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Cycling in Hammersmith and Fulham under the GLC

On YouTube a video has been uploaded originally made in 1984 to show progress made on cycling by the Greater London Council in coordination with boroughs. At the time the Greater London Council (GLC) had helped fund the beginnings of a cycling network and improve cycling throughout London. Much of the work took place in Hammersmith and Fulham. There are even animations (specially commissioned) which show how many of the early junctions in Hammersmith worked.

GIF Animation of crossing under Hammersmith Flyover
Animation of crossing under Hammersmith Flyover

Of particular note to us are absolutely amazing sections showing then new facilities at various parts of Hammersmith. Every facility has inevitably been reworked in the decades since and indeed some are actually even preserved in a form on Google Street View (which we’ve linked in captions below the images) that has only recently been further revamped. The point to note from all of this is that it does at least appear the borough have been capable of renewing and maintaining a cycle network if not extending it in the years since. These are just some that we’ve noticed, let us know if you spot any others.

Cyclist on Holland Park Roundabout, 1984
Cyclist on Holland Park Roundabout. Since then railings have gone, lights have changed but it’s still 4-5 lanes of traffic to navigate by bike  > see now on Street View
Quiet route paralleling Fulham Palace Road
Quiet route paralleling Fulham Palace Road, this continues to work fairly well though you’ll often see local school children riding on the pavement.  > see now on Street View
Crisp Road Contraflow
Crisp Road Contraflow, this has changed a lot as trees have grown and is constantly under threat due to nearby developments.  > see now on Street View
Addison Bridge avoiding Holland Park Roundabout
Addison Bridge avoiding Holland Park Roundabout, this is absurdly narrow. It has since had parking removed and has segregated lanes in either direction.  > see now on Street View
Bridge Road crossings under Hammersmith Flyover
Bridge Road crossings under Hammersmith Flyover, even in 1984 it was odd not to allow contraflow cycling coming towards the camera. Will we fix that after 30 years? > see now on Street View
Woman cycling around Shepherds Bush Green - lovely practical bike!
Woman cycling around Shepherds Bush Green – lovely practical bike. It’s more likely we’d see such a cyclist using the paths over the green which came in after this film. However, for many journeys cycling on the road is the most sensible option despite the risks. > see now on Street View
Then proposed links to enable cycling from Shepherds Bush Green into the main roads. These mostly survive but have been under threat in recent years and are not as complete as shown. Cycling on the green is now simpler shared use but with additional poorly executed paths around the edge. It is no safer today!
Then proposed links to enable cycling from Shepherds Bush Green into the main roads. These mostly survive but have been under threat in recent years and are not as complete as shown. Cycling on the green is now simpler shared use but with additional poorly executed paths around the edge. It is no safer today!

All this and more is in the video which is a very informative and fascinating 24 minutes or so of viewing. You’ll realise just how quickly changes can and were made back then, and of course how few changes have been made since. We note that most changes in Hammersmith and Fulham have been to the quality of these interventions but not to create that many more . The main thing sadly missing is the contraflow lane on Hammersmith King Street which followed some years later, just after the GLC was abolished by the Thatcher government.

The film ends with a comment which remains accurate even today, sadly: “If we are to create another generation of cyclists, we must plan London for them now.” On which note, don’t forget our Space For Cycling meeting is on Monday!

Some Research Of Our Own

Now beyond the material in the film we have also been doing research online, in libraries and in borough archives.

There is very little in newspapers of the time online (other than the Times archive) but that reveals that the GLC’s team in 1982 comprised 4 full-time and up to 36 part-time staff. It was found that changes in Fulham (probably the quiet route paralleling Fulham Palace Road) had increased cycling by 22%.

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The plans of the time were advanced even in 1982 when the Times wrote (May 03, 1982; pg. 5; Issue 61223) of “cycle ways, possibly underground” being considered across London. This was happening during a time when public transport provision was being forced to be reduced in London and traffic on the streets was growing. Cycling was positioned by the GLC as an alternative (40% of those losing services were expected to walk or cycle, as opposed to 20% to drive).

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The then new crossing into Hyde Park from Bayswater cost £85k (roughly £254k in cost today) of which the Ministry of Transport contributed £56k. Those were the first bicycle traffic lights in London, installed in 1982. It seems sad that we are only just seeing moves towards low level lights in London now.

eBay brought our coordinator a copy of an original map from around the time of this film for planning routes with the GLC. We’ve quickly scanned it in to share as it’s a timely reminder both of how long ago and how compromised past efforts were, but also shows where there are differences and similarities to the current Central London Grid proposal.

