Sutton’s quarterly Cycle Forum took place on January 10 2017. This Forum is an occasion when officers of the Council discuss local cycling or other road schemes and issues with local cyclists. Sometimes the Council’s cycling czar is present as well, but unfortunately, he could not make this meeting. Information and views are exchanged and sometimes plans are modified.
These meetings can never result in major changes to cycling in Sutton, because the money is not there. However, there is still some good news. It really does look as if, in mid-2019, the Quietway from Sutton to Morden will be open, with links towards inner London. It also sounds as if good plans are being laid for community engagement with interested parties along the route. That’s the inspiring vision.
The frustration of dealing with the present reality is not so inspiring. Of course, it can all be put down to a lack of funding, but you do have to wonder if there are not other issues. The Council seems not to want to make it possible for us to report cycling issues that need prompt action, such as potholes in cycle paths or paths closed by overgrown trees. They seem not to want to do basic maintenance unless we keep wasting our time endlessly telling them about the same issues. They complete programmes on a long list of ‘schemes’ which look good to the uninitiated, but it all amounts to remarkably little for cycling if there really is to be a ‘step change in cycling’ in Sutton (Sutton Cycling Strategy, p3). Despite the goodwill and hard work of the officers present, a newcomer attending the meeting would find it hard to feel that cycling is considered important in Sutton Council’s collective mind.
Sutton has a long history of promoting cycling, wrote Councillor Jill Whitehead in the preface to the Sutton Cycling Strategy (p1) in November 2015. History is the past. She also wrote that they are aiming to make cycling the mode of choice for short journeys. That requires more positive thinking than we are seeing just now. Positive thinking does not cost money.
The Council’s Cycling Strategy is just over a year old . Requests for a review of what has been achieved have fallen on deaf ears so far. What has changed since they adopted it? What has been gained in return for the money they (presumably) spent hiring consultants to write the strategy for them?
At least there’s the first Quietway coming… let’s hope there is sufficient inspiring vision to drive the delivery to make it worth the wait.