No, the Mayor of London hasn’t built 100+km of cycling quietways

… and, in south-west London, has no dates to finish them either.

This post is part three in an ongoing look at the Mayor of London’s claim that Transport for London (TfL) has “built” 100km of cycling quietway routes since he took office:

This third part reports the answer to a Freedom of Information request, where I asked TfL for more info on the five sections in south-west London.  I asked for examples of the signs (seemingly) installed on the routes and when they were completed, or admission that works were still needed along with target dates.

Spoiler: it’s not good news.

 

What are the five sections in SW London?

In the first blogpost, I picked out the five sections in SW London which the Mayor and TfL said were “completed and signposted”, took a look, and found that a lot of work was still needed:

q100table4swldn

With the FOI answer, let’s look at each.

 

A/ Wimbledon to Raynes Park, 1.9km

In the first blogpost, I explained how the 1.9km railway path between the two stations – Local/National Cycle route 208 – had not been re-engineered.  The crossing at Lower Downs Road is very dangerous.  There are no dropped kerbs, and the path narrows to 1.5m/ft in many places.

In the FOI answer, TfL explained its inclusion in the 100km statistics as follows:

“The Wimbledon to Raynes Park Quietway route was intended to be an upgrade of LCN 208. Vegetation clearance and removal of localised narrow pinch points along a 1.9km section of the route took place between January and November 2017.

“Further upgrades of the route on this section, including improved lighting and schemes between Lower Downs Road and West Barnes Lane, were planned to be constructed in 2018.

“However, due to property development considerations in the local area, the scope of the Wimbledon to Raynes Park Quietway route is under review; therefore there is currently no date set for implementation of signage and wayfinding.”

So, TfL and Merton Council hired a gardener to cut back weeds and brambles, and then gave up.  But that was enough work for this 1.9km to be included in the Mayor’s 100km statistics.  And yet the route is “under review” …. ?

The reference to “property development considerations” could mean a range of things, but likely refers to Crossrail 2 which will require the embankment carrying the railway to be reworked.  However, it will be several years (if ever?) before Crossrail 2 works get started, and that’s no excuse to defer basic engineering changes to improve safety and accessibility today.

 

B/ Earlsfield to Wimbledon, Quietway 4 via River Wandle, 3.5km

Construction work along the River Wandle within London Borough of Merton was completed over 12 months ago, except for signage.

TfL explained the lack of signage with this answer, which references the quietway route from Magdalen Road across Garratt Lane to reach the River Wandle:

“We are working with LB (London Borough of) Wandsworth to review the quality of this route, including the crossing of Garratt Lane. There is currently no confirmed date for signage and wayfinding.”

 

C/ Clapham Common to (near) Earlsfield, Quietway 4 via Wandsworth Common, 2.6km

TfL provided the same answer regarding status as for the Q4 section in Merton (above).

“We are working with LB Wandsworth to review the quality of this route, including the crossing of Garratt Lane. There is currently no confirmed date for signage and wayfinding.”

This concisely confirms what we know from other sources: that TfL is very unhappy with the approach taken by Wandsworth Council regarding the route and design of Quietway 4 along Magdalen Road, and across Garratt Lane outside Earlsfield Station.  In November 2018, the Mayor answered a question from Assembly Member Leonie Cooper with:

“Magdalen Road was constructed by the borough in early 2018. The design approved for this scheme by Transport for London (TfL) included three pedestrian crossings. Two crossings were removed from the design without TfL’s approval. However, following further discussions, one of the two missing crossings has now been installed.

“There was a consultation on a new signalised crossing at the junction of Garrett Lane, Waynefleet Street and Trewint Street. This proposal did not proceed due to local opposition.  

“The borough has now developed proposals for an alternative scheme at the junction of Garratt Lane and Magdalen Road, using shared pedestrian/cycle crossings and a shared footway. However, TfL has advised that the footway is narrow, gets busy with pedestrians and does not provide enough space for cyclists. TfL and my Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman have therefore asked the borough to re-evaluate the original preferred alignment, in consultation with local councillors.”

So, there won’t be wayfinding signage on any section of Quietway 4 until the Garratt Lane crossing/ Earlsfield Station bit is resolved.  And there’s no date for that.

 

D/ Clapham Common to Tooting Common, Quietway 5 via Cathles Road, 1.7km

Construction of Quietway 5 route within London Borough of Lambeth is largely complete.  However, work to properly finish it with wayfinding signage is, again, held up by lack-of-progress by Wandsworth Council within its borders:

“The schemes on this section have been constructed. Wayfinding of the section will be installed once the paths through Tooting Bec Common and Wandsworth Common have been widened and cycling on them has been permitted by the Secretary of State.”

