Friday, July 11, 2014

The worst thing about cycling in London is....?

Over the last week or so there have been a couple of articles published by the Guardian on "the worst thing about cycling..." The first claims that the worst thing is other cyclists - they're inconsiderate, jump red lights and generally give other cyclists a bad name. The second is a response to that piece pointing out that's nonsense and over-simplistic.

Obviously, as I've now been commuting by bike into central London for just over a year, I feel that I am completely qualified to give my own opinion on the absolute worst thing about cycling in London (or anywhere else for that matter).

I started a year ago on my trusty pink hybrid:

Then this year, for various reasons I've ended up with a road bike:

Anyway, I digress. Another reason I've been thinking about what the worst thing about cycling in London is because TfL earlier this week published plans for cycle superhighway 5 from Pimlico to Oval. It's been eagerly awaited and some bits of it are good but I think it falls down because it doesn't address the worst thing about cycling in London.

So what is it? Well, I think the worst thing about cycling in London is conflict. It's really as simple as that. The best bits of my 45-minute long journey into work can be in parks, on separate cycle paths or on the road and the reason they are the best bits is that they don't require me to come into conflict with other road or pavement users. The worst bits of the journey are those where, by poor design of the cycle infrastructure (or even perhaps the complete lack of infrastructure), I come into conflict with pedestrians on shared space, or with cars at badly designed junctions or on narrow roads with lots of parked cars.

The reason I was disappointed by the CS5 designs is because they don't address this. For example:

Lovely segregated track, ends with having to share the crossing with pedestrians. Instant conflict.

And what about conflict with cars? Well, here are a couple of junctions on CS8 where riders are forced to share space with cars:

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think that's what's going to encourage people of all ages and abilities to get on their bikes. Interestingly that green track on the left of the second picture is NCN4, the cycle path there is off the road, when CS8, along the same route here, puts bikes on to the road. Sadly the NCN4 path just ends at the junction, and on the other side there's no segregation at all. Hopeless.

Still, we can always cycle in parks, right?


So there you have it. That's what I think is the worst thing about cycling in London. Conflict. Apart from that, it's great.

Monday, July 07, 2014

What's happening with Mountsfield Park now?

You may have heard on the grapevine that the proposed new cafe in Mountsfield Park got planning permission last week. This is good news, especially as there had been a few objections based on the materials proposed for the building.

However, what you may not know is that since then it has come to light that the cafe can't now be afforded within the budget the council has for the park. This is because of the rise in contractors costs since the original plans were developed, as I understand it. The overall budget is £525,000, although some of that will already have been spent on tree clearance, surveys, design and procurement fees. Lewisham Council says there’s not enough money to pay for all of the agreed improvements, which includes the improved play area, 90 sq/m cafe building and new community garden. You'll know that over 80% of respondents to a survey on improvements to the park rated a cafe as their number one priority and so this is really disappointing for a lot of park users.

The Council have invited the Friends of Mountsfield Park to meet with them to discuss the situation at an open meeting to be held at the Civic Suite in the Town Hall on Wednesday 9 July at 6.30pm. Unfortunately I can't attend, but I know that the Friends will keep their website updated with the outcome of the meeting. Do get along if you can. The Friends also have a stall at People's Day on 12 July in the park itself, so you can pop along then to find out more.

Update 9 July, 9:30am Link to the agenda:

Update 10 July, 11:30am confirmation that the cafe will be dropped from phase 1 and the project is 50% over budget. Community Garden and playground refurb will be in phase 1.