Hammersmith and Fulham GLC Cycle Map Early 80s
Hammersmith and Fulham GLC Cycle Map Early 80s – click for full size.

It is very interesting to compare this to the current (last revised in 2006) map of walking and cycling routes as available on the council website today. The basic grid was delivered with interventions at a few key places in the early 80s. Some routes have been added, some taken away. Though note that now the map is much more likely to include a road with a bus lane or even just cycles painted on the road. It is probably quite interesting to look at why certain roads were no longer considered part of the network. Cycling on main roads has become more accepted by the council, but interventions – other than segregated contraflows or bus lanes – have not.

Hammersmith and Fulham Walking and Cycling Map 2006
Hammersmith and Fulham Walking and Cycling Map 2006 – click for full size

You might ask how seriously are the borough taking cycling, when the biggest shopping centre in West London isn’t even on the local cycle map. And if you are inspired to campaign then you could help us work on Space For Cycling, come to our meeting on Monday 17th February or read over our comments on the Central London Grid and send your own response.

We’ll follow up in time with some period leaflets and other items we’ve found, though we welcome any contributions people have of memories and artefacts of cycling in London and our local area. Drop us a line by commenting below or email us.

Hire Bikes Come to Hammersmith and Fulham (but mostly Fulham)

After many months of work, and some years of planning the London Cycle Hire scheme is coming to Hammersmith and Fulham, launching on Friday December 13. The council have a very cheery piece of news heralding this which has been well picked up, which we’ll quote from – this is Cllr Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler:

We have worked hard to bring this fantastic scheme to H&F and our residents can now enjoy the benefits of these bikes which are easy to ride and offer low-cost alternatives to other ways of travelling around the borough. We hope more people will be encouraged to get on their bikes and this could help cut congestion on our roads, which has been central to our Get H&F Moving campaign

The ambition she states is good, but we have reservations. As easy as the bikes may be to ride, the roads in Hammersmith and Fulham are much the same as ever. We continue to have two major gyratory systems at the centre of Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush, and the narrower and more windy roads of Fulham where the bulk of the bikes will be docked are not a pleasant cycling environment. Even the newer roads around Westfield where hire bikes first appeared in the borough are not a pleasant cycling destination, and need complete overhaul as it celebrates five years and looks to be expanded. Westfield cannot cope with Chistmas peaks using cars and public transport alone, as the follwing reports from TfL’s own traffic team show.





Hire bikes came to Westfield in March 2012, however issues with the car parks being full around Christmas have happened repeatedly before and since their arrival. Clearly the addition of hire bikes alone was not enough to deal with congestion at Westfield.

CTC have made their own investigations into the bike hire, and believe that the London scheme is currently the least used and most expensive scheme in Europe.

We are keen to see changes in Hammersmith and Fulham that make cycling on main roads safe, attractive and direct, and link appropriately into local neighbourhoods. The council is right to link the possibility of more people cycling to helping cut congestion, but we don’t believe any reduction will be meaningful until major barriers to cycling are tackled.

The local section of the hire bike stations map
The local section of the hire bike stations map

The perception of cycling locally is an issue, it does not readily appear safe. Despite recent deaths, it is hard to say that the activity of cycling is any more dangerous than it was, though we remain concerned. Figures locally show that driving in particular has got a lot safer during the last decade whereas cycling hasn’t, even taking growth in cycling into account. There remain few safe cycling facilities, and they are not joined up. Good quality facilities are the best advert for cycling. Without a ‘step change’ as called for in the Mayor’s Cycling Vision in Hammersmith and Fulham we will not see cycling become safer and grow as we and council would like it to. 

It’s worth also considering the issue of parking, for the majority of local people cycling who will be continuing to use their own bikes. Whilst the council is responsive in particular cases to requests for extra cycle parking there is no major cycle parking at any development other than some sheffield stands. A radical increase in parking locations, density and quality is necessary – consideration must be given to parking in the carriageway or under cover with direct access to key destinations such as supermarkets and cinemas.

