Sutton’s proposed first Quietway: what is required to make it a success?

The second part of the June 2016 Sutton Cycle Forum involved a cycle ride along the proposed alignment of the route that is likely to become Sutton’s first ‘Quietway’. This Quietway, or branded cycle route using low-traffic side streets, will link Sutton town centre with Morden, and  is one of two such routes noted in the Sutton’s Cycling Strategy (LB Sutton, November 2015) where it is identified as route 142. Within the borough of Sutton, much of the alignment of the proposed route (including Robertsbridge Road (St Helier ward), Grennell Road and Elgin Road (Sutton North ward), forms part of the existing London Cycle Network (LCN) route 29 (although this fact is not particularly evident out on the street).

The June 2016 Sutton Cycle Forum ride was an opportunity to assess the current conditions along the proposed route, and consider the sort of interventions required to ensure that, on completion, the Quietway would attract new types of cyclists (and, in doing so, make better neighbourhoods too). In this essay, some of the considerations and suggestions made during the ride are discussed.

Prior to the detailed appraisal, this review begins with an overview of the key considerations for the delivery of a successful Quietway, then highlights some issues and provides recommendations. This is followed by some background to the ride, and a reminder of what a Quietway is intended to be.

We hope this project will be the start of something big.

Timid, half-hearted improvements are out – we will do things at least adequately, or not at all.

The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London | Greater London Authority | March 2013


Essential prerequisites

  • For the successful delivery of the Quietway, a reduction in the volume of traffic on many of the roads along the proposed route is essential
  • Support from residents for traffic reduction measures needs to be realised prior to the project receiving any significant funding from Transport for London
  • In making the case for the Quietway, engagement with residents, schools and businesses over a wide neighbourhood area is imperative. This needs to be set in the context of the Cycling Strategy and related policy issues
  • In designing schemes, and considering the best options for delivery of the Quietway, it is important that research based evidence is used to inform decisions
  • Successful implementation of this section of Quietway will, from the outset, depend on the support of councillors representing the three wards in the area

Some specific issues and recommendations

  • Access to Sutton town centre by bicycle needs to be greatly improved
  • Traffic movements in Lodge Place dominate the space, so consideration needs to be given here to relocating the current on-street car parking provision
  • Throwley Way requires a signalised crossing (separate from the existing Puffin crossing), and to accommodate this the junction with Lodge Place will need to be redesigned
  • Ways of providing improved priority for the east-west Quietway at the Manor Lane and Lenham Road junction need to be examined
  • At Benhill Avenue, the preferred option is for the introduction of a controlled crossing and cyclist only entrances and exits on Benhill Wood Road and Nursery Road
  • The 20mph zone in the Old Town needs to be extended significantly, to encompass the entire area north of Benhill Avenue continuing up to Rose Hill
  • All “speed” cushions on Benhill Wood Road, Elgin Road and Grennell Road need to be removed and replaced by shallow sinusoidal humps or other, more appropriate, traffic calming features
  • Edinburgh Road is clearly a rat-run, and while it remains a rat-run and open to all traffic, Grennell Road will never make Quietway status
  • The existing cycle path through Rosehill Park East/Greenshaw Woods will need to be rebuilt, not just resurfaced, to provide a smooth riding surface. The creation of a shared-use path here is not supported
  • It is very disappointing that there are no plans to provide a cycle path link with St Helier Hospital, especially given that the Quietway passes within twenty metres of the hospital’s car park
  • Not providing a link from the Quietway to the David Weir Arena is a lost opportunity
  • It will be essential for the Newstead Walk to Bishopsford Road cycle path is designed in such a way that access is always available
  • Wayfinding and legibility needs to be first class, and is a baseline requirement
  • The fixtures for all Quietway wayfinding signage will need to be vandal-proof, and ongoing maintenance a priority

We are ambitious about increasing cycling in the borough and we are committed to taking the practical, innovative steps that will allow us, with the help of our stakeholders and support of our residents, to deliver a step-change in cycling and fully realise the benefits of increased levels of cycling

Cycling Strategy | London Borough of Sutton | November 2015


Background

On 16 May 2016, a few weeks prior to the Cycle Forum ride on 14 June 2016, the council had provided Get Sutton Cycling with a copy of “Quietway Morden to Sutton – Route Ride Notes” (19 April 2016). This report had been produced as a result of on an audit of the route made by officers from Merton, Sutton, with Sustrans staff and Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan, with the objective of making an assessment of the sort of interventions and actions required to ensure that the two options under consideration for the route at the time were worthy of Quietway status. It was good to see that this report noted the need to address “through traffic issues” in regard to Grennell Road and Benhill Wood Road. Good, because traffic counts suggest these roads are currently anything but quiet especially during the morning peak period.

