Updated: Wandsworth cycling, Quietway 21 and council scrutiny

(Updated, 22 June 2018, with the Scrutiny Committee’s decisions re Quietway 21)

If you ride a bicycle in Wandsworth, you may be interested in two sets of papers listed for Wandsworth Council’s Community Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee (‘the Scrutiny Ctte’) on Thursday, 21st June, 2018.

The first is the periodic progress report, with updates against targets and actions.  The second are the results of the Wandworth Common to Teddington Quietway consultation.

This is the first such Scrutiny Ctte since with May’18 local elections, and the committee has many new members.  This first meeting is an opportunity to see whether it will truly scrutinise the proposals and progress by the council’s cabinet and officers, or whether it rubber stamps whatever is presented.

Proposals relating to active travel in Wandsworth have proceeded at a glacially slow rate for several years (e.g. cycling one-way contraflows were first proposed in 2013), and the committee did little to challenge the administration between 2014-18.

Let’s go through the papers.


Item 3: Progress on Major Schemes, Year End Topline Performance Indicators Results and Key Issues for 2017/18 (paper No 18-177)

This is a periodic report prepared by council officers that updates the Scrutiny Ctte on progress against actions, targets and other previous decisions.

  • Page 10, Earlsfield “Wandle Valley Park, public realm, Trewint Street and Summerley Street area”. This £237,000 scheme aims to improve the area around the Trewint Street bridge on the River Wandle.  In part, it is prompted by the cycling Quietway 4 scheme, to provide safer access for people walking, cycling and driving.  But until it is complete, it cannot be argued that Quietway 4 is finished.
    Will the Scrutiny Ctte ask for the timetable for this and other works to complete Quietway 4?
  • Page 12, “Contraflow Cycling, paper 13-532”. “4 sites have been identified with the intention of having the following contraflows going live on Monday 18th June 2018: Candahar Road, Furmage St., Temperley Road, Trinity Crescent”.It has taken FIVE YEARS to get to this point, since the proposals in paper 13-352 were approved. I’ve covered the council’s woeful progress in a separate post, and compared its lack of progress with that of other London authorities such as Lambeth and City of London which are hundreds of streets ahead.The experimental traffic order implementing this trial names five, not four, streets – the ones named above plus Twilley Street in Earlsfield.   Without Twilley Street, the Furmage Street contraflow is useless, as it results in a dead end.Will the Scrutiny Ctte get clarity on whether it is five streets or four streets?  When will the existing “No Entry” signs be updated with “Except Cycles” signs?
    Why do other boroughs such as Lambeth and City of London make quicker progress?  Why has it taken FIVE YEARS for Wandsworth Council to get to this point?
    How can the wider public give feedback to the council’s officers regarding the new contraflow cycle lanes? 
  • Page 12, “School Travel Strategy (Paper No. 14-835 and 15-353)”. The council’s work with schools to enable increased use of active travel and public transport is welcome.  However, I cannot find any modal share statistics since paper 15-353 – three years ago.  The published reports indicate that fee-paying (private) schools generate a lot of motorised traffic across the borough.
    Will the Scrutiny Ctte scrutinise progress and ask for updated modal share statistics for school travel?
  • Page 13, “Diamond Jubilee (Cremorne) pedestrian and cycle bridge (Paper No 17-402)” / Page 46 “131 Diamond Jubilee Bridge”: Wandsworth Council’s support for this project to link Lombard Road and Imperial Wharf, has been valuable.  But there is little public information on the state of dialogue with Transport for London & Mayor of London, or with London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.  The budget required for this bridge is tiny compared to the MoL’s other projects such as the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf crossing, and the new tunnel at Silvertown.
    Will the Scrutiny Ctte ask about quality of commitment from TfL/ MoL?
  • Page 19, “Dockless Bike Share, paper 18-67”. Good to see progress at last.
