“Get Sutton Cycling have reconsidered the proposed Roundshaw Downs Greenways and would like the funding re-allocated, as in this case, there’s a risk of disturbing valuable rare habitats and protected species, in an attempt to tick the ‘cycling box’. Now is the time to plan for the delivery of more effective, visible, cycling infrastructure and behaviour change, that can enable people to take up cycling for their local day-to-day journeys. There are visible road routes on quieter residential streets to reach the necessary destinations. Hidden Greenway links, tend to appeal only to occasional recreational use. While plans are considered, and bids possibly drawn-up, a start can be made to improve some cycling features that already exist, and add others that could deliver quick wins, that will not disturb important nature conservation on our Roundshaw Downs. Maeve Tomlinson and Charles Martin report.”
In preparation for the LIP funding programme 2017/2018, the council shortlisted eight cycling schemes for consideration in spring 2016. These were first brought to out attention at the Sutton Cycle Forum in June 2016, and then included in the appendix to a LIP report presented to the Environment and Neighbourhood committee on 15 September 2016.
One of the eight short-listed schemes for 2017/2018 was described as “Greenway link on Roundshaw Downs – Overhill Road route and Plough Lane route”. This scheme had been included as part of our Space for Cycling ‘ward asks’ for Beddington South in 2014. Consequently, when Get Sutton Cycling was asked to prioritise three of the eight schemes (funding restricted to only £150,000) at the Sutton Cycle Forum in September 2016, the Roundshaw Downs scheme was chosen (along with a contraflow for cycling along Camden Road, Carshalton, and improvements to the Ross Parade, Bridge Road, Clarendon Road junction in Wallington).
At the Beddington and Wallington local committee held on 11 October 2016, residents and councillors raised concerns about the Roundshaw Downs paths. There was concern that the construction of a formal path across Roundshaw Downs, an important Local Nature Reserve and unimproved chalk grassland, would disturb a valuable nature conservation resource for birds, insects and plants including the red listed ‘Sky Lark’ and legally protected ‘Yellow Rattle’. Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers have written extensively about Roundshaw Downs on their website  (see box below).
|Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers write:
‘Roundshaw Downs, at 38 ha, is the largest area of unimproved chalk grassland in the borough. As such, it provides an extremely valuable nature conservation resource for insects, birds and wild flowers’. ‘Although there are a number of mown paths enabling easy access around the site for people, there are large swathes of un spoilt grassland.’ ‘The grassland also supports ground-nesting birds like the skylark (Alauda arvensis) and the meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis). The skylark is a Red List bird, that is, it is a bird of conservation concern due to the dramatic decline in its population in Britain. The major cause for this is the lack of suitable places for it to nest, as many farms now don’t have rough areas in fields.’
Get Sutton Cycling, in light of the concerns, at our meeting on 28 November 2016 decided it was far better to focus on achieving the core theme of the Beddington South ‘ward ask’, namely safe cycle routes to the five schools in the ward. Currently, Plough Lane, Foresters Drive, Mollison Drive (and Purley Way, Croydon) are not appealing to cycling. The situation needs important action, through the provision of on-road, cycling infrastructure, and awareness raised of existing routes on quieter residential streets, so there’s a much needed, vast increase in cycling across the ward. This would also improve requirements of public health, tackle air pollution and enable people to lead healthier more active lifestyles, by making journeys by bicycle a feasible option. There’s a ride from Purley to Beddington found on quieter, side roads, that runs parallel to Foresters Drive that only adds a small amount of journey time. Routes could also be improved for example, where the Phoenix Centre on Mollison Drive links up with Redford Avenue and on other routes that are not through roads for cars but could be made more practical and congenial for access by foot, bicycle, pram and mobility scooter.
Consequently we have written to Sutton Council to request that the Greenway link on Roundshaw Downs scheme on the LIP programme 2017-2018 priority list have the funding re-allocated. However, if a growth in cycling on our roads results in an increase in demand for the Greenway links, and provided the challenges of preserving endangered and/or legally protected rare birds, plants and habitats can work in conjunction with a sensitive Greenway link, there may be an option to revisit these ideas at a later date.