The day before the ride, a draft Design Schedule (spreadsheet) for the route was supplied. In addition to detailing possible interventions on the Quietway, this report included some of the existing characteristics of the streets and intersections along the route (for example, “junction is busy, very wide, slightly staggered”) along with the associated barrier to cycling (for example, “difficult to cross”). The information contained within the schedule was considered to be work in progress, and the purpose of our ride was to help inform the document.

On two or three occasions during the previous twelve months, Get Sutton Cycling had recorded traffic counts at locations along the route. Some reference is made to these in the text.

To provide some additional context, it is worth noting that:

  • Transport for London will provide most of the funding required to deliver the interventions for the Quietway. The funding, to be shared by the London Borough of Sutton and the London Borough of Merton, will be significantly greater than the annual provision for cycling made through the Local Implementation Plan or around £1.65 per head (Sutton Cycle Funding 2015-16).
  • The Quietway is not expected to be complete before 2018 at the earliest, following a period of extensive engagement with residents, businesses and schools along the route, hopefully set in the context of the Cycling Strategy.

What are Quietways?

Quietways were first proposed by Boris Johnson (Mayor of London 2008-2016) in The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London: an Olympic Legacy for all Londoners (GLA, March 2013). To deliver the vision, £900 million, spread over ten years (2013-2023), equivalent to about £11 per head of the total population in London, per year, was allocated. This was in addition to funding made available through the annual Local Implementation Plan for cycling (typically, in Sutton, £1.65 per head of population), and other sources of funding.

Transport for London describe Quietways on their Quietways page (accessed 14 October 2016) as follows: Quietways will be a network of radial and orbital cycle routes throughout London. Most of the first seven Quietways will be complete by the end of 2017 [1]. Linking key destinations, they will follow backstreet routes, through parks, along waterways or tree-lined streets. Importantly, the routes will overcome barriers to cycling, targeting cyclists who want to use quieter, low-traffic routes, providing an environment for those cyclists who want to travel at a more gentle pace.

In Quietways require more than ‘lines and signs’ (Get Sutton Cycling, September 2015), we made reference to the recently published draft Sutton Cycling Delivery Strategy (LB Sutton, July 2015) and the suggestion within the document that “the overarching principle for the Quietways infrastructure is ‘lines and signs’ rather than major new infrastructure…”. As far as we were concerned, this simply was not good enough. It appeared that there were high aspirations for delivery time, but low aspirations on what was actually to be delivered. Therefore, it was good to see a subtle change in the approved final version of the Cycling Strategy (LB Sutton, November 2015), possibly as a result of our response to the consultation Time to make the case and rise to the challenges (Get Sutton Cycling, September 2015). The final strategy reads: “the overarching principle for the Quietways infrastructure is small-scale interventions rather than major new infrastructure….“, bolstered by the additional phrase “…there may be a need for more significant infrastructure improvements at certain locations such as major road crossings and junctions“.

What is really understated about Quietways, and is worth mentioning again here, is the idea that these routes are not just about cyclists, or even just about cycling. Quietways are part of the mix to help improve our transport options. In the short term, Quietways can help make our residential streets more attractive. In the longer term, Quietways have the potential to help ease the growing pressure on roads and on parking.

Of course, to bring about a step-change in the participation of cycling, a dense network of Quietway routes will need to be developed (as outlined in the London Cycling Design Standards (November 2014)). But we have to start somewhere, and so we started in Sutton High Street….

[1] The first Quietway route, Q1 Waterloo to Greenwich, launched in June 2016 – later than originally envisaged.


The ride

Our ride, which took place during the late morning period on a weekday, started in Sutton High Street, by Trinity Square (Hill Road and Throwley Road), and finished at Bishopsford Road (at the borough boundary with Merton). The route north, towards Rosehill in the St Helier ward, included Sutton High Street, Lodge Place, Manor Lane, Nursery Road, and Benhill Wood Road (all in Sutton Central ward as far as the intersection with Oakhill Road). Then continuing along Benhill Wood Road into Elgin Road, across All Saint’s Road / Benhill Road to Grennell Road, and into Rosehill Park East and Greenshaw Wood (in Sutton North ward). Finally, across Wrythe Lane into Robertsbridge Road and then left along Newstead Walk (St Helier ward). As already noted, this is pretty much the alignment of an established route know as the London Cycling Network (LCN) route 29, although you would be forgiven for not being aware of this as much signage on existing LCN routes has left a lot to be desired. Quietways are set to change this, with wayfinding and legibility a baseline requirement.

