Wandworth Council’s Priory Lane (Richmond Park) Consultation, February 2018

Wandsworth Council is holding a consultation into its plan for cycling infrastructure in Priory Lane, a road which runs north-east from Roehampton Gate in Richmond Park towards Barnes.  The consultation closes on Friday 16 February.

Linkies to Wandsworth Council’s key documents:

You’ll see from the survey’s simple questions that the consultation is a tick-in-the-box exercise by Wandsworth Council, but it’s still an opportunity to let it know how these arguably sub-standard plans can be improved, and how over £500,000 of Londoner’s money can be better spent.

This blogpost includes:

  • Links to the council’s consultation documents and survey forms (above);
  • Priory Lane today;
  • Proposed scheme;
  • Traffic volumes and cycling design standards;
  • Links to various forums where the proposals are being discussed;
  • The consultation questions and my draft response;
  • Some history from the Wandsworth Council papers getting us to the current proposals.


Priory Lane today

Priory Lane runs north-east from Richmond Park’s Roehampton Gate towards Barnes. It is a well-established cycle route, being part of the old London Cycle Network (link LCN 215), National Cycle Network (NCN4) and the Thames Cycle Route.  The lane is not one of the fashionably modern cycle highways or quietways, but it is used by over 1000 people on bicycles every day.  Unlike the people cycling on many of south London’s other roads, this group is diverse – ranging from kids going to local schools and sports centres through to sports cyclists going training in Richmond Park.

The cycle infrastructure today consists of a largely bi-directional track on the carriageway side of the pedestrian pavement.  The track is northbound only at the top of the lane between Arabella Drive and the Upper Richmond road/ South Circular road.  At the southern end, the official cycle route diverts down Bank Lane and then a residential street confusingly named Roehampton Gate to reach Richmond Park.  In practice, most adults cycling stay on Priory Lane.

Priory Lane carries a lot of motorised traffic from the South Circular Road into Richmond Park.  In effect, it is at rat-run between Barnes, Sheen and Richmond for motorists who do not want to use the area’s major A-roads.

Priory Lane is a 20mph road, following the rollout of 20mph zones across Wandsworth in 2017.  The traffic analysis suggests the 20mph signs are making little difference.

The junction with Danebury Avenue at the south end of Priory Lane was addressed in Wandsworth’s consultation in autumn 2017 on its part of the Wandsworth Common to Teddington Quietway.  The current roundabout will be replaced with a raised table junction and parallel pedestrian and cycle crossings.  A separate blogpost provides more information.




The proposals

Wandsworth Council is proposing to remove the bi-directional cycle track from the pavement, and restore the pedestrian pavement to 2m wide along the lane.

  • People cycling will be on the main carriageway alongside motorised vehicles.
  • Northbound, an advisory cycle lane will be painted (dashed lines) on the main carriageway. Cycle tracks will be painted on the carriageway across the junctions with side roads.
  • Southbound, no road markings will be provided, other than bicycle logos painted on the road surface to remind drivers that people cycle on the road.
  • Several raised tables, and wide “cycle-friendly” speed humps will be installed along the road at major junctions to encourage motorists to slow down. The centre-line will be removed, which is intended to encourage drivers to use more of the road’s full width to overtake people on bicycles.



Traffic volumes and cycling design standards

The council officers first presented this scheme to the Communities Scrutiny Committee in July 2016 (more in the history below).  The committee paper provides some high level data on traffic volumes and speeds – circa 900 vehicles per hour in peak hours.  The speed limit was reduced to 20mph in 2017 as part of Wandsworth’s borough-wide rollout of 20mph zones.

PrioryLane#18trafficvolsPrioryLane#19trafficissuesLooking at the rationale provided by the council in the papers for this consultation, where the council officers state that this scheme is needed to reduce traffic speeds, it would appear that putting up 20mph signs in 2017 have had little effect on taming drivers’ behaviour.

The Royal Parks conducted a traffic analysis of vehicles entering and exiting Richmond Park in 2016. (See Richmond Cycling Campaign’s pages for the Royal Parks’ reports and the RCC’s analysis).  Drilling into the data, it is clear that 80-90% of the drivers entering and leaving the park in peak hours through Roehampton Gate (and, therefore, using Priory Lane) are using the park as a rat-run between Priory Lane and the Richmond and Sheen park gates.  The traffic volumes recorded in the Royal Park’s report are directionally consistent with those cited by the council officers in their 2016 committee paper (above) proposing this scheme.


The speed analysis in the Royal Parks’ report is interesting, as it indicates whether drivers are complying with the park’s 20mph limit.  They’re not – the 85th percentile speed is consistently higher than 20mph on all the park’s roads.  It is reasonable to assume that drivers’ behaviour in Priory Lane is the same.


