Chiswick Conservative Councillors have given a cautious welcome to the recent announcement by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham (LBH&F), endorsed by London’s Walking & Cycling Commissioner Will Norman, that “Cycle Superhighway 9 is no more in Hammersmith & Fulham”.
LBH&F is instead proposing to introduce a Cycle Highway along the A4 and a Safer Cycle Pathway along King Street and Hammersmith Road so that cyclists of all abilities – from complete beginners to daily commuters – can ride safely. LBH&F has said it intends to consult local residents’ groups, disability organisations and schools.
“LBH&F’s new proposal is potentially remarkably similar to our long-called for recommendation for Chiswick,” Cllr Joanna Biddolph, leader of the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council said. We have said, from the start, that CS9 should be re-routed on the A4. We welcome the recognition that it is a viable route for faster cycling. Chronic underinvestment means it is currently under-used. Repairs and innovative updating, such as raised crossings, would change that.
“Our proposal was dismissed out-of-hand by TfL, the pro-CS9 lobby and Hounslow council. We ask them to engage more constructively with us on this option. If it is workable in LBH&F, it is workable in Hounslow,” she said.
“If LBH&F's cycling scheme for more confident cycling, along the A4 from Hammersmith Gyratory to Chiswick, were to continue through Chiswick to Brentford, that could be a remarkable win for LBH&F and Hounslow residents.”
Cllr Joanna Biddolph has written to Cllr Steve Cowan, leader of LBH&F, calling for collaboration between LBH&F and Chiswick’s councillors. Clearly, whatever happens in LBH&F will impact on what happens in Chiswick. It is essential that both councils work together on this and, in particular, that councillors who represent Chiswick should be involved in discussions about, for example, how the Safer Cycle Pathway joins Chiswick High Road and how the Cycle Highway will work along the A4 in Chiswick. Chiswick needs a scheme that works seamlessly over boundaries.
Chiswick’s councillors are concerned, though, about the lack of clarity and detail on the Safer Cycle Pathway and Cycle Highway. They have sought clarification on several issues stressing that retailers be consulted and asking whether consultation might result in no changes or if the changes might only be about aesthetics (improving the streetscape) while retaining CS9 as proposed.
They have also written to Cllr Steve Curran, Labour leader of Hounslow Council, calling on him and his fellow Labour councillors to reflect hard on the reasons for Labour-controlled LBH&F’s decision, and to recognise the significant and broad-ranging local sentiment against such an expensive infrastructure project along Chiswick High Road.
They note that there are better ways to balance what is needed to encourage more walking and more cycling against the risks to our retail economy. Modest investment (not the huge £70m proposed for CS9) could bring significant safety gains for people on bikes and on foot. We would like to work with experts and designers to develop a bespoke scheme that would serve local residents better, radically reduce disturbance (both during and after construction) and bring sustained improvements to congestion and pollution. Multiple smaller improvements to surfaces, junction layouts, signage, segregation, and encouraging vastly more people to cycle north/south as well as along Chiswick High Road, particularly for short local journeys to the shops and to schools, etc. We would also like our cycling infrastructure to benefit more people who commute to work in Chiswick, for example extending it to Chiswick Business Park which CS9 does not reach.
They are concerned that the emerging boulevard concept, currently being promoted by the London Cycling Campaign, calls for wider pavements yet CS9 takes away much needed pavement space. Meanwhile, the House of Commons Active Travel – Trends, policy and funding report recommends prioritising walking even more in future, also a call for wider pavements and making areas more attractive and enjoyable. The parliamentary High Streets and Town Centres in 2030 report calls on local authorities to facilitate parking and to develop visionary strategies for the urban realm. They say it is clear that CS9 is already an out of date scheme.
“We welcome the recognition that King Street is not a suitable location for a 2.5m-3m wide, hard-kerbed, segregated cycle lane,” said Cllr Patrick Barr, deputy leader of the Conservative Group. “By clear inference, the same is true about Chiswick High Road where there will be a significant impact on pedestrians (pavements expropriated), retailers (loading bays moved, premises severely blighted), public transport (a bus lane lost, road blocks gained) and on residents and visitors (parking spaces removed, junctions made complicated). In contrast, the beneficiaries – commuters passing through – would be few.”
“The pro-CS9 lobby repeatedly portrays us as anti-cycling NIMBYs. We are not. Indeed, many of us are regular cyclists. To suggest that we are also callous, and uncaring about cycle-safety, is equally preposterous. Our position has always been about the detail of the design of the CS9 scheme. Segregation has its place but this would be the first time such a scheme has been built along a high street such as Chiswick High Road.”
Chiswick’s Hounslow councillors are continuing to collect local signatures for the petition to Hounslow’s cabinet asking them not to approve TfL’s current CS9/CW9 proposal. The support the petition has already received shows the significant weight of local opposition to the current scheme, as TfL’s survey showed revealing that 63% of respondents in W4 were against the scheme. Councillors believe there would be considerably less opposition to a scheme that puts a Cycle Highway for commuter cycling on the A4 and a Safer Cycle Pathway along Chiswick High Road and along roads to/from it.
You can sign the petition online at: http://petitions.hounslow.gov.uk/Stop-cs9/
Hounslow’s cabinet meets on 3rd September when it will decide whether to approve or reject CS9. Councillors are urging the cabinet to reject it.