TfL Consultation on Cycle Routes and Strategy

Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum Response to Transport for London’s Get Cycling / Central London Grid

(Consultation closed on February 14 2014)

Fitzrovia West – Our Area, the Context

We have set up a steering group and are applying to Westminster City Council to establish the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum in order to represent residents and businesses in the area

We are fortunate in Fitzrovia West to be exceptionally well served by public transport. That situation can only improve when Crossrail opens as we are between Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street stations. We may be more accessible by public transport than anywhere else in London. Certainly there is nowhere else in the country- or maybe the world- so fortunate. Additionally, if one needs to go from door to door in a motor vehicle, it is easy to find a black cab- or use a Zip Car. If we want to take the air and exercise we cycle or walk. This is urban living at its finest for those who are lucky enough to live in this area. It can only happen in a dense urban area and so we are in a unique position.

The introduction of the Congestion Zone has helped this area enormously as, prior to its creation, the neighbourhood mostly ground to a halt between 11am and 5.30 pm on weekdays with emergency vehicles unable to get through. It was not uncommon to see ambulance helicopters land at Oxford Circus. Meanwhile all the vehicles were pumping out exhaust fumes.

As Westminster’s Cycling Strategy reports ‘Car ownership data for Westminster shows an increase in the number of households who do not own a car from 56% in 2001 to 63% in 2011’. Only 37% of households in Westminster own a car- it is probably lower in Fitzrovia West, which is very densely populated and there would not be room for 37% of households to park a car.

When the Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Rd opens, according to a recently published report by Arup, there will be 250% more people coming out of the station than at present. We tried to imagine Oxford Street with 250% more people than at present and the press of people on surrounding areas. This is in addition to relaxed controls on planning which are greatly increasing the density of our area. It is hard to see where or why there would be room for parked cars in this scenario.  Crossrail is also likely to bring more cyclists into the central area.

We very much welcomed the introduction of TFL’s blue bikes to London and they have introduced many new users to the joys of cycling and, by boosting the numbers of people on bikes, they have helped to raise awareness of cycling by other road users.

Get Cycling / Central London Grid – Our comments

According to Westminster’s Cycling Strategy ‘Between 2000 and 2012, there was a 150% increase in cyclists passing through a central London’. We see that as a good thing. As car ownership declines the number of people on bicycles increases. Many people are shifting to bikes rather than cars and the bicycles take up less room on the road, do not pollute the air, do not add to climate change and permit traffic to keep moving.

We agree with that document that ‘Greater emphasis must be placed ….on making cyclists feel safer on London’s roads and reducing accident casualties.’ Most of those who say they would like to cycle in London, but do not, cite lack of safety as the reason.

Your grid shows cycle ‘routes’ three of which go through Fitzrovia West and those routes would then presumably be made safe for cyclists. But Fitzrovia West, like the rest of central London, is covered by a grid of streets, all of which are accessible to, and presumably safe for, motor vehicles. (Motorists are never advised to wear helmets.)The present situation is that motor vehicles may go anywhere in Fitzrovia West and be safe and it appears from this document that that is what is proposed here. As this draft document is TFL’s “Get Cycling” Strategy what we would like to see is a determination that someone on a bicycle could, as a motorist can at the moment, go anywhere in Fitzrovia West (and London) safely. We would like cyclists and pedestrians to have the advantages to which motor vehicles are presently accustomed. We do not wish just a few streets in central London to be safe for cyclists- we wish all streets in central London to be safe for cyclists and pedestrians and therefore safe for everyone. We would like children to be safe cycling to school.

By encouraging cycling, we would also like to see TFL do much more to reduce traffic caused air pollution, which is a health hazard.

We would like to propose the following measures to make central London safer for cyclists and pedestrians. This does not necessarily mean spending a lot of money. It does mean:

1.    Introducing a speed limit of 20mph on all roads in Fitzrovia West and other central areas. This would not necessarily increase overall journey time but would prevent racing between traffic lights. As stated in ‘The Mayor’s Vision’ “There is clear evidence that traffic travelling at speeds of 20mph improves the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians”.

