Another Transport for London consultation – the A24 in Morden

As you are no doubt well aware, Transport for London are carrying out a series of consultations on improvements to the most dangerous junctions on their network. There have only been a handful published so far, of which the Waterloo (IMAX) roundabout and the roundabout at the northern end of Lambeth Bridge have received much critical attention.

Another proposal by TfL, open to consultation, that hasn’t received quite as much scrutiny – perhaps because it is not in such a high profile location – involves the cycling improvements for the A24 Epsom/London Road in Morden. It shares some similarity with the Lambeth roundabout review, in that the main suggestion is to increase the amount of legal pavement cycling. Alongside that pavement cycling, the existing on-carriageway cycle lanes (very narrow in places) will be kept, and in some places made mandatory – a solid white line, instead of a broken one, which drivers are technically prevented from driving in. I say ‘technically’, because in practice there is very little to stop drivers from driving in these lanes.

The consultation covers quite a length of this road, and I’m going to go along it, from south-west to north-east, showing just how half-hearted TfL’s proposals are, and how – with just a little more imagination, and a bit more budgetary commitment – there is great potential for good, separated infrastructure, suitable for all cyclists of all ages and abilities, to be provided along this road. The consultation proposals also bear the hallmarks of compliance with the Hierarchy of Provision; that is, conversion of pavements to shared use in the event that the authority responsible is unwilling to reduce traffic, slow it, or reallocate carriageway space. Likewise it is presumed that those using the pavement are willing to sacrifice their journey time for the privilege of cycling away from traffic.

 This is the western end of the consultation area, looking to the north-east. As you can see, this is an enormously wide road, with a large central median, wide lanes, and wide pavements. And this is what TfL are proposing for this section –

The very narrow cycle lanes on either side of the road are going to be kept, and the pavements are going to be made ‘shared use’ (the orange colour). The blue stripe denotes a parking bay, which will be kept. This will block the existing on-carriageway cycle lane when cars are parked in it.

We can see just how bad a ‘solution’ this is for cycling along this road by examining the  pavement on the northern side at this point -

That narrow cycle lane will be kept, as it is, and this pavement will be ‘shared use’.

To me, this is a poor use of the space between the fencing and the car. The on-carriageway cycle lane serves no purpose. It will encourage very few people to use the road on a bike, and (in my opinion) narrow cycle lanes like this generally make the experience of cycling in the road much worse than if they weren’t there at all – they tend to encourage close overtakes, and hostility when you are not ‘in the cycle lane’. Meanwhile, simply allowing cycling on the pavement is not appropriate; pavements look and feel like places where bicycles are not to be expected, and conflict between bicycles and pedestrians is likely.

 Looking back, in the opposite direction. Notice the distance between the car, and the fence. There is surely enormous scope here for the construction of a wide, separated track, with a pavement alongside it; a safe and comfortable environment for cycling, that doesn’t bring cyclists into conflict with pedestrians.

On the other side of the road, the situation isn’t much better.

The proposed shared use pavement (again in orange) is only intermittent, and comes to an end, reintroducing cyclists into the carriageway just at the point at which they have to navigate around parked cars (the blue stripe). I leave you to judge how many cyclists who chooses to use the pavement would willingly undertake this kind of manoeuvre on a busy through road like the A24. (Note also that the on-carriageway cycle lane remains truncated by the parking bay). There is really no point making a pavement shared use if you are only going to do so intermittently, and you are expecting cyclists to hop on and off it.

Travelling north-east, we then come to the point where the A24 meets the A329 Central Road.

Again, we have a shared use pavement (orange), and narrow, on-road cycle lanes that are broken by parking bays (blue). This is the view from the inside of the bend –

A pretty horrible place to cycle, with drivers racing up the hill to beat the traffic lights, just behind me. Most drivers did not keep out of the cycle lane – but then again, they don’t have keep out of it. This cycle lane will remain ‘advisory’.

The road is five lanes wide here, with no crossing point for pedestrians on this side of the junction. Morden Primary School is located on the opposite corner of this rather car-centric junction. A lot of the traffic at the time I took these photographs (just after 3pm on a weekday) seemed to be schoolchildren being loaded into cars.

After this junction, the A24 becomes London Road, passing the primary school and housing on the right, and Merton College on the left.

The road here resembles a race track, with the grass strip, pedestrian barriers, and signs warning drivers of the bend.

Here, again, the proposals are to convert the pavement to shared use, and to keep the on-road cycle lane. The one slight concession here is that the cycle lane will be made mandatory (as marked in yellow).

