Is it really impossible to build cycleways past residential properties?

Is it business-as-usual for cycling ‘improvements’ in London, away from the high-profile cycle routes that are currently being built in the capital? Last week Transport for London released plans to improve Cycle Superhighway 7 in Balham which are, on the face of it, deeply disappointing.

They’re disappointing principally because space has been found for cycling here; the proposals largely involve a 2m mandatory cycle lane, which doesn’t allow driving within it. But the space that has been found – in one location, by taking away a motor vehicle lane that is currently painted blue and turning it into a genuine cycle lane – really should offer a much greater level of comfort and safety than what is proposed.

Why does the cycle lane on the right run on the outside of a parking bay, for instance? Why is there no bus stop bypass on the left?

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 10.57.21South of the junction, again we see a cycle lane running on the outside of a parking bay; and there’s potentially more space to play with, as the central hatching has been retained.

The asterisk by ‘mandatory cycle lane’ directs us to this footnote –

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 10.59.04

‘It is not possible to provide a segregated cycle lane at this location due to access to residential properties being required’.

Well, this is pretty silly.

Presumably this claim is being used as a convenient excuse for not doing better than some paint on the carriageway, rather than actually being made in good faith, because it is of course entirely possible to build cycleways past residential properties, safely, and while still allowing residential access. If this wasn’t the case, then the Netherlands would not have been able to build any cycle infrastructure in urban areas!

Looking at this location on Streetview, it’s clear there is no shortage of space (that’s why 2m mandatory lanes are possible) and also that there really should not be any difficulty in providing kerb-protected lanes instead, with dropped kerbs to allow vehicular access to properties.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 11.28.39Just one way of achieving that might be with a lane like this; raised from the carriageway, but with sloping kerbs that allow drivers to enter and exit properties.Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 11.31.22

We don’t even need to look abroad for examples of how this might work; Old Shoreham Road in Brighton and Hove is composed almost entirely of residential properties, yet somehow the council has managed to build cycling infrastructure along the length of the road, without any problems – with, yes, dropped kerbs for access to residential properties.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 11.34.43

So this is a pretty dismal and lazy excuse from Transport for London – can’t they come up with better proposals?

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11 Responses to Is it really impossible to build cycleways past residential properties?

  1. Chris M says:

    Yep, that looks pretty rubbish to me! These planning types should go to some of the places in Europe with ‘real’ cycle lanes. Until recently I lived in Seville. It has a fantastic cycle lane network, fully segregated and fit for purpose, unlike the deathtraps created in British roads.

    • Fragh says:

      And the fact that Seville is not experiencing an economic boom as London is should be an additional incentive to do better than this. There is money to do it now, in London!

      • Chris M says:

        And you only have to look at the general state of our roads to realise just how little the authorities care about their maintenance. That being the case, they will be loathe to spend anything like the necessary investment on cyclists who don’t even pay road tax! Makes you laugh; on one hand the gov’t are supposedly actively encouraging more cycling while on the other they do pitifully little to give us the safe infrastructure to make us even want to risk our necks every time we start pedalling!

  2. Schnauzer Minelli says:

    You should see the CS that is currently being built in Hackney towards Tottenham! It is literally just new tarmac on the road. That’s it. The only thing that’s gonna do is encourage cars to drive even faster. no segregation, no kerb, no signage no nothing. All that money being spent… for cars.

    • Mark Williams says:

      Predicted to, yet supported by Hackney POB. Thick end of an estimated GBP20M well spent… Guess which one-off budget that’s coming from? Up in Tottenham, they’ve recently installed the new trees in the middle of the only [short] fragment of cycleway along the whole route—as featured in the artist’s impression and widely derided during the consultation!

      To answer the question in the poster’s first paragraph; of course the hope has been, for at least the last several years, to return to `business-as-usual’ once the `aberration’ that is the current chairman of TFL is out of the way. If you look at some of the published correspondence between the top brass of various London district councils, you will notice they have commissioned an unseemly amount of planning for precisely that eventuality.

      It’s even worse than that. From a grubby politics perspective, it is safe to assume that once the current city mayor has successfully carved the `cycling revolution’ notch onto his legacy, there is no point in doing so again while he prepares the campaign to be national head of his party. It could even be counter-productive. You don’t have to be much of a conspiracist to surmise that the only reason for two high-profile routes being started was in case one of them failed somewhere during the process. The timing of all this over the course of an 8-year mayoralty, i.e. more or less complete obstructionism for the first 5 years, couldn’t be a more blatant example of self-serving chutzpah :-/.

  3. andreengels says:

    And it’s so easy to do, at least on paper. Just look at whatever there is between the footway and the carriageway-with-cyclelane. Either move that to between cycleway and carriageway, or split it in two, moving half to that place and keeping the other half where it is. Space usage is changed little or none at all, and no rocket science is needed. But I guess that any solution that requires the asphalt to be replaced is considered ‘too much’ so they prefer to create excuses instead.

  4. As a regular long time user of CS7 these changes will be a useful addition as they are quite an improvement over what’s currently in place, not surprising though given how long ago this route opened and the fact that TFL are starting to follow *some* good ideas from overseas in the new ones that are being rolled out. However as you point out it’s still not up to the standard required and I can guarantee the use of it will likely remain the same as it is now: Very busy during the rush hour but outside of those hours you’ll see very few people actually using it and I think in the 5 years I’ve been using it I’ve seen less then a dozen children on it which goes to show it’s not really that “Super”.

    There are numerous problem junctions along it and recently I’d had the passenger in a white van threaten me with a huge wrench after I’d had a go at the driver for a terribly close pass at a traffic island along there and Rookery Road that cuts through Clapham Common is always a gamble as drivers race ahead to try and left hook riders who aren’t paying 110% attention to what’s going on around them!

  5. Paul says:

    Fully agree with the comment about access to properties. The loading bay not so much. Do we really want goods being taken across a cycle lane from a vehicle along side it – probably with the driver standing in the cycle lane and a door open across it ? However if there is parking inside a cycle lane a buffer zone is essential for safe opening of doors.

  6. Notak says:

    A buffer zone for opening doors would be pretty necessary whichever side of the parking the cycle lane is – possibly even more so if the parking is outside, as passengers are less likely to pay attention to the opening of doors than drivers are.

  7. Pete says:

    Well I’ve done the consultation and tried to be constructive. At least the pedestrian crossings don’t have staggers!

  8. The last two pictures took my attention. Design of infrastructure often is a matter of detail. In Germany segregated cyclepaths are designed as the last picture shows. This design works as a speed ramp for cars and allows the driver to cross the cyclepath and the pavement with a relative high speed to stop not until the carriageway is occupied. Turning into the property the cardriver hasn’t to slow his car appropriate. That design causes pretty much accidents cars vs cyclists and peds here in Germany.

    The second to last picture shows a much better design. Because cyclepath and pavement keep their niveau the sloped kerb works as a bumber and cars have to pass slowly and carefully for their own sake – and for the benefit of cyclists and peds.

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