Cllr Charlie Dewhirst: Labour backs plan to increase congestion on Fulham Palace Road

charliedewCllr Charlie Dewhirst represents the Ravenscourt Park Ward.

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.

tflplanHowever, 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.

15 thoughts on “Cllr Charlie Dewhirst: Labour backs plan to increase congestion on Fulham Palace Road

  1. You seem to view cyclists as some sort of separate species rather than considering that people on bikes and local residents are usually one and the same.

    The consultation was fully or partially supported by 79% of respondents and a large number of respondents live in the area immediately around the gyratory (see the map in the consultation summary)

    You are perpetuating the myth that the answer to pollution is to “keep traffic moving”. Making it easier to drive just means that more people drive so everything ends up congested again, just with more people stuck in traffic. The only way to reduce pollution is to have fewer polluting vehicles.

    It is interesting that the recently constructed cycle facilities in central London has actually *increased* the road capacity in terms of people per hour. Unfortunately many politicians don’t think in terms of people but metal boxes.

    Presenting this as a “council and cyclists vs local residents” is just cynical political opportunism.

    • You fail to realise that there are other means of reducing pollution. Modern stop-start technology inside cars reduces fuel consumption. The overall trend over the last 20 years or so is to make vehicles leaner and cleaner, as also borne by the number of electric and hybrid vehicles. This in spite of Gordon Brown’s tax greed towards petrol vehicles inflating a shift towards diesel and more pollution.

      You might also cast your critical eye over the abundant hype surrounding air pollution. A parliamentary paper admits that the science is far from proven. Scientists rely on estimate after estimate, and the figure for ‘deaths’ has been repeatedly hyped upwards for political reasons.
      Pollution in London can blow in from outside the M25 and can often include industrial pollutants blowing in from the continent.

      But, hey, let’s not miss the opportunity to bash motorists because they’re more likely to be materially successful people. The new class warfare is based on sweaty lycra, persecution complexes and contempt for bourgeois concepts like good manners towards pedestrians and motorists. In the words of the former Blair government aide, Kris Beuret, ‘the car is the last bastion of freedom and must be pulled down’.

      • Without getting into the pollution debate here (since anyway the Broadway proposal is meant to have minimal impact in this regard), I do have to ask, Jacq, if you’ve read the proposal and its attached data forecasts, rather than the uninformative blog. The forecasts could be wrong, but the overall scheme bent over backwards to minimise impact on motorists, and the forecasts indicate, essentially, no net negative impact on motorists.

  2. Writing as a cyclist, pedestrian and car driver, this seems like an expensive investment for marginal benefits and some disbenefits. It would be much better trying to reduce congestion on Fulham Palace Road.

    I regularly use my car for business and road congestion in London is often terrible – it has a real impact on the economy. It’s no good adopting a backward-looking, Luddite view that speaks about ‘metal boxes’, fixates about pollution to the exclusion of other factors and essentially blames car drivers for bringing their own woes about.

    Bikes are great, but so are driverless clean electric vehicles that can be summoned to your front door within minutes. We will have these in London within 5-10yrs and I can’t wait. Let’s be optimistic and not blindly anti-car.

  3. The thing is, car drivers * are * largely responsible for their own woes. The next time you are walking past stationary traffic, try counting the number of cars with only one person in them. I will bet it will be over half of them. The average car occupancy of London is about 1.2 so a huge amount of road space is being used for the benefit of a comparitively tiny number of people. Take a look at this traffic simulation:

    Trying to significantly reduce congestion in London is a fools errand. There will always be more demand for space than space available so for every driver who opts to take another mode of transport, there will always be another one only too grateful to take their place on the road.

    Cycle lanes provide a genuine choice for people who don’t want to drive or who don’t have cars (over 50% of households in H&F don’t own a car) You haven’t mentioned the safety benefits of the lanes. Only the brave or foolhardy would want to cycle around Hammersmith gyratory at the moment. It is genuinely scary and there is little you can do on a bike to protect yourself from being sideswiped by a driver who finds themselves in the wrong lane and changes lane without looking properly.

