Transport for London has today confirmed plans for a new segregated cycle lane around Hammersmith gyratory, London’s second busiest transport interchange. On the face of it this should be good news – I always want to welcome measures to improve safety for road users and encourage residents to be more active. However the devil, as ever, is in the detail and it is very clear from TfL’s own analysis that the marginal benefits for cyclists are heavily outweighed by the negative impact for local residents.
The principle benefit to cyclists will be an average reduction in west-to-east journey times of 30 seconds. Ironically the new cycle lane will increase pedestrian journey times to the Broadway by 90 seconds, which appears to disincentivise walking when we should be encouraging it.
However, the biggest downside to the scheme is the resulting increase in congestion on the roads. TfL’s own consultation on the new cycle lane states very clearly that “the most notable increases in journey times will be for traffic approaching Hammersmith gyratory from Fulham Palace Road in the morning and evening peaks”.
There is a tendency in these instances for people to shrug their shoulders and argue that it only affects car drivers and they should find an alternative form of transport. Yet this doesn’t take into account the large number of people who need their vehicle for work and other reasons or the thousands of commuters who take a bus up the Fulham Palace Road every day. As someone who has relied on those buses to get to work for over ten years I can assure you that additional congestion will lead to much longer journey times.
But the biggest victims will not be commuters like me – it will be the people who live nearby. Anyone who lives and works in the area knows all too well that the slightest problem on or around the gyratory causes havoc on our local roads. The knock-on effect from congestion at Hammersmith brings gridlock to neighbouring streets and makes our residential roads more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists as frustrated drivers look for an alternative route.
These plans will be met with horror by many residents in Fulham Reach and Barons Court, whose streets quickly become gridlocked as traffic diverts away from the gyratory when there is congestion. There will also rightly be concerns that emergency vehicles will find it harder to get to and from Charing Cross Hospital because those surrounding streets are usually the worst affected.
Furthermore, the Council has launched a commission into air quality which is being very ably chaired by local resident Rosemary Pettit. I hope the commission shares my worry that this increase in congestion will make the local air quality even worse and the Council should be looking to get traffic moving, not leaving it at a standstill.
When you take all of this into account, it is somewhat surprising that Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council are so supportive of the scheme. According to TfL, the Council’s very positive response to the consultation makes no mention of these concerns despite Cllr Steve Hamilton and myself making these points very strongly at the Committee meeting when it was discussed.
It seems to me that the Council cares more about shaving 30 seconds off cyclists’ journeys than the quality of life of those who live in the area around the gyratory. By all means, let’s work together to encourage cycling and make the gyratory safer but TfL should be asked to come back with an alternative that doesn’t negatively impact local residents.