The start of a new year is a good time to reflect, take stock and look forward. So here is a brief look back at some of the cycling issues and successes of 2019 in the borough, and some thoughts on what the next twelve months may have in store.
For such a review, (in terms of cycling and whether it feels safer, more enjoyable, and is an option now for many more people than it was a year ago), perhaps the first question that is likely to be uppermost in people’s minds is….
Was any new cycling infrastructure, worthy of note, delivered in Sutton in 2019?
Well, how can we put this? Let’s just say progress has been slow.
In the south of the borough a new parallel crossing in Belmont, that essentially connects a pavement with a pavement, was installed in late summer 2019. Certainly infrastructure of a sort. But worthy of note for cycling? Not really. Given the significance of the location, notably a new school and the emerging London Cancer Hub, something much better is hoped for here in the not too distant future.
In Wallington, an upgraded cycling and walking link between Clarendon Road and Stafford Road (about 30 metres in length) was completed in late October or early November 2019. Although this provides separate space for walking and cycling and will play an important and useful link in the new north-south route proposed for the area, the two-way cycle track is generally less than 1.5 metres wide and narrows down to about 1.1 metre at one point. The cycle track is not at the same level as the walkway (which could be beneficial if the track was wider), and so this raises some concern over the potential for vehicles to tip or become unstable. Although the path provides an improved interface with Clarendon Road to the north, there is, as yet, no provision to link seamlessly with Stafford Road to the south. Such an interface, along with a crossing to Onslow Gardens, is, however, expected (but this will require traffic modelling analysis).
Meanwhile, the eagerly anticipated 5-metre wide cycleway/footway on Beddington Lane linking Beddington Village with the Beddington Lane Tramstop, part of the big-ticket ‘Beddington North TfL Major Scheme‘, is still awaited. Not much of this cycleway/footway is yet in evidence, despite the fact that this major scheme launched in the summer of 2017. The latest update on this is that construction is due to recommence in January 2020 on the section just to the north of the Viridor entrance. At the same time, the process involved to obtain a Compulsory Purchase Order, to actually acquire some of the land on which to construct the path, is taking longer than expected. Additionally, there have been objections to the proposed HGV ban in Beddington Village (that’s right, the section of Beddington Lane where cyclists are back on the carriageway), and the restriction is being delayed until the rest of the Major Scheme has been implemented. The latest timescale for completion is the autumn of 2020. A 20mph speed limit has, however, now been introduced through the village.
In Wandle Valley ward some new infrastructure has appeared, but the completion of the upgraded Budge Lane cycle path sent Twitter into meltdown (well, not quite, but people were upset). The reason people were upset was largely because the infrastructure included additional barriers. In 2018 it was Watermead Lane (Wandle Trail) and the latest was Budge Lane (Wandle Trail strikes again). The council is not going to budge though. Despite our representations, it looks as those barriers are here to stay.
The Wandle Trail continues to disappoint in Hackbridge too. Following completion of a new housing development on Corbet Close, by Hackbridge Road, the resultant, albeit temporary, cycle path is narrower at the end of 2019 than it was prior to the construction of the residential properties. The Council’s planning department is going to look into it. There is hope that, when complete, the project will provide a much improved facility.
Meanwhile, over on Tharp Road in Beddington (an alignment of the former London Cycle Network (remember that?)) an experimental order came in to place towards the end of 2019 for one-way working westbound (with an eastbound cycling contraflow). Nothing wrong with that, surely? It’s a form of infrastructure after all. Well, we are not convinced, see ‘No room for bikes: how Tharp Road could show borough-wide failure over cycling‘ (and please do tell us about your experiences of this experimental layout).
A couple of 20mph zones have emerged (including Windsor Avenue area encapsulating the much loved rat-run Hamilton Avenue, and in the Kingsmead Avenue and Sparrow Park Farm area). On part of Collingwood Road some speed cushions have been taken out (and replaced by build-outs), all in an (another) attempt to calm traffic here. But when it comes to 20mph, there is still resistance by some ward councillors to extend the lower maximum speed more widely across the borough. Proposals for 20mph in areas of South Sutton have been thrown out, and in Carshalton and Clockhouse (around Oaks Park School – renamed from Stanley Park High in September 2019), there is some prevarication. This is all despite the evidence in support of 20mph showing that not only does 20mph reduce casualty rates and save money, it generally receives the approval of residents once implemented. Meanwhile, early in 2020, our neighbouring borough of Kingston follows the lead of our neighbouring borough of Croydon, and consults on proposing 20mph borough-wide.
