Originally we planned to have speakers from the Council there to talk about their plans, especially the newly funded mini-Holland programme, but they made some lame excuses at the last moment and dropped out. We decided to keep to the subject of cycling but to make it a debate instead with two of us speaking briefly at the beginning to spark the debate.
I was on first to promote cycling.
The main points that I made were:
- Cycling is a good idea and we should encourage it enthusiastically.
- Current provision in Kingston is limited, disjointed and poorly maintained – this needs to be fixed.
- Mini-Holland will help but it is not a magic bullet that will solve all the problems.
- We should be pushing for other schemes too, especially for destinations like schools, shops and parks, and in overlooked areas like Chessington.
The two comments that I made that made the most impact were on the poor air quality in Kingston and my confession to regularly cycling on pavements and through lights. I also confessed to breaking the rules as a pedestrian, e.g. crossing roads when the red man is showing, but my crimes as a cyclist were considered to be more heinous, for reasons that escape me, and it would probably have been better not to have confessed to them.
There was a lot of discussion about the flagship project in the mini-Holland programme, the pontoon along the river to create a new route for cyclists. I had made the point that if we want to promote cycling and also keep cyclists away from pedestrians then either we need to create new capacity, e.g. the pontoon, or we take capacity away from other road users, e.g. dedicated cycle lanes behind barriers to stop pedestrians and cars from also using them.
We also talked quite a bit about Richmond Park. I said that the easiest way to separate bikes and people would be to restrict the space given to cars, e.g. we could allocate one Sunday a month as a car-free day where the cyclists would have full use of the roads and the walkers could have full use of the shared paths. Remarkably some people felt that they had a right to drive around Richmond Park whenever they liked, even though I pointed out that they did not have, or expect to have, this right in Kew Gardens.
I would like to the use of Richmond Park by cars severely reduced and see the occasional car-free day as a trial that proves that the Park would be a lot nicer for everyone, and everything, if we banned cars all weekend every weekend.
We also talked about other places and other schemes but, apart from fixing pot-holes, we came to no agreement on anything.
Everybody seemed to agree that cycling was a good idea but nobody wanted to give up any of their space for this. The new cycles schemes are going to upset a lot of people, at first, but they must be done. We have no alternatives.