The photograph above was taken approximately from the point of the upper left-hand arrow. The cycle lane is not, of course ‘new’; the proposal is just to convert it to mandatory. This is the best cycle lane on the entire stretch of road.

On the other side of the road, again we see that the on-road cycle lane – despite being widened – will continue to be interrupted by this parking bay.

These three parked cars were all those of parents collecting their children at the end of school. I don’t blame them – this is not a nice place to allow children to walk or cycle.

The parking bays could, of course, be kept; there is ample width on this road for a safe, separated cycling route, rather than a pavement and a cycle lane that is blocked by a parking bay. A cycle track could run, for instance, between a pavement and the parked cars, with no sacrificing of motor vehicle capacity. Evidently this hasn’t been considered; the laziest solution is just to allow people to cycle on the pavement.

This gentleman was already cycling on the pavement; the legality of doing so here is murky, and I suspect will continue to be, with intermittent areas where it is not permitted.

Further along, we come to an enormous junction, which only serves the entrance to Merton College.

The proposal is for a mandatory cycle lane (yellow), alongside a pavement converted to shared use pavement (orange). Here’s how it will look (all you have to do is imagine that the dashed line marking the cycle lane is solid) –

Are five lanes really necessary here? Is the best use of the available space a narrow cycle lane, alongside a wide shared use pavement?

The next section of the A24, looking towards Baitul Futuh Mosque. Still very wide.

The proposal here is, as before, a shared use pavement (on one side only, for some reason), and a mandatory cycle lane (yellow), interrupted (again) by parking bays.

Here are photographs of one of those parking bays, the one to the right of this map, with the cycle lane that will (pointlessly) made mandatory –

A little further on, we have this bus stop.

Cycling is not going to be allowed on the pavement here, so anyone cycling along this route will, if they wish to comply with the law, have to re-enter the road at this point, negotiating their way around the outside of buses that may be stopped here. Again, there is an extraordinary amount of width to play with here, sufficient to take a wide cycle track behind a bus stop, completely free from interaction motor vehicles or the buses themselves. But it is at this very point that cyclists are forced back into the road.

Along the next section of road that runs under the railway bridge, cycling will not be legal on the pavement either.

The cycle lane here will be made mandatory, as you can see, in yellow, on the plan below. I doubt it will be very enticing to anyone currently nervous about cycling in the road.

The final area of this bit of the A24 subject to the proposed ‘improvements’ of TfL is this section of by Morden Court, on the approach to the gyratory around the Merton Council buildings.

This is a deeply revealing photograph, because it shows that this lengthy section of this road is effectively a single carriageway in each direction, thanks to the parking bays on the right, and the bus lane on the left. This should make us ask hard questions about why the rest of this road, as seen in all the previous photographs in this post, might need to be dual carriageway, at all; the capacity is constricted to one lane at this point, so I’m not entirely convinced that the A24 immediately to the south of this area has to remain a four (and in places, five) lane road. There is scope for the reallocation of a vehicle lane for a cycle track, at least along the section until the junction with Central Road (but note that reallocation is not strictly necessary, given the existing width available).

The cycle lane on the right, as currently configured, is useless.

The Transport for London plans have at least acknowledged this, and the cycle lane is to be moved out, to run continuously along the outside of the parked cars (it will also be mandatory, as marked in yellow).

In other words, the cycle lane will run between these parked cars, and the bus.

This is a better arrangement than a cycle lane that simply stops by the parking bay; however, it will run right alongside parked cars, with the attendant risk of being ‘doored’, seriously injured by car doors that are opened into your path, or pushed by those doors into the path of overtaking vehicles.

A more sensible solution would be to move the parking bays out, to create space for a cycle track next to the pavement, protected by the parked cars. This would have the double advantage of being safer, and also being less intimidating to cycle in.

And that brings us to the end of this stretch of road that is being ‘improved’.

It is worth mentioning where the road goes next, however; the gyratory around the Merton Council Offices, which is where the A24 flows past Morden tube.

Conditions for cycling here are unpleasant; more so than the section of the A24 considered in the TfL consultation. Not being familiar with the area, I didn’t fancy trying to negotiate my way around the gyratory on a Brompton. I gave up and walked.

Here is one of the handful of cyclists I saw using the road during the hour I spent in Merton.

These children were, understandably, on the pavement.

