Wealdstone redevelopment, Dec 2016

Proposal

Harrow Council is proposing a £3million redevelopment of the roads in Wealdstone town centre. This will involve rerouting buses, removing pedestrian guardrail and improving some pedestrian crossings. The existing short section of cycle track alongside the Peel House car park (which will become the new civic centre) will be retained but there will be no new segregated cycle tracks, and proposed cycle routes which were in Harrow’s 2013 Cycling Vision (mini-Holland bid) and the current Cycling Strategy are not included in the plans. Disappointingly, the Goodwill to All junction (Headstone Drive / Harrow View) will be redeveloped with inconvenient multi-stage crossings for pedestrians and additional motor traffic lanes, but no space for cycling.

Previous proposals

Vision for Cycling (2013)

In the ‘Vision for Cycling’ submitted as the mini-Holland bid in 2013, Harrow proposed a ‘Heart of Harrow’ cycle route along the Station Road corridor (orange in the map blow). You can download the document here.

Harrow Council’s Heart of Harrow mini-Holland proposal (2013)

There was also a Cross-Harrow cycle route proposed along Headstone Drive (red in the map above). More details about the proposals can be downloaded here.

Heart of Harrow Action Plan (2014)

In the Heart of Harrow Area Action Plan (a detailed development plan for Harrow and Wealdstone town centres), the Station Road corridor was identified as a key cycling desire line along which cycling facilities were poor.

Improvements proposed for Wealstone Town Centre included replacement of the George Gange Way roundabout with a signalised junction and a new walking/cycling bridge over the railway between the Kodak site and Tudor Road. You can download the document here.

Current proposals

Overview of proposals

Current Wealdstone proposals overview

The overview map shows a number of proposed cycle routes (green lines), including the cross-Harrow route. However, the Station Road route is absent. The overall network is quite sparse, and needs to be supplemented by cycle-friendly minor roads and good permeability for cyclists among the residential road network (avoiding unnecessary one-way systems or detours).

The Station Road route has been dropped because the road is ‘too narrow’, although nothing has changed since the 2013 Vision for Cycling when it was considered wide enough to become a key cycle route.

Details of proposals in Wealdstone town centre

Current Wealdstone proposals details

Details of the town centre proposals include re-routing of buses and removal of pedestrian guardrailing. However, there are also some changes proposed which will make cycling more difficult:

  • One-way traffic on Palmerston Road with no cyclist exemption
  • One-way bus traffic on part of the High Street with no cyclist exemption
  • Conversion of the segregated cycle track outside Trinity Church (part of the cross-Harrow cycle route) to a shared use public square, intended to be used for markets and public events

You can download details of the proposals here.

Proposals for Ellen Webb Drive

The proposal for the Ellen Webb Drive junction is for this to be signalised with a toucan crossing and shared footway for cyclists.

Proposals for Goodwill Junction crossroads

The proposals for Goodwill Junction are for an additional left turn slip lane and a traffic island on Headstone Drive, but no cycling facilities.

Harrow Cyclists response

We sent the following email to all councillors on the Traffic and Road Safety Advisory Panel.

Dear TARSAP councillors,

Following on from the last TARSAP meeting, Harrow Cyclists have reviewed the proposed Wealdstone redevelopment plans presented at the meeting. Harrow Cyclists is the local branch of the London Cycling Campaign, a membership organisation with over 12000 members across London.

We are extremely disappointed with these plans as they fail to provide the safe, convenient, accessible cycle network that Harrow deserves. The plans are poorly thought out and not compliant with current design standards. The plans also contradict Harrow’s Cycling Strategy, despite them both being presented at the same meeting. Constructing this scheme will be a waste of money and will likely lead to congestion, poor health and pollution for years to come.

The problems with these proposals are as follows:

1. Failure to incorporate proposed cycle routes in redevelopment plans.

Two key cycle routes that are part of Harrow’s Vision for Cycling (the mini-Holland proposal) have been removed. A ‘Heart of Harrow’ cycle route along the A409 (Sheepcote Road / Station Road) was a key feature of the Vision, and the argument that the road is too narrow for cycling infrastructure is not true. Surplus space (extra lanes, central hatching, on-street parking) can be reallocated from motor vehicles to create a continuous, direct cycle track from Northwick Park Roundabout to the new Civic Centre site on Peel Road. The only part of the road that is too narrow for a cycle track is just south of the railway bridge, but the road here could be widened as part of the Poet’s corner major redevelopment.

The second key corridor for a cycle route is along Headstone Drive. The Vision for Cycling stated that cycle tracks would be built alongside the Kodak site, but this is no longer proposed. There was also a proposal in the Vision for Cycling that the Goodwill junction would be remodelled to include cycling facilities, but the current proposal has multiple lanes for motor traffic but no space for cycling. The advanced stop lines which are  proposed do not provide sufficient safety for cyclists at such a busy junction. A single poorly designed junction renders the entire cycle route useless, because most people are not willing to cycle among motor traffic.