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Not very clear, but the best we have. Map outlining the route of the Morden to Sutton Quietway | TfL / LBSutton (April 2016)

Cycle Forum attendees, including Cllr. Manuel Abellan and Sutton Council’s Senior Engineer at Highways and Transport, Lynn Robinson, were joined by Sustrans’ Ruth Chiat, for the gentle meander along the 3 km of residential streets linking Sutton town centre with St Helier (close to Rosehill). Although it was a relatively short ride in terms of distance, we took our time and frequently stopped. The purpose was to consider how this route would function as a Quietway. What interventions are needed to ensure the streets, and the junctions they pass through along the route, will be sufficiently attractive to remove the barriers to cycling?

(1) Trinity Square

Trinity Square: Open Street Map and Google Streetview

Starting at Trinity Square in Sutton High Street (by Hill Road and Throwley Road), we considered whether this would be the best place for the route to start and finish, or whether there was another location in Sutton town centre that could better fit the bill. Lodge Place (see (2) below) would be an obvious alternative candidate, as this short street is effectively part of the High Street and will be part of the Quietway. Furthermore, in many ways Lodge Place would be more practical option, given that some people find cycling on the High Street (especially during periods of heavy footfall when it is necessary to  weave in and out of pedestrians) quite a strange and disconcerting experience. Mixing cycling and walking in the same space is not ideal, particularly when there are high numbers of either.

However, cycling (of the considerate and courteous kind) is currently permitted on the High Street (which, for most of the time, is free of motor traffic), so extending the route to and from Trinity Square is not really a major consideration one way or the other. The ability to cycle on the High Street is largely about having access to the shops and businesses in the town centre (including, clearly, those to the north of Lodge Place and those to the south of Trinity Square), so the route significance within the core town centre is less important. Having said that, there are no real parallel north-south route alternatives for cycling in the vicinity of Sutton High Street, other than the less than joyful ‘gyratory’[2]. When the High Street is particularly busy with street markets, Throwley Road and Throwley Way provide a (less than perfect) alternative link between Trinity Square and Lenham Road / Manor Lane (see (4) below).

So, overall, the general consensus was that Trinity Square would be suitable focus point, or destination, for the Quietway.  If cycling numbers increase significantly (as is hoped) this section of the route alignment may need to be reconsidered. Excessive route signage on the High Street would probably not be appropriate, so the legibility aspect would need to be given careful thought.

The requirement for greatly improved access and egress to and from Sutton town by bicycle, delivered through robust cycling infrastructure, remains one of our key priority requests (Sutton Central ‘ward ask’). Perhaps, at a future reiteration of the High Street, the street will be designed to reflect a greater level cycle usage, and perhaps the gyratory (and the intersections along it) will too. From the proposals contained within Sutton town centre masterplan consultation (Local Plan), held earlier in 2016, where cycling continues to largely seen as a marginalised activity, now and into the future, there is some considerable doubt about this though.

[2] This lack of worthwhile cycling facilities through the centre of Sutton probably explains why Sustrans have yet to fully deliver their Wimbledon station to Sutton station route (route 208) and why the alignment of the route is shown mapped along Sutton High Street (11 November 2016).

(2) Lodge Place

Lodge Place: Open Street Map | Google Streetview

During shopping and business hours, traffic movements in Lodge Place [Open Street Map | Google Streetview] can be relatively high in number. There is a lot of coming and going as people look for somewhere to park in the bays provided for ‘disabled badge holders only’ and in the car-park adjacent to the building currently occupied by Farmfoods.

Considerations within the aforementioned Sutton Local Plan 2016-2031, all part of the revitalisation of Sutton town centre, include the aspiration to extend the functionality and performance of the High Street into the streets that lead into the main shopping street. Ideas to effectively bring Lodge Place, and other street like it, into the High Street, through the introduction of better shop frontages and markets, is all part of this.

At present, Lodge Place is a short isolated street (cut off from the residential hinterland by the ‘gyratory’) and which arguably currently functions more of an extension to the multi-story car-park on the other side of Throwley Way, than as part of the town centre. Consideration needs to be given to relocating the current on-street car-parking provision in Lodge Place, perhaps to the area at the rear of Carpet Right and Marks and Spencer. This will not only reduce the number of vehicle movements, but also open up the space to enhance its place function. In the short term, given that Lodge Place will be the gateway to the Quietway, one of the existing parking bay could be removed and cycle parking introduced in its place.

