20 February 2014

Improving cycling in Kingston

Cycling in Kingston has been a contentious issue in Kingston in recent years with pedestrians and cyclists not mixing well. I like to cycle and think that more should be done to encourage cycling so I  went to the public meeting that Zac Goldsmith, my MP, called on the subject.

Once there I learned that the point of the meeting was to help to inform Conservative Party policy ahead of the local elections later this year. I do not normally like helping Conservatives but by participating I was also helping cyclists so I stayed.

Zac opened the meeting by saying that his postbag is full of letters with strong views for and against cyclists and that is why he wanted to have a meeting on the subject.

Paul Drummond, Kingston Council's lead officer for transport, then said a few things to put the debate in context. He explained that the policy on mixing pedestrians and cyclists had changed over the years and co-mingling was out of fashion and segregation was back in. Some traffic features, such as the crossing outside of Kingston Station, had been redesigned more than once as fashions had changed.

He also said that Kingston Council had long been an advocate of cycling and he sited the cycle lane included in the widening of Kingston Bridge as an example of this. He also reminded the meeting that the K+20 policy document had included the now controversial pontoon along the rives.

Paul closed by saying the priority now was to complete north-south and east-west through routes.

The public debate then started, got off to an excellent start and then fell in to a cyclists v pedestrians debate. The first speaker made three simple, and very true, points; cycle provision is very disjointed, roads are blighted with potholes, and those responsible for cycling policy (officers and councillors) are not cyclists.

Rather than try to summarise what everybody else said I'll try to pull together my thoughts arising from the meeting.

Too much of the debate was about cyclists when we should have been talking about cycling.

Cars need to play their part in the solution

The real problem is cars, as they kill people and take most space, but the problem is always seen as cyclists versus pedestrians.

We should consider restricting, or banning, cars in areas where we most want to encourage cycling. An obvious place to do this would be near schools where young pedestrians and cyclists would both benefit.

The other obvious place to ban cars is Richmond Park. One speaker suggested that this should happen for a few hours on certain days and I would go much further and ban cars on some Sundays over the Summer with the aim of extending the ban to all Sundays and then on to Saturdays.

Not all the rules of the road should apply to cyclists

I am a terrible pedestrian. I wilfully cross roads when the red man is showing, walk diagonally across quiet roads and step on to zebra crossings without waiting for the traffic stops. Actually an awful lot of people walk like this as can be seem on Ham Parade on any Saturday morning. Nobody complains about this.

I cycle in much the same way and everybody complains about this. There is nothing wrong, per se, with cycling on pavements or through red lights.

Nor is there anything wrong with cycling at more than 20mph in Richmond Park. If a cyclist hits a deer then the deer is going to win.

Besides, most cyclists, including myself, do not have speedometers so we cannot know whether we are speeding or not. And having cycled up a steep hill I am not going to brake on the way down just to keep within a speed limit that has been set to protect deer from cars.

Do the simple things right

There is not that much that needs to be done to make cycling significantly better and these are all obvious things.

Cycle routes need to be connected and go to places that people want to go.

The routes need to be well maintained, pedestrians and cars are much more able to handle uneven and rough surfaces than bikes.

Legislation is needed to protect cyclists (and pedestrians)

Zac mentioned that Parliament had started to look at measures that could be introdcued to make HGVs safer. This needs to happen.

One of the reason that cycling works so well in Holland is that in an accident between and car and a bike, by law, the car is at least 50% responsible whatever the circumstances. Legislation like this is needed to force the change required on all drivers, just as it was for drink driving and wearing seatbelts.

1 comment:

  1. What a disappointing approach especially as it relates to Richmond Park. The Park is not a velodrome. Cycling as a means of transportation or relaxation is one thing but to advocate handing Richmond Park over to lycra thugs is just outrageous.

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