Cycling in Hammersmith and Fulham

hfcyclistsRoll up, roll up.

The Community Safety, Environment and Residents Services Policy and Accountability Committee is meeting tonight at 7pm at the White City Community Centre. The main agenda includes a report on cycling in the borough.

In Hammersmith and Fulham we have one of the highest cycling rates in London – four per cent of all journeys are by bike compared to two per cent for the capital generally.

A recent success story has been the arrival of Boris Bikes. The report says:

“The Mayor of London introduced his cycle hire scheme to central London in July 2010. It was expanded, mainly eastwards to Tower Hamlets, with some stations around the Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherd’s Bush. In December 2013 the scheme was further expanded to cover more of Kensington and Chelsea, the northern part of Wandsworth, the whole of Fulham, and the eastern parts of Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush. There are now some 60 docking stations in the borough, and the scheme is proving popular.

In January this year, the first full month of operation, there were some 27,000 docks and hires in the LBHF, and by May this had risen to 78,000. It is too early to say what effect the cycle hire scheme is having on the modal share of cycling in the borough but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is contributing to an increase. Before the scheme was introduced, there were widespread concerns about the safety of the scheme, but in fact the number of collisions resulting in serious injuries has been very low.”

There have also been improvements for those riding their own bikes. The on-street cycle parking has increased. The council “installed an additional 171 stands in 2013-14, bringing the total to around 2,500.”  This year we will be installing residents’ cycle parking in housing estates, which is funded by Transport for London.

Injuries remain a concern in the borough.  The number of cyclists injured fell from 186 in 2012 to 166 in 2013 , while the number of seriously injured cyclists declined from 31 to 18 between 2012 and 2013.  However the  previous trend had been an increase. We need to do better. Lorries are still a big problem.

The meeting this evening will also consider a supplementary paper on cycling from the hfcyclists group.

They are the most effective pressure group in the borough. The reason is they get stuck into specifics rather than just worthy generalities – motherhood and apple pie.

So, for example, during the local elections they asked candidates for particular wards about particular issues in their wards. As a Ravenscourt Park Ward councillor I was asked (by several residents prompted by hfcyclists) about Ashcurch Park Villas being a “rat run”.

I got this reply from our transport supremo Chris Bainbridge:

“We plan to undertake a comprehensive review of the traffic management arrangements in the area around Ashchurch Park Villas next year, as part of our Transport Local Implementation Plan (LIP) Neighbourhood Programme, and we will look at issues such as rat running in Ashchurch Park Villas and other local roads to see how we can improve the situation.”

I was interested to see from their extrapolation of the 2011 census that in my ward eight per cent of the journeys to work are by bike.  That is pretty high. Palace Riverside has nine per cent, which is the top. College Park and Old Oak, 4.5 per cent which is the bottom in the borough – still high by London standards.

Their paper rightly stresses the importance of preventing potholes and more cycle lanes.

This is not to say that hfcyclists are always right. There will be a natural tendency for them to represent the Lycra militants more than the casual cyclists. Those who don’t even own their own bike – but just hire one from time to time – are not likely to be on their committee. Hence the rather grudging welcome they gave to the bike hire scheme. If they think too much of it is disproportionately operating in Fulham why not campaign for more docking stations in Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush – with more Section 106 money to help get it set up?

Also I was surprised hfcyclists didn’t mention the proposed Hammersmith Flyunder – which would surely be fantastic news for cyclists.

They are keen on more 20 mph zones. But would these have humps? That would be bad news for cyclists – as they accept.

Do 20 mph zones reduce accidents generally of for cyclists – I have seen evidence that they do not always. There is also the concern that if you apply a 20 mph limit on main roads that gives an incentive to using side roads as rat runs.

Then there is the question of enforcement. Hfcyclists demand that the police should provide this. but even if the police did nothing else it would be an unrealistic task. Even before the demand for more roads to come within this designation. That does nothing for the respect for the rule of law. It would probably make sense to scale down the number of roads with a 20 mph limit – such as those with schools. But then for some serious effort to be made for the law to be enforced.

There needs to be rigorous, evidence based approach, over what would really be effective and proportional in terms of safety.

Anyway good for Cllr Larry Culhane, the committee’s chairman, holding the meeting away from the town hall and encouraging non-bureaucrats to submit their views.

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