There are conflicts in vehicular movement as people turn from Throwley Way on the ‘gyratory’ into Lodge Place (almost on the wrong side of the road), and from Lodge Palace into Throwley Way (the ‘gyratory’). The Lodge Place / Throwley Way junction needs to be redesigned to accommodate a signalised crossing (separate from the existing Puffin crossing) for cycling across Throwley Way between Lodge Place and the Manor Lane path.

(3) Throwley Way

Throwley Way: Open Street Map | Google Streetview

Currently, a Puffin crossing (not a Toucan crossing, as detailed in the Route Ride Notes report and the Design Schedule report) facilitates pedestrian movement across the ‘gyratory’ Throwley Way (between Lodge Place on the west side, and the path link (currently shared) to Manor Lane (junction with Lenham Road). Pedestrian flows can be high here at certain times of the day. As noted when discussing Lodge Place ((2) above), a controlled crossing for people on bikes, separate from the existing facility, and aligned with the Manor Lane path, is required. The use of robust, bold, cycling infrastructure will provide permanence and legibility to the route, whereas simply widening the existing Puffin crossing, as suggested in the Route Ride Notes, will almost certainly ensure a degree of conflict with pedestrians.

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From Lodge Place, looking across Throwley Way, towards the Manor Lane path. The existing ‘Puffin’ crossing is to the left of the photo. More needs to be done here to improve route flow and legibility and remove conflicts with vehicles and pedestrians
9 March 2014

It is worth taking the opportunity here to note here that the introduction of dedicated space for cycling along, or parallel to, the ‘gyratory’ is anticipated in the medium term (and there is more on this in our response to the Sutton 2031 consultation, Sutton 2031 – is cycling part of the picture? (Get Sutton Cycling, April 2016)).

On the east side of Throwley Way a wide, semi-segregated, path provides a link between the ‘gyratory’ and the residential streets of Manor Lane and Lenham Road. This path is a form of filtered permeability – just image what would happen if this path was opened up as a road for all traffic (which, of course, at one time it would have been)! In February 2014, as part of changes to the Manor Lane and Lenham Road intersection, the path was resurfaced. The resultant surface is undulating, and so in wet conditions pools of water form. All path upgrades carried out as part of the Quietway programme need to be produced to the highest standards, with surfaces that are smooth and flat.

(4) Manor Lane/Lenham Road

Manor Lane/Lenham Road: Open Street Map | Google Streetview

The Quietway joins Manor Lane where the eastern end of the cycle path/footway from Throwley Way (Lodge Place) meets Lenham Road. Manor Lane and Lenham Road are subject to a 20mph maximum speed limit.

As noted in (3) above, some minor infrastructure changes were made to Lenham Road early in 2014, including a raised table across the carriageway at the intersection with Manor Lane [OSM/GSV], partially in an attempt to reduce the speed of motorists passing northbound along the street (quite often having just left the multi-storey car park exit just to the south) even though east-west has always had the priority. Ways of providing improved priority for the east-west Quietway at the Manor Lane, Lenham Road, junction, perhaps through the provision of stop lines on both the north and south sections of Lenham Road, need to be considered. The Quietway should be as straight as possible, with no unnecessary steering movements (including the need to carefully place moveable street furniture such as bins). Signage here was seen to be mis-alinged. The fixtures for all Quietway wayfinding signage will need to be vandal-proof.

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Signage at the eastern end of the Manor Lane cycle path/footway by Lenham Road. Not one of these three signs is pointing in the correct direction! The footway sign is misaligned by 180 degrees, and the two cycle route signs each by about 90 degrees. Not good enough, expect very much better with Quietway signage
14 June 2016

(5) Manor Lane/Nursery Road

Manor Lane/Nursery Road: Open Street Map | Google Streetview

Manor Lane forms part of LCN route 75 (or a variation of it), and possibly carries the lowest level of motorised traffic (and highest level of cycling traffic) of any part of the proposed Quietway route.

It was noticed that signage in the eastbound direction along Manor Lane, just before Nursery Road, had not been updated to reflect the opening of the Manor Lane contraflow. Signage still displayed ‘turn left’ for Carshalton, whereas ‘straight ahead’ for Carshalton would now be the preferred option. A small point perhaps, but indicative of the need for constant maintenance (or, perhaps, indicative of the lack of current priority given to cycling). Either way, a constant review of Quietway signage will be required.

Continuing towards St Helier and Morden, the proposed Quietway will turn left from Manor Lane into Nursery Road. The possibility of building out (extending and widening) the footway on the corner of this junction, in order to improve visibility and ensure the speed of traffic movements were low, was discussed. It was generally felt this was not the highest priority (traffic levels are relatively low here anyway, and this location is part of the Old Town 20mph zone), and if funding was limited it would be better spent on interventions (specifically related to traffic reduction) elsewhere on the route. Prioritising is good, compromising less so.

