Council’s ‘new’ cycle corridor to Purley doesn’t go far enough

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, South Croydon is about to get a proper cycle route which almost reaches the town centre.
JEREMY CLACKSON, transport correspondent, reports

Bumpy ride: Croydon’s cyclists face a daily challenge

Croydon Council’s reputation for being unenthusiastic about championing or encouraging sustainable modes of transport is well-deserved. And those long-held, prevailing attitudes don’t seem likely to change any time soon. According to Mayor Jason Perry, the only reason he didn’t join a clutch of other Conservative-led authorities in a Judicial Review of London’s ULEZ expansion is because our cash-strapped borough is too, well… cash-strapped.

But since 2020, through Government-funded and GLA-backed initiatives, Croydon has received millions of pounds towards the costs of installing traffic-reduction schemes and cycling infrastructure.

Last week, the council finally got round to announcing what ought to be among its more important upgrades, trumpeting on its official website, “Brighton Road cycling corridor will improve access to the town centre”. Not a mere bike lane, but a corridor, no less!

The council said, “A new cycle route is coming to Croydon to help connect the south of the borough with the town centre, making it safer for cyclists along Brighton Road.”

And they continued, “The scheme, which goes live on Monday April 3, will feature new cycle lanes separated from motor traffic on most parts of the corridor, starting from just north of the junction with Bartlett Street, and running south to Purley High Street.”

In just two sentences, the council’s propaganda department used the word “new” twice. It was as if they were trying to hammer home a point.

Here is the not-so-news: the council’s announcement was misleading

But that “new” tag overlooks the fact that Croydon has had a cycle route between Purley and Croydon town centre for decades. The trouble is, it wasn’t any good.

Built as part of the London Cycle Network scheme, anyone riding a bicycle along the Brighton Road would contend with junctions that remained a place of lethal danger, and they would have to weave around legal and illegal parking while pursued by HGVs and motor car speed fiends. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s a major part of the reason that Croydon has one of the lowest levels of cycling among all London’s boroughs.

A professional critique recommending improvements, written by transport consultants Buchanan and Partners, was ignored by the council. Porkies were told by council officials about there being no money to build the safer, better cycling facilities that people in other parts of London now enjoy.

The truth was that Croydon asked for less money than other boroughs and underspent what they were allocated.

Bit by bit, things were made worse.

The picture (right) shows how Government funding to help Croydon recover from the 2011 riots was spent on making it harder to cycle and easier to park a car in South End.

The green strip was once a cycle lane. The council used the riot recovery cash to build parking bays over it.

The impetus behind this new “new” Purley to Croydon scheme has come from fresh funding, a much better understanding of how to build cycle lanes that work for everyone and the surge in cycling during the pandemic. The backing of cycling by none other than Boris Johnson helped, too.

So far, the Brighton Road scheme looks promising, with something approaching the physically protected cycle lanes that you see on the Victoria Embankment now appearing in our part of London.

Better for everyone: infrastructure for cycling is much better in central London

We’re not there yet though. The whole scheme is the subject of an Experimental Traffic Order, meaning that it’s on trial and could be removed.

As reported by Inside Croydon in April 2022, Jason Perry signalled his outright opposition to the plans and pushed for them to be watered down, and there’s no sign that he’s changed his mind since becoming Mayor last May.

However, Perry’s antipathy may be tempered by the fact that the council is in special measures, which reduces his status to that of figurehead.

Recent news from Tower Hamlets makes grim reading for the anti-cycling lobby, as their Mayor, Lutfur Rahman’s pro-car agenda has collided with Transport for London’s funding rules. TfL has stripped £1million from Rahman’s transport budget, with threats of similar treatment next year. Ironically, Croydon could benefit from this reallocation of funds.

The reaction to the Brighton Road “cycle corridor” from people who ride bikes has so far been mixed. Coming in for strong criticism is the gap in the cycle lane between Bartlett Street, a short side street near Whitgift School, and the Town Hall. “It doesn’t seem to join fully with the town centre scheme. There’s a bit in between with no protection,” one bike rider told me.

Another said, “The route north is an unimproved ‘A’ road, hostile to cyclists and pedestrians, with major road junctions lacking pedestrian crossings.”

The solution is obvious: “They should continue the two-way cycle track south towards and through South End.”

Concerns about HGVs and others parking in the cycle lanes aren’t confined to the legal ones that Mayor Perry wants to keep, which increase difficulty and danger for those on two wheels.

Illegal parking is currently going unenforced, like this example (right) of a Greggs delivery truck parked in the cycle lane and on double yellow lines outside their shop in the High Street – a few yards from the Town Hall itself. The RoSPA sticker on the back just adds to the irony.

