[Updated 23 January’19: This blogpost is now part one of two, and is focussed on the November’18 answer from the Mayor of London to Caroline Pidgeon. A second blogpost looks at the Mayor’s clarification in January’19, which says that only 65km are finished with wayfinding signs, with a further 60km awaiting completion works]
The Mayor of London has answered a question (ref 2018/2977, 27 November 2018) from London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon (LibDems) to say that since his mayoralty started, Transport for London and London’s councils have built 100km of cycling quietway routes. Ms Pidgeon’s question is carefully worded to ask the Mayor what ‘built’ means. The Mayor says built = “completed and signposted”. The answer includes a list of the sections of quietway routes – totalling 116.9km – which the Mayor states are complete.
Here’s screenshots of Ms Pidgeon’s question, the Mayor’s answer and the quietway section table laid out for blog purposes. I’ve highlighted several quietway sections in south-west London that I’m particularly interested in.
I’ve picked out five sections of quietway routes in south-west London which the Mayor & TfL are reporting as “completed and signposted”. The reality on the ground is very different.
I believe the Mayor’s answer to Ms Pidgeon is wrong. I’ll explain the reality as I see it of each section today, and conclude by speculating about what has gone wrong in Transport for London’s HQ.
Wimbledon to Raynes Park, 1.9km
This is the most puzzling of the sections of quietway claimed by the Mayor and TfL to be “completed and signposted” as absolutely no work of any form has taken place.
|On the ground alignment||This matches the old London Cycling Network LCN208 on the railway path beside the railway.
There’s been informal talk for some time of recycling LCN208 as a quietway, but nothing has been published formally by TfL or LB Merton.
|State of construction?||Absolutely nothing has been done to upgrade this from a scruffy LCN route to a quietway standard.
To avoid any doubts: no work – nada – zilch – sweet FA – absolutely nothing!
|Quietway signs at significant junctions?||None.
Today’s signage is the old LCN208 blue signs.
|Today’s reality||Starting at Raynes Park, by the railway underpass, the only signs are those for LCN208.
The width of the path varies, but there are several pinch points where the path narrows to below 5ft/ 1.5m because of trees and lamp posts
Arguably, the most dangerous bit of the route is at Lower Downs Road where the railway path crosses beside the railway underpass. Note that there are no dropped kerbs, and very poor sightlines for people cycling and driving.
Approaching Wimbledon, the LCN route (and proposed quietway) is routed off the railway path onto nearby roads.
The route leaves the railway path at Alt Grove . Note that there is no dropped kerb between the path and carriageway.
The route ends at St. George’s Road, about 100m from Wimbledon Station. You need to hustle with motorised traffic and turn right at the traffic lights to reach the station. The pavements are *not* designated for shared-use.
Why does the cycle path leave the railway and use nearby roads? Because the railway foot path gets to the station via two flights of stairs.
|Conclusion||As no work has been done, I do not understand why TfL is reporting to the Mayor, and the Mayor to Assembly Member Pidgeon, that this quietway is “built”, “completed and signposted”.
It is completely untrue.
Quietway 4 – Earlsfield to Wimbledon – 3.5km
The distance – 3.5km – aligns with the section of Quietway 4 within London Borough of Merton.
|On the ground alignment||Quietway 4 within LB Merton, from the Wandsworth/ Merton boundary on the River Wandle just below Trewint Street, along the River Wandle, across Wandle Meadows, and then South Park Road to the east wide of Wimbledon railway station.
|State of construction?||Probably complete, except for way-finding signage.
The path along the River Wandle is designated as National Cycle Route NCN20. New lighting was installed along the river path. A new bridge was built across the river at Wandle Meadows to route the quietway towards Wimbledon. A zebra crossing on Haydons Road was converted to a parallel pedestrian and cycle crossing.
|Quietway signs at significant junctions?||None.
There are no quietway signs along the route. The only signs today are those for NCN20.
|Today’s reality||Going west to east, starting at the east side of Wimbledon railway station, beside the (planned to be closed) police station, there’s no Quietway signage, although the ‘no entry’ sign has had ‘except cycles’ added.
The crossing at Haydons Road has been extended to be a parallel pedestrian and cycle crossing.