The road surface of Nursery Road is not particularly good, and resurfacing would seem appropriate. Nursery Road, like Manor Lane, forms part of the Old Town 20mph speed limit zone.

(6) Nursery Road/Benhill Avenue/Benhill Wood Road

Nursery Road/Benhill Avenue/Benhill Wood Road: Open Street Map | Google Maps satellite view

From Nursery Road, the Quietway will cross Benhill Avenue into Benhill Wood Road. Our traffic counts suggest that nearly 900 vehicles an hour pass through this junction in the AM peak (primarily east-west on Benhill Avenue, but not insignificant on Benhill Wood Road). Not only is Benhill Avenue busy, the road is wide at this point, and the junction between Nursery Road with Benhill Wood Road is staggered. This will need to be addressed.

One option for consideration at this crossroads would be to introduce cyclist only entrances and exits on Benhill Wood Road and Nursery Road with a controlled crossing for cycling between them. This would make crossing Benhill Avenue feel safe, and reduce traffic volumes on the southern section of Benhill Wood Road. In the case of Benhill Wood Road, alternative access for motor traffic would be through Brunswick Road, and Warwick Road could be used to access Nursery Road. There would be space to provide pocket parks or similar enhancements to the public realm at the southern end of Benhill Wood Road and at the northern end of Nursery Road.

Through the Mayor’s tree-planting and other funds, Quietways will become sites for new trees and greening, making many of them verdant corridors, even linear parks, part of the Mayor’s vision of a ‘village in the city’ where the streets are designed for people. They will be pleasant and interesting to cycle on, showing you corners of London you never knew existed.

The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London | Greater London Authority | March 2013

Once into Benhill Wood Road, the maximum speed limit increases from 20mph to 30mph. The current 20mph zone needs to be extended significantly, to encompass the entire area north of Benhill Avenue continuing up to Rose Hill.

It is noted that the Route Ride Notes report highlights that the junction “is busy and very difficult to cross”, and that Benhill Wood Road “is used by through traffic avoiding Rose Hill”. Further “that engagement work with residents and the school on the length of road (Grennell Road and Benhill Wood Rd) would be preferable to address the traffic issues here“, and that “a neighbourhood wide scheme including Thicket Road, Brunswick Road and a series of alternating no entries/one ways could be sufficient”. Origin and destination traffic surveys are to be carried out here.

Neighbourhood wide engagement, set in the context of the Cycling Strategy, Sustainable Transport Strategy and the forthcoming Parking Strategy, is essential.

Continuing north, uphill, on Benhill Wood Road, with a gradient of about 1:35, there is a pinch point, parked vehicles on both sides of the road, and 30mph speed limit. [OSM | Google maps Streetview] Nothing can be done about the gradient (unfortunately perhaps), but something could be done about the speed limit.

(7) Benhill Wood Road/Oakhill Road

Benhill Wood Road/Oakhill Road: Open Street Map | Google Streetview

The north-south alignment of the Quietway on Benhill Wood Road continues over Oakhill Road. A short traffic count carried out a few days prior to the ride suggested that over 1,000 vehicles and hour could be expected to pass through this junction during the AM peak. Consequently, traffic reduction will be required for Quietway status here. Whether the interventions required to achieve this can actually be delivered, really needs to be determined prior to the commencement of any other work on the route. 

The option of replacing the existing mini-roundabout, essentially a traffic calming feature, with a priority junction was discussed. The general view was that the mini-roundabout encouraged a reduction in speed on all approaches, and also made turning right easier.

Continuing north along Benhill Wood Road (initially flat, then with a slightly downhill gradient northbound) kerbside parking on both sides of the road results in the need for cyclists to ride close to the centre of the road to avoid the “door zone” and be seen. A maximum speed limit of 30mph is not appropriate.

(8) All Saints/Grennell Road/Elgin Road/Benhill Road

All Saints Road/Grennell Road/Elgin Road/Benhill Road: Open Street Map | Google Streetview

Over 900 vehicles per hour (around 16 per minute) have been observed passing through this junction between 8 and 9 am on a weekday, term-time, morning [OSM]. These include HGVs (Benhill Road and Grennell Road are served by the ‘S4’ bus route) and LGVs (small vans). On 9 July 2015, the distribution of vehicles in a fifteen minute period between 8 and 8.15am was as follows:

Count 09.07.2015 0800-0815
Road name Number of motor vehicles
15 minutes
Number of motor vehicles
1 hour equivalent
Number of cyclists