Chapter 4 of the London Cycling Design Standards gives guidance on factors to consider:

  • Table 4.10, page 29, suggests advisory cycle lanes [should] “Not generally to be used for busier streets (indicatively, with traffic volumes in excess of around 500 vehicles per peak hour), without a 20mph limit”;
  • Section 4.1.6, page 8, “Traffic speed and volume”, states “Where 85th percentile speeds are above 30mph, either calming or a higher degree separation is required. If cyclists are not separated, [cycling] level of service is highest where 85th percentile speeds are below 20mph.

Turning to Chapter 2 of the London Cycling Design Standards, it’s possible to compare the Cycling Level of Service (CLoS) scores for the current layout of Priory Lane versus the scheme proposed by the council.  I’ll focus on the CLoS Safety and Comfort sections, as the others (Directness, Coherence, Attractiveness and Adaptability) are broadly the same.




I’m not pretending to be a highways engineer, but I do understand the difference between segregated and on-carriageway advisory cycle lanes.  To my eye, the proposed scheme has a poorer Cycling Level of Service (CLoS) score than the existing, admittedly unattractive, segregated cycle track.  The council will only achieve a basic (i.e. net zero scoring) CLoS score if the speed of motorised traffic on Priory Lane can be reduced consistently to below 20mph.  A higher score could also be achieved if the number of vehicles was reduced from the current 900 in peak hours to below 500.  However, no filtering or reduction measures are proposed.

Section 2.2.3 “Scoring” (page 5) of Chapter 2 gives guidance on the consequences of basic, zero scoring proposals:

  • Zero scores should be considered as not meeting the required standard for programmes and projects funded under the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling but there may be some latitude in exceptional circumstances.
  • Zero scores should generally be a prompt for examining whether the factor in question will have a negative impact on the propensity to cycle.

To me, the second bullet is key: will replacing an admittedly poor segregated cycle track with an on-carriageway advisory lane increase the propensity to cycle?  I think not.

Online comments

There’s views and feedback on the scheme available on various forums:

  • Cyclescape thread – general view is that it’s a poor scheme, does little to reduce motorised traffic using Richmond Park as a rat-run, and that the loss of segregated cycle space is a backward step. Overall, it’s not family friendy – will you let an 8 year-old cycle unsupervised on Priory Lane on the main carriageway?
  • road.cc news article – comments are similar to those on the cyclescape thread (possibly ‘cos there’s overlap between the commenters). The article has a handy summary of the road rage incidents recorded along this road, some amusing, but mostly frightening;
  • LFGSS (London Fixed Gear and Single-Speed) – more balanced set of comments, with some welcoming that cycling on the carriageway may be accepted by drivers rather than expected to be on the pavement’s cycle track. LFGSS contributors tend to be confident, more sports-orientated cyclists who are used to mixing with motorised traffic.


Consultation questions and my draft response

The consultation is basically a set of yes/no questions, plus a general comments box.  It’s the minimum necessary to comply with the need for a consultation, and I fear the yes/no responses will do little to inform the council as to whether the scheme is wanted.

I’m not pretending to offer an authoritative response.  Contact the local cycling and Living Streets campaign groups if you want better informed insights from advocates that councillors and council officers (may) listen to.

  1. Are you in favour of the relocation of the cycle track from the footway to the carriageway between Arabella Drive and Bank Lane? Yes/ No/ Don’t know
  • No.  (My rationale: this is a massive backward step by Wandsworth Council, and the new scheme fails the 8-80 year old test.  Who is going to allow an 8 year-old to cycle unsupervised on a busy road with motorised vehicles rat-running through Richmond Park?  By all means provide better on-carriageway cycling facilities for those comfortable mixing with motorised traffic, but retain segregated space for families cycling into the park)
  1. Are you in favour of installing an advisory cycle lane northbound between Bank Lane and Danebury Avenue? Yes/ No/ Don’t know
  • No. (Rationale above).
  1. Are you in favour of installing 5 raised junctions and 8 flat top speed tables? Yes/ No/ Don’t know
  • Yes.  (However, I have little expectation they will do anything to reduce the speed of motorised vehicles along Priory Lane.  The new speed tables will be “cycle friendly” i.e. they have entry & exit gradients that are easily cycleable.  Therefore, by definition, they are motor-friendly too, and will do little to make drivers slow down).
  1. Are you in favour of replacing the mini-roundabout at the junction with Dowdswell Close with a priority junction? Yes/ No/ Don’t know
  • Yes.  (This reminds drivers that people on the cycle tracks – be it a segregated track or a lane on the main carriageway, have precedence over drivers turning right out of Priory Lane, or exiting the side roads).
  1. Are you in favour of installing coloured surfacing across the mouth of priority junctions? Yes/ No/ Don’t know
  • Yes.  (This reminds drivers that people on the cycle tracks – be it a segregated track or a lane on the main carriageway, have precedence over drivers turning right out of Priory Lane, or exiting the side roads).
  1. Are you in favour of installing a pedestrian refuge island and dropped kerbs at the junction with Clarence Lane? Yes/ No/ Don’t know
  • Yes. (This benefits pedestrians in Clarence Lane, especially people going to Ibstock School).
  1. If you have any further comments please write them in the box below:

