A lot can change in fifteen years…

 policy options

Hounslow Council are planning ahead. They have released their Local Plan for what new developments should happen in the borough over the next fifteen years. The council have also identified issues such as serious air pollution (mainly from road transport) that need to be tackled by the way the developments are designed.

We’re always on the lookout for plans that will make cycling in this borough safer and more convenient.  There are a few real gems in this document, so we thought we’d take you through the highlights! In particular, in Chapter Ten, the council propose to “develop a new cycle network consisting of greenways, quietways and a Cycle Superhighway linking our town centres with Central London”. Also in Chapter Ten, the council have identified a number of bridge improvements that would remove breaks currently found in the cycling network including the Clockhouse Lane Bridge, Whitton Road Bridge, Feltham High Street Rail Bridge and Barnes Rail Bridge Pedestrian walkway”. This is not small stuff. The council are proposing to rebuild significant bridges to allow a decent network of cycle lanes link the key sites in the borough and into central London via a Cycle Superhighway. We need to let the council know we support this.

We are disappointed that the plan makes no mention of 20mph speed limits as a way of promoting active travel and cycling in particular.

It is important that we show support for the parts of the plan that could help get more people cycling and prevent them from being ignored amongst all the detail. So why not get hold of a questionnaire and send the council your thoughts. Responses need to be in by 26 July.

policy map

Cycling in town centres

In the questionnaire, boxes TC1, TC2, TC3 and TC4 refer to plans for Hounslow, Brentford, Feltham and Chiswick from Chapter Two.

For Chiswick, the council are looking to “promote Chiswick’s connection with the River Thames”. We support this and would like to see a quietway for cycling through Chiswick to the River Thames, running along the east side of Chiswick House. We also support protecting Dukes Meadows. The cycle route along the Thames here could be improved. The Cycle Superhighway is probably going to go along Chiswick High Road which will bring more customers to the wide range of independent shops.

For Brentford, there are interesting plans to link the town centre with the businesses on the Great West Road, building on Brentford Connection. We support greater active travel along the River Brent greenway. The plans to develop the railway behind PC World on the A4 as a passenger service to Southall also provide the opportunity to establish a high quality cycle route over the River Brent, linking the Sky Office Complex with Boston Manor underground station. The proposed regeneration of Boston Manor and Gunnersbury Park provide the opportunity to improve greenway cycle routes here.

For Hounslow, there is an explicit priority to “improve visitor access by bus, rail, bicycle and foot” which we support. Similarly in Isleworth, the council aim to use “any opportunities to improve pedestrian access to and along the Duke of Northumberland River and River Crane”. We think these paths should be improved for cyclists too. It is important that when the Council protect the North Feltham Trading Estate, they also take the opportunity to improve the greenway cycle route along the River Crane.

For Feltham, there is an exciting plan to develop the Longford River as a cycle route into the Town Centre. There are also plans to redevelop the rail bridge so that cycle lanes can be incorporated. We strongly support these plans and would welcome access to the shops in central Feltham being easier for those travelling by bike.

Questionnaire boxes TC6 and TC8 deal with retail growth and improving High Streets. There are a number of studies, including this one from New York that show that increased access for people travelling by bike result in increased retail sales. The plan also identifies the importance of the Hotel industry around Heathrow (Questionnaire box ED3). We think that all employees at these hotels should have the option of a safe cycle route to work.

Greenways

The Council’s plan doesn’t pull its punches when it discusses the problem of air pollution coming from the Borough’s roads. “Hounslow exceeds the nitrogen dioxide levels set by the National Air Quality Strategy.” “The whole borough is now classified as an Air Quality Management Area”. “Air pollution levels in the borough regularly exceed European Union targets”. This has troubled the Mayor of London sufficiently for him to offer a slice of £5 million to Hounslow borough to invest in “schemes to encourage the uptake of low and zero emission transport modes”. Investing in cycle routes has a role to play in cleaning the air locally.

New routes away from polluted roads can also bring health benefits from active travel and active lifestyles. Some green corridors that need to be made accessible for people travelling by bike have already been identified in the All London Green Grid . Hounslow Council have realised that around Heston and Cranford, severance by big roads including the M4 make getting to open space difficult. We strongly urge the council to progress with preliminary plans to create a greenway along the River Crane, linking Hillingdon’s river Crane path with Richmond borough’s river Crane path. We support more active uses of open space and would like to see a green grid (Questionnaire box GB4) established across the borough including a link between Osterley Lane and Trumpers Way in Ealing.

We are glad that the policy options aim to create “green chains and corridors to ensure that suitable access is improved for both pedestrians and cyclists” (Chapter Seven). If you support this, please tell the council. (You can email comments to LDF@hounslow.gov.uk).

Transport connections

The Council point out that the borough’s prosperity centres on its location between Heathrow Airport and central London so we strongly urge the council to ensure that the Cycle Superhighway extends all the way to Heathrow Airport and links to improved greenways in this area too. We strongly support the planned improvements to allow safer cycling across Clockhouse Lane Bridge, Whitton Road Bridge, Feltham High Street Rail Bridge and Barnes Rail Bridge.  If you have thoughts on how these bridges could be improved, do tell us.

