Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Wednesday 8th October 10am

Meeting to Discuss Redford Avenue Cycle Scheme

I had been called in as chair of the Beddington & Wallington Local Committee to mediate in a stalemate between council officers needing to go to consultation on a proposed cycle lane and the Beddington South Ward Councillors who were refusing to allow the scheme to go ahead. 

 

Back in May the Beddington and Wallington Local Committee had approved a number of transport schemes for which Transport for London (TfL) had agreed funding, including this one for Redford Avenue, subject to ward councillors’ agreement of the final design and formal consultation. However the Conservative ward councillors were objecting to the scheme on the basis of cost and refusing to allow it to go to consultation.

 

To address the councillors’ concerns officers explained that the scheme, in order to be granted approval & funding by TfL, had to meet the high standards required by TfL guidance. There were also additional factors which increased the cost of the scheme relating to the existing build-outs at the entrance to the road which meant that for safety purposes the cycle lane had to cut through the build-outs, meaning additional work. However in terms of cost the scheme was still comparable to other schemes of its like in London.

 

I suggested that to address the concerns about cost we could look at ways to amend the scheme to see if we could bring the costs down to a level they would be more comfortable with. Officers made some suggestions but the ward councillors refused to budge.

 

It turns out that the Conservative ward councillors had already sought to have a value for money audit of the scheme, something which strikes me as contradictory when applied to a scheme as small as this – the costs of the audit will only add to the overall spend and outweigh any potential savings.

 

One of the councillors’ concerns was more about the safety of the scheme, as it allowed cyclists to ride contra to the traffic flow in this one way street. I felt that this was a valid concern. Officers were able to advise that putting cycle lanes in one way streets in this way was an initiative suggested by Transport for London and had received approval from cycling organisations. The fears over safety had been noted, but in schemes across London that had already been implemented no problems had occurred.

Also at the meeting was a representative from a local cycling association and he expressed the association’s support for the proposed cycle route. 

 

dft_roads_504719-21

The main concern of the officers was that to reject the funding from Transport for London could have serious consequences. We would be seen as an authority opposed to cycling improvements and we could have difficulty obtaining future funding from TfL. One of the Tory councillors suggested that the schemes should be worked up in more detail before a bid for funding was submitted so that the Local Committee could be more informed about its decision, however officers pointed out that as only half of submitted bids received funding, it would be a waste of officer’s time preparing anything other than outline schemes. Because of the serious implications of rejecting the funding from TfL, and because the remit for ward councillors was only to agree the design, it was pointed out that the matter would need to come back to the Local Committee for decision if agreement could not be reached.

 

As it transpired that the concerns expressed by the councillors were theirs alone and they had not consulted with residents I suggested that we let it go to formal consultation so that residents could inform the decision. The ward councillors said that they might consider this if the cost of the scheme was included in the consultation document, to which I had no objection.

 

I suggested that the ward councillors go away to discuss their options and make a decision and the meeting ended there.

 

I was later informed by the Conservative councillors that they wanted the validity of the committee’s decision to be considered by the legal department before making a decision and that is still the current state of play.

 To find out more about cycle lanes in one way streets visit:  www.ralphsmyth.me.uk/citycyclists/oneway.html or http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/tpm/tal/cyclefacilities/contraflowcycling

 

 

 

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November 12, 2008 - Posted by | Meeting

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