Perry’s back-pedalling furiously on Boris-backed bike scheme

Croydon Mayor’s long-term opposition to safe cycling infrastructure could yet lead to a scheme along Brighton Road causing someone serious injury, maybe worse, as the council fails to act on a potential death trap.
JEREMY CLACKSON, transport correspondent

Death trap: the junction at Riddlesdown Road which has been the site of several ‘near-misses’

The evidence continues to mount that there is a co-ordinated campaign from the pro-motorist, anti-cycling Croydon Mayor to try to ensure that the Brighton Road “cycle corridor” fails and is ultimately scrapped.

Last month, we reported on the fiasco where council contractors installed “wands” to properly mark out the new cycle lane on the main road from Purley into the town centre, only to take them out again 24 hours later.

Removing the wands and leaving the defender bases not only imperils cyclists, taking away a visible barrier between them and motor traffic, but it also leaves cars, vans and motor-bikes more likely to collide with the bases.

However, suggestions that the removed wands have been sliced in two lengthways in order to be sold as guttering by a well-known plastics building supplies retailer have proved to be without foundation.

Pro-car: Mayor Jason Perry

Last November’s annual meeting of the Croham Valley Residents’ Association was attended by Mayor Jason Perry and South Croydon councillors Maria Gatland and Danielle Denton. It was noted that “the cycle lane on the Brighton Road has [sic] harming local businesses” The claim was presented without a shred of evidence.

The meeting notes say that “Jason and Maria agreed and said it would be looked at”.

Gatland had already put the boot in to the original ambitious design for the cycle route, resulting in it being interrupted by legal parking spaces, making it harder and more dangerous to use if you choose two-wheels instead of four.

This month’s Hartley and District Residents’ Association email newsletter blames Labour for the “Brighton Road Corridor”, adding “the councillors in Purley and South Croydon have made representations to council officers based on residents and businesses in the area. Highways have changed some aspects of the design.

“There is a six-month consultation on the scheme, so I would urge you comment.” It seems clear that someone is nudging the residents’ associations who helped to get Perry elected to weigh-in on the matter of the Brighton cycle corridor, just as Croydon Council’s own website repeatedly encourages the public to file objections to the borough’s own school street schemes.

From the party that “must be the party of the motorist” (according to Jacob Rees-Mogg and the far-right petrol heads on GBNews), Perry has adopted some of the Tories’ anti-ULEZ rhetoric in order to undermine safer cycling and safer walking scheme which his own council has been implementing.

On your bike: the Brighton Road cycle lane was part of an initiative from Boris Johnson’s Government

In January, Perry told a packed (with six Conservatives) Zoom meeting, “If we truly believe in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, if we truly believe that walking and cycling is the way forward and the way that we create a more healthy environment, the way we do that is not by fining our residents.

“Any future schemes coming forward should not be based on fining residents in order to achieve it.”

There are no fines are being levied to “create a more healthy environment” on the Brighton Road, though. Not even if you park your car illegally. Enforcement of the law, or the lack of it, remains an issue for the council under Perry, just as it was under Tony Newman.

And at the full council meeting last month,  Councillor Ria Patel asked Mayor Perry about tackling air pollution. Perry talked about “modal shift”, but he did not mention a word about walking and cycling in his carefully drafted response.

The political hypocrisy involved in all this is that the Brighton Road cycle corridor has been designed, laid out and paid for under a scheme with the explicit and overt support of none other than Boris Johnson.

In July 2021, when he was Prime Minister, Johnson threw down a challenge when eulogising about cycling as a mode of transport in his foreword to the government publication, Gear Change – One Year On.

“I support councils, of all parties, which are trying to promote cycling and bus use. And if you are going to oppose these schemes, you must tell us what your alternative is, because trying to squeeze more cars and delivery vans on the same roads and hoping for the best is not going to work.”

Two Prime Ministers later, Perry and his pro-car lobby mates must be hoping that this message has been forgotten. But the question remains, what is Mayor Perry’s alternative?

Shocked: how one Croydon councillor reacted when she saw the Cyclegaz video

Worryingly for those people who choose to cycle rather than clog the A235 with air-polluting, climate-changing cars on their way to or from the shopping sheds on the Purley Way, a supposed cycling improvement might just claim someone’s life.

One active Croydon cyclist known on Twitter as “CycleGaz” shared a shocking video today of what could have been a fatal collision between him and the driver of a van who overtook then cut across him while he was cycling south, near the Purley Oaks council recycling depot.

The only action the police took was to send the driver on an awareness course, although we understand that his employer sacked him once knowledge of his recklessness became widespread.

But this is not the only “near miss” recorded on video by CycleGaz at that location.

Somebody else was so concerned that they emailed the council to ask for action to be taken following two incidents while cycling at the same location, where his life was put in danger. That was on March 1 this year – six weeks ago. He had an acknowledgement saying that his concerns would be relayed to the highways team, but has heard nothing since.

Will it really take the death of a cyclist for Croydon Mayor Jason Perry to take action? Or is the Mayor committed to undermining all efforts to make the borough a safer and easier place to go by foot or by bike?

Read more: Has the Mayor ordered the cyclists’ magic wands to disappear?
Read more: Council’s ‘new’ cycle corridor to Purley doesn’t go far enough

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8 Responses to Perry’s back-pedalling furiously on Boris-backed bike scheme

  1. From what I can make out there is indeed an orchestrated campaign against ULEZ, 20 m.p.h speed limits, safer neighbourhoods, cycle lanes and Mayor Khan. People’s health and road safety don’t appear to be on the agenda for these extreme right wingers.

