Having fought Cycleway 9 tooth and nail since it was first mooted, Chiswick’s nine Conservative councillors have published a new policy on walking and cycling. Transport spokesman Sam Hearn reiterated what he said in his blog for The Chiswick Calendar a few days ago:
“One of the few benefits of the lockdown has been the improvement in air quality. If we want to retain that benefit to our previously heavily polluted area, we need to avoid a return to normality and a surge in car use”.
Acknowledging that COVID-19 has created a real change in our behaviour, their statement says:
‘We can use this to encourage a longer-term shift towards travelling on foot or by bicycle but we must do so in a way that reflects the needs of all in the borough’s areas and communities’.
After months of bitter recriminations in debate with cyclists on social media, Leader of the Conservative group Hounslow Council, Cllr Joanna Biddolph said:
“The government’s announcement of £250m for urgent measures to promote walking and cycling, to support social distancing in England, is good news. This is an opportunity to move on from the controversy in Chiswick about Cycleway 9 and find a new consensus. I welcome that”.
Those versed in the acrimonious history of the debate will have picked up straight away that even calling it ‘Cycleway 9’ (rather than persisting with the old Cycle Superhighway name) represents a major conciliatory leap.
The councillors’ policy statement in full
‘We welcome the prime minister’s announcement – backed by £250m of emergency funding – of new measures to support walking and cycling in England.
‘The restrictions on the capacity of public transport that are a consequence of social distancing represent an opportunity though one we must approach with balance and caution. If we don’t find other ways of enabling people to get around there is a serious risk of significantly increased traffic congestion. As many of the journeys we all make are only for short distances, increased walking and cycling can help to reduce car use and ease pressure on public transport. Acknowledging that COVID-19 has created a real change in our behaviour, we can use this to encourage a longer-term shift towards travelling on foot or by bicycle but we must do so in a way that reflects the needs of all in the borough’s areas and communities.
‘Many residents live close to business and shopping areas and many already regularly walk, cycle or use public transport. Nevertheless, there are good reasons why they make certain journeys by car, including because of age or disability or because they are shopping for large or heavy items.
‘Cycling policy has often been controversial in the borough because of TfL’s focus on longer-distance commuter cycling and others’ concerns about the impact of cycleways on local character, lifestyles and economies. This is an opportunity to move on from the controversy in Chiswick about Cycleway 9 and find a new consensus.
‘Our new policy is based on clear principles, locally applied. These include:
- cycle lanes should go with the traffic flow wherever possible;
- cyclists and pedestrians should be kept separate, with road space used to create cycle lanes and pavements reserved for pedestrians, not least to maintain social distancing;
- cycle lanes must not come to a sudden end or disappear at junctions;
- local councils must fill potholes within two working days of them being reported on all roads where cycle lanes are installed; if potholes occur in cycle lanes they must be filled within one working day after they are reported to ensure they remain usable and safe;
- cycle lanes should be clearly marked in ways that ensure the safety of riders and reduce conflict with vehicles and people;
- civil enforcement officers should be empowered to apply the law to the minority of cyclists who flout the rules, freeing police officers to deal with more serious issues including traffic offences;
- changes made because of the pandemic should be temporary and only made permanent once the current crisis has passed and following proper consultation with residents, road users, traders and businesses as well as cyclists.
‘Consistent with our belief that the government’s initiative needs to be applied locally, according to the needs of each area and community, we will be contributing to Hounslow Council’s consultation on these measures. We are particularly concerned that this consultation process and its outcome respect all the differing needs of the different areas and communities in the borough.
‘Hounslow Council should adopt the following principles in its approach to traffic calming, bike lanes and other measures designed to promote walking and cycling:
- all changes must be consistent with the council’s liveable neighbourhoods strategy and its climate change emergency action plan;
- all types of cycling should be encouraged, including local and family cycling throughout the borough with an emphasis on making roads safer for all users;
- cycle measures must include north-south roads whilst recognising that some are essential routes for buses, commercial and domestic deliveries, and local car journeys;
- there must be full, open and unbiased consultation in our local communities;
- the needs of local businesses should be at the heart of the council’s policies; the pandemic has benefited large, national online traders often at the expense of local shops; this is inconsistent with tackling climate change and promotes congestion;
- there must be vehicle access to all shops for collections and deliveries, including retaining popular stop and shop parking schemes that are a lifeline to many people and vital to traders in all our town centres (Brentford, Chiswick, Feltham and Hounslow);
- steps need to be taken to protect traders and businesses during construction works, including bike lane work; this will be essential if the Cycleway 9 works go ahead;
- we would like the Santander bike scheme to be extended beyond zone 3 but, if that is not possible, Hounslow Council should look at establishing its own docked bike hire scheme, with private sector support such as with Brompton, to replace dockless bike schemes;
- there should be more secure bike parking and storage all around the borough, at railway and tube stations and in residential areas;
- we should encourage more bike clinics and maintenance courses throughout the borough;
- there must be more opportunities for adults and children to learn to cycle safely throughout the borough in conjunction with local schools and community groups, including by adding cycling proficiency training to the curriculum;
- the council must run education and awareness raising courses, and widely distribute guidance, about the rules of the road and safe cycling.
‘The government’s announcement of extra funding for walking and cycling schemes is an exciting opportunity to build a worthwhile legacy from the tragedy of the pandemic. The principles we have set out for government and for our own borough would promote greater walking and cycling and in doing so raise the quality of people’s lives in Hounslow and elsewhere. We hope they will be adopted in full.
 A third of car trips in London are for less than 2 km; see Transport for London Roads Task Force: