To Go Cycle or not Go Cycle !

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At last some public action on Kingston Council’s “Go Cycle” or Mini Holland programme ! On Thursday 4 February our representatives attended a “key stakeholder” consultation. Draft plans for around half the projects were on show. Some at an advanced stage, others very much an outline.

First the good news; Portsmouth Rd construction works are underway (photos above and below). The southern section is scheduled for completion, although not necessarily opening, this summer. The plans for the northern section look good; continuing the fully protected bi directional cycle tracks on the river side. There are some attractive public realm proposals for access to Queens Promenade for pedestrians. As so often cycling funds are being diverted for other purposes but if it enables the scheme to proceed so be it!

There is a potentially excellent proposal for a fully segregated cycle route from Kingston station to College roundabout. This comprises bi directional cycle tracks on the east side of Wheatfield Way providing a really safe route for families and children to navigate the intimidating race track which is the Kingston one way system.

The Borough’s bid contained a route Kingston – Surbiton – Tolworth. We saw some interesting plans for this. Mostly comprising semi segregation by means of orcas, but with some fully segregated sections and a quiet way treatment on Avenue Elmers, this route could be one of the longest examples of protected space in London. Many details remain to be resolved, however; bus lanes and stops, how to protect riders at junctions and a link to the Tolworth Greenway.

At the moment there appear to be two proposals for the Fountain roundabout in New Malden. First a cross roads and second a smaller roundabout, both with specific provision for people on bikes. Unfortunately no plans for the route to that roundabout along Cambridge and Kingston Roads nor for the Kingston Hill route were available.

We spoke to Engineers from RBK’s Consultants; WSP for the New Malden and Coombe schemes, Atkins for the others. We were able to make our suggestions on the schemes. Officers and Consultants told us the engagement had gone well with a larger than expected turnout and enthusiasm for the schemes among the public. There was some concern expressed about the Boardway, which was not part of this engagement. The New Malden to Raynes Park route is also being engaged upon separately through local meetings.

Now the bad news; it is now almost 2 years since Kingston Council won over £30m of funding from Transport for London (TfL) for its Mini Holland (MH) schemes. We supported the original bid and see these funds as a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to provide safe cycling routes in our Borough and to make improvements benefitting all. We appreciate such new developments take time but progress so far has been painfully and disappointingly slow.

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Two other Boroughs won similar amounts from TfL; Waltham Forest are nearing completion of their schemes, Enfield have had a series of successful consultations. By contrast Kingston have consulted on, and started, only one scheme (Portsmouth Road)! We have asked the Council for explanations for the delays and, frankly, get no satisfactory response. It is apparent the Spring and Summer months of this year will be crucial. RBK say they cannot consult on any schemes, as none is ready, before the Mayoral election purdah period (March to May 2016). In the next 15 months they will need to consult on and then let construction contracts for all the above schemes. The design stage needs to be completed in the next 3 months.

RBK have informed us the Mini Holland budget is guaranteed until 2017. That is a relief but it is still subject to the Comprehensive Spending Review and change of Mayor so nothing can be taken for granted. We understand RBK want to engage with the public and check there is support for schemes but the evidence is that there is such support. There are some great proposals but, unless executed it is all a bit pointless. Kingston now need to have “cojones” to borrow Mayor Johnson’s expression and get on with it !

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