  • Page 27, Transport statistics including “ECSW034, The number of pedestrian crossings in the Borough that have been improved[16]”, “ECSW028, Improved cycle routes (km) in the Borough[3.37 km]”, “ECSW029, Number of cycle parking facilities available[229]”.What benefits have been delivered?   Re pedestrian crossings, which have been improved and which removed?  Re cycle routes improved, improved in what way?  We know from FOI requests that the council does not do Cycing Level of Service assessments (CLoS) to demonstrate compliance against the London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS).  So which routes have been improved, and in what ways, or is the council counting the Quietway 4 and 5 routes within these figures?   And cycle parking facilities – sites or individual sheffield hoops?  Parking for standard bicycles only, or are some suitable for the non-standard bicycles used by parents and people with impaired mobility?Will the Scrutiny Ctte scrutinise the statistics to verify what benefit is being achieved?And what has happened to the Cyclehoop on-street bike hangers promised in paper 14-135 (back in February 2014, FOUR YEARS AGO)?  Like contraflows, Wandsworth Council is making woefully slow progress compared to other London boroughs.  (Last week, Waltham Forest Council announced it has installed 220 bikehangers with more on the way).  
  • Page 47, ref 136 “Mayor’s cycle hire scheme” – good to see a 7.8% increase 2016-17 in usage of the Santandar hire cycles to 933k.
  • Page 47, ref 137 “Cycling strategy” – “review of borough cycle network underway”, “much of Quietway 4 and Quietway 5 has now been completed”, “Wandsworth to Teddington quietway consultation”. Page 48, ref 140 “reduce traffic casualties”: “Two cycling quietway schemes implemented”.Let’s unpack these.
    • The borough cycle network was reviewed when the cycling strategy was updated in 2015 (see papers for June ’15 Scrutiny Ctte, including a 6mb pdf map with a skills audit of the borough’s cycle network).What is the purpose of this new review? Who is contracted to undertake it?  How can the public contribute?  When will it be complete?
    • “Much of Quietway 4 and Quietway 5 have been completed”. That’s not really true is it?  Neither Quietway has any way-finding signage as yet.
    • Re Quietway 4, the Cats Back Bridge on Wandsworth Common is barred to mobility impaired cyclists (who are unable to dismount), contrary to Equality Act requirements and no safe alternative route is provided for them. Magdalen Road in Earlsfield is subject to a safety audit due to concerns expressed by local residents about pedestrian crossings and poor cycling facilities.  The space outside Earlsfield Station – the Magdalen Road/ Garratt Lane junction – is still awaiting a revised design, where the council wants “shared use” on the pavements used by 7.2 million rail passengers each year.
    • Re Quietway 5, nothing has happened to progress the shared-use diagonal path across Tooting Common which is the major chunk of the route within the borough’s boundary. The path is due to be resurfaced with Breedon gravel.Will the Scrutiny Ctte seek clarity on these projects? Both quietway schemes are far from finished.  What are the timetables to complete them properly?  When and how will the council get feedback from local people on the implementation?  To date, the council appears resistant to any suggestions for “better if” improvements.
  • Let’s go back 12 months, and look at the counterpart report (paper 17-183) provided to the Scrutiny Ctte on 21 June 2017:
    • Page 11, Active Wandsworth strategy – any update on how the council is implementing it?
    • Page 27/28, % Wandsworth residents’ trips by walking/cycling as main mode of transport – a year on, there’s no update in this month’s report about the latest modal share statistics. Are these available?
  • And regarding river crossings, what’s happened to the Pimlico to Nine Elms crossing (paper 14-382)? Wandsworth Council put a lot of effort – and money – into promoting this crossing, albeit with little support from Westminster City Council.  Has the council now dropped it?


Item 12: Wandsworth to Teddington Quietway (paper No 18- 185)

On the agenda is a set of papers with the results of the 2017 consultation about the Wandsworth Common to Teddington Quietway, sometimes referred to as Quietway 21.  Strictly speaking, this consultation only related to Wandsworth Common to Richmond Park, as that’s the bit within Wandsworth’s boundaries.

