Cyclists’ manifesto wants end to ‘carnage’ on Croydon’s roads

Croydon cyclists are feeling ignored and unloved. And it’s not just because they take their lives in their hands almost daily when they get cut up by speeding motor vehicles seemingly at every junction.

Cycling in LondonThis week Croydon again missed out on investment on safer roads when the Mayor of London’s office announced that three other boroughs will be sharing £100 million of public cash for “mini-Hollands”, to develop safer roads and ensuring major junctions which work for pedestrians and bike-riders as well as cars and lorries.

And despite the (relatively) modest sum pitched into the roads pot by the Hammersfield developers to sort out the daily jams at Five Ways on the Purley Way to help speed shoppers into the proposed £1 billion mega-mall at the centre of town, Croydon’s cyclists are unconvinced that a viable cycling solution has been included in the schemes so far. Indeed, they are very concerned that the additional Hammersfield traffic will lead to a rise in air pollution and what they call the “carnage” of accidents on the borough’s roads.

So the Croydon Cycling Campaign has produced what amounts to their own local election manifesto. They won’t be putting up any candidates on May 22, but they are clearly watching and waiting to see how many of their ideas get to be embraced by the political parties.

Croydon Cycling Campaign, which is part of the influential London Cycling Campaign, states, “We need all those standing in the council elections taking place this May to take account of what local voters and Londoners want to help make their part of the capital a better place.”

Their “Space4Cycling” specifies six action points:

  • Protected space on main roads
  • No through-motor-traffic zones
  • 20mph speed limits
  • Safer cycle routes to schools
  • Liveable high streets
  • More parkland routes

The cyclists accuse Croydon Council of having a track record of inaction and under-investment. “Compared to other London boroughs, it has asked for less money, so got less and then spent less than it was given,” they say.

A Freedom of Information request showed that between 2006 and 2010, Croydon applied to Transport for London to spend £2.8 million on building the “London Cycle Network Plus” of cycle-friendly streets and other pro-cycling measures. Croydon received £1.8million. Between 2006 and 2009, Croydon spent £1.4 million – or about £4.50 per resident. Other similar London boroughs have spent £11.05 per resident; in Camden, this figure was more than £28 per person.

More cyclists were killed on Croydon's roads in 2012 than in any year since 2005. The Mayor of London wants more cyclists on the roads

The Mayor wants more cyclists on the roads

Croydon cyclists are not alone in their ambition for more cyclists on our roads, and a vision of more cycling friendly roads making for a better, less-polluted borough in which to live. One senior political figure has set a target of increasing cycling in London by 400 per cent by 2026. Who? The bicycling Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

A report published by Croydon Council in 2010, Biking Borough, found that in 2005-2008, just 1.13 per cent of all journeys made in Croydon were by bike. The average across London is almost twice that.

The report warned that “more of the same” by Croydon will not help to meet the Mayor’s cycling target.

But four years on from that report, the cycling campaigners say of the report’s recommendations, “Very few of them can be said to have been taken forward in any meaningful way.”

According to Croydon Cycling Campaign, Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor’s “cycling tzar”, said that Croydon Council’s record of non-delivery had counted against the borough when it came to choosing who would get TfL’s mini-Holland dosh.

The cyclists are also concerned by the rapidly rising number of accidents involving bike riders on Croydon’s roads, with those suffering serious injury more than doubling between 2006 and 2012. “We need the council to … develop a multi-agency approach to cut the carnage on Croydon’s roads.

“This would include taking active steps to stop speeding in the borough and pressing the police to tackle this anti-social criminal behaviour. Road safety should prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable, pedestrians and cyclists, and focus efforts on those that create the greatest danger, HGVs specifically and law-breaking drivers generally.”

One of the dual carriageways that run through central Croydon: traffic jams, pollution and accidents do nothing for the quality of life in the borough

One of the dual carriageways that run through central Croydon: traffic jams, pollution and accidents do nothing for the quality of life in the borough

And they say that there are other health issues which affect all Croydon residents, whether they ride a bike or not. “The air pollution monitoring station in George Street in Croydon has, for more than a decade, recorded repeated breaches of the legal annual safety limits for Nitrogen Dioxide,” the cycling campaigners say.

“It is perhaps paradoxical that this continuing failure has occurred in a period that has seen motor traffic levels along Wellesley Road drop by 20 per cent in the period 2000-2012. The Westfield development will see that reduction in motor traffic replaced by increased volumes of cars, vans and trucks.

“The council is under a legal obligation to tackle this problem – it appears to be taking the stance that as things are already bad, Westfield can’t make it any worse.”

The cycling campaigners say, “We need the new council to prioritise public health and take the steps to reduce harmful and illegal air pollution and increase the proportion of journeys made by bicycle.”

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5 Responses to Cyclists’ manifesto wants end to ‘carnage’ on Croydon’s roads

  1. I am a non-driver and used to cycle many years ago. While I have every sympathy with the problems cyclists face with the dangers from being hit by vehicles, they can be the cause of danger themselves both to drivers and to pedestrians. e.g..
    * riding on the pavement often weaving in and out of pedestrians at speed without thinking about how pedestrians might react especially older people and those with weak legs
    * riding at night without lights
    * weaving through traffic without giving a chance for drivers to react
    * riding through red lights inc. when pedestrians are crossing
    * being rude to people who challenge their dangerous riding
    * failure to indicate when about to turn left or right

    I am sure many pedestrians and drivers are put on edge when they are near cyclists because they are not sure how cyclists will behave and this must increase the potential for accidents.