This is a really muddled answer by TfL.  Quietway 5 *does not* cross Wandsworth Common.  The approved Quietway 5 route across Tooting Common is via an upgraded diagonal path from Bedford Hill to beside the Tooting Lido.

Q5 Tooting Common

Due to the legal status of Tooting Common as common land, and the statutory process regarding Cycle Track Orders, there may need to be approval from the Secretary of State.  And that may be delayed by a public enquiry if there were local objections to the CTO.  This leads to another of the Mayor’s answers to AM Cooper, also from November 2018:

“The sections of Quietway 5 between Clapham Common and Tooting Bec Common have been completed. Owing to Tooting Bec Common’s protected status, schemes through here require further consultation and statutory approvals. The London Borough of Wandsworth is leading this work, and delivery is dependent on the borough’s programme for gaining the required approvals.

“In the meantime, Transport for London is progressing an alternative alignment along Tooting Bec Road to allow Quietway 5 to launch sooner. This scheme is due to start construction in 2019.”

In practice, this would mean Quietway 5 using the Chestnut Avenue route across Tooting Common (where a cycle track order already exists), and then reaching the Lido via the Tooting Bec Road track which TfL put out to consultation in 2017 (TfL webpage with consultation details and reports).  TfL hasn’t announced a date for the works to start on Tooting Bec Road.   Intriguingly, someone has updated Openstreetmap with the revised Quietway 5 alignment:

Q5 Tooting Commonv2

E/ Richmond Park to Teddington, QWT/Q21 within Richmond Park, 4.2km

The section that has been constructed is within Richmond Park, where Royal Parks used funds from TfL to tinker with the route in 2016/17 (raised table crossings, paths widened slightly).  TfL’s answer appears to reference the wider quietway Q21/QWT route: from Richmond Park westwards towards the River Thames and Teddington (Richmond Council), and eastwards from Richmond Park towards Roehampton, Putney and Wandsworth (Wandsworth Council):

“Following a review of quality on this route, the delivery timescales have been extended. Final detailed design is currently underway, with construction planned to commence in early 2019. Signing will be installed once all construction has been finished.”

Richmond Council’s consultation on the westward section of Quietway Q21/QWT from Richmond Park to the River Thames took place in February 2018 (blogpost looking at the proposed route, and consultation submission).   I’ve seen nothing since to say when the consultation results will be published.

Wandsworth Council’s consultation on the eastward section of Quietway Q21/QWT from Richmond Park, through Roehampton and Putney Heath to Wandsworth Common (by the prison) took place in November 2017, with the results announced in June 2018.  (Blogposts with a look at the Q21 route/ consultation submission, and results of the consultation at Wandsworth Council’s Communities Committee Jun’18).  The result of the consultation was in two parts: firstly, TfL could only provide funds in the short-term for the Richmond Park to Roehampton High Street section, and these works are not yet scheduled.  Secondly, the rest of the route, from Roehampton across Putney Heath and Wandsworth needs redesign (there was no traffic calming) and may need further consultation.  Again, no dates.

So, once again, a section of quietway won’t be finished with wayfinding signage until the rest of the route is sorted out.

 

Is there any good news?

The one glimmer of good news is a hint about quality:

“The Cycling Action Plan, launched in December 2018, states that all new signed strategic cycle routes in the capital will have to meet strict new quality standards for boroughs to receive funding for routes.”

I’m interpreting this statement as applying to cycle routes which have yet to be finished.  That appears to be the case regarding Quietway 4 around Earlsfield (above) where TfL say “We are working with LB Wandsworth to review the quality of this route, including the crossing of Garratt Lane”.

 

Conclusion

So what I have learned writing these three blog posts?

  1. The Mayor of London and TfL have not really finished 100km of cycling quietway routes;
  2. There are no dates for completing the five quietway routes in south-west London, nor signposting the bits that have been constructed;
  3. Wimbledon-to-Raynes Park appears to be Schrodinger’s Quietway – built yet not re-engineered, under review with no date scheduled for signage and wayfinding;
  4. The definition of “built” as a qualifier in the Mayor’s report of 100km is very variable – hiring a gardener for a few days appears to be enough to get included in the statistics; and
  5. There’s a hint of higher quality standards for forthcoming builds.

There is some good work being done across London, such as the Waltham Forest, Enfield and Kingston mini-Holland schemes.  But the credibility of these investments – and TfL’s true progress – is undermined when the Mayor and TfL churn out bullshit statistics.

It’s good that TfL want to impose higher quality infrastructure standards.  Can we have quality and honesty standards for the statistics too?

(The cycling commissioner under Mayor Boris Johnson, Andrew Gilligan, has been looking this subject too and, in this this Guardian opinion piece , reaches similar conclusions).

 

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