morden. The consultation, A24 Epsom Road Cycle Safety Improvements, which was open for comment between 8 February and 11 March 2016, focussed on a 600-metre section of A24 situated just over 1km to the south of Morden town centre [Google Maps | Open Street Map | Streetmap]. Although this section of the A24 is situated wholly within the London Borough of Merton, the southern end (at the intersection with Lower Morden Road and Elm Road West) borders with our borough. As we have a strong desire to ultimately see major cycling schemes on all TfL roads within the London Borough of Sutton, schemes that would provide a coherent network to transform the cycling experience, we clearly have a great interest in any current or ongoing proposals for the A24. It should be noted that these latest proposals for the A24 follow on from the TfL consultation, A24 London Road proposed cycling improvements, that took place during October/November 2012.

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Map 1: The plan, provided as apart of the consultation, outlining the proposed improvements to cycle facilities along the A24 Epsom Road between Central Road and Lower Morden Lane. This can be downloaded as a pdf from the TfL consultation page.
Transport for London | February 2016

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Photo 1: Epsom Road, A24, southbound carriageway, looking south, near Rougemont Avenue and Holne Chase. Current proposals are to remove the inside traffic lane, and introduce a cycle lane on the outside of the retained parking and loading bays. The vehicle seen in the foreground in this photo occupies the approximate location of the proposed cycle lane.
3 March 2016

A summary of our response to A24 Epsom Road Cycle Safety Improvements:

  • The proposals, as outlined, for the A24 Epsom Road, between Central Road in the north and Lower Morden Road in the south (a total distance of only 600 metres), are not supported.
  • This section of the A24 has great potential for proving some first class facilities for cycling.
  • The opportunity to deliver the very best cycling infrastructure is easier on Epsom Road than on many other sections of the A24, so the bar needs to be set high at the outset.
  • Dedicated and protected north and southbound cycle lanes, plus redesigned junctions, are required to make cycling a real transport choice for everyone.

Our full response to the A24 Epsom Road Cycle Safety Improvements consultation is available from the link below (and from our Publications page).

A24 Epsom Road Cycle Safety Improvements: a response from Get Sutton Cycling (March 2016)

We can do better

In 2016, a year that will see the opening in central London of Europe’s longest substantially segregated city bike route, we would expect to see substantially better ideas than those proposed for Epsom Road. The proposals, that include painted cycle lanes close to the door zone in the downhill southbound carriageway, and a shared bus lane in the opposite uphill direction, are not greatly different from the 2012 proposals for the London Road, Morden, section of the A24. Furthermore, as was also the case in 2012, the difficult sections of the A24 (north from London Road into the Morden gyratory, and south from Epsom Road to the Woodstock intersection at Stonecot Hill and beyond), are not being addressed.

The success of the proposals for the A24 will be measured in how effective they are in making walking and cycling an option for more people for more of the time. So they will be a success if, for example, the improvements result in some of the parents, whose children attend Morden Primary School, decide to let their children cycle to and from school when they feel like it. They will be a success if more of the staff and students at Merton College consider cycling as a serious option and perhaps take up cycle training. They will be a success if residents of Lower Morden or Stonecot Hill, who currently choose to drive to Morden, are encouraged, on occasion, to cycle instead. They will be a success if they promote the Sustrans Greenway route 208 between Wimbledon and Sutton. And they will be a success if the volume of vehicular traffic movement around the Morden gyratory is reduced because more people walk, cycle or take the bus instead.

The proposed interventions as outlined in the March 2016 consultation, if implemented, are unlikely to result in an any of these outcomes. That is why we felt unable to support them.

What does the A24 need?

The A24 needs cycling infrastructure that is transformative. The A24 needs infrastructure that will notably enhance the experience of cycling for the traditional commuter cyclist, and be a compelling proposition for everyone else too. It will only happen, of course, if there is the complete commitment and understanding from politicians, and if there is substantial and sustained investment.

Things are changing for the better, and in a big way. You only have to a take a Northern Line train from Morden, change at Kennington, and alight at Embankment (a journey of about 30 minutes in total) to find high-quality cycling infrastructure on the Victoria Embankment. We know it is going to take time to roll-out such infrastructure elsewhere, including along the A24 in the outer reaches of London. We know it’s not going to happen overnight everywhere. But it’s time to set the bar high. Epsom Road has the space for cycling infrastructure, so why not take the opportunity to construct the very best cycling infrastructure? And if not here, what chance is there anywhere else outside zone 1?