    Where is the evidence that congestion is having an impact on the London economy? The London economy has grown over the last 10 years despite there being a reduction in vehicle traffic. This is mirrored in a number of other European cities so there really isn’t a causal link between the economy and the speed of motor traffic in a city. The average speed of traffic in central London has hardly changed since the days of horse drawn carriages.

    Thinking that driverless cars will be the answer to congestion is cloud cuckoo land. Driverless cars have the same form factor as conventional cars so the average occupancy may be even less than it is at the moment. That means even more road space being taken up by even fewer people.

    Technology may provide some mitigation in the form of smarter road pricing. Think of it as the equivalent of an Oystercard for a motor vehicle so every journey has the potential to be charged based upon the time, origin, destination and type of vehicle. Too many road users aren’t paying the true price of their use of the road.

    I recommend the book Urban Transport without the hot air by Steve Melia for some good insights.

  4. I’m sorry Charlie. I’m a strong supporter of you normally, but you’re the wrong side of the debate here (the hint is the strong public support). You also lose credibility, and make yourself sound like precisely the people you would normally correctly criticise, by quoting selectively from the statistics. I also think you’ve not read a key part of the responses to the consultation relevant to one of the two stats you name.
    Oriordan puts the arguments well. It’s not about the alleged 30s saving for people on bikes. It’s about the large number of people on bikes who will be able to cross the junction safely, some of whom will no longer drive.
    In fact, the plans are already very much a compromise in favour of motor traffic, as illustrated by these published remarks from a different viewpoint – “Traffic capacity has been put at a higher priority than boosting cycling numbers or improving pedestrian access. TfL have clearly excluded options that impact motor traffic capacity to any significant degree. This has inevitably resulted in a series of compromises that have negatively affected the scheme for cycling.” Hopefully this might provide some comfort to Richard Owen.
    In the long public consultation, there were opportunities to make suggestions to improve the plans. It may not be too late to make further suggestions, particularly from your position. The reason for the 60-90s delay for pedestrians you mentioned was the plan to remove a key hammersmith road pedestrian crossing (from SBR). A group with which I’m associated made a strong representation as to how this pedestrian crossing could be retained, and we were not alone. As a result, the planners are attempting to find a way to include it. Without this change there should be no material change for pedestrians, except a marginally more pleasant environment.
    Motor traffic times in a number of directions are actually modelled to fall, with northbound being the clear exception. Based on the data table (, the net impact on traffic is only very slightly negative (5 improvements vs 5 deteriorations).
    I appreciate you are always looking for opportunities to score political points. Here you’ve picked the wrong target. You could, by contrast, have a go at the council for their poor oversight of the way developers are blocking pavements and cycle paths without fulfilling their contractual obligations. Or for dragging their feet on many aspects of the cycling strategy for the borough.
    You could also have made (ideally a few months ago), constructive suggestions to improve the plans. I’ve looked under ‘Planning’ on this site but can’t find any prior views from you.
    I would also value help in understanding better the legacy issues from the Conservative Council which are constantly under attack in the press etc. as I’m keen to help set the record straight.

  5. I welcome cycle lanes. They provide safe areas for pedestrians as cyclists don’t use them. Cyclists are now prolific on pavements.

  6. Many people I know who don’t cycle say they are frightened of the traffic on the roads. In order to encourage more puerile to cycle we need protected cycle lanes that the cars can’t enter, instead of the white broken lines painted on the roads that driverspark over and swerve into.
    More cycling will help keep people healthy, reduce air pollution and make London quieter and pleasanter.
    European cities that have removed cars from their centres are now full of people – shoppers, tourists and locals.

