On Thursday 5th September, the new cycle tracks in Royal College Street were officially opened.
The opening event took place close in the large area to the cycle hire station on Royal College Street. It started at 4 pm with light refreshments and a chance to visit the stalls set up by Paul Davis of Camden Council and shared with Camden Cyclists. Camden Council also provided a ‘pod’ with a cycle driven simulation of a journey by bike. You can read about the new scheme here.
Speeches started at about 4:15. Cllr Sarah Hayward, leader of the council introduced the event, Jean Dollimore, coordinator of Camden Cyclists followed up with an account of the experience of the project as a campaigner and Cllr Phil Jones Camden’s Cabinet member for sustainability rounded up with his views about developing cycling in Camden. The notes for the two speeches are appended to this article.
After the speeches we were entertained by the very skilful riders of BMX team extreme
Then the Mayor, Cllr Jonathan Simpson cut the ribbon with a little help from Sarah Hayward while everyone looked on and clapped.
The next stage of the proceedings was a ‘walk about’ to see the new cycle tracks and to hear an explanation from Camden council officers Brian Deegan (the designer who has now moved on to TfL) and John Futcher who commissioned the project and kept it going through thick and thin
The Dr Bikes (Sam Parkes of Lunar Cycles and John Chamberlain and George Coulouris of Camden Cyclists were kept busy until 6 pm when we had to advise them to give up.
Photos by Geoff Stilwell.
Notes for the speeches
Speech by Cllr Phil Jones
Thank you to everyone for coming to see the formal opening of Royal College Street. It’s great to see you here today.
London is growing, Camden is growing.
In order to grow sustainably we need better ways to get around the city:
– To address the problem of poor air pollution
– To help tackle climate change.
– To promote health
– And, to create more pleasant streets and neighbourhoods.
More cycling helps us deliver on all these objectives and that’s why it’s a priority for us in Camden.
But many people tell me they are simply too afraid to get on a bike in London. They want more protection from the cars and lorries that can be so intimidating on London’s busy streets.
This Royal College street scheme is one way in which we’re trying to help.
The Royal College Street scheme
What makes this project exciting is the use of:
– Wide 2 metre cycle lanes – wider than usually provided and much easier to cycle on
– Cycle lanes on both sides of the road to make cycling safer and more secure,
– Use of the armadillos and planters – the first time this approach has been taken in London
– There’s also the different type of interaction between cyclists, pedestrians and of buses
As ever we had a few problems with underground utilities during the project, and we are STILL unfortunately waiting for the electricity substation works further up the road to finish……but it was done much quicker than previous more traditional segregated lanes.
And I’m pleased to report the light segregation method is cheaper – this project cost a quarter of what would have been spent using the old method.
We will be looking closely at how this scheme works and there may well be tweaks and adjustments that need to be made in coming months……building this scheme is part of a learning process.
I know there has been some debate about whether this scheme is Dutch or not…..I must confess I personally don’t particularly care. London needs London solutions.
It’s important to learn from best practice overseas but we need to have designs that work for people in London within the confines that already exist. If that’s Dutch then great…..but Camden’s approach is to look at streets holistically and come up with solutions that work for here.
Who made it happen?
So who made the project happen? The first I heard of this idea of ‘light segregation’ was from Iarla Kilbane-Dawe, a local environmental consultant who has done research on cycling issues, when I took up my post just over a year ago.
With Cllr Paul Braithwaite, our local cycling champion – unfortunately he can’t be with us despite playing an important role in bring forward this scheme – Iarla told us about use of these strange armadillos in places like Barcelona.
As it happened, officers were already looking into this method and had been in discussion with Camden Cycling Campaign and the project grew from there.
It’s been great to have the considered input of Jean Dollimore and the Camden Cycling Campaign. CCC manage to balance that role of critic pressing and challenging the council to do more, with the invaluable perspective of experts giving detailed advice on how to make things work on the ground. Thank you to them.
I’ve also been so impressed by the vision and commitment of Camden officers.
From Transport Strategy:
From Engineering Services:
And an acknowledgement should go too to the contractors, FM Conway’s.
Extension of project
This is just one street in one borough. But it should become part of a wider network across Camden and London.
We will extend this scheme:
1. Further north, to Kentish Town Road
2. To the south and central London, via Midland Road
3. And to the West and Regent’s park, via Delancey Street, which will also help crack the problem of the Camden Town gyratory, which is a big barrier for cyclists.
You can have a look in a short while as the project designers show us around.
We hope to carry out consultation on these extensions around January.
Other cycling routes
All of this links up with the exciting plans for the central London grid and the quietways and cycle superhighways that are being developed in Camden and across London.
