Molesworth street Improvements to Cycleway: Response to TfL consultation

We were pleased and appreciative that TfL has taken on board, to some extent at least,  our opinion that any improvements made to Molesworth St, should take into account how people cycling use it, that is, it is part of a wider system of journeys made in the area on a bike, and any adaptations to it should seek to improve the safety, ease and usefulness of those journeys.  Including Lewisham High St in the plans takes some account of this.

On the west side of  Lewisham High St ( Courthill Road to Engate St) we like the ‘stepped’  2m cycle lane.  This is, presumably one way Northbound.   We are not sure why it couldn’t be at carriageway level semi-segregated using armadillos or similar and would prefer to see it as a 2 way 3.5m lane connecting back to the Toucan crossing outside Tesco, just North of Courthill Rd. We suspect  it’s not a 2 way lane because the space needed for that would involve using approx. 1.5m of the pavement on the West side of Lewisham High St and ‘relocating’ several mature trees that are on that section of pavement, remembering  comments at our meeting with Rob Hunter about the implications of removing trees.  Whilst we agree that trees are an important part of the public realm, they can be replaced elsewhere, or nearby once improvements made.  Sacrificing good infrastructure choices for this reason, is we think, shortsighted.  The benefits of decent safe bicycle links into town centres greatly outweigh removing of a small number of trees, especially when those trees can be easily replanted and mature in twenty years, so it’s not really even a loss.

From  Molesworth St (Engate St to Toucan Crossing (at Cut Line on diagram)), the short section of Northbound mandatory lane beyond Engate St appears to be non-segregated just delineated by a white line.  We are not clear why this isn’t stepped like the previous section or at carriageway level and segregated using armadillos or something similar. 

Lewisham High Street Southbound

It seems cyclists are to share a 4m bus lane, that includes a double length bus stop.  This is somewhat disappointing and no improvement on the current provision. 

From  Molesworth St (Toucan Crossing Cut Line on diagram) to the tunnel through to Cornmill Gardens, it seems that the only changes to the cycle lane along this section seem to be to re-pave the pedestrian East side, move the lighting columns to between the pedestrian and cycle lanes and improve the treatment across the entrances to the car park etc. We wanted to see a widened (3.5m), segregated  2 way lane at carriageway level on the East side with the pedestrian pavement moved to the West side. We envisaged that the space to do this would come by using land to the West of the current shared pavement and possibly some width out of the current carriageway.  We understand that taking land is not always simple, but would hope that creating safe infrastructure that people will actually want to use on their bikes would by now be seen as sufficiently important within transport planning to justify taking space wherever necessary and possible.  Especially given that with bicycles, unlike roads for motor traffic, the amounts of space needed and costs so relatively small and the potential benefits for the whole community, so great.
Priority of the cycleway over two of the side access roads will be emphasised, which we appreciate, but, bafflingly, the cycleway and footway will still have to give way to motor traffic entering and exiting the most Northerly access road to a small car park.  Are we reading the plans correctly? If so, this is confusing and inconsistent with current best practice.

On the east side  the large areas of shared footway/cycleway along Molesworth St and the extension and widening of the bus lane from Molesworth St into Lewisham High St, should assist Southbound cyclists, although sharing space with buses should never be seen as a substitute for dedicated bike infrastructure.  This is not after all a “superhighway” type facility.  It should be seen as an area where we are facilitating the whole community to cycle.  I cannot think there are many people who would want to share a bus lane cycling along with their children, or older grandparents.  The bus lane is also of limited value if buses continue to park along Molesworth St.  The southbound bus stops along Lewisham High St are commonly occupied by many stationary buses.  This presents an actual hazard to cyclists, forcing them out in to the stream of fast flowing traffic to the right.  Given the width of the footway here and the relatively low footfall, compared to the other side of the shopping centre, this area could easily be modified to include a segregated cycle lane and a bus stop bypass. TfL’s failure to see that is very disappointing.

Cycle access to/from Limes Grove

No effort is made to improve this at all. It is particularly awkward when cycling North up Lewisham High Street and wishing to turn right up the cycle path onto Limes Grove or when coming from Limes Grove to the Post Office depot on Engate Street.

Finally, although we recognise both are out of scope for the present project, it is disappointing to see no mention of ensuring safe cycle provision into Lewisham Gateway or removing the dangerous carriageway narrowing on Lewisham High Street Northbound just North of the Courthill Road junction.

We do appreciate that this is a busy and congested area, where space is at a premium and that TfL must consider the needs of all road users in these situations.  And we also appreciate that you have taken some of our comments on board.  However, we continue to stress that if difficult, brave and innovative decisions are not taken now, then our town centres will become increasingly congested and polluted.  If we are not prepared to even replant a few trees to create infrastructure that will get people out of their cars or freeing up space on our public transport, and on to bicycles wherever possible, then, the transport future looks bleak.  Creating infrastructure that enables anyone to use a bike to get around our city should be an absolute priority.  It doesn’t just benefit those riding the bikes, it benefits the whole community, in terms of more space for other traffic, improved air quality, quieter, safer, more attractive public space.