It’s time for action to make borough’s roads safe for cyclists

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The plan for a green recovery in the borough announced this week meets with approval from MARCUS CHURCHILL, pictured left, but he says that the proposals are long overdue and need to be implemented urgently

I fully commend these councillors’ vision.

Time is running out.

Croydon Labour’s election plans going back years have promised to make the borough greener with safer cycling and walking. It has simply not materialised on any meaningful level.

The 20mph zones was a good start, but it is not enforced and is therefore ignored by speeding drivers, especially in the north of the borough. This makes roads, even “quiet” backstreets, dangerous. Even noise pollution from fast cars on streets around our local parks ruins those special moments of zen (think Grange Road and Grangewood Park).

And nothing tangible has been done to reduce traffic and car dependency in Croydon – but this is key.

Croydon is a long way behind other boroughs in implementing safer cycling routes, says Marcus Churchill

People won’t start cycling for local trips while they continue to face speeding, aggressive motorists. The regular near misses and close-pass punishments by a significant minority of drivers forced me off my bike a few years ago.

I know many who’d like to get fitter on two wheels, to at least have a safe option. But with traffic levels and speed already almost back to pre-lockdown levels, nothing will change until Croydon’s leadership stop window dressing.

There’s clearly a problem at the top as Croydon is way behind the curve on green issues such as safe cycling routes. It takes balls to bring about real change. It means facing up to some angry residents. Remember Norbury Avenue’s safe cycling experiment? Yet more empty promises.

Actions speak louder than words.

And people like me have had enough of words.

Yes, money is tight. Yes, it’s a real challenge. But many improvements – such as making cycle routes non-through roads for cars to stop rat runs – are relatively low cost. Greener thinkers in Croydon have waited long enough. Our support and patience is running out.

Please listen to what these progressive and forward-thinking councillors have to say. They are on the right side of the argument.

  • Marcus Churchill is a broadcast journalist and PR professional and sometime cyclist

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9 Responses to It’s time for action to make borough’s roads safe for cyclists

  1. Mitsky says:

    I’ve been saying this for years now.
    At least the Met police has been more active in prosecuting most of the dangerous driving I’ve reported in the last few years:

  2. Colin Cooper says:

    I would also remind you that some of us CANNOT ride bikes, have trouble walking to the bus stop and ACTUALLY need access to a car!

    • mitsky says:

      No one is asking to get rid of all cars. Especially for people in your place that needs them. We are just asking for people who can to walk and cycle more (or use public transport if possible in non Covid times). The less traffic there is on the roads, caused by people using private cars for short (walkable/cycleable) distances, the better for everyone, including you. The other issue being dangerous driving, which puts people off cycling. The less people cycling, the worse off we all are.

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  5. dougie27 says:

    Thanks Marcus for your article, and yes, in my view Croydon are way behind the curve. The ‘green recovery plan’ was an excellent piece of work and should be widely applauded and fully supported; as a frequent cyclist your observation about the regular flouting of the 20mph is spot on – enforcement is non-existent and I reckon most motorists whilst they would consider themselves to be law abiding, probably don’t realise what it feels like to keep your speed to 20mph or below, so revert to ‘normal’ and drive at a speed that feels ‘comfortable’, but is a lot closer to 30mph.

    But it’s the default ‘just hop in the car’ that is the problem, when for most ‘hop on the bike’ could be a viable option, and if you don’t feel up to tackling some of the challenging gradients around Croydon, a little ‘electrical assistance’ is readily available to ease the pain. But you could also walk!

    So Croydon Council – speed up the cycle route building programme / finish off cycle lanes that disappear into nothing / bring in ‘home zones’ on all side roads / install low level traffic signals (as they do in France) so that they’re readily visible to cyclists at the kerbside / co-ordinate lights so that cyclists can cross the whole way across rather than have to stop halfway (e.g. from Bedford Park to Poplar Walk across A212 Wellesley Road) / ensure cycle hoops are overseen by CCTV cameras to deter theft / engage with the Whitgift Centre & Centrale and ask them why they have no decent provision for safe storage & security of cycles – don’t they have a ‘sustainability and sustainable transport plan’?

    And our Police Service – come on guys, I’ve seen you out on your bicycles so please get out a bit more and start some low level intervention. Start pulling over the Deliveroo cowboys on their de-limited electric bikes / pull over and have a careful word to the cyclists who ‘don’t do red lights’ and just sail straight through (and those for whom ‘don’t do red lights’ means no lights during darkness) / do the same to adult cyclist who think it’s ok to cycle on the footway / educate drivers (including ‘professional’ bus & taxi drivers) who the advance stop lines are for (Highway Code Rule 178) / get out the speed guns for the 20mph roads and ask drivers if they’d like a small fine or attendance at a speed awareness course?

    Then we might get somewhere.

    And Colin – yes, you’re right as well. As an essential user your needs should also be prioritised.

    Safe journeys folks!

