Making Croydon bike safe will help rebuild community spirit

Croydon’s cyclists will be watching London’s bicycling mayor with interest over the next four years, to see whether Boris Johnson does more than merely pay lip-service to the wearers of bicycle clips than he did in his first term.

Despite the introduction of Boris Bikes in central London, many suburban cyclists feel little has been done to improve their lot in the capital since 2008.

One of the hot topics in the Mayoral election was the role of the Mayor, and Transport for London, in the reorganisation of some of the busiest junctions – “smoothing the traffic flow”, the City Hall types like to call it – but where as a consequence a number of cyclists have been killed.

Although there are more cyclists on our streets than ever before, many of them do not feel safe on our roads, and with good reason.

“The answer,” says Kenley resident Paul Williams, who does his 30-mile daily commute on a bike, “is to design our roads in such a way that all users – pedestrians, cyclists, motorbikes, buses, cars and HGVs – can co-exist in as safe a way as is possible.

“Currently our streets are designed for one thing only: cars. They have taken over and policies and design entrench that. We need to reinstate the transport hierarchy.

“Introduce more pedestrian crossings, not remove them as Boris/TfL are doing in the name of ‘smoothing traffic flow’.”

Many local cyclists feel that Croydon is one of the most hostile areas for their mode of transport anywhere in London, with the busy junctions and near-motorway-style highways along the arterial routes of Purley Way, Roman Way and Park Lane. Like many towns planned in the 1960s, Croydon was designed only with the motor car in mind – but probably only at about a quarter of the current traffic levels.

“We need to design Croydon in such a way that people are encouraged to respond by walking first, cycling second, using public transport third and getting in cars as a very last resort,” Williams says.

“By doing this, people will spend more of their money locally, which will be good for the local economy, improve and sustain local businesses and be more environmentally friendly. It will also build a sense of community and resilience in hard times.”

In Chicago – not a city noted for cycling – the mayor has published a plan that targets zero deaths on the road by 2022, a safety record to be achieved by using 20mph zones in residential areas and encouraging many more people to use bikes for trips of up to five miles.

“Where we once built expressways that divided our communities, we are now reconnecting neighbourhoods with new bus lanes and extensive and expanding bicycle facilities that offer safe, green, and fit ways to travel for all ages,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in introducing his 100-page policy document.

Problem junctions are high on Chicago’s transport agenda, with a cal to “analyse all fatal crashes involving pedestrian and cyclists”. Speed cameras are to be installed and used widely.

None of Chicago’s policies could not be applied in Croydon, but the town’s cyclists have other gripes, too.

Williams was annoyed by a survey published earlier this month by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) – so no marks for guessing what their agenda may have been.

Their press release claimed that “more than half of cyclists jump red lights”, something even the bicycling Boris has been caught doing on at least one occasion.

Williams, in common with many cyclists, rejected the IAM story as a PR stunt, based on very shaky research. “As a 30-mile-a-day cyclist, I do not recognise such a high level of law-breaking,” Williams said.

“Sure there are cyclists who jump lights and that is wrong. But I’d speculate that the highest percentage of people who break the highway code are motorists.”

With Sustrans working in the borough on the notion of cross-Croydon walking and cycle paths, a growing number of bike riders will be keen to see whether they manage to persuade the council and TfL to provide safer routes for non-motorised traffic.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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2 Responses to Making Croydon bike safe will help rebuild community spirit

  1. More power to your elbow in this campaign, but don’t expect too much – actually, expect nothing and then you won’t be disappointed.

    As a non-motorist, I’m in a significant minority. And I know our myopic politicians are only interested in getting re-elected, so they pander to the majority. That’s why we are still no closer to the pedestrian-friendly town centre we’ve been promised for ages.

    If we really want to improve central Croydon we need to close all the town centre car parks and introduce a comprehensive park-and-ride network.

    Can you imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would provoke among retailers and motorists? Can you also imagine how our craven councillors would react to such an outcry?

    Cycle-friendly, pedestrian-friendly central Croydon isn’t going to happen any time soon, sadly.

  2. cyclegaz says:

    Lets not forget that Croydon is a Cycling Borough, as crowned by Boris in 2010. Croydon was awarded £450,500 by the mayor to improve cycling safety in Croydon over a three-year period.

    What is being done with that money you ask?

    It is pretty much all being spent on the “cycling hub” at East Croydon station and apparently a pedestrian crossing on Wellesley Road.

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