This year is the end date of the council’s five-year plan to increase cycling. Launched in 2018 under Labour, with a foreword written by Councillor Stuart King, the Cycling Strategy noted that only 1per cent of Croydon’s journeys began by bike.

The Strategy was strong on good ideas, but lacked firm targets and was devoid of the promised reporting of outcomes. In the end, with the always-useless Clive Fraser as its chair, Labour quietly closed the Cycle Forum (it hasn’t met since September 2020), rather than admit that they had failed to meet their commitments. Sound familiar?

Missing in action: Croydon’s five-year cycling plan, another forgotten document

The Conservative administration hasn’t rushed to fill the gap either, with Councillor Scott Roche reportedly saying he valued the Forum and murmuring something about sustainable transport. But after almost a year, the Forum’s new chair has yet to convene a single meeting.

Ẁe’ll know how good this new cycle lane really is when the Mayor and councillors are prepared to get on their bikes and try it out for themselves.

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11 Responses to Council’s ‘new’ cycle corridor to Purley doesn’t go far enough

  1. Tristan Hawkins says:

    Great article. As someone who cycles to work along Brighton Road daily I’m pleased to see the cycle lane. Cycling is much faster (and cheaper) than driving in the morning and evenings and I get the benefit of daily exercise and not having to go to the gym.

    My biggest concern is that allowing parking in sections and ignoring illegal parking means it’s still not safe. I cycle with my children to school (4 and 6 years old) but it’s still not safe enough for them to cycle because I’d often still have to pull into the live lane with buses and hgvs. Until cycling infrastructure is safe and connected it won’t be used as much as it could be. There are so many schools along Brighton Road. A vast majority of school drop off traffic could be transitioned if the infrastructure is there.

    • Angus H says:

      Don’t know why all the downvotes. Cycling is cheap, healthy and green. But some of you don’t seem to be able to help feeling resentful about it. Get out for a nice bike ride, you’ll feel less stressed and angry.

    • Adrian Cowie says:

      Good luck to this scheme. I wrote to Croydon Council asking if they would enforce illegal parking in cyle lanes in the Addington road leading up to Selsdon. The response concerned parking on yellow lines, not in cyle lanes. The cycle lanes leading upto Selsdon are unusable due to parked vehicles.

  2. Matt Collins says:

    Judging by perry’s responses on Facebook he’ll rip it all out as soon as he can.

  3. Notable that both Conservative and Labour promises about a pedestrian crossing outside Whitgift House have failed to be delivered.

    • ExCroydonian says:

      PT Perry has already watered down the scheme, when it was originally laid down a year or so ago the whole thing restricted all vehicles stopping and parking 24/7. Now large swathes of it have free unrestricted parking from 10-4 which completely obstructs the lane and forces cyclists into the traffic. There is a particularly bad example of this at the Sanderstead Road junction. Plus they have allowed properties without a dropped kerb a right of vehicle access at multiple locations.

  4. Andrew Pelling says:

    The previous set of Waddon councillors did raise concerns about the abrupt ending of the cycle route north of Whitgift School.

    We were advised that the council wished to reconfigure roads to the north to allow for bus and cycle priority with implications for creating one way systems for displaced vehicles in other roads. This would be a major task for the Highways team not covered by the monies that are available for the scheme south of Bartlett Street.

  5. David Squires says:

    I guess it is better than nothing, but still far from ideal. We already have the new cycle lane through the centre of Croydon, which as far as I am concerned is poorly designed. When cycling on it recently I was confronted by a pedestrian who stopped, pointed to the side and told me “there is a f**king road there, use it”. I politely responded that this was a cycle lane, to which I got a cheery “f**k off”. Similarly I was walking through the same area on Saturday and saw a pedestrian talking to her friend about how there shouldn’t be a cycle lane, “because there is a road there..”. Although the previous set-up wasn’t great, I never had any difficult interactions with pedestrians. I fear that this new design will end up with someone being badly hurt.

    As for the Brighton Road, too much of the lane has been dashed rather than having solid lines. A number of houses along the road have driveways, but without a lowered kerb. As such, are they not therefore illegal drives, and the lane should have been fully enforced over them?

  6. Stewart MacArthur says:

    I use this road twice a day but only seen one bike using it so far. Time will tell.

  7. Alan Malarkey says:

    Any progress along these lines is worth celebrating but I am guessing there will be a backlash of some sort – thanks for reporting

  8. Chris Flynn says:

    “It’s a major part of the reason that Croydon has one of the lowest levels of cycling among all London’s boroughs.”

    The topology of Croydon is also pretty dramatic.

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