This area of Merton will remain a huge barrier to cycling in the borough; I’m not sure if anything is in the pipeline to humanise it, and to make it a place where children might be able to cycle in comfort and safety, without resorting to the pavement. The piecemeal, half-hearted and downright inadequate proposals on the A24 to the south of this gyratory won’t do much to help.

All Transport for London are proposing to do is to allow some cycling on some pavements where it wasn’t legal before (and still left gaps, places where people will have to cycle in the road), and converted some of the existing cycle lanes to ‘mandatory’. This is really quite scandalous, given the amount of space available along the length of this road; space that could be used to construct safe cycle tracks that are pleasant and easy to use, for cyclists of all ages, all speeds and abilities. Cycle tracks that could be used by those children that were being loaded into cars.

TfL can, and must, do something better. We really have a mountain to climb.

The consultation on this section of the A24 is open until 9th November. You can add your comments here, and the Cycling Embassy response is here. Do note, however, that work is scheduled to start on the 19th November, so don’t expect much attention to be paid to your views. 

This entry was posted in Car dependence, Cycling Embassy Of Great Britain, Go Dutch, Hierarchy of Provision, Infrastructure, LCC, London, Smoothing traffic flow, Subjective safety, The Netherlands, Transport for London. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Another Transport for London consultation – the A24 in Morden

  1. Fred Smith says:

    It’s great that you’ve looked at this in detail, they would do well to read this. With the amount of width available in many places it is astonishing how narrow the cycle lanes are – there’s barely space for the double red lines. I am also of the opinion that these types of lanes are almost worse than nothing – experienced cyclists will ignore them (which may antagonise car drivers) and inexperienced cyclists wouldn’t go anywhere near them.

    In my opinion the bit which struck me as most likely to end up in a fatality is how the cyclists are expected to swerve out in to the main run of fast moving traffic at the parking bays. This really isn’t safe on a road like that, I’m not sure it’s even that safe for a car driver getting in/out (assuming no cyclists). It is highly unlikely that any cyclist will be able to claim enough road at this point to be out of the door zone, so they are being asked to put their life in someone else’s hands every time they go past.

    They need to work out one set of lanes which is safe and provides a coherent route through the junction. There is enough width to accommodate cyclists fast and slow on one decent sized track.

  2. Simon says:

    This is even worse than doing nothing. At least previously cycling was pretty much ignored. Now it seems that this is TfL’s considered vision of what suitable cycling provision on the roads looks like. For me, any proposal needs to pass the question: “Would I want to cycle down here with my mother and my 10 year-old son?” I’m pretty sure no-one could say yes to that question with the current plan.

  3. Its possible that the schemes to come out of the non-London cycle safety scheme (a different £15 million pot) will be better than this, its been run as a competitive process with cycling groups on the panel.

    We really need london to be leading the way, because that’s the only place where the money is to change the overall nature of the road network within a reasonable timeframe.

  4. gandalf58 says:

    I negotiate this route daily and I am appalled. I can genuinely say that these proposals will make my journey infinitely worse. Not looking forward to the febrile exhortations to’use the effing cycle path’

  5. TfL must really hate having people riding bicycles on their roads. Either that or they’re breathtakingly incompetent at transport planning for bicycle use.

  6. Fred Smith says:

    I copied my comments to the consultation, the questions look set up for letting them ignore the results but I guess it’s better than nothing – only took 2 mins. If enough people comment I guess they might listen.

  7. Congratulations on a great exposition, this really details the povery of imagination amongst those responsible for cycle infrastructure planning, if they aren’t up to the job they should be removed and replaced with more interested and knowledgable persons not unlike yourself.

  8. gandalf58 says:

    Another thing to consider is that the Mosque, which attracts large numbers, arbitrarily undertakes DIY traffic and pedestrian management. By the looks of it the new scheme will exacerbate these issues.

  9. Great piece, I used to use the one-way system around the council offices as part of a commute. Wasn’t much fun as I use the road that leads up towards Morden Park Hall. Going in either direction meant normally having to negotiate across 2 or 3 lanes to get into the correct lane for where I wanted to head so it certainly wasn’t for the slow or less confident rider!

    The rest of the plans look about par for the course from what we’ve seen from TFL up to this point for road “improvements”.

  10. Koen says:

    What a weird idea of having parking bays on a through road! Haven’t they learnt yet that parking and through roads don’t mix? Heavens, just separate cycle paths, around bus stops, would make things so much easier for everyone!