Things could be worse of course, as our neighbouring borough Kensington and Chelsea features even fewer facilities for cycling. Kensington and Chelsea continues to block the proposal for segregated lanes on Kensington High Street. We are concerned that Superhighway 9 may yet not happen due to their obstruction, and Hammersmith and Fulham council are already planning on that basis with recent council papers saying “it is likely that TfL’s cycle superhighway [9] will now not go ahead”. We need to be joined to London, and our neighbouring boroughs need to think not just of their residents, but those work, shop and pass through by bike from boroughs like our own.

An example of segregation that could be used on Kensington High Street - at risk due to the council objecting
An example of segregation that could be used on Kensington High Street – at risk due to the council in Kensington & Chelsea objecting

Despite the council citing £2m of developer funding they’ve helped fund the scheme with, there is London tax payer money being used to fund the hire scheme. TfL itself funds ongoing and one-off costs and whilst Barclays sponsors  it covers only a portion of these. The cycle hire is not some treat, Londoners must bear in mind that a lot of money has been spent on the bike hire scheme. We need to see the oft quoted “near £1bn” (actually £913m over 10 years, not all guaranteed) used to fund meaningful changes to Hammersmith and Fulham and neighbouring boroughs thus enabling many more journeys to be undertaken safely in the area and beyond. The council needs to be bidding aggressively to get funds for schemes to tackle barriers to cycling in Hammersmith and Fulham, much as it did to get Cycle Hire. The effort they are so well practiced in using to get developer funding needs to be expended on cycling. They have a promising if basic start in their recent bid for cycling funds, but still show no ambition to tackle the major barriers.

Of course there are more barriers than those we’ve identified. We’re going to summarise the issues we know locally in a further post, but you can help us out now by identifying local issues in our Space4Cycling survey, or adding your weight to known issues like Hammersmith Broadway. We hope that we can make progress with making cycling safer in Hammersmith and Fulham and beyond from 2014.

Casualty Statistics 2005-2012

These charts and tables have been sourced from Travel Independent’s statistics for Hammersmith and Fulham and are based on Department for Transport casualty data, with some overall data added from the Department for Transport’s annual report. A road casualty is someone who is killed or seriously injured on the roads. It’s important to understand that there is no entirely accurate figure for deaths and especially injuries on the roads. The deaths of people on our roads should not be mere statistics, thankfully as a matter of policy TfL do aim to name every person killed who was riding a bike so we can name three of the four deaths in this period and give some context (see end).

To set this in some national context, here is the commentary in the latest Department for Transport (DfT) report (2012 report, page 22).

Pedal cycle KSI casualties have risen steadily since 2004 as have cycling traffic levels.
In 2012 the number was 32 per cent higher than the 2005-09 average; over the same
period pedal cycle traffic increased by 12 per cent

This is clearly a challenge to the belief that many have that there is a safety in numbers effect for cycling. What is also interesting is the distribution of casualties. As DfT have it:

The three vulnerable road user groups (pedestrians, pedal cyclists and motorcyclists) between them account for almost 50 per cent of all deaths and 60 per cent of all seriously injured casualties.

Proportion of reported casualties by road user type and severity, adjusted for distance  travelled per year, Great Britain: 2012 (page 23 of linked report)
Proportion of reported casualties by road user type and severity, adjusted for distance
travelled per year, Great Britain: 2012 (page 23 of 2012 report)

Continue reading Casualty Statistics 2005-2012

What are Westfield proud of?

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Westfield have published their plans for the Northern extension to their shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush today. There is a form of consultation for them. It is surprising having reviewed the plans for the White City Opportunity Area as a whole how little cycling content is within these plans from Westfield. They already have outline planning consent to build up to 1,522 new homes, new leisure facilities and shops, including a flagship department store (John Lewis).

The White City opportunity area plans (into which this development should fit!) spoke of “permeable and inclusive public realm to encourage walking and cycling” and said “The majority of new trips in and out of the area will be made by public transport, walking and cycling, to avoid adding to road congestion.” However, the cycling content of the plans on Westfield site is:

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This simply isn’t good enough. There are no plans presented for new cycle routes. There isn’t even talk of extra cycle parking. Existing cycle parking at Westfield is typically fully utilised except for the racks at the far north of the site which are too far from any useful destinations. Those near the library and the southern interchange are typically full or nearly full at all times. No covered bike parking is provided. No secure bike parking is provided. It is also typically a 400m or more walk from the cycle parking to the average shop in the centre.
Continue reading What are Westfield proud of?