  2. The only (minor) gripe I’ve heard about the wands was from my wife who said, and had experienced this, that in some places, the bases were too close together making it difficult to pull over for an emergency vehicle; or were spaced such that you’d leave your arse sticking out in the road even if you could pull in.

    So a beef about execution, rather than concept.

    Interestingly, the day after she experienced the problem with an ambulance was the day the wands disappeared.

    • In July 2022, Transport for London published “Guidance for the use of Traffic Wands with Cycle Infrastructure”. It is very clear on the minimum and maximum spacing of wands and the need for consideration of emergency services vehicles. We have heard nothing from the Council to suggest that the reason the wands were removed was because the installation did not comply with TfL recommendations.

      Regarding the claim below that 20mph damages cars and increases pollution, this is a contentious subject. However, a review of the evidence made by Dr Adrian L Davis in 2018 found that “for air quality the limited literature is consistent with small improvements”.

      There seems to be no evidence that driving at 20mph means the vehicle will suffer damage. If there was any, Mr Kierans would presumably have shared it with us.

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    Cycle lanes are a neccessity especially in Croydon with the total lack of traffic enforcement by the Police and abject failure to resource civil enforcment by this Council.
    But Perry is actually right about fining people on LTNs just put barriers across and residents can have access as normal with a unique key as would Emergency services. 20mph has data supporting it and a lot more that does not. Cars driving at 20mph all the time will suffer damage and pollute more. Unless there is effective enforcement not ANPR them those that want to can obscure a few numbers on their plates and carry on as we see every day in Croydon.
    Oerall we need to achive less pollution and along with the incinerator and poor road design traffic is a major cause – so more bikes is a beginning but it has to be safe for them and they have to behave safely for pedestrians who are more and more being injured some severely also by careless bike riders.

  4. Peter Underwood says:

    Conservatives’ road safety hokey-cokey

    They put measures in, then take them out, then put more in, and then take them out again

    They are wasting money and putting lives at risk

  5. Dan Maertens says:

    I’m still waiting for Mr Perry to take up the offer to accompany me on a cycle ride the length of the Brighton Road that I made last year, but I don’t suppose he will. I can’t promise it will match CycleGaz’s speed but the Mayor could at least check out Gaz’s ‘murder corner’ on the ground (where Gaz nearly ended up).

    I can’t help thinking that the whole disjointed strategy will remain just that – disjointed, incomplete, and patchy when a more holistic approach could actually deliver some decent ‘modal shift’ that we’re all should be applauding – Tofflofty Cheese-Fogg and Howard Cox excluded, obviously.

    There are so many inconsistencies in the design of the ‘improvements’ to list here, but until these are resolved it is little wonder that the lack of local enforcement, LTN opposition, rampant use of e-scooters and e-cycles on pavements (Deliveroo & JustEats have a lot to answer for here!), footpaths used by cyclists (where they easily and safely be changed to shared use spaces) generate issues whose only purpose is polarise and entrench.

    Sometimes Mr Perry, the only way to appreciate why things don’t work so well is to experience them from a different perspective, on two wheels – the offer is still open.

  6. Lewis White says:

    As a regular driver visiting the recycling depot, and occasional driver / regular bus passenger coming back from Croydon to Coulsdon, I saw the road very soon after this redesign went in, and also remember what it was like before.

    This section of the Brighton road is the East side of a roundabout, formed by a single building– the iconic 1960’s office block with rounded ends, which replaced the Royal Oak pub.

    Before the recent changes, drivers coming up the treelined Brighton Road from Croydon, passing the depot on the left, and drawing level with the office building on their right, would either keep on the left to go “straight on” to go up towards Sanderstead, or would bend round to the right, then bend immediately left, to continue along the Brighton Road towards Purley.

    For many older motorists with any tendency for the Ford Capri or Formula 1 to 3 racing gene to bubble up, this section of nice open road and then an almost 90 degree bend to the right and then the left, with the 1960’s architecture of the office block, might well evoke long dormant feelings of driving in the 60’s and 70’s.

    No shops or houses, no bothersome pedestrians, no parked cars, just the road, and the driver, changing down a gear, turning the steering wheel in quick succession to the right, then the left and (in hot weather) hearing the tyres scream (well, squeak) on the tarmac, as the turn is done. Birmingham Bull Ring urban motorway, Monte Carlo rally, in microcosm. Nice one!

    But, for the South-bound cyclist, for all the decades since the 1960’s up to the recent redesign, it was a worryingly amorphous, very wide space to negotiate, needing hand-signalling, and many an anxious rear-ward glance over the shoulder if you wanted to do the double bend and go down to Purley, without being wiped out by a driver doing a similar move to that shown in the video. I did it a few times on my bike in the 2000’s before deciding that it was much safer to avoid that risk, by cycling straight on, and regain the Brighton Road at the next turning by the old tram depot, thereby avoiding the risk of being annihilated by boy racers and 1960’s old boy racers.

    The new design has made it much better for the cyclist, but, as the video appalllingly shows, the scope still exists for drivers to cut in front of a cyclist.

    Safety measures need to be installed here. Maybe picking out the cycle lane in red or yellow, and/or road signs to show the fact that the cycle lane continues across the junction. Signage — “Slow ! cycle lane prority” and arrows painted on the road to show the new turn where once the motorist went straight on

    Or something to slow the speed down and reduce the likelihood of another cyclist being subjected to the near death experience shown in the video.

    It is , I think, not often that a cycle lane continues past a junction. It needs to be made visually more obvious, for the sake of safety of cyclists and drivers alike.

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