Group / Public Meeting Report

On 16 July 2018 Bromley Cyclists dipped its toe into the waters of Public Meetings

There were three invited speakers and about 30 people in attendance, including cyclists, people from residents associations, council officials and others.

John Wood of Bromley Cyclists opened the meeting which was also the Bromley Cyclists Group Quarterly meeting. There were one or two items of administrative business under this heading which were dealt with before the main business.

Introducing the agenda John spoke of how motorised transport had been allowed to totally dominate life.  Hementioned the congestion, the pollution, the public health impact, the blight of ugly street furniture, the roads blocked by parked vehicles and that quiet residential roads had been turned into race tracks by rat-running traffic trying to avoid the queues to be found on the main roads.

John then welcomed and introduced our three speakers:

Ms Terry Patterson, Chair of the Board of Trustees of London Cycling Campaign, Bromley Cyclists’ parent organisation.

Mr Hassan Mohamad, TfL’s lead officer dealing with Liveable Neighbourhoods Funding

Mr Angus Culverwell, Head of Transport and Road Safety at Bromley Council

and invited them to speak to us

Terry Patterson spelt out the achievements of the Liveable Neighbourhoods (LN) approach elsewhere in London, notably in Enfield, Waltham Forrest and Tower Hamlets, and drew lessons for campaigners.

Attempts to introduce Liveable Neighbourhoods, including the filtering of traffic and the creation of people-friendly streets often brings forth powerful objections, and negative campaigning, from local traders who think they will lose business and motorists.   However, as the schemes are implemented and the stakeholders concerned come to appreciate the positive impact, the objections subside.  For example, making commercial streets more accessible to walkers and cyclists typically brings more business to local trade, confounding the naysayers, quite to the contrary of initial fears.

Local Councillors will need considerable courage, persistence and a thick skin to see the process through the period of objections, but the rewards are very great, for which reason campaigners’ first priority should be to engage and win over individual councillors.

Terry also emphasised the need to do things properly and at scale, and not to tolerate second best. Area-wide schemes are generally better than small local improvements, as the latter can simply shift congestion onto other streets.

Hassan Mohamad spoke principally of the Liveable Neighbourhoods (LN) Programme for which he is responsible. A total of £115 million has been budgeted for a period of five years, with boroughs able to get grants of between £1 and £10 million.  Significantly, TfL expects boroughs to provide matching funding (potentially challenging for boroughs that have come to rely on TfL for nearly all their infrastructure investments).   In the first round £38 million has been allocated to 7 boroughs. If Bromley wants a slice of the action in the second round, it must put in a bid by November 1st of 2018.

TfL’s overall funding envelope for transport infrastructure is much larger than the LN Programme, about £1 billion for the same five years, and it must contribute to the objectives of the Mayor of London’s plan which drives the Liveable Neighbourhood’s scheme, notably that of increasing the percentage of environmentally-friendly trips (i.e. by public transport, walking and cycling) from 63% to 81% of the total by 2041.

Mr Mohamad spoke of the need for Liveable Neighbourhoods applicants to implement the Healthy Streets approach, which sets out 10 indicators foremost among which are:

  • pedestrians from all walks of life, and;
  • people choosing to walk, cycle and use public transport.

TfL would not simply be involved in one-off approval of applications, but throughout the process of (staged) funding and implementation. It wanted to see high specification schemes in outer-London boroughs and for Councils to seriously engage with communities about needs and in behaviour-changing initiatives, e.g. at schools.

Angus Culverwell described the length and breadth of his groups’ current activities.   Much of this concerns getting traffic moving in Bromley, working to remove pinch points and developing projects for LIP3 funding; Angus also spoke of schemes to help pedestriansand cyclists, including traffic islands, zebra crossings, cycle tracks and cycle-training activities at the schools.

Mr Culverwell’s team devotes much attention to the analysis of data to prioritise accident hot-spots.   This may be one of several contributory factors behind a fall in Killed and Seriously (KSI) figures since the year 2000.  Contrary to this, the trend has been upward in the last two years; the 2017 figures are due out soon and will be a considerable cause of concern if the upward trend continues.

Much was said about the distinctive nature of Bromley as an outer-London borough, and people in areas like Biggin Hill needing cars. Attempts to build cycle routes were often opposed by residents seeking more space for parking in their streets, and there was less enthusiasm for 20 mph speed limits than in some other boroughs.

As for Bromley’s Liveable Neighbourhoods bid that has to be submitted by November 1st, the Council is giving consideration to a possible scheme around Shortlands, with the aim of improving pedestrian/cyclist-hostile junctions around the railway bridge, making the parade of shops leading to it more people-friendly and complementing the TfL-funded Beckenham-Bromley South quiet way.

. . . . .

Comments, questions and answers

After the tea break we had half an hour of lively discussion – there was in reality sufficient interest to keep going for a further hour.   The main points raised were as follows:

  • The recent changes to Beckenham High Street were criticised as hostile to cyclists; the Council had created cobbled parking strips on either side,  narrowing the street and forcing cyclists to compete with vehicles for the remaining space and risk being “doored”  by parked motorists.
  • Residents of the Palace Estate area said that controlled parking zones (CPZ) were too far-spread and should be more localised, so that genuine residents could park near their homes. It resulted in residents commuting within the CPZ to get free parking next to Bromley South station, rather than parking outside their doors.   Mr Culverwell said the Council believes larger CPZ use available space more efficiently.
  • The same residents felt the Council needed to engage more with residents throughout the planning process, not simply presenting fully-developed schemes.
  • Some people said that Bromley Council had not consulted residents as to where it promoted the LN programme.  It had selected Shortlands, but had not informed residents of the existence of LN funding. Mr Culverwell countered that an important factor in advancing the bid was local support in Shortlands and from ward Councillors in the vicinity.
  • Another resident complained that Bromley Borough was single-mindedly focused on the free flow of cars and reducing accidents, but paying insufficient attention to cycling.  Bromley’s efforts in cycle proficiency training were not matched with follow-up to ensure that kids embraced the cycling habit.
  • One resident noted he had not heard of any plans for the A21 and encouraging cycling to rail at Bromley South, while another felt the Council needed more ambition and vision, with larger joined-up schemes.
  • A resident of Petts Wood advised the Council to promote the graph showing the dramatic fall in KSI, in order to temper public perceptions of danger on Bromley’s roads.

This was the first public meeting in Bromley to discuss active travel and liveable neighbourhoods, and seems to have been very successful, both in terms of the speakers’ presentations and audience comment.   Let’s build on it and keep in touch!  People are encouraged to make comments on Bromley Cyclists’ FB page, under the post we have pinned at the top of the discussion.

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