Active Travel Briefing for LB Bromley Council meeting, 7 December 2020

We write on behalf of ‘Bromley Living Streets’ and ‘Bromley Cyclists’, which are respectively local groups of the national walking charity ‘Living Streets’ and the ‘London Cycling Campaign’.

As you may have seen from Boris Johnson’s foreword in DfT’s ‘Gear Change’ document, walking and cycling schemes like Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are Government policy. We particularly note where he says:

When I was Mayor of London, one of the things I was proudest of was building some of the world’s best cycle lanes. It was often difficult and we faced opposition. But when the results of consultations and opinion polls came back, our opponents were often surprised to find themselves in a small minority. People want the radical change we are committing to in this strategy, and we politicians shouldn’t be afraid to give it to them.

Johnson is moreover hosting the COP-26 climate summit in Glasgow next November and wants the country carbon-neutral by 2050. Walking and cycling are an important part of this. Unfortunately, the Council seems to be resisting Government policy, in a way likely to lose the borough much needed funds to play its part. Please raise this matter at Monday’s meeting.

The Leader of Bromley Council has adopted a very harsh approach to Croydon Council’s Crystal Palace and South Norwood LTN, demanding the complete elimination of the scheme, and without taking account of the way it complements Bromley’s own active travel plans in and around Crystal Palace scheme (see attached statement for further details). He has moreover threatened legal action against Croydon and is backing the ‘Open our Roads’ campaign (which enjoys the support of the Alliance of British Drivers) in seeking a judicial review.

Open our Roads’ leading complaint is about the LTN allegedly diverting traffic onto the residential roads in neighbouring Bromley, between Fox Hill and Anerley Hill. At any time during the last three months, Bromley Council could have offered to address this problem by placing a residents-only filter on Belvedere Road. Failing to stop the cut-through only serves to further wind up residents. While it is true Croydon could have consulted more with Bromley in the early stages of this scheme, it should be remembered that DfT’s initial guidance was to use temporary traffic orders to install schemes quickly and consult/improve during and after the following six months.

We are also concerned that the Council’s ambivalence re active travel will lose it Streetspace funding. Bromley has about 3.7% of the population of London, but in the first funding round only had schemes approved worth 1.1% of the total and has not implemented all these. Here, it is important to remember that TfL is not allocating money on a pro-rata basis, and the ‘Gear Change’ document states that boroughs will be funded in relation to what they deliver in terms of compliant active travel investments. We would like to see Bromley actively pursuing this funding opportunity and, while listening to residents, try to prevent schemes being frustrated or delayed at first call. Bromley should also avoid getting itself a reputation for scuppering schemes in neighbouring boroughs.

Please use next Monday’s meeting to scrutinise the Council’s approach to these matters, taking account of the attached note that discusses the two questions on the agenda.

Kind regards

Bromley Cyclists & Bromley Living Streets
4 December 2020

Analysis of Questions on Monday’s Agenda

Qu no 8. From Cllr Simon Fawthrop to the Portfolio Holder for Environment & Community Services. Has the Portfolio Holder read the report in the Economics and Human Biology Journal which demonstrates that cycles lanes are on the whole poor value for money, and that if spending increased at the same rate for the next 10 years there would only be a 1% increase in commuter cycling?

We suggest asking Cllr Fawthrop and/or the Portfolio Holder the following questions:

  • have they read the DfT Value for Money Assessment for Cycling Grants, which in contrast to the article that Cllr Fawthrop quotes, found that the benefit/cost ratio (BCR) for cycling schemes was 5.5:1, described as “very strong returns to society”?
  • how they explain the fact that, according to section 1 of the article quoted by Cllr Fawthrop, the proportion of commuters who cycle to work is 3% in the UK vs 9% in Germany and 25% in Denmark and the Netherlands, and has hardly changed for decades? Is it because the British have a genetic or cultural aversion towards cycling, or does it reflect short-termism and lack of vision among British decision-makers?
  • Are they aware that cyclist numbers are up 120% during the pandemic, or that four in ten Londoners are cycling more since the Covid outbreak? We feel this is an important point, because Streetspace funding is initially intended to cater for increased demand for walking and cycling during the Covid epidemic.

We also found that section 4.2 of the article quoted by Cllr Fawthrop took no account of cycling in combination with public transport, like cycling-to-rail (rather an important omission) and that, while touching on health benefits, it didn’t appear to include potential NHS saving in calculations. The article was published in 2020, but the authors used data from 2001-2011, i.e. prior to most of the investment in superhighways, mini-Hollands and other quality cycling schemes. We associate that earlier period with low-quality cycle ways, such as the lanes painted on pavements along the A21 between Masons Hill and Crown Lane, or lanes occupied by park cars of which we see so many around Bromley. By contrast, DfT is now requiring Councils to invest in high quality schemes and is setting up ‘Active Travel England’, an inspectorate and funding body that will implement a rigorous quality control regime.

Qu no 9. From Cllr Nicholas Bennett to the Leader of the Council. What consultation did TFL and neighbouring local authorities undertake with the Council regarding the closure of streets and the narrowing of roads during the summer of 2020?

TfL only needs to consult on its own routes (A21 and A232), while all other roads are Local Authority responsibility. As regards the latter, we recommend that Bromley buries the hatchet and engages constructively with Croydon for the benefit of people on both side of the border. If Bromley insists on a confrontational approach, it may have minimal effect on Croydon and TfL’s final decisions and damage our reputation with funding agencies upon which we depend.

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