Elected on a manifesto which promised a clean, green borough, Labour’s delivery on cycling in Croydon has been, at best, sub-optimal.
Disappearing cycle lanes on South End and London Road might be bad enough, but the abandonment of the car-free Quietway experiment on Norbury Avenue last summer was a significant defeat, especially as so much of the opposition to thwart the scheme was identified as coming from a lone car campaigner based in Coulsdon utilising a variety of online identities.
Meanwhile, the council pays lip service to commuting cyclists by staging one-off nights of bike racing – at a cumulative cost of at least £250,000 – which have proved to be irrelevant as far as encouraging more cyclists or improving their safety when using Croydon’s badly polluted roads.
So the latest council consultation, on whether to allow cycling through Park Hill, Wandle and Lloyd parks, could justifiably be taken with a fistful of salt by the borough’s frequently ignored bike riders. “Croydon Council is committed to encouraging cycling as a healthy, cost-effective and environmentally friendly form of transport,” the council’s documents say, though the evidence to support that commitment is meagre.
After all, what sort of place is it that in the 21st Century actually forbids cyclists from riding through its public parks?
The consultation arises because some funding for safe cycle routes has come from Transport for London and Sustrans, the transport charity. According to the Croydon Cycling Campaign, “The Sustrans Connect2 route is perhaps the only significant cycling project Croydon Council has attempted in the past eight years. It’s a simple route, not changing too much, not costing much and not impacting on much.”
Which sounds about par for “ambitious” Croydon.
Yet, there has been very slow progress, not least because of residents’ opposition around Park Hill Park, a thin strip of a corridor from the quiet houses and streets of Park Hill through to the busy dual carriageways close to the town centre.
“Resistance from residents on the adjacent road has dragged it out for years,” say the frustrated-sounding cycle campaigners.
The arguments in favour of the in-park cycle routes are so obvious, they hardly need stating at all.
“Croydon needs places where adults can take their children to learn to cycle,” the cycle campaigners say. “They need routes they can practice cycling with, and be able to make real journeys into the town centre accompanied by their children in safety. Child obesity rates in Croydon are soaring with a lack of exercise a major contributor. Air pollution is severely damaging to the delicate developing organs of our young. We have to get people out of their cars and on to bikes.
“Cycling in parks is a key part of making this vision happen.” The cycle campaign says its fears that “some residents picture a small local park like Park Hill being overrun by racing cyclists. This route will never appeal to fast, racing or even commuting cyclists however. This will appeal to adults with young children, the elderly and children cycling to school.
“Opposition to this scheme also puts future schemes at risk. It’s demoralising for staff at the council working on the project and discourages councillors from attempting more cycling projects in future.
“The Sustrans Connect2 route aims to connect up green spaces across the centre of Croydon, creating a pleasant and attractive (albeit slow and indirect) east-west route, passing through the very heart of Croydon. This is a route for leisure cycling, particularly for parents travelling with children.”
The cycle campaign makes a plea for residents to support the proposals: “Please help support us in our vision to make Croydon a safe and pleasant place for the future.
“We’ll all benefit in the long run.”
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