After seeing that Superhighway 9 wasn’t included on the recent Central London Grid consultation by Transport for London(TfL), our coordinator made a Freedom of Information request to TfL and Kensington and Chelsea council to try and understand why. This was by no means a preferred option to understand how decisions had been reached, but with only blog posts sharing emails between other campaigners and the council and no detailed text explaining Kensington and Chelsea’s grid forthcoming it seemed a reasonable response. We have so far only had a response from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea with TfL currently expecting to produce a response in another week or two, conveniently after the final Superhighways announcement is likely.
Even from the Kensington and Chelsea response alone, we have gained significant new information:
It confirms that plans for Superhighway 9 have focussed on the issues of Kensington High Street
When the cycle vision was launched it was assumed by Andrew Gilligan that Superhighway 9 would not go ahead due to RBKC’s lack of support
In the cycle vision as presented to RBKC the only superhighway into the West of London was cycle crossrail up on the Westway
Kensington and Chelsea’s original objection to the superhighway was to blue paint on aesthetic grounds
It was presumed without creating mockups that Kensington and Chelsea would object to segregation
Mockups were then created both of segregation on Kensington High Road and of cycling in Holland Park to try and get these features onto the Central London Grid
It was felt by RBKC that a quietway route using Holland Park and Holland Road would be a viable alternative but it also failed to make it onto the Central London Grid
We continue to await details from TfL to get their side of the conversation but it is plain that Kensington and Chelsea are not fully on board with the Mayor’s Cycling Vision and are not interested in any large scale changes to their roads. In their own words “The Central London Grid will not mean any significant interventions and certainly no segregation on RBKC roads” – in which case, what is it for? As such, we are now even more sceptical of their commitment to the Central London Grid and even though there are clearly efforts in here to create a route using Holland Road and making better crossings even in this correspondence it is admitted that it is highly likely to have at least one dismount section even without Holland Park not permitting through cycling.
We stand by our comments on the Central London Grid, that it is vital to make an intervention on the main roads in West London, as by RBKC’s own words on Kensington High Street “there are no continuous alternative east-west routes nearby”. It is very disappointing that segregation is being blocked without so much as a consultation or open conversation with the people who ride upon it and their own numbers are being used as justification not to segregate. This is not thinking that will lead to an improvement in conditions on the roads or a further reduction in collisions in the streets of Kensington and Chelsea. It should be remembered that Kensington High Street is very effectively paralleled as an East-West route by the A4 which provides a much greater capacity and safety for motor vehicles than anything presented to vulnerable road users in the area.
For history on the earlier stages of Superhighway 9, please see our page on the earlier shared designs. We will work hard to uncover more details of what would have happened with Superhighway 9 were it built, should the cancellation of it as a route from Hammersmith into London via Kensington and Chelsea now be confirmed. This could well be in the coming days.
We have earlier posted at length on the London Cycle Grid, here is our current proposed response which you are free to draw inspiration from. There have now also been responses from the Kensington and Chelsea group, on the London Cycle Campaign website and from Rachel Aldred which we reccomend you review. The deadline for the consultation is the 14th of February, but we’re not in love with what we’ve been given to respond to.
The grid linking into West London is shown above – as you can see the West London Line forms our Eastern boudnary and has very few good quality crossings for cyclists. Superhighway 9 would have provided a higher quality link on the main desire line. However, Superhighway 9 has not appeared on the Central London Grid, and is presumed to be cancelled. We find it simply deplorable that no-one has stood up and commented officially on its status before this consultation closes. The closest we have are the by now standard comments from Andrew Gilligan that:
On the dozen superhighway routes: as I’ve been saying for months, some of the routes proposed pre-Vision were on wholly unsuitable roads, or on roads where the local authority wasn’t comfortable with intervention to post-Vision standards. Those will be rerouted or cancelled, but there will be other entirely new routes to replace them. In other words, the number of routes will be (at least) the same, but they won’t be in the same places.
We’re sorry Andrew, but it’s no comfort to cyclists who have issues with cycling on Hammersmith Road, Kensington High Street or Kensington Road that the 1 in a column for Superhighway 9 there is being added up somewhere else. More should be being done by the Mayor and TfL to examine how to make Kensington and Chelsea respond to the need for safer cycle routes in their streets. Encouraging people to cycle into London through a borough with no 20mph zones, no safe space for cycling on its main streets and the odd contraflow route here or there is not a viable strategy. It appears we are left to pray that the political will in Kensington and Chelsea – and it is that political choice, by the councillors of Kensington and Chelsea that is setting the agenda – changes.
With no clear indication of what happens. We must therefore consider out loud the possibilities:
If we take the grid as an indication, Superhighway 9 is gone and it is built somewhere else in London. There would therefore be no Superhighway between the Thames and the Westway. We count that there are at least 12,000 East-West cycle movements a day in this zone on main roads in official figures. That’s a lot of cyclists to try and focus onto 2-3 quiet road routes which don’t provide good mass cycling conditions.
Alternately it may be that Superhighway 9 is realigned along TfL roads rather than borough roads. This would presumably place it on the A4. This would link in somewhat with the proposed central london grid, but as Kensington and Chelsea’s feedback to their council has shown there are many gaps and round the houses routings in their grid which present serious issues.
