Friday, 20 December 2013

The Bid is in

Thanks to Southwark

Today is the deadline for local authorities to put in their bids for Cycle to School funding. Southwark officers have been working hard to plan visible, segregated space for cycling to make biking and walking even more attractive choices for the school run. We are confident that Southwark can deliver at least one excellent continuous route north-south as well as east-west through Dulwich Village. If Southwark Council is successful in its bid for funding, there will be further local consultation and detailed design work. 

This can't come soon enough - more than 10,000 children are already at school in Dulwich, and the numbers are growing: a new primary school opened in September in Half Moon Lane, and there are plans for significant expansion at Bessemer Grange and an extra 'bulge class' at Dulwich Hamlet. But we need visible attractive space for safe cycling in order to make going to school by bike a realistic option for many more children and teenagers (with parents happy to leave the car at home). 

Example of 'light segregation'
The options being considered for Dulwich are relatively low cost, simple to achieve measures, including the kind of 'light segregation' between bikes and other traffic which has been implemented in Royal College Street in Camden. These solutions are quick and cost-effective to install and easy to maintain, and give people on bikes clear space to travel while feeling safe from intimidating, busy or fast traffic. This picture shows planters and 'armadillos' used to demarcate the line between bikes and other traffic.

Subject to consultation, this kind of light segregation scheme could be implemented relatively quickly on Dulwich Village and parts of College Road, Half Moon Lane, and the uphill/northbound stretch of Calton Avenue. Some parking spaces would be relocated.

Where the width of the carriageway is not sufficient and/or there are particularly wide pavements, more 'shared use' paths are also being considered. Of course confident cyclists can continue to use general traffic lanes.

Redesigning signalised junctions tends to be a longer, more complicated process, but there are definite improvements that can be made for pedestrians and cyclists.

With welcome support from TfL

We've had some very helpful support and advice from Brian Deegan from TfL this week. He cycled round the area with us and gave his thoughts on what is realistic and achievable from an engineering and funding perspective. Brian is a particularly useful person because of his role at TfL (where he's just written the new Design Standards for cycle routes), as well as his previous experience creating cycle routes in Camden and across the London Cycle Network.

We met Brian near the Charter School. He'd cycled from the north so was already aware of the hills that can wake up our teenagers in the morning and put some colour in their cheeks. Our cycle tour passed more than ten primary, prep and secondary school sites - south as far as Kingsdale, and then back through the village up Calton Avenue to the Greendale link, and finally west to Herne Hill and a quick look at the potential off road route via the velodrome. Much of this area is very pleasant and easy to cycle, but there are key points and certain times of day when carefully planned infrastructure will be necessary to encourage more children and teenagers onto two wheels for regular journeys to and from school.

Islands - unfriendly for bikes?
Outside North Dulwich station we had a quick chat about some of the 'traffic calming' schemes which have not had their intended effect. For instance, the pedestrian 'island refuge' here (like those elsewhere) narrows the road and is intimidating for less confident cyclists. In these situations a person on a bike has to be assertive and 'take the lane', which can be quite unpleasant for a child biking uphill with an impatient bus driver behind. The island refuges are also often intimidating for pedestrians who are expected to wait on a patch of concrete for a gap in the traffic. Unfortunately not all drivers drive calmly and respect the 20mph speed limit. Cycling on the pavement (which many parents and children confess to resorting to on occasion) is not an option at peak times because of narrow busy pavements and bus stops. For this stretch, replacing the island refuges with zebra crossings would allow space for lightly segregated bike lanes on the carriageway. This would benefit all road users particularly at peak times.

Echelon parking, Dulwich Village 
Brian was amazed at how much uncontrolled parking there is in Dulwich. Free parking can encourage people to drive to school, work, or to the station, and leave their car all day. This is not good for local shops, and lots of parked cars means less space for everyone else to move around.

Outside the shops in Dulwich Village, opposite the junior school, the echelon parking means that parked cars infringe into the cycle lane, creating conflict at peak times. Simply shifting the parking spaces to be parallel with the road would immediately improve the space available for cycling. Introducing some form of restricted parking (eg short stay only) would also make sense for local people.

We support Southwark's plan for a full review of parking in Dulwich Village, aiming to relocate uncontrolled parking and provide a lightly segregated cycle route through the busiest areas.


Grass verges and wide pavements eg on College Road and Hunts Slip Road mean plenty of potential space for cycling

The main junctions in the area eg Red Post Hill/East Dulwich Grove and Dulwich Village/Turney Road could be improved for young cyclists and pedestrians, for instance by redesigning the approach lanes for motor traffic, and upgrading to Toucan crosssings (with special signals for cyclists). 

Can you spot the child on a bike who has just come from a peaceful off road route into the chaos of school drop-offs?  Southwark is already planning improvements to the crossing at the junction of East Dulwich Grove/Greendale/Townley Road, and there is also a suggestion to restrict this short section shown in the picture to access for residents only, and to have 'KEEP CLEAR' markings  across the entrance to the Greendale cycle route. This would all help link existing cycle infrastructure to more schools.

This is just the start...