Tour of the A24 in photos

In this final section, several photographs are provided to illustrate some of the points made in the consultation response. Photos do not tell the whole story, of course, but it is hoped that this selection will add a little context to the discussion. Photos 2 to 20 were taken around midday on 3 March 2016 (a weekday) along the A24 Epsom Road (the section of route to which this consultation refers). Photos 21 to 26 were taken around 8.30 to 9am (in the mist) on 11 March 2016 (also a weekday) along the A24 London Road (just to the north of Epsom Road, approaching Morden town centre, the section of route consulted on late 2012).

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Photo 2: Epsom Road, looking north. Lower Morden Lane is to the left (west side) and Elm Road West to the right (on the east). This is the southern end of the section of Epsom Road that is featured in the consultation. There is a traffic island behind the queueing vehicles in the centre of the image. According to the map provided with the consultation (Map 1 above), and this island is to be repositioned slight (back and to the left in this view). This repositioning will facilitate a larger right-hand filter lane for traffic turning from Epsom Road into Lower Morden Lane. Quite how this will improve cycle safety at this intersection is not clear.
3 March 2016

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Photo 3: Epsom Road, looking south. This is the same location as photo 2, but looking in the opposite direction. According to the text supplied on the consultation map, this traffic island is also to be repositioned slightly (effectively to the right in this view). However, the plan appears to actually indicate a reduction in the width of the traffic island to facilitate a widening of the southbound carriageway (left hand carriageway in this view). The consultation does not address the requirement for cycle safety improvements beyond this point south, or give any indication that this may ever be reviewed. Do what is easy, not what is difficult, and hope no one notices perhaps?
3 March 2016

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Photo 4: Epsom Road, west side, looking north, just north of Lower Morden Lane. (The first lamppost on the left here, is the second lamppost on the left in photo 2). The complete inadequacy of the existing painted cycle lane is apparent, and this starkly demonstrates the lack of priority that has been given to cycling provision for years. The proposal is to convert the nearside traffic lane to a wide bus lane / cycle lane.  Is there not sufficient space to have separate facilities?
3 March 2016

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Photo 5: Epsom Road, west side, looking north. The third lamppost on the left in this view is the last lamppost on the left in the view seen in photo 4. The nearside traffic lane will continue here as a wide bus lane / cycle lane until a point close to where the silver vehicle in the nearside lane is located. It appears from the consultation map that at this point, as the uphill gradient begins to bite, the nearside lane will again be available to all vehicles. Will that facilitate a cycle safety improvement? Meanwhile, the footway on the left is already shared-use (although you would not really know it, and it appears TfL didn’t either) forming the Sustrans Route 208 ‘Greenway’ that links (if that is the correct word) Sutton with Wimbledon.
3 March 2016

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Photo 6: Epsom Road, west side, looking south. The nearest lamppost on the right is the fifth lamppost on the left in photo 4. In the foreground is the bus-stop lay-by. The proposal is for the nearside traffic lane to be converted to a wide bus lane / cycle lane, and for a dropped kerb to be installed just before the start before the bus-stop bay.  The footway adjacent to the bus-stop will become shared-use , to continue beyond the bus-stop to the Puffin crossing (to be converted to a Toucan at great expense but with no real benefit) and the existing shared-use footway (referred to in caption of photo 5). In the middle distance the intersection with Lower Morden Lane can be seen. Beyond that, the A24 continues towards Stonecot and North Cheam. As yet, there are no proposals for any cycle safety improvements here. When the going gets tough… forget it?
3 March 2016

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Photo 7: Epsom Road, west side, looking north. The signage here can just be seen in photo 5 in the far distance. Note the small Route 208 sign pointing to the left on the second lamppost (also see photo 8), and its juxtaposition with the main signage. So, here we have an existing,  inconsequential (and “lumpy” to ride on) shared-use pavement, alongside an ineffective bit of on-carriageway, painted cycle lane that shouts (or whimpers) “the marginalisation of cycling”. And it is about here, at the top of the incline, that the proposed bus lane/ cycle lane is to simply vanish. Incidentally, the shared-use cycle footway does actually continue beyond intersection with the 208 path (but again, you would not know it until you reach the traffic lights at the intersection with Central Road (just beyond the bend) – see photo 11).
3 March 2016

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Photo 8: Epsom Road, west side, looking north. Zooming in on the view in photo 7, to highlight the Route 208 sign on the lamppost. All of the footway seen in this view is officially for cycle use. The lorry is parked in a loading bay, the existing on-carrigeway painted cycle lane disappears before the loading bay, as will the proposed wide bus lane / cycle lane. 
3 March 2016

