TfL wants to spend the thick-end of £100m on making one of Croydon’s busiest road junctions even more hostile for pedestrians and cyclists, all to satisfy developers Westfield. AUSTEN COOPER says the road plans are ‘a patchwork of good, poor and downright dangerous’
Transport for London is consulting on their plans for Fiveways junction, the part of Croydon where the Purley Way and the A232 intersect.
TfL says it aims to:
- Improve road safety
- Create better conditions for pedestrians and cyclists
- Support growth in Croydon
- Improve journey times
- Create new public spaces to develop Waddon as a local centre
Specifically, TfL says that the proposals would make, “Fiveways junction simpler and increase capacity to accommodate expected traffic growth arising from population and economic growth in the area.”
These claims don’t stand up to scrutiny.
The population of London has grown by around 20 per cent since 2000. But motor traffic levels during that period of population growth have fallen. In Croydon, according to Department for Transport data, it has declined by 16 per cent since 2000.
For example, the bridge over the railway at Waddon – which TfL wants to widen at huge public cost – shows a decline of around 15 per cent since 2000 in the “average annual daily traffic flow” of all motor vehicles – motorcycles, cars, taxis, buses, vans and lorries. Average Annual Daily Flow figures give the number of vehicles that will drive on that stretch of road on an average day of the year.
According to the TfL spokesperson at Croydon Council’s most recent cycle forum, there is “no demand” for cycling on the Purley Way.
However, the DfT data shows that there was one class of road user which actually increased by 11 per cent since 2000 – and that’s cyclists.
So, it is quite wrong of TfL to say that population growth and motor traffic growth go hand-in-hand.
The real reason that TfL and Croydon Council want to “improve” Fiveways is what they euphemistically describe as “economic growth in the area”. Everyone knows that this is code for Westfield, the international retail development company, who have grand designs to replace the Whitgift shopping centre in central Croydon.
Indeed, in July 2012, Steve O’Connell, the Conservative London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton asked the then Mayor, Boris Johnson, this loaded question: “It is vital, as we say, that the wallet share is not stopped coming into Croydon by transport difficulties, particularly the wallet share of north Surrey.
“Mr Mayor, can you confirm that you agree that it is crucial?”
But is it true that, despite the fall in motor traffic on Croydon’s roads, that replacing the Whitgift with a Westfield would reverse that drop?
At White City, where Westfield’s first London supermall was opened in 2008, there has been a decline in motor traffic in that borough (Hammersmith and Fulham) since 2000, and in particular, since 2008. According to government figures.
What if TfL goes ahead anyway and re-builds Fiveways to enable more people to drive cars to and through these junctions? As numerous studies have pointed out, most notably by Parliament’s Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessments in 1994, we then have the problem of “induced traffic”. When a new road is built, new traffic will divert on to it. Many people may make new trips they would otherwise not make, and will travel longer distances just because of the presence of the new road. TfL still use outdated predict-and-provide computer models to justify their extravagant use of public money to build roads that generate the motor traffic they said it would; it’s the very opposite of a virtuous circle, but it keeps them employed.
This increase in cars going through Fiveways might be great for Westfield (if it ever gets built), but it’s not great for Croydon’s transport network, since it will have an impact on other roads, not just the A23 and A232. And of course, it will be bad for our environmental health.
Statistics compiled by King’s College London show that Croydon town centre’s air quality has long been in breach of EU safety limits. Encouraging and enabling more people to drive into an air pollution hot spot is not going to help at all.
But the government, TfL and Croydon Council don’t appear to be bothered, despite the threat of legal action.
Croydon Council’s draft Air Quality Action Plan for the next five years states that, “Croydon is meeting all of the national Air Quality Strategy objectives other than for the gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2).”
Data and mapping show high and illegal levels of NO2 in the approach to Fiveways, which TfL wants to expand, and Wellesley Road, where they want to route this increase in motor traffic towards Westfield.
The council Action Plan acknowledges that “of the pollution that originates in the borough the main sources of NO2 are road transport at 60 per cent …”. There is no plan to reduce motor traffic, despite what it is doing to people locally and to the planet through climate change.
What of the plans for Fiveways and their impact on cycling? They are fragmented, parochial, in some cases non-existent. They provide a patchwork of good, poor and downright dangerous facilities.
They fail to acknowledge the existence of attractions like Waddon Ponds, Waddon Leisure Centre and the new Harris school. It is a paradox that TfL’s plans are based on enabling out-of-towners to drive from the M25 into Croydon, while not helping local people walk or cycle conveniently and safely to the park, gym or school, to the railway station or local shops.
TfL say they will make it easier to cycle from west – Beddington – to east – Waddon. In itself, this is welcome, but the eastern approach to this improvement is via a half-baked cycle path that disappears about 900 feet short of the junction with Purley Way and ends on the wrong side of the road.
What TfL has effectively ignored is how people get back from east to west.
Their plans show people cycling up a dedicated cycle path along Epsom Road, from the Waddon Hotel towards the junction with the Purley Way. What they don’t address is how to get to that cycle path. As things stand, anyone cycling from Croydon will most likely have to emerge from the part of Epsom Road at the junction (as shown in the picture below, and make their way into the middle lane occupied by the two vans).
This means trying to cross the east and west bound lanes of the A232, hard enough if you’re driving a bus or a car, but very uncomfortable and difficult if you’re on a bike and competing for road space with motor vehicles going up and down Duppas Hill Road.
Similarly, cycling from central Croydon towards Fiveways itself is not going to be made any easier. The original TfL plans showed segregated cycle lanes. Their re-jigged drawings show the cycle lane replaced with part-road, part-footpath car parking spaces.
The sanitised images provided by TfL of their vision for Fiveways junction reveals that anyone cycling from Croydon to Wallington or vice versa is going to be given only advanced stop lines to help them across. But these ASL usually look an awful lot like the HGV blind spots that safety advisers tell cyclists to avoid.
Cycling across Fiveways to or from Wallington will still mean competing with cars and trucks.
The North-South routing along the Purley Way is not going to be much changed.
While a cyclist struggling to get home without being killed would have the option of riding legally on the pavement towards Fiveways, their return journey will not be improved and they’ll still have to compete with trucks and lorries. TfL glibly dismissed cyclists’ safety considerations here on the grounds of expense.
So, what would make Fiveways better?
The Croydon Cycling Campaign is calling on TfL and Croydon Council to insist on the very best design processes and standards as detailed in… ahem… TfL’s own London Cycling Design Standards manual.
We want them to carry out the Cycling Level of Service assessment now, before the consultation closes, rather than hide by red tape and excuses, as explained in their refusal of this Freedom of Information request.
We want Croydon Council to insist that TfL design cycle routes to and through the Fiveways junctions that are as good as the best in London and can be used by all cyclists, including those with disabilities. Not our words – theirs, as contained in the borough’s draft Cycling Strategy.
TfL and Croydon Council need to stop paying lip service to cycling and instead start “Delivering the benefits of cycling in outer London”, the publication of the same name published in 2010.
- TfL’s final public consultation session is tomorrow, September 9 at St George’s on Barrow Road (noon-4pm). The consultation is open for submissions until September 18, and the full documentation can be viewed online at tfl.gov.uk/fiveways-croydon
- Austen Cooper is a member of the Croydon Cycling Campaign, which is affiliated to the London Cycling Campaign. This is an edited version of an article first published on the campaign’s own website, reproduced here with permission
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