We strongly support the proposed policy of requiring development proposals to demonstrate access to cycling networks and the requirement for new developments to incorporate design measures to promote cycling, including cycle parking.

More houses and bigger schools

Over the next 15 years, the council aims to have 7800 more homes in the borough and many more school places (equivalent to 34 additional secondary school forms), with the possibility of a new school near Hanworth Park. We believe strongly that all young people should have the realistic and safe option of cycling to school or college.

This means that major road junctions such as this one near Hanworth Community College will need to be re-designed so that they are safe for cycling.

Hanowrth junction

The council are planning to invest significant amounts of money over the next fifteen years. Whether they invest in cycling facilities depends on the responses they receive. You can send the council your thoughts on these plans by filling out a questionnaire, emailing them (LDF@hounslow.gov.uk) or contacting your councilor.

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When local campaigns just aren’t enough

Hounslow Cycling aim to promote safer and more convenient facilities for cycling in the borough of Hounslow. As a group we discuss and respond to local consultations. However sometimes it is national policy, written in Westminster as directed by Members of Parliament, that really needs to change in order to make cycling more safe and convenient here in west London.

As a group we have discussed how improved national policy could help cycling locally. Members of the group have cycled in Belgium where it is motor vehicles that have to give way to cyclists at side roads and where it is national policy that in the case of an collision involving a motorist and a cyclist, the motorist is regarded to be at fault unless there is strong evidence to suggest otherwise. At our monthly meetings at Express Tavern in Brentford we have discussed the need for traffic lights that only apply to cyclists and that either give people on bikes their own turn to cross a junction or at least give them a ‘head start’ before the lights for motor vehicles turn green.

So we were pleased to see that local MP Seema Malhotra asked  Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, who is responsible for national transport policy, some questions about whether national transport policy is changing to improve conditions for people who travel by bike.

Traffic lights specifically for cyclists was one of the issues raised by Seema Malhotra MP:

Seema Malhotra: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to promote the use of cycle-specific traffic lights.

Stephen Hammond: Provision of cycling measures, including traffic lights, is for local traffic authorities. The Government is committed to improving cycling safety and has provided extra funding through the Cycling Safety Fund for local authorities to tackle the most dangerous junctions on their networks.

DFT officials are working closely with Transport for London on a project trialling a range of new measures, including low-level signals for cyclists. We are also working with Cambridgeshire county council, who are trialling the use of cycle filter signals.

New ideas need to be properly tested to identify any potential problems, and establish what the benefits are likely to be. Subject to the results of the trials, we will consider approving trials at a limited number of sites on public roads.

More information here

It is good to know that the government minister responsible for transport policies is aware of the trials being done by Transport for London. Once the findings of this research is public, we would like to see Stephen Hammond describe what new national rules will apply to the use of traffic lights specifically for cyclists and actively promote their use, particularly at junctions with multiple vehicle lanes of where turning right can be complicated. (If you have junctions like this that you think need addressing do let us know).

Seema Malhotra MP also asked about whether the road design rules are taking into account the need to separate cycle lanes from motor lanes, especially on faster roads.

Seema Malhotra: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to vary the degree of separation between cycle lanes and motor vehicle lanes according to the speed limit applied in an area.

Stephen Hammond: Local highway authorities are responsible for the design of their networks, including cycle facilities such as cycle lanes and crossings. The Department provides comprehensive good practice guidance on road design to help them in this, for example, in “Local Transport Note 2/08; Cycle infrastructure Design”.

More information here.

So there we have it. While the Get Britain Cycling report says that making cycling a viable transport option requires clear political leadership from government, Stephen Hammond, the Government Minister with responsibility for road design rules thinks that each local authority should apply guidance as they see fit.

 Seema Malhotra: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department is taking to reduce casualties of pedestrians and cyclists as a result of road traffic accidents.

Stephen Hammond: Initiatives to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety include 20 mph zones, countdown crossings, Bikeability training, £107 million of additional investment in cycling infrastructure over the last year, including £35 million to tackle dangerous junctions for cyclists.

The European New Car Assessment Programme is increasing the rate at which collision avoidance technologies are brought to market and autonomous emergency braking systems capable of reacting to pedestrians and cyclists are under development

More information here.

Seema Malhotra’s final question is well timed. On 27th June 2013 the Department of Transport published statistics that show that 2012 was the eighth year in which the number of seriously injured cyclist casualties had increased in the UK.

 

We think that rather than waiting for motor vehicles to be fitted with ‘autonomous emergency braking systems’ the government should promote the extension of 20mph zones throughout urban areas, as advised in the Get Britain Cycling report. This report also says that mandatory cycling assessments should be carried out for all new road designs.

 

Since Seema Malhotra MP asked these questions, the Mayor of London has been asking the government similar questions too, particularly about cycle-specific traffic lights to make junctions safer.

While here in Hounslow, our local council has been pretty proactive at supporting cycling and has plans to improve cycling infrastructure, without clear leadership from people like Stephen Hammond MP over in Wimbledon, local councillors will be constrained in the improvements they can make.