    I have long thought that in return for increased expenditure to make cycling safer cyclists should have a licence and as part of being eligible for one be required to prove they have passed a proficiency course. In addition they should be required to have a safety check on their cycle every year.

    I know that such views will not be popular with cyclists but it is time that they recognised that many of them create problems for other road users. I responsible organised cyclists lobby groups want more support from non-cyclists they should accept they have obligations to the safety of other road users.

    There are other transport approaches which need to be considered which would reduce the reliance on the car and increase public transport use, thus reducing the number of vehicle journeys on our roads. There are large areas of Croydon which are poorly served by buses forcing people to rely on their cars, or have to walk a long way to the nearest bus stop, with a long wait for a bus. All bus services should provide a minimum of 4 an hour so the maximum wait is not too long.

    • You’re right, there are some absolute idiots out there on bikes..

      .. in fact, there are some absolute idiots out there in general, and some of them have bikes. We don’t judge all drivers by the behaviour of the worst, or all members of a particular religion or ethnic group (well, some people do, but I’ve no kind words to say about them). Please don’t do the same for cyclists, or imply that the act of stepping over the saddle creates some sort of social contract between me & a bunch of complete strangers who choose to do the same.

      The problem with a cycling licence is, it makes riding a bike a legally significant act out of all proportion to the danger it causes. Does my 5 year old need one to ride in our cul de sac? A 12 year old going to school or the park? If a cyclist does something illegal (probably at more risk to their own life than anybody else’s), how do you identify them and issue them with points (without an expensive number plate scheme that, again, is out of all proportion to the danger they present)? If I’m an occasional cyclist who leaves my bike in the shed 362 days a year, do I still need a license and insurance?

      I’m insured on my bike, the premium is tiny (less than £20/year), because the risk posed to others is tiny. It’s something I’d recommend to others, but as with helmets & hi vis, it shouldn’t be mandatory. Mostly though it just makes claims easier if there’s an incident.

      I’m all for a bit more law enforcement, safety spot-checks and making sure people have proper lights, but pavement riding is mostly a byproduct of dangerous (and woefully under-policed) road conditions. I’ve no love at all for pavement cyclists, but it’s hypocrisy to suggest that they have to ride on the road, when the road in question has a substantial minority of people driving at 15mph over the limit while talking on their mobile. Get the roads right so that there’s no need or excuse for pavement cycling.

      For the most part, we don’t need increased expenditure to make cycling safe – what we need is political will. Filtered permeability (closing non-main roads to through motor traffic) is cheap. 20mph limits are cheap. Removing parking where it causes conflict between cyclists and other traffic is cheap. Better cycle routes through parks are cheap. Average speed cameras cost a bit to install, but very quickly pay for themselves. £5M would do all of this across a big chunk of north Croydon. What’s expensive is trying to please everyone, resorting to complicated, half-baked solutions because there isn’t the political will to push through more straightforward measures.

      • mraemiller says:

        Mr Hewlett opines that “we dont judge drivers by the very worst”. The problem is this article does exactlt that with its accusations of carnage on the roads and cyclists being cut up on a daily basis “at almost every junction” it is almost beyond parody. Who would know we had one of the lowest road death rates of all time? As to cyclists cutting up pedestrians this is bound to increase as local governments give up more and more of the avement to cyclists rather than any of the road. Heretical views that a lot of cyclists cycle like idiots will probably be censored by this blog. However the bottom line is it isnt that easy to collate numerical data on who was at fault and very few people are interested. One wonders too why Camden need to spend so much on cycling and if putting posters on the back of every bus telling us they have a 20 zones is the best use of public money. No through motor traffic zones sounds sinister.

        • It all comes down to maths.

          On an average day on my cycle commute, I have to interact with a few hundred cars. I don’t keep an exact tally. But in this situation it only takes one idiot to really, really ruin your day. So even if 99% of drivers are fine (indeed, probably are), I’m likely to get cut up at least once a day as is everyone else who cycles.

          The UK does indeed enjoy extremely low road death rates per passenger mile for vehicle occupants. We have well-engineered roads for driving, a modern fleet of cars, and far less drink-driving and drug-driving than some other Western countries. Per mile traveled for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists the rate is much less enviable. Even then, the numbers are confounded by risk exposure.. put simply, if nobody ever leaves the house, you’ll get a very low pedestrian casualty rate, but it doesn’t really mean the place is safe. If all you measure is the accident rate, cycling on the M25 is completely safe. Most vulnerable people – kids and elderly – don’t dare cycle, or aren’t allowed to, so that distorts the numbers further.

          A minority of people do indeed ride like idiots, same as a minority drive like idiots, but if they’ve only got access to bikes, the amount of damage they can do it at least limited.

          What’s sinister about a no-through-traffic zone? How’s it different to a housing estate or cul-de-sac?

  2. Nick Davies says:

    The Council could make a start by fixing side bars to its dustcarts and other large vehicles. In fact I’d be grateful if they could explain why they’re not doing this as a matter of course.

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