There are four papers: the committee report, a high level map, a paper with details of the consultation submissions and comments, and the drawings used in the consultation (5mb pdf).

Before the consultation, I cycled along the route and wrote a post (Wandsworth’s Q21) pointing out the ways I thought the quietway could be improved.  With the exception of the existing modal filter on Danebury Avenue, there is no attempt anywhere along this route to reduce the volume of motorised traffic.  Many of the roads are busy rat-runs, and the use of shared-use pavements around West Hill beside Tibbets Corner is sub-standard and unattractive for people walking or cycling.

It’s not obvious from the consultation comments report, but I know that the Wandsworth Living Streets crew submitted comments (here), as did the Wandsworth branch of the London Cycling Campaign, and the LCC central team (here).

Headlines about Quietway 21 in Wandsworth:

  • Good support for the concept of a quietway cycle route, but lots of “even better if” comments relating to high traffic levels, and sub-standard shared-use pavements.
  • Transport for London is short of cash, so there is only £125k in 2018/19 to spend, focussed on the Danebury Avenue/ Priory Lane junction outside Richmond Park’s Roehampton Gate, and the Roehampton Lane/ Danebury Avenue/ High Street area which should get a cycle contraflow along the one-way street.
  • Wider study into traffic conditions around West Hill to be presented to Scrutiny Ctte in September 2018, so that section of the quietway is on hold.
  • Remainder of route to be implemented “from 2019/20”, subject to availability of TfL capital. The committee paper notes that some sections between Wandsworth Common and Putney Heath may need to be “revised to address concerns raised”, and may require further consultations.

It will be interesting to see if the Scrutiny Committee picks up on missing or implied points in the quietway papers:

  • Although the consultation comments paper quantifies the feedback, there is no paper to provide a substantive “responses to issues raised”. Does the council have such a paper, and when will it be published?
  • If the quietway is to be “revised to address concerns raised”, then that contradicts the statements in the committee paper’s summary about the quietway route using “low traffic back streets”, “attractive to less confident cyclists”. Will the council’s officers stop perpetuating the myth that Wandsworth’s quietway routes are quiet, and admit that traffic calming interventions are necessary?  This applies not just to the Teddington Q21 route, but to Quietway 4 too.
  • And is there any indication as to what timeframe TfL will release funds to complete the Quietway 21 route? Are we doomed to years of incremental tweaks that fail to deliver a joined up route?
  • What low cost/ low intervention elements could the council proceed with in the interim? For example, the council could update its byelaws to permit cycling on all sides of St. George’s Park, thereby improving permeability between Garratt Lane and Merton Road.


Update: 22 June – Scrutiny Committee decisions

So, I took one for the team and spent an evening watching the Scrutiny Committee go through most of 20 agenda items, scrutinising the council’s proposals on a range of topics.  I say most as, after three and a half hours, I was losing the will to live and decided to skip the final seven items on changes to parking zones.

It was a dispiriting experience.  In what is supposed to be the Conservatives’ flagship local authority, large chunks of the meeting resembled the Dibley Parish Council.   The fault started with the agenda: the committee only meets four times a year, and the agenda is too heavily loaded.  (A cynic may suggest that helps the council minimise scrutiny).  Add weak management of the agenda, time and meeting process by the Chair, poor preparation by some officers, and the behaviour of some councillors, and the meeting was poor.

From an “active travel” perspective, here’s some updates on a few points.  I didn’t expect Councillors to telepathically receive and ask all the points that I blogged above, but some did get asked.

The Southfields street scene / regeneration scheme (agenda item 10) was approved as recommended in the papers after 1.5 hours largely spent discussing 9 parking spaces (some replaced by a ‘park let’ green space).

