Cllr Sam Hearn is Leader of the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council.
Transport for London, on behalf of the Mayor of London, is proposing to build “Cycle Superhighway 9” (CS9) from Kensington Olympia to Brentford Town Centre.
Chiswick’s nine Conservative Councillors are unanimous in their objection to TfL’s plan to run CS9 along Chiswick High Road. Schemes that make local streets safer for cyclists have always been supported by Councillors. However, such schemes must strike a proper balance between the needs and aspirations of cyclists and those of the many other local stakeholders. We do not believe that the proposed scheme strikes such a balance.
Our reasons are as follows:
The increase in air pollution on this already heavily polluted road: Chiswick High Road has one of the worst records for air pollution in London and, as TfL’s own modelling demonstrates, the scheme will do nothing to improve it. The forecast reduction in average vehicle speeds will increase the air pollution from stationary and slow moving traffic. Why spend £70m making air pollution and congestion worse?
The closure of the western exits from Stile Hall Gardens and Wellesley Road are an integral part of CS9. Road users will be forced back on to Chiswick High Road adding to the air pollution and congestion. This is not consistent with the London Mayor’s stated “aim to encourage walking, cycling and using public transport, and make London greener, healthier and more pleasant”.
The damage to businesses on both sides of the High Road: It is clear from public meetings and contacts with local businesses that they do not support the scheme. This gives the lie to TfL’s assertion that the cycle route will bring additional trade into the heart of the town. TfL did not undertake any research with local businesses before they drew up the scheme for consultation and many businesses were still complaining that TfL had not contacted them during the consultation.
A segregated superhighway and the associated bike racks and signage will eat deeply into the pavements that are such a part of the area’s distinctive character. CS9 will itself block access for delivery vehicles and, along with the double yellow lines, help destroy businesses and permanently blight the High Road.
The quality of life for pedestrians would be significantly impaired: A two way cycle way will make life much more difficult for pedestrians who will have to negotiate both a busy road and the superhighway. See above for the loss of pavement space, and the increase in air pollution. TfL claims that CS9 will make “it easier to cross busy roads …..[and] would create a more appealing environment for everyone to enjoy”. This subjective view is overwhelmingly rejected by residents. Specific concerns have been raised by groups such as the Catholic Church for whom the existing pavement is essential.
The plight of bus passengers, motor cyclists, delivery vans and car users: TfL modelling shows that the introduction of CS9 will increase average journey times. As they say “… our proposed changes would affect travel times through the area for many people”. Can improvements for cyclists really justify the damage done to the lives of other stakeholders?
The benefits to cyclists will be minimal. Cheaper measures could achieve similar benefits: There are fourteen junctions on the route at which cyclists will have to stop to allow pedestrians and others to cross. Is this the cycling experience that TfL is trying to promote? There are several inexpensive road improvements that TfL could make that would significantly improve the safety of cyclists e.g. the removal of ‘pinch points’.
Why has TfL not considered the far cheaper route along the A4? It is a striking feature of the TfL consultation that no alternative options are considered. Given TfL’s huge experience in building transport infrastructure it is not acceptable for them to tell us that creating a new cycle way across the A4 would be difficult and expensive. This is a £70m project. Just how difficult would it be to engineer such a new crossing?
Our conclusion is that TfL should formally withdraw the proposed scheme and enter discussions with local stakeholders and residents and then bring forward a radically different and less intrusive proposal. The local Conservative Councillors are keen to assist this process in any way possible.