To receive a report from the Executive Director for Transport & Technical Services updating the Committee on work to support cycling in the borough and the development of the draft Cycling Strategy
The Committee received a report from the Head of Transport Policy & Network Management outlining the developments in cycling in the borough since the Committee last considered the issue at its meeting in July 2014. Officers explained that the Council’s draft Cycling Strategy had been consulted upon and gave a verbal report on the initial results. The Council had received approximately 80 responses, around 70 of which supported the aims of the Strategy. Roughly 70% of respondents described themselves as regular cyclists and they gave broad support for the challenges and opportunities identified in the Strategy. Some of the comments received had been more critical, ranging from anti-cycling sentiment to a desire for the Strategy to go further and do more to promote cycling. There was also a general feeling that there should be increased segregation between cyclists and other forms of transport.
The Chair welcomed John Griffiths, chair of hfcyclists and part of the London Cycling Campaign, to the meeting. Mr Griffiths explained that he would have liked to have seen more progress made improving the Hammersmith Broadway gyratory and Hammersmith Bridge for cyclists, arguing that until measures were taken to improve safety people would be too scared to cycle across them. It was the view of hfcyclists that there should be signage across the bridge to either give cyclists priority or to prevent overtaking at the pinch points. Mr Griffiths invited Council officers and members to attend a site visit at the bridge with their families so that the risks to cyclists could be experienced first-hand. It was also highlighted that no overtaking signs were used effectively when there were roadworks which restricted the width of the road and that the draft Strategy advocated similar signs and a 20mph speed limit when carriageways were less than 3.2m wide, which the bridge was in places.
A member of the public also expressed concern at the poor road surface on the bridge, which added another hazard that cyclists needed to be aware of. It also made it difficult for a cyclist to safely look behind them when they approached the pinch points. It was also argued that the accident statistics did not include the many ‘near misses’ which occurred daily or take into account the ‘fear factor’ which dissuaded potential cyclists from using the route.
Officers explained that the Council was not necessarily opposed to signage on the bridge, but that it needed to be wary of over-cluttering with too many signs which would reduce their effectiveness and confuse drivers. In order to establish a 20mph zone across the bridge, the Council was required to consult and make legal orders, which it was currently prioritising over signage. Officers also acknowledged the concerns regarding the road surface on the bridge and reported that there were plans to reconstruct the surface. The timescale of this work was dependent upon TfL funds and would require the bridge to be closed for several weeks. It was confirmed that the Council owned the bridge and would carry out any works needed, but using funds from TfL and that as part of the strategic road network, no work could be carried out without TfL’s consent.
Members asked if the number of bikes being stolen was decreasing. Mr Griffiths and members of the public present explained that this remained a significant issue and theft rates were as high as ever. Bicycle theft used to be priority for the Police, but this no longer seemed to be the case. Hfcyclists would welcome any assistance raising this issue with the Police locally.
The Committee also discussed the expansion of the ‘Boris bike’ cycle hire scheme. Officers reported that the Council had agreed to contribute £2million of s106 developer contributions and that there were plans to install more docking stations and bikes in the borough, but these would be dependent on the funds from developments materialising. TfL was seeking to expand the scheme by whole networks rather than in piecemeal, isolated locations that were too far away from the existing network. The Committee agreed that the Council should continue working with TfL to expand the scheme across as much of the borough as possible.
A member of the public raised concern at the cycle route at Talgarth Road/Shortlands where westbound cyclists had to cross the road to reach a segregated cycle track, but sightlines were impeded by vegetation. Officers explained that the Council had proposals to redesign the area to bring the cycle path away from the road and segregated with a green partition, however this would be dependent on securing the necessary funding. In the meantime, officers undertook to explore whether the shrubs and vegetation could be cut back to make it easier to pass.
Mr Griffiths described his disappointment that the redesign of Hammersmith Gyratory had been developing over some time now but it was still not clear what would be done. Officers explained that the project was being led by TfL and that it was looking at options such as peninsularisation or pedestrianisation, but without detailed transport modelling these remained ideas only. Before any firms plans could be developed, the modelling would be required so that the wider impacts could be fully understood. If, for example, the modelling suggested that changes to make the junction safer for cyclists led to increased bus journey times, then it would be a political decision to decide which would be prioritised.
A member of the public raised the issue of cycle racks being installed outside of people’s homes, with some residents supporting their installation while others opposed it. It was asked therefore whether the Council could consult residents prior to installation. Officers explained that the Council did not consult on such installations as they were not felt to be harmful or detrimental to homeowners in any way as they were very minimalist and didn’t obstruct views or restrict movement. Cllr Harcourt stated that in his experience residents were sometimes split between opposition and wholehearted support and offered to attend any local meetings with residents to discuss the cycle racks. He also argued that installation of the racks were necessary to help increase cycling in the borough and that without them, people were more likely to lock their bikes to railings or fences that were then obstructive. Some members argued that they felt that most people wouldn’t object, but that the Council should still consult residents before installing racks outside of private homes. Officers explained that the Council had a ‘blank canvass’ consultation that could be used to collect views on features such as trees and cycle racks, which could then be fed back to local members.
Mr Griffiths voiced concern regarding the air quality in the borough, particularly around Shepherds Bush Green and the Holland Park roundabout, which would likely be exacerbated by the coming developments at Old Oak Common. He argued that the borough should be included in the central London Ultra Low Emission Zone which would charge higher polluting vehicles. Officers explained that such decisions were outside of the Council’s remit, but that the Council had made the same argument when it responded to TfL’s consultation.
Members of the Committee supported the Strategy, but felt it placed too much emphasis on improving provision for existing cyclists rather than encouraging new cyclists. It was asked how the quality of the modal shift could be assessed, rather than just the quantity. It was also argued that rather than seeking to ‘improve’ interactions between cyclists and other road users, the Strategy should aim reduce interactions through segregation similar to the approach used in Holland. Officers responded that encouraging new cyclists was a key aim of the Strategy and undertook to explore how this could be made more evident in the final document. It was also explained that the Quietways across the borough would feature minimal interactions.
The Chair thanked officers and members of the public for their contributions and requested that a further update be brought before the Committee in the autumn.
That the report be noted.