Approx. 10,000 people use Southfields Underground Station each week day (20k entries and exits), 3,000 of whom exit the station in the early evening.  The aim of the Southfield scheme is to improve the public environment, improve road safety for people walking & cycling, and encourage people to linger i.e. spend more time in the area and with the local businesses.

Speakers for residents and businesses said they were unhappy with the consultation process, and by the loss of parking (which the businesses feel is key to their trade).  Speaker for Wandsworth Living Streets (I think was Robert Molteno) recognised the challenges but pointed to similar regen schemes such as Northcote Road near Clapham Junction which have thrived following redevelopment.  Looks like the scheme could take a couple of years to implement, starting later this year, and the council needs to improve its stakeholder management if it wants to get the businesses on-side.

Turning to the Performance Report (agenda item 3):

  • Road safety KPIs were the prompt for Labour councillors, lead by Paula Walker (Labour, Queenstown), to ask about Quietway Q4, particularly the road safety audit for Magdalen Road. Cllr Walker said that she had cycled the road earlier this week and was “pushed off the road”.  The councillors said they had received a lot of feedback about painted cycle lanes, poor crossings, loss of zebra crossings planned in the original designs, and proposed shared-use space by the station.  The council officer (I believe this was David Tidley, who handled most of the transport-related questions last night), said that the audit was due in the next few weeks, and that the results would be shared with councillors.  I got the impression that a report would not formally be presented to Scrutiny Committee, so we may have to rely on the councillors and FOI requests to get sight of it.
  • The statement about the Magdalen Road safety audit taking in place in the next few weeks is interesting, as the council replied recently to a FOI request by Jon Irwin to say that that an independent safety audit of Magdalen Road had already been completed. Either the FOI response was wrong or the council has contracted more than one audit.
  • Cycling KPIs gave the opportunity for Labour councillors to ask about the Cyclehoop Bike Hangers “has all the Cyclehoop money been taken up?” The officer (Tidley) said he’d write to them with the answer but thought, yes, the money had been spent.  (This doesn’t fit with my understanding of the Cyclehoop project, where only two sites have been installed confirmed by FOI answer, and the trial has yet to complete).   The councillors asked the officers to consider additional KPIs relating to utilisation of cycle parking spaces, in addition to how many are installed.
  • Tooting Broadway Pedestrian Safety scheme is due to be presented to committee in Autumn 2018, and is already being squeezed by TfL budget challenges. Debate included acknowledgement that Upper Tooting Road (between the Tooting underground stations, and the route of CS7) has arguably the worst statistics in the borough for cyclist safety.

Finally, turning to item 12 on the Wandsworth to Teddington (Richmond Park) quietway scheme, known as Quietway 21:

  • Not much debate, as it was 11pm, it was item 12/20, and everyone keen to get home.
  • Cllr Terence Walsh (Conservative, Southfields) rightly pointed out that the design needs to be pedestrian friendly with suitable crossings. He also argued that several of the roads along the route, specifically Girdwood, Granville and Merton have “huge volumes of traffic, cars, especially in the rush hours”.   Bless you, councillor, for making the exact point that many of us made in our consultation submissions, and contradicting the nonsense stated in the council’s papers about these being low traffic roads.
  • The Labour councillors, this time supported by Councillor Rosemary Birchall (Conservative, Wandsworth Common), repeated the issues about Quietway 4 and Magdalen Road. All thanked for the officers for the forthcoming safety audit.   Councillor Judi Gasser (Labour, Furzedown) asked that safety audits and standard compliance assessments were completed for the whole Q21 route (including Roehampton High Street’s proposed contraflow cycling lane) before construction, which was accepted.
  • Conclusion was that the Quietway 21 recommendations were accepted. With the available TfL funding, £125k will be spent at the junctions at either end of Danebury Avenue (Priory Lane, outside Richmond Park) and Roehampton High Street (up to Putney Heath).  And the rest of the scheme depends on availability of TfL for future years, and whatever redesign is necessary to address (the implied) accepted consultation feedback.




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