Cycling in Richmond – Perspectives of a new and fairly timid cyclist

We were contacted by a local borough resident about the upcoming Cycling Liaison Group meeting, where she hoped to share her perspectives as a new and less confident cyclist. We think it makes a great read, so we’ve published her note in full here.

Safe Cycling in Richmond

Given the forecasts for further growth in the population of Greater London and the increase in congestion that is likely to result, there is a need for Councils to encourage greater use of sustainable methods of transport, including cycling and walking.  The DfT has estimated that 2/3 of all journeys are less than 5 miles.  There would be huge benefits if more of these could be made on foot or by bike.

For this to happen in Richmond to a significant extent, hard to reach groups such as older women need to be persuaded to take up cycling, and it needs to be safer and more attractive for children to travel to school by bike.

As a 50+ year old woman who has only resumed cycling in the last couple of years, I feel I have an insight into what needs to be done to encourage people like me to cycle.  Most of these relate to the provision of more safe cycle routes that don’t require cycling on main roads.  Whilst Richmond has some significant advantages in this area due to its legacy of tow paths and parks, I feel that since its election the current Council does not appear to have built on this with further improvements, unlike some neighbouring boroughs.

I would like to make the following general comments to the Cycling Liaison Group:

  • There is a general impression given by the Council that cyclists are seen as 3rd class citizens (with motorists a clear 1st and pedestrians 2nd).  Nobody would dream of building a road that stops in the middle of nowhere, yet this frequently happens with cycle lanes (for example those on the Kew Road) which are put in place where the road is wide and disappear as soon as the road becomes narrower and more dangerous for cyclists.  Road works closing pavements with cycle lanes often provide alternative routes for pedestrians but leave cyclists stranded.
  • If less confident cyclists are to be encouraged to get on their bikes there is a clear need to segregate cars, pedestrians and cyclists better.  Yet this seems to be getting worse not better in Richmond.  For example, following roadworks in 2011 at the junction of St Margarets Road with St Margarets Drive and Northcote Road, the markings on the pavement to indicate separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians were removed.  I complained several times to the Highways and Transport department in late 2011 and 2012 and each time was told that they would be reinstated.  This was not done.  I wrote again in April 2012 pointing out the work had not been done but received no reply and am still waiting.  This causes potential pedestrian/cyclist conflicts and is dangerous.
  • There is also a need to reduce the actual and perceived threat from motor vehicles through the use of more cycle lanes on busy roads, 20mph zones in quieter ones and better education of drivers (for example most appear not to know that they should not drive within the solid lines separating the road from those cycle lanes that are enclosed by solid, as opposed to dotted, lines).  The most successful cycle tracks are ones which have a kerb at the side separating cyclists and pedestrians and cyclists and cars, as in the Netherlands
  • Speed bumps are great for reducing traffic speed which is welcome, but please can we have the type that have a gap in the middle (or at the side) for cycles rather than those that are continuous from one pavement to another.
  • Signage on certain routes is missing at key junctions – making it easy to get lost for first timers.   There are also a number of paths where it is unclear whether cycling is permitted or not (for example across Richmond Green.

I would like to make the following specific requests to the Cycling Liaison Group:

  • The tow path between the turn off to Petersham Meadows and Ham House is part of a vital route from Richmond to Kingston, Ham and Teddington for those wishing to avoid cycling along the frankly scary Petersham Road.  Despite this it has been virtually impassable (and sometimes closed) for most of the last 3 months.  If I do not wish to arrive in Kingston with my bike and myself coated in mud, I have been forced to dismount and walk for almost a mile through the meadows and along the main road to regain an off road path at Ham Common.  I feel it is completely unacceptable that such a key cycle link is in such a state.  I raised this with the Parks department in July 2012 and was told that they would like to do something about it but don’t have funding.  If a road was in this condition motorists would be up in arms.  I think funding should be found from other areas if necessary to bring this forward.
  • Access from the Northern bank of the Thames towpath to the A316 cycle path is only possible if you carry your bike up a series of steps beside the bridge.  Whilst this may not be a problem for younger, stronger cyclists, it is a clear disincentive for older and weaker residents.  Is there any chance of a ramp along one side of the steps to enable a bike to be pushed rather than carried up the steps.