I believe this is a sub-standard scheme which is a big backward step by Wandsworth Council in terms of cycling infrastructure in Priory Lane.  The scheme makes no attempt to reduce the volume of motorised traffic in Priory Lane, most of which is using Richmond Park as a short-cut to avoid local A-roads.

Replacing the segregated cycle track with an advisory northbound on-carriageway lane – and nothing southbound – means that Priory Lane will no longer be suitable for families cycling together and, especially, for children to cycle safely and unsupervised to local schools, sport centres and Richmond Park.  Talking to friends who are older and have impaired mobility, they feel the loss of the segregated track will make Priory Lane more hostile, and therefore they are less likely to cycle along it.

To my eye, the proposed scheme has a poorer Cycling Level of Service (CLoS) score under the London Cycling Design Standards than today’s segregated cycle track.  A lower CLoS score is a good indicator that the new scheme will have a lower ‘propensity to cycle’ opinion from Wandsworth’s residents.  Therefore, this scheme fails in terms of both Wandworth Council’s own 2015 cycling strategy and the Mayor of London’s transport strategy.

The scheme could be improved by:

-Retaining a wider, segregated, bi-directional cycle track between Arabella and (at least) Clarence, but using Copenhagen-style continuous tracks for people walking and cycling across the side-roads. The width of the track can be widened by narrowing the carriageway for motorised vehicles;

-Reducing the volume of motorised traffic significantly by installing a modal filter between Bank and Clarence. This would discourage rat-running traffic from the wider area from using Priory Lane to cut through Richmond Park, while still providing locals with easy and convenient access to the residential streets at the southern end of Priory Lane.

In summary, I regard this as a poor scheme which falls short of London’s cycling design standards and I urge the council to think again.

Background and history

From my befuddled memory, this is Wandsworth Council’s third major attempt in roughly 20 years to sort out cycling infrastructure along Priory Lane.

The current on-pavement cycle track goes back to late 1990s/ turn of century, and the design reflects a 1990s design manual.  The track gives way at every junction, and reflects a design philosophy where pedestrians and cyclists must give way to drivers.

In April 2005, councillors approved plans to introduce mini-roundabouts along Priory Lane, and install raised-table crossings across the mouths of the side roads.   The linked council paper is interesting (and depressing) as it makes the same observations about drivers’ speeds and road safety as every other paper since about Priory Lane.   The budget allocated was £122,000.


In January 2006, councillors reviewed plans to provide safer routes for children, parents and teachers going to Ibstock School (towards the south of Priory Lane).  The proposals had included continuing the 1990s style cycle track south of Bank Lane on Priory Lane all the way to Richmond Park.  After a consultation, the cycle track part of the proposal was dropped – the residents along the road didn’t want it.  (This sets a precedent for this current consultation).


The first inkling that Wandsworth Council wanted to re-engineer Priory Lane came in the draft LIP submission for 2014/15 (council paper, September 2013).


The scheme which is currently out for consultation was presented to councillors in July 2016.  I have no idea why Wandsworth Council has waited 18 months after approval from councillors before conducting this consultation, although this is quite normal in Wandsworth where municipal bicycle wheels turn very, very slowly.

  • The paper makes similar observations about poor safety and drivers’ speeds to the April 2005 paper, 11 years earlier.
  • The plans published for the current consultation match the description in the July 2016 paper and do not appear to have evolved substantially since then. (This, again, makes me wonder why the council has waited another 18 months).
  • The budget for the scheme is estimated, at July 2016 values, to be £500,000.


The council’s LIP submission to TfL for 2017/18 (council paper, October 2016) includes a request for £100,000 for Priory Lane, which I assume covers officers’ work on the design and this consultation.

It will be interesting to see if, when and how TfL provide Wandsworth Council with LIP funds for this proposed  scheme.  LIP budgets are being squeezed severely in 2018/19, with even well-sponsored schemes such as the mini-Holland programmes being rephased to spend at a slower pace across longer timeframes.




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