15 minutes

Elgin Road 73 292 1
All Saints Road 135 540 6
Grennell Road 143 572 4
Benhill Avenue 119 476 7

The table shows that, on this occasion, Grennell Road had the highest proportion of vehicles. This could primarily be due to drivers making use of Edinburgh Road or Rosehill Park West as cut-throughs to St Helier and Rose Hill. It is interesting to note that, on this occasion, there was a higher flow of cyclists east-west along All Saints Road and Benhill Avenue than there was on the existing LCN (and proposed Quietway route) north-south Grennell Road and Elgin Road alignment. Greenshaw High School is also situated on Grennell Road about 400 metres north of the intersection (maximum uphill gradient about 1:22).

Continuing north along Grennell Road, about twenty metres beyond the junction, there is a pinch point created by a central traffic island. The traffic island is also flanked by cycle-unfriendly speed cushions. There are other sets of speed cushions (three abreast) along Grennell Road. This type of vertical deflection is contrary to the recommendations for physical traffic calming in the London Cycling Design Standards (TfL, December 2014), which notes (section 3.5.4): “where used, humps should always be cycle-friendly – meaning a shallow or sinusoidal profile”. Shallow or sinusoidal humps are acceptable on bus routes.  All of the traffic calming “speed” cushions currently in place on Grennell Road need to be removed and, if appropriate, replaced by shallow or sinusoidal humps.

Kerb-side parking on both sides of Grennell Road constrains the useable width of the carriageway and, given the level of general traffic here, makes for an uncomfortable cycling experience.

The Grennell Road with Edinburgh Road intersection [Open Street Map], about 300 metres north of All Saints Road/Benhill Road (and about 100 metres to the south of Greenshaw High School), is also subject to high traffic movement. Bus route ‘S4’ uses Grennell Road and Edinburgh Road.

Observations carried out on 6 June 2016 (again, between 8 and 8.15am and during term-time), suggest that up to 800 vehicles per hour pass through the Grennell Road/Edinburgh Road junction. In one fifteen minute period, 72 vehicles exited Edinburgh Road on to Grennell Road, of which 55% turned north and 45% turned south. Of the traffic entering Edinburgh Road from Grennell Road (54 vehicles), the split was similar, with around 55% from the north and 45% from the south. This was surprising, as typically the highest flows here would be expected between Edinburgh Road and the southern section of Grennell Road (ie the same alignment as the bus route). How much of the traffic in the northern section of Grennell Road was associated with Greenshaw High School is not known.

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Edinburgh Road meets Grennell Road, and a snapshot of how busy this intersection can look at around 8am on a weekday. Anything but quiet!
6 June 2016

Edinburgh Road is clearly a rat-run, and while it remains a rat-run and open to all traffic, Grennell Road will never be ‘quiet’, it will never be a Quietway. If Edinburgh Road, Grennell Road and surrounding residential streets only carried vehicular traffic generated by that immediate area, then the neighbourhood would be quite. If we think about the sort of places we want to live in, then the idea of introducing point closures throughout the wider neighbourhood need not be a daunting prospect. Quite the opposite in fact.

…traffic isn’t a force of nature. It’s a product of human choices. Our surveys tell us that huge numbers of Londoners will choose to cycle if they feel safe doing so. If we open up that choice, even more people will take it.

Human Streets: The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling, three years on | GLA | March 2016

According to the London Schools Atlas, around 1,650 pupils attended Greenshaw High School in 2013 (plus, given a ratio of 16 pupils per teacher, over 100 members of staff). The atlas also suggests that, in 2013, 75% of Greenshaw High School pupils lived within a 20-minute walk (10-minute cycle ride) of the school.

It is good to know that the Route Ride Notes report makes clear that engagement with residents and Greenshaw High School is necessary to address the through traffic issues. Quietway status will simply not be achieved without a reduction in the volume of traffic.  

Issues to be resolved further north on Grennell Road, other then the replacement of the speed cushions, include a review of the build-outs (as build-outs effect the road width therefore and passing distance) and the need to tighten the geometry of the side roads (as small corner radii slows traffic at junctions). On the latter point, the width of the splay at the junction with Aultone Way is particularly excessive.

(9) Grennell Road/Rosehill Park West  – Rosehill Park East/Greenshaw Wood

Grennell Road/Rosehill Park west: Open Street Map | Google Streetview

An improvement to the design of the intersection between Grennell Road/Rosehill Park West and the cycle path onto Rosehill Park East and Greenshaw Wood is required [OSM | GSV]. The existing interface attempts to remove the conflict (in terms of visibility) between northbound cycling traffic (turning right into Greenshaw Woods) and traffic heading south on Rosehill Park West, but it could be better.

