Cycling on the footway of Hammersmith Bridge

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MEETING at LBHF Hammersmith Town Hall 22 August 2003 at 2pm until 3.30pm

Phil Nicholls, Deputy Borough Engineer. LBHF
Chris Bainbridge, Principal Officer, Transportation Policy Team. LBHF
Neil Thomson, local cyclist, landscape architect.
John Griffiths, co-ordinator hfcyclists / LCC

Notes by John Griffiths. They represent the substance of the meeting, not necessarily the words actually spoken. Corrected / annotated by all other parties.


Neil has been promoting his case that carers with children should be allowed to cycle on the footways over Hammersmith Bridge. This is because he considers the roadway too dangerous for young children [The roadway narrows suddenly where there are piers - see picture of bus passing between piers of bridge at].

After much correspondence with senior Council Officers a meeting was finally arranged with Phil and Chris. Neil asked John if he would like to come along and this was acceptable to all parties.


NEIL: Do you think that there are any problems areas for cyclists in LBHF?

CHRIS: There are several places where I would not want to cycle with children. eg the A4, A40. Perhaps there may be a case for providing some provision for cycling on the pavements there.

NEIL: I accompany my child to school by bike across Hammersmith Bridge. I do not consider the roadway to be safe for children. I want to be able to cycle with my child legally and safely across the bridge.

PHIL: The footway has been deemed not suitable for shared use. There are obstructions around the piers and the width of the footway is only 1.8m, and the guidance says that is not suitable.

NEIL: That is only guidance, and not the law. Each case has to consider the particular circumstances. For the last 30 years or so cyclists have been safely using the footpath. And the width around the piers is 2.4m. It is only recently that signs have been put up saying no cycling.

JOHN: What made them put the signs up.

PHIL: A pedestrian ended up with a broken arm after an incident with a cyclist. It is a matter of risk assessment.

NEIL: It is possible that the pedestrian put his arm out to impede the cyclist. Why should cyclists be penalised for the action of a pedestrian? And the presence of the no cycling signs means that pedestrians feel justified in abusing cyclists.

Could cyclists be permitted to use one of the two footways on the bridge?

PHIL: No, you would still have the conflict and risk problem.


JOHN: Do you make policy, or just respond to complaints.

CHRIS: We make policy.

PHIL: Risk assessment is an important factor. For example cycling may be banned in Lyric Square if it is considered a risk.

JOHN: If a cyclist was damaged on the roadway, would the Council be liable because it is dangerous?

CHRIS: No. If there was a problem like a pothole, then yes, but in this case the person has chosen to cycle on the roadway.

[note from PHIL:. The Council has a duty to maintain the highway. It has to act reasonably - and to this end we have an inspection regime in place. This does not mean that any road user can expect a pot-hole free road, but that once reported we are required to respond within a reason able time - which we do.]

There are consultants looking at the roadway over the bridge this year.


NEIL: The Council should be encouraging cycling as a green and healthy alternative to the school run.

The school run accounts for 25% of the traffic at the appropriate time. Traffic is backed up along the Lonsdale rd as far as the Swedish school. The Harrodian school now has 700 pupils.

There is also the health problem of obese children.

Surely the Council should be actively pursuing alternative options to the private car.

CHRIS: Is there anything wrong with children pushing Bikes?

NEIL: Yes there is. Kids don't like it and won't do it. It discourages cycling and promotes cars as a first choice. You do have to address the issue of getting kids to school on bikes over Hammersmith Bridge as an alternative. The problem won't go away.

JOHN: The footway links the two areas on either side of river where novice cyclists can start out. I would like to see careful cycling permitted on the footways for that reason.

If you look at the pavement over the railway bridge on the north side of the A4 between Tesco's and the North End rd, that is similar to Hammersmith bridge and is used successfully, though unofficially, as shared use. [This is meant to support the possibility of shared use on Hammersmith bridge, not to get it banned alongside the A4]


NEIL: I would like to see a sign like this. [Shows a picture of a shared use sign, with the words pedestrian priority on it.]