By Garfield School, the route crosses Wandle Meadows park, with a new bridge across the river.
Then joins the Wandle Trail tagged National Cycle Route NCN20, to reach Earlsfield.
The Wandsworth/ Merton council boundary is about 30m south of the Trewint Street bridge. By the bridge (in Wandsworth), there’s no Quietway signage.
|Conclusion||This section of Quietway 4 needs signage to satisfy the Mayor’s definition of “built = completed and signposted”.|
Quietway 4 – Clapham Common to Earlsfield – 2.6km
Overall, the intended route for Quietway 4 between Clapham Common and Earlsfield is nearer 3.7km. However, there is ongoing debate between TfL and Wandsworth Council regarding the approx. 1.1 km from Wandsworth Prison along Magdalen Road to Earlsfield railway station and Garratt Lane. Therefore, I assume the 2.6km claimed as “completed and signposted” relates to the just the eastern section between Clapham Common and Wandsworth Prison.
|On the ground alignment||2.6km would match the quietway 4 route between the middle of Clapham Common (on Windmill Road), along most of Thurleigh Road to reach Wandsworth Common, across the Cats Back Bridge over the railway, then across Trinity Road to reach Wandworth Prison (Heathfield Road).
(When complete, the quietway will then turn left and right into Magdalen Road to cross Garratt Lane somewhere near Earlsfield railway station)
|State of construction?||Probably complete, except for quietway signposting. But this is being managed by Wandsworth Council, so we can’t be sure.|
|Quietway signs at significant junctions?||The only site with Quietway 4 markings is the crossing at Trinity Road. Whereas most of the route is controlled by Wandsworth Borough Council, Trinity Road is controlled by TfL (red route).
TfL made changes to the pedestrian crossing at Trinity Road to include cycles – making it a toucan crossing. Painted Q4s were added each side on the carriageway. These are the only wayfinding symbols currently on the route.
|Today’s reality||Going west to east, starting at Wandsworth Prison, there are no quietway signposts, just old LCN signs.
The toucan crossing at Trinity Road was built by TfL, which added painted Q4s to the carriageway on either side in Alma Terrace and Dorlcote Road. Today, these are the only quietway-related signs on the route.
The route crosses the railway in the middle of Wandsworth Common on the Cats Back Bridge. Note that Wandsworth Council enforces byelaws requiring all cyclists to dismount and walk – including disabled cyclists. The accessibility and Equality Act duties were rejected by Wandsworth Council during the Quietway 4 consultation.
There’s little (LCN) signage from Wandsworth Common and Clapham Common to indicate the route comprehensively.
Near Clapham Common, the bollards in Walsingham Place make it the only filtered street in the entire Quietway 4 route, and this relates to the housing development and pre-dates the quietway.
[Neither Wandsworth nor Merton Councils have done anything to stem volume of motorised vehicles on other roads used in this scheme. Wandsworth has a borough-wide 20mph limit in residential streets and, IIRC, Merton has applied 20mph limit to its roads on the Q4 route.]
Nearer Clapham Common, there’s only old LCN signage
In the middle of Clapham Common on Windmill Drive, at the meeting point of Quietway routes Q4 and Q5, there’s only old LCN signs. (Note the LCN5 direction to Norbury, going left via Abbeville Road, is different to what will be the Quietway 5 direction to Norbury which will be right via Nightingale Lane.)
|Conclusion||Without any quietway signage, this 2.6km of Quietway 4 does not satisfy the Mayor’s “built = completed and signposted” definition.
I am very disappointed that TfL has, by implication, accepted that all cyclists – including those with impaired mobility – are legally obliged to dismount at the Cats Back Bridge. I fail to understand how this meets the quietway standard.
Quietway 5 – Clapham Common to Tooting Common – 1.7km
This one is puzzling, as the Quietway 5 route’s distance from the middle of Clapham Common to Tooting Common is 2.2km. I’m struggling to find any 1.7km-long section that could possibly be “complete and signposted”
|On the ground alignment||With nearly all of Quietway 5 lacking any signage, it is difficult to see which 1.7km-long section TfL is claiming to be “complete and signposted”.