The existing kerb-side gully, at the intersection of Grennell Road/Rosehill Park West and the Greenshaw Woods cycle path, causes a significant undulation for riders crossing between the road and the path (and vice versa). The discomfort is further heightened by the angle of entry and exit. It was suggested that the drainage gully could be built over in order to facilitate a greatly improved interface as part of the overall improvements here.

The existing cycle path through Rosehill Park East/Greenshaw Woods will need to be rebuilt to provide a smooth riding surface, and not just resurfaced. The path will need to be machined to a high standard, similar to the construction of road surfaces. A slight widening of the path would be appropriate too. Once completed, regular sweeping, and periodic maintenance, will be required (and the funding for this will need to be costed and budgeted for annually).

Lighting is important, to provide a feeling of social safety. In the Netherlands, the type of lighting used to illuminate cycle paths is designed to be in harmony with the surroundings. Through wooded areas, for example, led lighting with a greenish tinge is often used. Lighting also tends to be dynamic, and brighten when a cyclist approaches so reducing energy usage and light pollution. The Quietway would be an opportunity to explore these type of ideas.

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The cycle path and adjacent footway on Rosehill Park East (Greenshaw Woods). The cycle path is the only dedicated cycling infrastructure that already exists on the proposed Quietway, and yet it might be lost as shared use.
14 June 2016

The Route Ride Notes report suggests that the grassy verge between the existing separate cycle and pedestrian paths could be effectively removed to provide one widened path to be shared by pedestrians and cyclists. The creation of a shared-use path at Greenshaw Woods is not supported (even if such a path was three times the width of the existing cycle path). The use of a dedicated cycle path provides clear legibility of route, and a gives a sense that this is a cycle facility, that cycling matters, and that there is the expectation that cycling numbers will grow. Given that there are already two separate paths, it would seem a backwards step to combine them. In doing so, it would effectively decommission one of the few dedicated cycle paths in any open space in the borough. Quietways need to be bold in design, they are part of the process of transforming the cycling experience.

For people on foot, and those on two wheels, sharing a single path can be an uncomfortable experience for many users under certain conditions. People with impaired vision, in particular, can feel more vulnerable when walking in such spaces. But so can people who cycle.

Cycle BOOM [3], a recent study into ageing, cycling mobility and wellbeing, found that, when it came to sharing space in parks, many older cyclists “related a level of uncertainty and anxiety …. due to sharing the space with what they perceived as ‘less predictable’ forms of pedestrian activity, particularly young children and dog walkers” and that there can be “tension between the enjoyment of green spaces and anxiety generated by shared use”. It is worth noting that the footpath in Greenshaw Woods is used regularly by Greenshaw High School pupils, who often walk together in large groups. A wide shared-use path could potentially just fill-up and make cycling here feel like an obstacle course.

suttonsfirstproposedquietway_20161016_cycleboom_page25

Extract from Cycle BOOM Design for Lifelong Health and Wellbeing. A new cyclist (the type of cyclist that Quietways are endeavouring to attract) reports his experience of cycling on a shared use path in a park.

It is important that the growing body of research evidence, such as the Cycle BOOM study, is recognised when considering the options for cycling schemes and projects.

[3] Jones, T., Chatterjee, K., Spinney, J., Street, E., Van Reekum, C., Spencer, B., Jones, H., Leyland, L.A., Mann, C., Williams, S. & Beale, N. (2016). cycle BOOM. Design for Lifelong Health and Wellbeing. Summary of Key Findings and Recommendations. Oxford Brookes University, UK.

(10) Wrythe Lane

Wrythe Lane: Open Street Map | Google Streetview

The Quietway continues from Greenshaw Woods (where there is a cycle path spur to a poorly facilitated crossing at Rose Hill) to a crossing at Wrythe Lane before joining a short section of path on St Helier Open Space that links into Roberstbridge Road. A total of 354 vehicles were counted using this section of Wrythe Lane (B278), in a fifteen-minute period between 8 and 8.15am on Tuesday, 7 June 2016. Wrythe Lane is, therefore, a very busy road. Currently there is a shared, uncontrolled crossing, with a central traffic island here.