In place of the Roundshaw Downs Greenway links, there are a number of improvements locally that could be implemented in the short term, and Get Sutton Cycling will be asking the council to consider these instead. Such improvements could be funded either from the ‘minor works’ programme or redirected from the Roundshaw Downs scheme, and include:
- a makeover of the Mollison Drive to Hannibal Way path (adjacent to Wilson’s School). The dropped-kerb at Mollison Drive is not flush with the carriageway (by at least 2 cm) and requires modification for smooth and safe transition between carriageway and path (see photos 4, 5 and 6). The three sets of chicane barriers situated along the path are not appropriate, and may be in breach of the Equality Act 2010 (see photos 4, 6 to 10). We would like them to be removed and, if thought necessary, replaced with a single bollard. London Cycling Design Standards (TfL, November 2014), Part 3: Cycle-friendly streets and spaces (page 6, section 3.2.2: Understanding cyclists – inclusive cycling).
- the installation of contraflows for cycling on Link Lane. This was considered a number of years ago, and it is believed that residents rejected the idea at the time. With the borough’s Cycling Strategy in place, and updated London Cycling Design Standards guidance published, it would be appropriate to revisit this proposal now. London Cycling Design Standards (TfL, November 2014), Part 4: Cycle lanes and tracks (Cycle lanes: Two-way cycling in one-way streets (page 47) “Unless there are over-riding reasons not to, there should be a presumption that contraflow cycling should be provided for in any one-way street”).
- a review of access provision on residential streets, including Meteor Way, Typhoon Way, Hengist Way and Alcock Close, to accommodate people with mobility issues, those with pushchairs and those cycling. There are currently a number of obstacles on side roads close to the Phoenix Centre, including narrow gaps and raised kerbs, creating barriers to cycling. Essentially, ‘think cycling’ to create better links for those walking, those using mobility scooters, and those cycling between Redford Avenue and the Phoenix Centre on Mollison Drive.
- implementation of traffic calming on Plough Lane (especially near the point where Plough Lane crosses the railway by Sandy Lane South and The Chase), through strategies that use visual aspects of street design to influence behaviour rather than harder physical measures. There are few places to cross the railway, so where crossings exist they need to be cycle-friendly . London Cycling Design Standards (TfL, November 2014), Part 3: Cycle-friendly streets and spaces (Civilised streets: Area strategies).
In the medium term we would like to see engagement with residents and schools across the ward, set in terms of low-traffic, liveable, neighbourhoods and healthy streets. This would include making the case for:
- the provision of dedicated space for cycling on Mollison Drive and Foresters Drive (a combination of stepped tracks and full or light segregation on-carriageway). London Cycling Design Standards (TfL, November 2014), Part 4: Cycle lanes and tracks (Full separation on links).
- the closure to motor traffic of one or more of the arms at the Sandy Lane South, Waterer Rise, Foresters Drive and Wordsworth Road junction (also see A ride around Beddington and Wallington with Councillor Manuel Abellan). London Cycling Design Standards (TfL, November 2014), Part 3: Cycle-friendly streets and spaces (Civilised streets: Filtered permeability).
Beddington South is the only ward in Sutton where all three councillors showed support for Space for Cycling. Consequently, there is great potential for the area to become the borough’s first truly cycle-friendly neighbourhood. It is hoped that the refocus of ideas discussed here (and developed further in photos 4 to 13 below) will help lead the way.
 See ‘Sutton Nature’: Helping wildlife on Sutton’s doorstep https://suttonnature.wordpress.com/sites/roundshaw-downs/.
 Clearly, some people drive too fast here, as reported in the Sutton Guardian (18 August 2016): Driver leaves trail of destruction after ploughing through Wallington gardens and landing inches from house
Some improvements for Beddington South in the short term (photos 4 to 11)
Making cycling a real option for local journeys in the medium term (images 13 and 14)