  11. Mark says:

    I am on the edge of outer London and so we are not getting any areas looked at by TfL as part of this programme, but I will comment on locations I know about. It all seems to me that there is no desire at all to remove motorised traffic capacity and until TfL do, these schemes will fail.

  12. Anonimica says:

    Would TfL change their plans (and planning behaviour) if they would have to cycle their own changed roads for at least 10 times (per person in the TfL project planning group) in the first month after delivery of the roadworks?

    • gandalf58 says:

      I’d love to know how many of them actually cycle regularly- and I don’t mean once round the park for a Hi Vzi & Helmet photo opportunity.

    • SirVelo says:

      There appears to be precious little visibility and/or accountability on the part of TFL. You’re right that these schemes should be trialled by TFL staff before they “go live”. I would also like to know who writes their manual for cycling provision. Are there international standards, equivalent to ISOs, for road designs? Do these guys ever consult with their European colleagues, particularly the Dutch? Do they ever go back into the field, as it were, to see how their designs actually operate in reality? It’s about time that a test case is brought against them to prosecute for the loss of life which has resulted from their culpably poor designs.

  13. Tim says:

    What a horrible mess. So many places where there is a ridiculous choice of cycling on a pavement not designed for the purpose (which will also annoy the pedestrians getting in the way), or alternatively trying one’s luck in the tiny cycle lanes, and dodging the bus stops. Why is there even a choice! Is it not obvious that cyclists just want one good-quality option?

    Those kind of cycle lanes can be particularly fun when you get one stopped bus in front, followed by another alongside you waiting to pull in, just as you hit the bus-stop dead end.

  14. tarquin_foxglove says:

    Result of the consultation is out & having listened to all the respondents (well 75% of them), TfL have amended the scheme and have scrapped the shared use pavements, rest of the scheme is unchanged.

    While I was against ‘shared use’ being THE solution, in the absence of segregated cycle tracks they were A solution and so I’m left with the impression that.cyclists have lost out yet again.

    There were only 55 respondents, disappointing for a city the size of London.

    • Fred Smith says:

      I worry that they think there needs to be more cycling provision but when it turns out people don’t like shared use pavements they don’t look for better alternatives. They take it as a mandate not to do anything, but people didn’t object to having any cycling facilities, just ones which take away from the most vulnerable road users. Pedestrians, people with mobility issues, toddlers, dog walkers etc. who (resonably) expect the pavement to be a safe space for them. It is only really suitable for leisure cycling in parks, by the seaside and along canals and even then it’s not always easy to accommodate successfully.

      Transport planners should not be allowed to develop schemes knowing that shared use is likely to be rejected without providing alternative options to encourage safe cycling. Where shared use is dropped from a scheme they need to re-evaluate and try harder.

  15. Fred Smith says:

    I’ve written them an email, they need this feedback to improve. Asking them difficult questions forces them to go back to the actual designers with the letter and it won’t just stay with customer relations who are not in a position to change anything:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I’ve now had a chance to look at this in detail. In the nicest possible way I would like to let you know that the cycle lanes which lead straight in to the back of a loading bay are a complete joke. If the bit of grass in the middle were removed and replaced with a dashed line there would be more space and they might even be able to put some greenery near the pavement where people can enjoy it more. Cyclists will be forced to swerve out in to the main lanes of traffic without any helpful measures by the transport planners. If the traffic is fast and either a cyclist or a motorist misjudges things the cyclist is likely to die. This should not be the kind of situation we are designing in to our transport infrastructure.

    Lets hope nothing happens, but hope isn’t the way to be safe.

    Could you let me know if the road scheme has been developed in accordance with the ‘Principles of prevention’ (H&S tool for finding the best ways of avoiding hazards), and if so which version you use?

    I hope that the people who designed this would be happy to cycle this on a regular basis, at the very least I would hope they try out their design at least once so they have first hand experience to help inform future schemes.

    Kind regards,

    Fred

  16. gandalf58 says:

    They have at least abandoned the ludicrous shared footway proposals, presumably so they can claim to have responded to the ‘consultation’. Work on this debacle starts on Monday, I’m dreading it.

  17. Oh well, it’s started, that’s to say they started sloshing the paint around. What they have done is added a solid white line, oh a good six inches to the right of the existing non-mandatory ‘cycle lane’. You now have three possible chances to slide off on the shiny paint, double red lines, old dotted cycle lane marking and now the new one. Thye new one is right where your wheels want to be if you are in a strong secondary. Fuming. Just waiting for my first ‘interaction’ with a moton.

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