2. Outdated traffic modelling which ignores non-motorised travel

‘Congestion relief’ and ‘capacity improvement’ road changes in Harrow typically aim to increase space for motor traffic at congested locations, in the mistaken belief that this will improve transport overall. Computer models which ignore walking and cycling are used to justify such schemes, but fail to take into account how the quality of provision of different modes of transport affects people’s choice of mode. If a signalised junction has no pedestrian phase, it may reduce waiting time for motor vehicles but will also encourage people to drive rather than walk. Reducing congestion at a particular junction will encourage more people to drive along a particular route, with no overall improvement in congestion. Experience of major road building schemes has shown that they generate more traffic and any reduction in congestion is temporary.

The problem of pollution (with toxic levels recorded in Stanmore last week) means there is an overwhelming need to reduce the amount of motor traffic. The council should be actively reallocating road space away from cars in favour of walking and cycling.

3. An incorrect assessment of safety. Harrow’s roads are actually much more dangerous than roads in other boroughs.

Harrow justifies its current road design strategy by the low numbers of traffic casualties. However this is a fundamentally incorrect way to assess safety, because it does not take into account the use of different modes of transport. A recent analysis by Dr Rachel Aldred (Reader in Transport at the University of Westminster) used a borough-level measure for commuter cycling flow based on census data and route planning information (http://rachelaldred.org/writing/thoughts/a-question-of-exposure/). This shows that the rate of cycling casualties per distance travelled is higher in Harrow than in any other London borough, and is 11 times higher than in the safest borough, Camden.

The majority of Harrow residents do not cycle because they feel unsafe riding in motor traffic. Dangerous road designs abound in Harrow, such as:

– Narrow cycle lanes, which encourage motorists to overtake too close

– Cycle lanes in which car parking is permitted, forcing cyclists out into the motor traffic lane

– Speed limits too high. Harrow has consistently opposed a borough-wide 20mph speed limit on non-arterial roads, even though it is being introduced in other outer London boroughs

– Central traffic islands which create ‘pinch points’, forcing motorists and cyclists into conflict

– Inappropriate priority of minor roads over cycle tracks, which put cyclists at risk from turning motor traffic

However, the number of cyclists injured in collisions is small compared to the huge public health consequences of physical inactivity and pollution because people are too afraid to cycle. Type 2 diabetes is a particular problem in Harrow.

4. We want leadership and solutions, not excuses.

One of the main excuses given by Harrow for not improving cycling conditions is the lack of money from TfL. However, there are large amounts of money being spent on other road schemes which should, but do not, incorporate cycling. Walking improvements are welcome, but unless cycling is also enabled people will resort to motorised transport for longer journeys.

There is little prospect of being awarded TfL money while Harrow continues to ignore the London Cycling Design Standards. Other outer London boroughs have been leapfrogging ahead of Harrow – for example Brent is consulting on segregated cycle lanes on Carlton Vale, and Hounslow is building a cycle track alongside Boston Manor Road. Walking and cycling improvements are the most cost-effective transport intervention, because they improve public health and the environment as well as making journeys faster and more convenient.

Harrow councillors need to show leadership in ensuring that Harrow’s cycling Vision is carried through any future development schemes. Councillors need to ensure that residents are on board and understand the benefits of motor traffic reduction and protected cycle lanes. We have seen very little evidence of public engagement  on this – not even an article in Harrow People. We would expect a council that was genuine about cycling to be organising cycling forums or a visit to the Waltham Forest mini Holland. Harrow needs to take the lead rather than wait for TfL to provide Harrow’s cycle infrastructure on a plate.

The Heart of Harrow redevelopment will lead to parking chaos unless the Council transitions the area smoothly to a low car-ownership model, with an area-wide regulated parking scheme and car clubs. Alternatives to driving (such as walking and cycling) need to be safe and convenient. Car parking charges need to be high enough to discourage people from owning more cars than they need, and ensure there are always spaces available for people who need them including visitors. Parking charges should be used to fund road maintenance, which is currently under-funded.

Without a mini-Holland style excellent cycle network in the Heart of Harrow, the new development (already opposed by many) will become a permanent blight on Harrow.

We urge Harrow Council to take on board these considerations and redesign the Heart of Harrow schemes so they are fit for the future. We look forward to more meaningful engagement in 2017, where Harrow’s cycling strategy is actually put into practice rather than the current ‘tick-box’ approach.

Yours sincerely,

Anoop Shah

Secretary, Harrow Cyclists