PHIL: That sign is not a legal highways sign. Only legal signs can be put up, as given by this advisory about highway signs. The picture in here does not have the words "pedestrian priority".


NEIL: The present signs say cyclists dismount, or no cycling. That implies children have to dismount but it does not apply to them.

JOHN: I do not think that the police can give a fixed penalty notice to a child under 18, [or perhaps 16]

CHRIS: That does not make it legal for a child to cycle on the footway. The legislation dates from the 1830's and says that things which are not "natural accompaniments of pedestrians" are not permitted on footways, and case law has upheld that bicycles are not such natural accompaniments.


NEIL: I might welcome being challenged on the bridge by a policeman when I am cycling with a child. I have taken the advice of an expert who thinks I would win a case.

PHIL: I do not think so. The courts have always upheld the sanctity of the footpath, for use by pedestrians.

NEIL: And they also uphold the safety of children.

CHRIS: It would be interesting to have a test case. I think that there is some merit in your case for carers with children. Perhaps it is something that could be studied at government level, but that would take years.


CHRIS: One positive way forward may be to approach the Environmental and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel. John often goes along to these meetings.

NEIL: Thank you. I should mention that John and hfcyclists do not necessarily support my case as they think I might not win.

JOHN: My immediate reaction is that I am not confident that the ERSP would be helpful. The pedestrian lobby may be quite strong and it might be counterproductive. But I will talk to Neil about it.


NEIL: Another thing I would like to bring up is that you spend money on inconsequential things, and do not tackle the problem areas. Take for example this picture of special brickwork laid in the pavement on the south side of the Hammersmith Gyratory. As a landscape architect I know it must cost a lot of money. And I have never seen anyone use it.

JOHN: And they are going to spend more money tiling the underpass.

PHIL: [nods]


JOHN: That is the Council's idea of environmental improvement. I would like to see surface level crossings there. Recently I had a meeting with John Lowe, an associate at the Richard Rogers Partnership. I was hoping that they might take an interest in promoting the area as an urban space.

CHRIS: I would not expect them to be interested unless they would be paid.

JOHN: Yes, that is the position. They have sent me a letter saying they support surface level crossings in principle.

CHRIS: It would be good if you could send me a copy. It might be useful as there is a study of greening the A4.


JOHN: I would like to mention Shepherds Bush Green. In the SW corner the work is nearly completed. It looks like the provision for cyclists is not great and they are likely to end up using the pedestrian areas of the crossings.

CHRIS: I thought you had input into that with the engineer Sharon.

JOHN: It was designed by the Chelsfield architects to get cars and pedestrians into the new White City complex. There was very little space left over to be used by cyclists.

I had some input with Sharon, but I had hoped that there would be a proper review of the junction.

[note from JOHN: Simon Franklin, the cycling officer was in contact with John Lee at TfL about the matter, but I have not heard whether John Lee's comments were addressed or acted upon].

[note from PHIL: The proposals for SBG will make a substantial improvement for cyclists and pedestrians]


JOHN: Recently I have seen police officers challenging cyclists on the pavement. In the two cases I have seen they were challenging "softies". It would be good if they could take on the cyclists that cause problems. Perhaps that can be taken up at a Police liaison meeting.


JOHN: What is your position now that Roger Khanna [previously the Borough Engineer] has moved over to Direct Services.

PHIL I am still the Deputy Borough Engineer but currently have operational responsibility for the whole Division of Highways, under Nigel Pallace who is the Director for the Environment

JOHN: We will invite you to one of our meetings. I hope you will be able to come along.

PHIL: Thank you.

ALL: Goodbye, Thank you.


note 1: At a previous meeting with Roger Khanna the bridge was discussed.

note 2:Our suggestions for surface level crossings at

note 3: Contact info for Neil Thomson, 51, Caithness Road, London, W140JD

John Griffiths Co-ordinator hfcyclists / London Cycling Campaign
122c Edith rd
West Kensington
London W14 9AP
020 7371 1290 / 07789 095 748