I welcome the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling and the very significant promised investment. I’m pleased to see the Mayor’s Commissioner for Cycling here today, Andrew Gilligan.
We are committed to working with the GLA to develop their ambitious plans for much better routes and we very much share their aspirations.
For example, we all agree that we need to look at options for an upgrade of the Seven Stations Link via Tavistock Place – a scheme that will work for cyclists and the pedestrians and residents of the area is clearly needed.
After all, 61% of our residents live in car free households. This has grown from 56% ten years ago.
Numbers walking and cycling have increased and car traffic has fallen.
We need to make sure that our schemes and designs work for pedestrians too. That’s the right approach for our residents here and also ensures that more ambitious plans for better cycling routes are supported by local people and remain deliverable.
Another area we want to transform alongside TfL and the Mayor’s office is for Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street. I am hopeful will provide much better facilities for cyclists, including segregated routes.
I expect you heard too about the sad and tragic death of cyclist Alan Neave at Holborn recently. Camden targets its limited resources according to road safety demands and Holborn will be our next major project.
Working with TfL we want to remove the gyratory all together – a very large project that will take a lot of planning. In the meantime we have undertaken safety audits with TfL , the police and local cyclists…we are looking at:
– Changes to road layouts around Theobald’s Road and Southampton Row
– And allowing cyclists to use Bloomsbury Way
We understand how important it is to act with all due haste.
I firmly believe that many more people of all ages would cycle if they thought it was safe on the roads.
Sometimes it’s difficult to go as quickly as we would like as decision-making processes are slow and we do need to bring people with us. However, cyclists should not be downhearted as there is a lot of work going on across London. I am confident that we will see a step-change in cycling provision delivered on the ground in the next few years. I know that boroughs like Islington, Hackney and Lambeth have already done a lot and have ambitious ideas of their own.
Other cycling measures
Of course, it’s not just about the more sexy infrastructure measures.
This borough runs an award winning urban cycle skills training for our residents, including children, which is why we’ve got information on that here today.
We want to introduce pro-cycling measures wherever we can…for example:
– providing more cycling parking
– our two-way cycling on one way streets project that won London Cycling Campaign’s Best Borough project a few months ago
– closing roads to through traffic – we’ve done this at Earlham Street near Covent Garden and at Warren Street. More to come I hope.
– addressing the dangers of HGVs. Requiring training and safety equipment and will use our planning powers and procurement to press this.
– And we will be implementing a 20mph borough-wide speed limit this financial year as they have already done in Islington.
So…..I hope you enjoy looking at the project and there will be an opportunity to investigate with the designers after the Mayor has done the formal opening.
Speech by Jean Dollimore
– thank you (Cllr Jones) for inviting me to speak at the opening of the new RCS
which is a product of a series of discussions over two years between Camden officers Brian Deegan (now at TfL), John Futcher and Simi Shah, Camden councillor cycling champion Paul Braithwaite and CCC. And we very much appreciate the political support from Cllr Phil Jones since he took on the transport portfolio last summer.
– I would like to outline the history of this project as seen from a campaigner’s point of view
– first we must remember that the original two-way cycle track built in 2000 was pioneering for its time, but ever since its construction, there had been safety issues at the junctions which were not overcome by the coloured paint, stop lines, flashing lights and so forth.
– in November 2011, Camden officers presented us with a road safety study and a proposal to construct a SB cycle track on the east side, reducing the carriageway to a single lane to slow down motor vehicles. But at this stage CCC said that money should be spent elsewhere.
– during the next year (2012) there must have been at least half a dozen meetings. Ideas progressed: e.g. the use of planters for segregation came from Vancouver. By August 12: we (CCC) moved towards saying: we would only support the scheme if it is excellent.
– then in the autumn came “break throughs”: such as removing the signals at Georgiana Street and installing a new signal at Crowndale Road so that SB cyclists could stay on the east side all the way down RCS
– the biggest “break through” was Camden’s diagram explaining the choice between 2m tracks with light segregation (e.g. armadillos which come from Barcelona) and 1.5 m lanes with wide kerbs. Although we knew 1.5 m would be too narrow, we were at first a little unsure about light segregation.
Finally, last November: Camden surprised us with a proposal to have a second stage of the scheme, with the segregated tracks extending all the way to Kentish Town. This is when we gave in and admitted that the scheme could be excellent.
What we see now was achieved in an amazingly short timescale: the consultation was approved by January this year. By February Camden had obtained permission from DfT to use armadillos after Paul Braithwaite giving it a push by contacting Norman Baker.
It was in April when construction started that we met Diljeet Singh, the on-site manager, who paid exceptional attention to detail, working at all hours, almost living on site until the completion in August.
Finally, I’d like to say that we hope to see further exciting schemes in Camden in the near future. Thank you for hearing me out!