2.   Public realm improvements and attractive landscaping whenever development is  taking place- safety measures can easily be incorporated.

3.   Tweaking at difficult and dangerous junctions -often quite simple interventions can make a huge difference.

4.   Separation where necessary can be achieved just by some strategic planters or bollards

In terms of detail on particular streets we agree with the points made in response by the Westminster Cycling Campaign, in particular:

In its present state, New Cavendish Street falls far short of the standard expected of a Quietway, because of problems caused by the volume of traffic, parked cars and conflict with left-turning vehicles at certain junctions. And it is one-way. However, we are not keen on the alternative route via Duchess Street, which is far from being direct, legible and coherent. So our favoured solution is to transform New Cavendish Street, as Westminster once did with Ebury Street.’ Westminster cycling Campaign

We welcome the fact that TFL is looking to improve the safety of cyclists and to raise awareness of cycling and we agree with the vision of this publication but the suggested proposals fall short of implementing that vision.

We were unable in the documentation to find any reference to your own TFL London Cycling Design Standards and we wish to see London’s roads raised to those standards.

As examples of good practice:

Our vision in Fitzrovia West is for a habitable city and therefore we admire the work of Jan Gehl. Here is his ‘Contested Streets’ video showing how it is done in Copenhagen

We also admire the cycle route in London  from Northchurch Street N1 running east through de Beauvoir Square which has been very simply transformed from a rat run for cars to a wonderful place to walk or cycle simply by the use of some strategic bollards (while still allowing access for motor vehicles). Now everyone wants to live there. That strategy could be applied to many other streets in London.

Barbara Corr         on behalf of the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum

Details of the TFL overall strategy and detailed maps – including ‘Quietways’ through Fitzrovia West – can be found here.

2 thoughts on “TfL Consultation on Cycle Routes and Strategy

  1. It would be nice to see the forum ring-fencing a proportion of its CIL money to spend on better cycle parking – especially for residents. Many of us living in the area are in small flats which don’t have much room for bikes and leaving bikes on the streets isn’t that secure. Bike Hangars for residents would be perfect.

  2. I live in Great Portland St. I am a regular, longstanding and confident cyclist. I have at times used the ‘quietway’ of New Cavendish St to cylcle my daughter to her primary school in Marylebone High St. I have stopped doing this because it is extremely unsafe in it’s current layout. The road is wider than one lane but not really wide enough for two lanes of traffic. Bikes are constantly forced into unsafe positions between moving or parked cars, buses and most dangerously of all, delivery vans and HGVs. The street is frequently heavily congested.

    I now walk my daughter to school. Again, I have had to stop using New Cavendish St because of safety concerns. The crossings are unsafe for pedestrians and the air quality is terrible due to the almost constant standing line of motor vehicles waiting in a traffic jam. The pavement space (in common with many streets in this area) are not wide enough to walk comfortably with a buggy. This is worsened by builders/scaffolding obstructing the footways, and multiple sign posts narrowing the useable space.

    These streets are beautiful wide boulevards, and yet pedestrians are given a tiny proportion of this space. This is not in keeping with westminster’s stated aims of encouraging walking and bike use.

    I fully agree with the Fitzwest statement that New Cavendish St is ideal as a planned quietway, but this must be backed up by significant change in road design.

    Physically separate cycle lanes are the safest way to achieve Westminster’s stated aim of encouraging bike use especially amongst women, the children and older people.

    I would like my children to cycle to school and would be happy for them to do this in a segregated cycle lane. I would never allow them to cycle along New Cavendish St in it’s current design.

    As a separate point, I feel idling vehicles (mainly minivans, taxis and delivery vans) is another area that should be specifically referenced in the Fitzwest document. Westminster has stated that they will work to reduce this, but there has been no perceptible action. I have never seen a Westminster official approving these vehicles. I have contacted the council a number of times to report issues but have been told there is no mechanism to do this. This is a significant source of air and noise pollution and we need a meaningful policy to address it.

    Thank you to Fitzwest for the immense amount of hard work you’ve already put in to improving our quality of life in the area!

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