  6. David Squires says:

    Croydon is certainly not a bike friendly place. Sadly what I’ve seen so far in terms of efforts to aid social distancing has been extremely limited and seems to be exclusively targeted at the north of the borough (what about east, west and south?). Major routes through the borough are terrible for people on bikes and given that we do have a fair amount of hills routes need to be created that help less able people get mobile. For example, the A236 / Old Town is one of the most dangerous roads I’ve ridden on (more so southbound). The Brighton Road from Croydon down to Coulsdon (and particularly Purley Cross) aren’t great either. Although it annoys me I somewhat understand why I see so many cyclists on the pavement along the route of the Brighton Road.

    However, while getting people comfortable to ride on the roads is great I think it would be helpful in terms of getting people back on bikes if there were off road routes available. Beddington Park is a great example where paths are shared for cyclists and pedestrians within the park. Why couldn’t shared a path around the outside of the Purley Way playing fields be created for example? Over the lockdown period a dirt path has been worn into the grass, so I can’t help think that something for both cyclists and pedestrians would be great. For those just getting back on their bike they then have a decent loop to begin riding on, rather than having to brave the roads. Apply this idea to other parks in the area and I think it would be great. People out for walks and runs would love it too.

    • Chris Flynn says:

      Totally agree with re the hills – whilst the topography of the Croydon area (particularly the south) makes for some fantastic views, I can’t image cycling a lot of the areas!

  7. Lewis White says:

    Apparently, Boris Johnson wants to carry out projects that will give employment and improve our infastructure. Welcome news, but…… politicians of all hues like high -profile, “shovel ready” projects, that give “quick wins” or at least quick”ish”, a bit like a fruit machine guaranteed to start paying out half way through a 5 year government term.

    Road surfaces throughout the South East (Surrey in particular– as Croydon is a quantum lot better) are pot holled to a degree that creates really dangerous conditions for cyclists. Drain gratings that are sunken below the surrounding road surfaces, and rural roads where the edges have been eroded to become deep trenches, are really hazardous to anyone on two wheels, to a life- threatening degree. Gravel on the road a hazard, as road sweepers never do the middle bit round traffic islands.

    Cyclists tend to ride in the gutter, to avoid being clipped by passing vehicles, where the sunken drain gratings are, and the rural road edges are not.

    So–Boris, please allocate a lot of the post covid budget to pot hole filling, and, better, to proper resurfacing.

    The problem is, politicians tend to love new, sexy projects, rather than maintaining the existing infrastructure better, so I don’t hold out a lot of hope there.

    With regard to safe cycling routes off the main road, which appeals to me because of far less pollution and accident risk that with main roads, there are a few of these safer and quiter routes, but not many.

    The trouble with cycling in the SE and London to me is that the road environment, and our climate, are essentially hostile. All of our roads are full of traffic, giving out pollution, and with the constant risk of vehicle/cyclist impact (metal on flesh). Much of Croydon is very hilly, with the Crystal Palace hills and Sanderstead / Selsdon and East Purley / Kenley / Old Coulsdon being virtual mountains. I tried cycling to and from work, on some days at random in Summer and Winter from Coulsdon to Cystal place a few decades ago , and decided that it was just too polluted, too exhausting, cold, wet, or too hot, potholled and dangerous, and took too long. It was uncomfortable. In winter the street lighting and dazzle from car headlights failed to show up pot holes until I was in them.

    So for me, the train was the route I took, or — sadly–the car, if I needed mobility during the working day. In another job, in Hounslow–which is much more of a topograhical pancake– I was able to cycle around my sites. The West wind, blowing hard on many days, was the main cycle problem there, plus the busy main roads. But there was more space. Cycling was more relaxed.

    I am not sure if electric bikes offer the level of all-year comfort that I would want to successfully commute by bike. They can help with the hills, but not help with the pollution, safety from thoughtless car and van drivers, and pot holes, or the weather.

    Welcoming the improvement of highways to make them more bike friendly, and the provision of bike parks at stations, I think the scope remains limited, as the space for cycle lanes is limited in our urban environment due to narrow roads and buildings, and in the countryside by narrow roads and speeding drivers, with the 60mph national speed limit where 40mph is the safe speed.

    That reminds me–Boris, please can you review the UK national speedlimits? I would like to see 25mph in all towns and through all villages, and a reduction on all rural B and unclassified roads to 40mph where it is currently 60mph –and give the Councils discretion to come down to 20 or 30 as might be appropriate. This would benefit cyclists, and rural wildlife too. It would reduce the severity of accidents, and would not slow journeys down by more than a few minutes, all in all.

    The slogan would be “Rural respect — sensible speeds”. Oh– and please Boris, give every local County or District council the budget to spend on traffic calming through the nation’s villages as well as road repairs–and speed enforcement.

    That would in fact be a real (and quick”ish”) win, safety and community wise, albeit that it might lose votes among the 4 x 4 brigade in the shires and the towns as well. So I will not hold my breath (even with a mask) . But we need this review, and the action.

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