Whatever facility is provided at Wrythe Lane, to essentially ensure a robust, safe and better crossing, will also need to consider how people will cycle onto the Quietway from Wrythe Lane (and also how cyclists will join Wrythe Lane from the Quietway). All too often in cycle route schemes, it seems that the only consideration at junctions is how to facilitate cycling along the alignment of the route (and forget, or ignore, how to connect with the road being crossed). Wrythe Lane is a case in point. The position of the central traffic island does not particularly help when turning right from Wrythe Lane (southbound) onto the Greenshaw Wood path. And similarly, when travelling in the other direction, the manoeuvre required to turn left from Wrythe Lane (northbound) on to the Greenshaw Wood path is hindered by a poorly positioned bollard. There is more on this in Preparing for a tour of Rosehill with Cllr Manuel Abellan (August 2015). There would appear to be potential to improve the public realm around the grassed area on the west side of Wrythe Lane too.

The preferred option at Wrythe Lane would be for new parallel crossings, separating those on foot and on bicycle. The design needs to ensure all cycle movements are facilitated. Ideally, the development of the Quietway here should be seen as an opportunity to construct short sections of segregated cycle paths on either side of Wrythe Lane. This would future-proof subsequent segregated cycle path construction on Wrythe Lane, and provide the necessary infrastructure to make this a fully inclusive cycle junction.   Whether this is facilitated through retention of the central traffic island, or through its removal and the installation of a controlled crossing instead, is a major design consideration.

Considering that the Quietway here passes within twenty metres of the peripheral fence of the St Helier Hospital car-park, it is very disappointing, and disquieting, that there are no plans to provide a cycle path link to the hospital. This lack of foresight could be interpreted as an inability by the proponents of the Quietway, whether Sutton Council, Sustrans, TfL or another agency, to fully understand the bigger picture. The whole project is effectively undermined, and that is worrying for the success of the Quietway and for the future of cycling in the borough.

(11) Robertsbridge Road

Robertsbridge Road: Open Street Map | Google Street View

The short (but useful) cycle path link on the east side of Wrythe Lane facilitates a connection between the Greenshaw Wood path and  Robertsbridge Road.

Although traffic levels on Robertsbridge Road are relatively low (42 vehicles were observed in one 15-minute period on 7 June 2016), the restricted width of the street, combined with the extensive kerbside parking, means that there are few passing places. Consequently, with drivers unable to pass, and often seemingly bearing down on the cyclist, cycling here can be quite stressful at times.

There are options that could be considered here to provide comfortable cycling by avoiding much of Robertsbridge Road. One would be to extend the short section of cycle path along the entire length Of Robertsbridge Road (with regular access gaps). This would require parts of the peripheral fence to the David Weir Leisure Centre to be moved in order to provide sufficient space. Another option would be to introduce a point closure on Robertsbridge Road to further reduce traffic flows. However, as bus route ‘S1’ traverses Robertsbridge Road, this option would require a retractable bollard, or some other method, to enable access. Alternatively, the Quietway could be routed from Robertsbridge Road to Newstead Walk by way of the quieter Lindores Road and Stavordale Road. This would be the cheapest option, but would have the disadvantage of not so readily enabling a link to the David Weir Leisure Centre.  Not providing a link from the Quietway to this popular sporting venue is a lost opportunity.

(12) Newstead Walk

Newstead Walk (approach to Bishopsford Road): Open Street Map | Google Street View 

A cycle path linking Newstead Walk with Bishopsford Road will need to be constructed. It will be essential for this path to be designed in such a way that access is always available. A similar link in nearby Peterborough Road often has access restricted due to inconsiderate parking. (For more on this see Peterborough Road cycle path (September 2014)).

Newstead Walk is to be linked across Bishopsford Road (A217) to Malmesbury Road (London Borough of Merton) by a new controlled, signalised crossing. This is a very welcome infrastructure. As discussed for the Wrythe Lane crossing, ideally the scheme design for the Bishopsford Road crossing would incorporate a short section of segregated path along Bishopsford Road to future-proof the infrastructure for a subsequent upgrade.

Final thoughts

How successful will Sutton’s first Quietway be? Like the current Felnex redevelopment, the answer will really depend on the initial aspirations and the process of negotiation. The Quietway is essentially another acid test for cycling.

What is certain, is that the successful implementation of this section of Quietway will, from the outset, depend on the support of councillors representing the three wards concerned (within two local committee areas, Sutton; St Helier, The Wrythe and Wandle Valley). The borough’s Cycling Strategy will, hopefully, set the agenda. In And Then there were ten! (April 2015), an indication was given of the general support that the borough’s councillors had for some specific cycling schemes at the time of the 2014 council elections. The recent mayoral election in May 2016, was another opportunity to remind councillors that the future of cycling in Sutton is in their hands.

We hope this project will be the start of something big.

v1: 11 November 2016

v2: 1 December 2016 (some minor changes to text, addition of featured image)

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Posted in Advocacy, Cycle Forum

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