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Photo 9: Epsom Road, west side , looking north. This is at a point just beyond the parked lorry and loading bay shown in photo 8, on the left bend before the signalised intersection. There are no proposed changes here for the Epsom Road cycle safety scheme, arguably when you would expect improvements the most. Note the start of a third lane as feeder for right turning traffic into Central Road. Fancy cycling uphill across the two inside lanes to reach it? As will be seen in photo 11, rather than cycle across these lanes of traffic, cyclists can reach Central Road by means of toucan crossings that can be accessed from a service road just prior to the intersection. The marginalisation of cycling continues.   
3 March 2016

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Photo 10: Epsom Road, central reservation, looking north. This is the view across the northbound carriageway, near the location in photo 9. Central Road is on the right at the signalised junction. Again, no improvements proposed here. Continuing beyond the traffic lights the A24 Epsom Road becomes the A24 London Road. Some painted cycle lanes were provided on London Road at the end of 2013 (or early 2014) – see photos 21-25 – presumably because to do so was relatively easy. Meanwhile at junctions, the thinking appears to be that less confident “cyclists” can use the pavement. Clearly, the inadequate, and piecemeal approach to cycling provision continues in those outer reaches of London not receiving ‘mini-Holland’ funding. 
3 March 2016

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Photo 11: Epsom Road, west side, looking north,where it becomes London Road. Central Road is across to the right, St Lawrence Church ahead on the left.. This image has been included just to confirm that the west-side footway on Epsom Road is indeed a shared facility (starting, presumably, at the puffin Route 208 crossing back near Rutland Drive). Note the “cycling prohibited” sign ahead on the island footway, attached to the post with the sign that suggests the cyclists access the toucan crossings to reach Central Road. Legibility? Forget it! Let’s hope we can expect something much better than this in the not too distant future.
3 March 2016

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Photo 12: Epsom Road, east side, looking south. Now we have crossed the carriageway, and are heading south. This is the view looking downhill on the opposite side of the road (and in the opposite direction) to the view in photo 9. The proposal for the southbound carriageway is to convert the nearside traffic lane to a cycle lane. Sounds great, but the intermittent parking and loading bays are to remain, and so consequently the lane is going to run, unprotected, between parked vehicles on the left and the active traffic lane on the right. And by the way, the nearside traffic lane is not to be converted to a cycle lane until a point around where the vehicle on the inside lane is shown in this view (possibly because there is a bus-stop immediately behind the point where this photo was taken).    
3 March 2016

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Photo 13: Epsom Road, east side, looking south. The view a few metres ahead of that in photo 12. This is approximately where the cycle lane will start (or rather, move across to the outside of the nearside carriageway). A new traffic island to protect parking is proposed on the left of the nearside lane at a point near where the existing painted cycle lane runs into the loading/parking bay. 
3 March 2016

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Photo 14: Epsom Road, east side, looking south. A few metres along from photo 13, showing the status of the Red Route. The cycle lane, as proposed, will be situated between the marked loading bay and the centre line. A new traffic island to protect parking will be located before the loading/parking bay.
3 March 2016

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Photo 15: Epsom Road, east side, looking west across the carriageway at the existing “puffin crossing” just to the north of Rutland Drive. It is proposed to extend the kerb line out here (as obviously kerb side parking will not be permitted on the crossing), and to convert the crossing to a “toucan crossing” (in other words, formally permit people on bikes to cycle across, rather than dismount first). This crossing had been part of the Sustrans Greenway route 208 for a few years already (a sign can just be made out on the lamppost on the other side of the road (also see photo 16)). Clearly, the two stage, share with people on foot, and use the footway approach, is not a design for mass cycling.
3 March 2016

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Photo 16: Epsom Road, west side, by the Rutland Drive crossing. Signage showing the alignment of Sustrans Greenway Route 208 – north, on footway of A24 to Morden Park towards Raynes Park and Wimbledon; east, across crossing and on footway link to Rutland Drive. (Incidentally, the post is straight, there’s clearly an imperfection in the camera’s lens)! 
3 March 2016

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Photo 17: Epsom Road, east side, looking north. This footway is currently a shared facility (but you would not really know it) linking Rutland Drive (behind) with the crossing. The proposal plan shows this as a “new shared area for pedestrians and cyclists”, with the proposed on-carriageway cycle lane running outside the marked loading bay. This is dual provision for cycling, and neither is good for all users. High-quality infrastructure should have uniformity of provision. In other words, one design solution that provides comfort, safety and convenience for all potential users.
3 March 2016