Southwark's bid won't have included everything on the wishlists generated by our research with children, parents and other local people, but we are delighted that Southwark and TfL seem positive. We look forward to continuing to feed in comments and ideas for local street improvements, many of which could be addressed as part of regular road maintenance programmes. 

There are other discussions in progress within central and local government about improvements to cycle routes in the wider area. Roll on 2014!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Progress and priorities

What's been happening?

Southwark appointed Aecom to examine our local roads and pavements in the light of our ambitions to encourage more children to cycle to school. Their job is to consider feasibility and make clear recommendations and suggestions to improve conditions for cycling. Informed by what parents have told us, we were particularly keen to stress the importance of segregated cycling solutions for the busiest routes around schools.

 The engineer is producing a report for Southwark Council which comments on the existing space for cycling. This includes noting housekeeping issues like poorly surfaced bike lanes, 'shared use paths' which are not signed, or which join the road at awkward places, or which are blocked by street clutter, as well as junctions which do not work well for cyclists or pedestrians.

We are also awaiting detailed recommendations for safe space for children cycling through the heart of Dulwich to and from school.

We are delighted that TfL and Southwark continue to be supportive of a Cycle to School partnership in Dulwich. This should unlock funding and expertise to start to make meaningful changes to the way we use our roads and enjoy our journeys.

Why here?

Dulwich is an exceptional location for a Cycle to School partnership, with its unique concentration of schools and 10,000 pupils. A staggering number of parents drive their children and even teenagers to school in Dulwich - and then drive back home or onto work in the rush hour with an empty car - because they feel they have no alternative. We need to prioritise safe space for cycling in order to break the vicious cycle of heavy motor traffic leading to more parents feeling they should drive to keep their children safe.

Families travel to school in Dulwich from all over London
If more people cycled to school, fewer cars and less congestion will benefit road users across a much wider area. This map shows where our survey respondents live - all have children at Dulwich schools. Of course not everyone will cycle to school; Orpington or Shepherd's Bush to Dulwich would be quite intrepid. But the school run would be much more pleasant for everyone if those who lived less than 3 miles from school cycled or walked.

TfL's own research shows that most car journeys in London are less than 3 miles, a third are less than 2, and most carry no passengers. Car use tends to be heavier in households with children. Our research shows that most of those who crawl to school by car will not consider allowing their children to take the healthier, quicker option unless or until they can see clear space for cycling. Even those whose children already cycle to school say they fear for their safety.

We will focus our initial efforts immediately around the secondary schools in Dulwich, and the routes to and from them through the heart of Dulwich. We hope that a combination of measures - including infrastructure solutions which allow better space for cycling - will start to change behaviour and expectations for the school run and to make walking and cycling the obvious, easy, fun, safe and healthy choices for local journeys. The impact of this, and of other measures to improve cycling routes in London, will benefit those who have told us they would like to cycle to their school in Dulwich from their home in Clapham, Brixton, Peckham, Victoria, Blackheath, Beckenham, or even further afield. And that should make it easier and more pleasant for all of us to get around.


Separately, we understand that our local councils and TfL are moving forward in their discussions with Sustrans for plans for the new 'Quietways' routes.

Through the Quietways schemes we anticipate improvements from 2014 to the existing London Cycle Network route 23 (London Bridge to Crystal Palace via Greendale/ Calton Avenue/ College Road). We also understand that LCN 25 is being carefully looked at (Clapham to Peckham around Brockwell Park and along Turney Road and Court Lane), as well as a potential new bike-friendly family-friendly route running parallel to the South Circular.

We would like to work closely with Southwark Cyclists and Lambeth Cyclists, Lambeth and Southwark Councils and Sustrans to ensure that the new Quietways routes are a dramatic improvement on the previous LCN routes, and will be widely regarded as suitable for use by children cycling independently to school. This means cycle routes which are clear, continuous and avoid aggressive or fast motor traffic, which are useable all year round, day or night, and which have bike-friendly and child-friendly junctions.

The extract below from the TfL policy document 'The Mayor's vision for cycling in London' sets out the aims for the Quietways programme. Fingers crossed.

click to enlarge

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Green light from Dulwich Estate

We had a positive meeting with the Chief Executive of the Dulwich Estate this week. Among other things we were trying to identify how and where we might be able to unlock useful new routes for cycling or walking.

At the moment the presence of railway lines and playing fields means that we all have to go 'the long way round' for many local journeys. Over time we hope to increase permeability through this area for those on bike and on foot, to make walking and cycling the quickest, safest and easiest choices for local trips to school, the park or to the shops.

Although we have the blessing of the Dulwich Estate to move ahead, there is still lots of work to do, both in getting the agreement and support of leaseholders and local residents, and also in designing the detail of any schemes to make sure they are safe and useful all year round.

Behind this wooden fence on Burbage Road lies an unused strip of land leading to the Velodrome and on to Dulwich Village. The land is currently leased to Southwark Council and owned by the Dulwich Estate. 

Southwark Council is supportive of safe routes to school so we hope they will help us bring this space back into community use, to link up a network of convenient and attractive walking and cycling routes.