  7. You state that the principal (not principle!) benefit is a travel time reduction of 30 seconds. Frankly, that is beside the point. As somebody who has had to cycle around the broadway over many years, I am far less worried about time than safety. The principal benefit would be a safer way of travelling around this busy junction. Furthermore, the safer cycling in Hammersmith becomes, the more emboldened local residents will be to abandon their cars and taking to two wheels.

    • Car ownership by residents of the town centre is incredibly low already and I worry that this means a rational and balanced analysis is not being made of these kinds of scheme. To the typical Hammersmith denizen cars, vans and lorries are bad things and the fewer of them the better, regardless of wider economic and logistic implications. Of course the scheme has received strong local support but that does not mean it is good or offers the right trade-offs.

      I have cycled around the gyratory regularly for six years now. Cars are moving relatively slowly and drivers are alert. Drivers are much more likely to do something silly or aggressive or run you over while checking texts on Askew Road.

  8. Charlie,

    You argue that the main benefit for this scheme is that it will reduce cycling journey times by 30 seconds. I think for most cycle campaigners that would be somewhere towards the bottom of the list. What we are interested in is unlocking the large numbers of people who currently don’t cycle because they think it’s too dangerous.

    I don’t think we need to discuss the benefits of a big increase in the number of people cycling as this is well understood. Where cyclists are most likely to be killed or have serious injuries are at major gyratories such as at Hammersmith and so it follows that if we are to make our roads attractive to new people to cycle we need to redesign them. Cycling is a far more efficient use of road space than cars, so the idea that providing the conditions which shifts people to using bicycles is wrong.

    I don’t envy your position as a councillor as I understand the demographic you represent as a Conservative councillor are often opposed to these changes. Under these circumstances we need strong political leaders who are open to looking at the facts and challenging people’s perceptions even if it means potentially upsetting your base constituency. The implications of such measures are far reaching and will have enormous significance to the lives of future generations. I invite you to reevaluate your position as in my opinion you are missing the big picture.

  9. Labour are just continuing the work that their previous gang started in 2002/2006. Hammersmith Broadway is a stressed transport artery for traffic leaving central London, but what did they do? Widen the pavement so that smokers and gangs of youths can congregate. The £3million Street Smart project took away a vital road lane.

    Improving cycling is just the holy-holy cover for what Labour is doing with the current proposal, just as we were given glossy imagery rather than hard facts to justify the ridiculous imposition of 20mph almost everywhere.

    It’s all part of a subtle war on the motorist and clobbering the majority. Have you noticed the continuing removal of parking spaces for the Santander bikes, as cycling is aggressively pushed? Or the zeal for closing streets to vehicles at the least excuse? Play streets to irresponsibly encourage children to play in the road? The tacky traffic-free ‘festivals’ in North End Road?

    Cowan might think we’re too stupid to notice but we know exactly what he’s up to.

    • Although I appreciate you are using the comments section here to make a number of general points, I must repeat my earlier question. Have you actually studied the proposals for the gyratory? Please see my longer comment above for a summary of some key areas which were misrepresented in Charlie’s write up.
      Had you done so I’m confident you would realise that this is not some anti-car driver proposal (whatever may have gone before).
      What I really want to hear my conservative councillors and potential MPs talk about is solutions in these transport-related areas – gridlock, unnecessary construction lorries, unnecessary roadworks, pedestrian and cycle deaths, pollution impacts (which are large even if the precise numbers may be “hyped”), obesity, immense loss of productive time, managing the impact of growing populations etc.

  10. Hi, the Hammersmith Gyratory “closure” scheme has been in the running for a couple of years … it’s all TFL personnel , not Boris nor Sadiq.

    The prob is that TfL does not bother to do site visits , TfL management just orders some poor internal guy running the traffic Modelling and the Modelling does not take into account the width of the road, the number of lanes, etc etc.

    The prob is compounded by LBHF Dept that would rather please TfL and make life miserable for the local residents.

    Do stand up for your constituents.

  11. Pingback: TfL urged to be admit the full extent of traffic delays that CS9 would cause – Hammersmith and Fulham Forum

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