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Photo 18: Epsom Road, east side, looking south. Rutland Drive is on the left. The on-carriageway, painted, cycle lane will be re-located to the outside of the nearside lane. Although the nearside lane will not be for general north-south A24 traffic, vehicles will clearly be permitted to enter the lane to access Rutland Drive, access the the bus-stop, the on-carriageway loading bays, and the on-pavement parking provision. Consequently, there will be all sorts of potential conflicts here for the vulnerable “cyclist”. Meanwhile, the on-pavement Greenway (Epsom Road – Rutland Drive alignment) will continue to “encourage” cycling.     
3 March 2016

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Photo 19: Epsom Road, east side, looking south. This is the view beyond the bus-stop shown in photo 18. The loading bay may be obligatory, but it does nothing for the public realm (particularly so, perhaps, when not in use). If the cycle safety improvements proposal goes ahead as planned, the nearside traffic lane will, as elsewhere, be converted to a cycle lane (more specifically, an on-carriageway, painted, cycle lane located on the outside of the traffic lane. At times when this lane is devoid of parked vehicles (as was the case when this photo was taken) cyclists would probably move across to the left. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine this unprotected space feeling any more comfortable for cycling than it does at present.  
3 March 2016

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Photo 20: Epsom Road, east side, looking south. The intersection with Elm Road West is ahead to the left, opposite Lower Morden Lane. We are almost back where we started in photos 2, 3 and 4, but travelling in the opposite direction of course. At this point, the proposed painted, on-carriageway cycle lane will also be back exactly where it currently is as shown here – back on the kerb-side. Just prior to this view, the cycle lane will cross from the outside of the nearside lane, as the nearside lane becomes a traffic lane once again. Traffic will split left and right depending on whether continuing south/turning left into Elm Road West, or turning right into Lower Morden Lane. Once again it will be everyone for themselves in a single carriageway, with a centre traffic island adding a pinch-point into the mix. And south of here? Well, business as usual. Take the lane and enjoy the experience. Quite how these proposals for an isolated 600-metre section of the A24 can be described as a cycle safety improvement scheme is really not clear.    
3 March 2016

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Photo 21: London Road, east side, looking south (just north of junction with Central Road, Morden Primary School o the left). London Road, Morden was subject to consultation on cycling improvements in 2012, and this is the result on the southbound carriageway. An intermittent, on-carriageway cycle lane. If you cycle here, you duck and dive around parked vehicles repeatedly. It’s not consistent provision, it’s not good provision. The current A24 Epsom Road Cycle Safety Improvements consultation, for the southbound carriageway just to the south, tries to improve on this with a “consistent” cycle lane on the outside of parking bays.
11 March 2016

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Photo 22: London Road, east side, looking north (Chalgrove Avenue on the right). The 2012/2013 provision again, and the shortcomings are clear. Great potential for a protected cycle track, except that tricky issue of parking. For more on this, see photo 23.
11 March 2016

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Photo 23: London Road, east side, looking north (Chalgrove Avenue on the right). Stepping back from the view in photo 22 to see the bigger picture. Early morning, and just one vehicle Finding space for parking need not be difficult. Road space is contested space, but there are ways of resolving the issues for different users (drivers and cyclists) and for differing use (movement and parking). Furthermore, for this particular location, the carriageway is wide and the footway is too.
11 March 2016

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Photo 24: London Road, east side, looking south (near Morden Court). A section of cycle lane introduced following the 2012 consultation. This is the type of provision proposed for Epsom Road, to the south, in 2017. It would be so much better if a protected cycle track was introduced in the approximate position of the parked vehicles, and for the parked vehicles to occupy the provision of the painted cycle lane.
11 March 2016

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Photo 25: London Road, east side, looking south. Close to the location in photo 24. Even with the painted cycle lane, the guy cycling here appears to want to stay as far as he can to the left (i.e away from the passing traffic). Again, there is space here for parking and a protected, wide, cycle track between the footway and the parked vehicles. Of course, it would be more costly to provide such a facility, and initially slightly more disruptive. But it would deliver cycling for the many and not just the few.
11 March 2016

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Photo 26: London Road, west side, looking south. The toucan crossing seen here is by Camrose Close, so we end this review of the A24 close to Morden town centre. And there is no surprise to find that as we get close to Morden town centre we find no specific cycling provision at all. Probably because it all gets too difficult. It’s clearly time for a new approach.
11 March 2016

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