Croydon’s Contraflow Conundrum

Croydon’s Traffic Management Cabinet Committee meets 4-5 times a year and is responsible for approving or rejecting proposed changes to Croydon’s transport infrastructure. That makes these meetings very significant for cyclists. What you may not know, is that you can attend these meetings as an observer, or maybe even speak for or against one of the measures on the agenda. The agenda and minutes for these meetings are also available online. If you want to know how projects are approved/rejected, it is worth attending one of these meetings to get a feel for the local politics. on Monday 24th September, I headed over to the town hall to observe this meeting for the first time.

There were 17 items on the agenda. This was the breakdown

– 8 items relating to car parking (not quite as bad as the previous cabinet meeting, where 7 of 8 items related to car parking)
– 3 items relating to new one-way systems
– 2 items relating to new pedestrian crossings
– 1 item relating to cycling (an improvement to last meetings zero)
– 1 item relating to a sprucing up of the area between east croydon station and the Whitgift centre
– 2 misc

So we have something of a parking obsession at these meetings. As part of the discussion I recall hearing councillor Margaret Mead say “Generally, I am opposed to any measures which remove car parking spaces”. The meeting is dominated by residents trying to get extra car parking spaces or trying to restrict other people using their car parking spaces. In my last blog post I suggested that council officers were not putting forward measures that involved removing car parking spaces because they would get shot down by the councillors. This was opposed by one reader who suggested it was more likely the council officers simply not prepared to put the motions forward, but I hope this at least provides some evidence to the contrary.

The improvements to the area between the whitgift centre and East Croydon are quite interesting, being part of the East Croydon masterplan. There’s a lot of money in this project, and this section of it aims to complete the link from the unfinished pedestrian bridge at the north-end of East Croydon station to Lansdowne road. Curious though, that there are no cycling groups listed as external bodies who have been consulted on the plan. Also interesting, if the biking borough funding from 2010 is going into a cycling hub at East Croydon, why is there so little mention of this in the report? (I’ll ask some questions…)

One of the new one-way systems is going in at Coulsdon South railway station but cyclists will be glad to know that they will be exempt from the restrictions. However, suggesting that cyclists have exemptions from one-way systems turned out to be a controversial decision for this committee. Three or four councillors raised spurious concerns for safety of allowing cyclists exceptions to one-way systems, with one in particular vociferous in his objections, worried about “cyclists hurtling in the opposite direction to one-way traffic!”. It was highlighted to him that this had worked in other boroughs such as Hackney and had an excellent safety record as well as helping increase cyclist numbers, but “Just because it works in these boroughs doesn’t mean it will work for us, we have to ask ourselves what’s right for Croydon”.

This attitude is very worrying. This is not a case of councillors simply being uninformed about how one-way exemptions help cyclists as there were others on-hand to point out to them that these measures work in other boroughs. Despite the understanding being there that these measures are safe and promote cycling, the councillors still refused to let the measures pass unhindered. This betrays the anti-cycling sentiment that is present in the council. The language also demonstrates that at least one councillor actively discriminates against cyclists. Usage of the word ‘hurtling’ suggests that somehow cyclists are prone to travel at unsafe speeds relative to the conditions on the roads, a dreadful attitude to hold in a borough which has a chronic problem with motorists breaking the speed limits and where a cyclist was killed just a couple of months ago. I’m trying to identify the name of the councillor responsible for this attitude and will share it as soon as I have it.

The outcome of this was that the proposal to allow two roads to go one-way was passed, while the decision on cycling contraflows was ‘deferred’ in order to consult with the cycle forum. Perhaps these aren’t key routes for cyclists, but there is a knock-on effect. One of the measures included in the agenda item for cyclists was to make part of the one-way system on Woodside Green (a tiny bit of road) one-way in order to complete a quiet alternative route for cyclists going from around the South Norwood station area to Ashburton Park and beyond. This measure has now also been held up. The cycle forum is not due to meet again until November. I’m not sure if they have the power to pass the measures there or if this needs to go back to the cabinet committee again once the recommendations of the cycle forum have been gathered. Who knows how long it could be until these measures finally pass, until then cyclists will have to continue to suffer inconveniences of one-way systems without exceptions.

Finally, the other two measures for cyclists are to allow cycling on a pedestrian path along the south-west side of Ashburton park, and to allow pavement cycling on the east side. This is clearly part of measures to complete the previously mentioned route connecting this area to South Norwood Station. This route remains incomplete without the one-way exception. The biggest problem though? This is all just a drop-in-the-ocean. There are so many barriers to cycling safely and pleasantly in Croydon and yet the council is holding back even the most simple, uncontroversial changes needed. I can’t see how Croydon will ever meet its target to increase cycling by 400% by 2026 at this rate. By then though these councillors will all have moved on, so what do they care about this target?