The only section where works appear to have been completed, and on-carriageway Q5 way-finding signs painted, is approx. 1.3km between the A204 Avenue in the middle of Clapham Common and the end of the Cathles Road.
|State of construction?||Without knowing what scope TfL has in mind, it is difficult to tell.
There’s a section of approx. 1.3km where works have clearly been completed. These start at the A205 Avenue (the road across Clapham Common), with Q5 symbols painted at both ends of Nightingale Walk, plus the start of Alderbrook Road, and the crossing of crossing of A24 Balham Hill between Marlwood and Cathles roads.
Works are ongoing in Cavendish Road. LB Lambeth only published the results of the 2017 consultation last month – November 2018 – and speed bumps and raised table crossings are still being installed.
|Quietway signs at significant junctions?||There is no Quietway signage, other than Q5s painted on the carriageway at junctions of A205 Avenue/ Nightingale Walk, Nightingale Walk/ N’gale Lane/ Alderbrook Road, and Marlwood/ A24 Balham Hill/ Cathles.
Note that no signage is provided yet at the junction of Alderbrook and Marlwood.
|Today’s reality||Painted Q5s are each end of Nightingale Walk.
Another Q5 painted at junction of Nightingale Lane and Alderbrook Road
And finally at the crossing of Balham Hill from Marlwood to Cathles
|Conclusion||Today, there is no identifiable 1.7km long section that is “completed and signposted” to the Mayor’s definition.
There are no signs on Clapham Common to indicate the Quietway routes (Q4 or Q5). Works on Cavendish Road to link Cathles Road and Tooting Common are ongoing.
QWT/Q21 – Richmond Park to Teddington – 4.2km
The 4.2km matches the proposed section of the Wandsworth to Teddington quietway within the boundary of Richmond Park, between Roehampton Gate to the east and Ham Gate to the west. In different TfL and LB Richmond documents, this quietway is referenced as QWT, Q21 and (in Richmond) Q1.
|On the ground alignment||4.2km matches the distance of the quietway alignment between Roehampton and Ham gates, following the National Cycle route NCN4.
|State of construction?||Probably complete, except for Quietway signage.
TfL gave funds to Royal Parks in 2016 to tweak bits of the existing NCN4 route across the middle of the park. The path between Pen Ponds and Ham Cross has been widened slightly (about 30 extra cm), and raised tables have been added at road crossings.
|Quietway signs at significant junctions?||No quietway signage.|
|Conclusion||Construction work seems to be complete, but there’s no quietway signage. So this does not satisfy the Mayor’s “completed and signposted” definition.
To be honest, until the full QWT/Q21 alignment is finished between River Thames at Teddington and (at least) Putney Heath, I’m not sure what value Quietway signage will add.
Other sections across London
On social media, others have made similar observations about the claimed completeness of quietway sections in other parts of London:
- Quietway 5, running north from Clapham Common towards Vauxhall – @simonstill posted a twitter thread explaining that some physical works have been done but there’s no signage;
- Grand Union canal, question from Westminster Cycling Campaign about whether works are complete;
- Quietway 1, north of Tavistock Place, as Camden Cyclists point out there’s no signage (which it acknowledges will only be valuable when the Judd Street/ Midland Road scheme is built).
So what’s gone wrong?
Experience tells me that these errors are usually down to administrative cock-up rather than deliberate conspiracy to deceive.
Most of the quietway works are carried out by local boroughs, using money from TfL. I suspect TfL has got its records muddled in the cycle of quietway works planned – designed – constructed – signposted – complete, possibly confusing the release of funds to do final works with works then being complete.
However, the Wimbledon to Raynes Park (LCN208 upgrade) is a mystery. Absolutely no work has been done, and it should not be marked even as started in the TfL database.
Regarding the Mayor’s definition of “built = completed and signposted”, it is just possible that the Mayor’s office has, ahem, added a politician’s polish to the report provided by TfL to support his answer to Assembly Member Pidgeon. But that is just me speculating.
For now, I’ll attribute the errors to administrative cock-up. But if TfL continue to describe these south-west London quietways as complete then, in future, I will say that TfL and Mayor are lying.