The need for a grid is clear to anyone who regularly or even occasionally cycles in London and simply aims to get between any two points within it. The routes are complex, often of poor quality and rarely joined up. So, we have a network proposed, of superhighways (in blue) and quietways (in purple). Broadly speaking the idea is that superhighways are on main roads and involve more seperation from traffic, whereas quietways are in quieter areas. Except of course, where a quietway crosses a busy road or a superhighway is routed away from a major road. The quietways will be using bollards and other measure to help reduce some through motor traffic, and naturally will be more sophisticated than merely closing whole roads with posts. All modes should retain access but the route for that access may change. Broadly speaking the accompanying strategy is at least aware of these issues, and probably the main issue with this grid is about density and coverage.
Here are a few images to give an idea of the level of change and intervention envisaged to make these routes work.
Example of Superhighway (blue routes)
There is only one example of a superhighway in the document which is the new North-South Superhighway:
This is quite a change from how this road looks today:
Examples of Quietways (purple routes)
For quietways, use is made of photos of a couple of existing routes. There are no mock ups used, so harder to compare before and after.
There is a before shot of Goldsmiths Row on Hackney Cyclists blog (not the local campaign, but a local blogger) if you’d like to compare. Note that as to the rest of that blog, it’s worth reading Buffalo Bill’s comments on Goldsmiths Row for another local view on some of the issues raised about bollards versus segregation in the whole piece. These issues are important to the idea of the cycle grid. There are places where cycling can be given a good through route with bollards and paint it may make for higher capacity and better conditions than segregation. No one tool will work everywhere.
None of the Central London Cycle Grid is in Hammersmith and Fulham but elements of it reach towards our borough. More importantly there is a lot of concern to be expressed at what is not on the map. There is no Cycle Superhighway 9. It is either cancelled, or off the table at present. If you’re wondering why, you might want to look at what Kensington and Chelsea are proposing in the area of Kensington High Street…
…basically, nothing. Superhighways are marked in blue. You can see there aren’t any. On the map you can see the wide main roads in Kensington and Chelsea, both High Street Kensington and the A4 in white with almost nothing happening to them. The network in purple are the new quietways. It way be that these can use some quiet streets and make successful routes, but not east west as clearly Holland Park have refused cycling through their green space! We know that such things can work on the continent and we know that they can work in Hackney. What’s wrong with West London? We are also puzzled by the quietway that appears to be on the A4 just to the left of the text saying Earls Court.
Now, that’s not to say that there won’t be any superhighway reaching Hammersmith at all. No, thanks to TfL we do get a new East-West route along the Westway. You can see this blue route escaping from Hyde Park then jumping onto the Westway somewhere near Royal Oak. Given that this will be some distance up in the air, it will be of little benefit for local journeys in the area between White City and Paddington, unless a lot of ramps are provided. This superhighway, known also as Cycle Crossrail does have many merits on its own, but it is not enough for the whole of West London. There is no other superhighway planned between it and the Thames.
We have been informally discussing this issue with local officers for some time. It would be best if Cycle Superhighway 9 were built, and improvements were made to Kensington High Street. Not all is lost without it, and indeed we know that Hammersmith Broadway is set to be reviewed perhaps as a replacement for Superhighway 9 addressing some of the issues there. However, there is no plan within Hammersmith for addressing any shift that might occur from people altering routes to utilise the new Cycle Crossrail Superhighway.
This is just a quick overview of the Central London Grid. We continue to review the proposals and will make our response in due course. We encourage further discussion here and elsewhere and hope many others will respond to the consultation. The closing date is 14th February 2014, and we’d like to see proposals we can love and will genuinely change the culture of cycling in all of London. As it stands, West London is not seeing the changes or benefits it should, and the gap is political will in boroughs like Kensington and Chelsea.
Update – Joining the Central London Grid up to Outer London
As we made clear when we first wrote this, a key concern for us was how the new grid of cycle routes in Central London would join up with existing routes in Hammersmith and Fulham. Well, we’ve now had a go at looking at that. And we’ve had a look at how things are on the East side of town to compare.
As you can see, none of the new routes proposed in Kensington and Chelsea link to any existing East-West route. It is plausible that new routes will be made in Hammersmith to join them, but it means a number of routes sensibly placed on main roads in Hammersmith will continue to stop at the borough boundary.
Somehow East London has less of this problem, you can easily see how the Central London grid will link into their boroughs.
It must be said that LIPs are unwieldy and often vague documents. Each council seems to do it rather differently. Fortunately for us the Hammersmith and Fulham one is rather readable and self-explanatory. The latest LIP is the first formal response by the borough to The Mayor (of London)’s Cycling Vision from the spring, and also contains some hints on what the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner sees as priorities in the borough. Hammersmith and Fulham has the unfortunate distinction of being neither a borough taking part in the Central London Grid nor an outer london borough able to bid to be a mini-holland. As such, the LIP, along with superhighway and quietway programmes are the best hope of seeing changes on the roads in the borough.