No signs yet of discussions around low-traffic neighbourhoods, although there has been some whisperings about the development of School Streets in Worcester Park (and, looking ahead to the immediate future, Cycleway proposals are imminent). The first Healthy Streets Scorecard, published in July 2019, and which placed Sutton at 26 out of 33 authorities on an overall score, suggests the borough has 25 modal filters (across 432 km of road length). We have been trying to work out where they ‘all’ are. One of them is Willow Walk, and this is due for a makeover.
For more on details of the borough-wide schemes scheduled for delivery between April 2019 and March 2020 see ‘First sight of ‘Healthy Streets’ proposals for Sutton‘. Note too, that 2019 was the first year that all schemes proposed by all the boroughs, for funding approval from TfL, needed to take the Healthy Streets approach.
The Third LIP, Air Quality Action Plan, and Environment Strategy
So, not a lot of infrastructure in 2019. But 2019 has been a busy year, in terms of Sutton Council consultations and publications, and things have been happening behind the scenes – not least of which has been work the council’s work (with Urban Movement) on Sutton’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods funding bid.
In April 2019, the borough’s third Local Implementation Plan (essentially a local response to the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS)) was approved. The LIP was extensively reviewed in ‘What are Sutton’s key borough traffic reduction strategies?‘ – and the answer to that particular question was that there aren’t any (certainly nothing tangible – even though such traffic reduction strategies were/are a requirement of the MTS).
The Environment Strategy includes a Cleaner Air vision, and this vision includes increasing the percentage of journeys that are made in Sutton by walking, cycling or public transport from around 45 or 46 per cent currently to 48 per cent by 2022, 56 per cent by 2025 and 63 per cent by 2041 (replicating, essentially, the figures in the third LIP – a table showing the ‘active, efficient and sustainable (walking, cycling and public transport) mode share’ (by borough resident) based on average daily trips and across several years is provided in ‘Sutton’s third Local Implementation Plan received approval‘.
Talking of targets (and action plans) the annual review of the borough’s 2015 Sustainable Transport Strategy, which had been expected in June 2019, was not released until October (with the link to the monitoring report, and the associated documents, provided in December: Evidence Base by Topic > Sutton (LB of Sutton, December 2019).
What can we look forward to in 2020?
Potentially 2020 could see the commencement of three big-ticket items – two Cycleways (St Helier to Sutton town centre; Worcester Park to Sutton town centre) and the first Liveable Neighbourhoods programme for Sutton (comprising Sutton town centre and areas to the north-west and south of the town centre).
There is the expectation that there will be some progress in 2020 on the two anticipated Cycleways (formerly Quietways). This progress is unlikely to include full delivery, but there will certainly be more engagement and consultation. In October/November 2019, a consultation on the northern section of the the St Helier to Sutton town centre alignment took place (reviewed here), and work to construct crossings at Bishopsford Road and Wrythe Lane could commence early in 2020. Proposals on the southern section of the Sutton town centre to St Helier route could also be released for consultation as early as January (and there is the expectation that these plans will include several modal filters across a relatively wide area, to deliver the borough’s first low-traffic neighbourhood). There is likely to be engagement with residents on proposals for sections of the second Cycleway, linking Worcester Park with Sutton town centre, early in the 2020 too.
In February 2020 (or thereabouts), the borough will learn whether its first Liveable Neighbourhoods funding bid (November 2019) has been successful. If the bid is successful, funding will only be released if proposals to reduce traffic are actually taken forward. So that is when the real work, to ensure the programme actually delivers, will begin. There is unlikely to be anything on the ground until 2021 at the earliest (probably 2022 or 2023 is more realistic, given past experiences).
A new strategy, a mayoral election, completion of Beddington Lane and more Healthy Streets
A new Sustainable Transport Strategy, to replace the existing 2015 document, and incorporate strategies for cycling, walking, car clubs and in alignment with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, is expected to go to the E&N committee in the spring of 2020. It is hope that this updated document will include clearly defined traffic reduction strategies for the borough. It is also hoped that a report detailing the successes of the existing STS will also be made available. After all, what is the point of a new strategy if no lessons are learned from the previous, or existing, strategy?
The next London mayoral election will be held on 7 May 2020, held simultaneously with the elections for the London Assembly. The London Cycling Campaign will be calling on London’s mayor to decarbonise our roads by 2030.
By the end of 2020, the 5-metre wide cycleway/footway on Beddington Lane, linking Beddington Lane Tramlink stop with Beddington Village may be open for business.
Finally, of course, the business as usual, borough-wide LIP schemes (relatively small sums of funding, that historically have shown to achieve very little), scheduled for delivery between April 2020 and March 2021, will progress. The details were made know during the latter half of 2019, and for more on this see ‘Healthy Streets’ for Sutton year two (2020-2021)‘.
So, for 2020, there is an element of cautious optimism. Happy New Year!