No space4cycling in Caledonian Ward

Here’s an interesting exchange of emails between Caledonian Ward resident Richard Truscott,  ICAG coordinator Alison Dines and Councillor Paul Convery about space4cycling in Caledonian Ward and elsewhere.
On 29 April 2014 21:41, Richard Truscott wrote:

I was wondering what you’ve heard from Islington Labour (& indeed most if the other parties) so far? I’m surprised to see that on the website most candidates are not even listed, despite the confirmed nominations having been published for at least a week. I’m also surprised that all the Islington Labour candidates I’ve seen listed are marked as being opposed to Space4Cycling.

I increasingly think the Space4cycling campaign is badly misconceived; it is all too easy for candidates who are not going to be in power particularly, I notice, the Greens to support it, but it is not so easy if you are from a party that might, but have not had an opportunity to be involved in the selection of schemes. In my own ward, Caledonian, the scheme is on a road that Islington Council doesn’t control, as are several other schemes, whilst one is I understand for a scheme Islington Council proposed, consulted on and got an overwhelming negative consultation response.

I have copied this to 2 of my own ward councillors, who I know are in favour of cycling, and the Islington LCC / ICAG contact. I regret not taking part in the discussions in Islington, which I must have missed at a busy time, but I never heard anything like as much about the discussion in Islington, where I live, as I heard about the discussion in Haringey, where I work. I am an LCC member and thoroughly support the principles of Space4cycling, of giving cyclists safe space on the roads, where necessary (which will be a lot of the time) separated road space, either as physically segregated lanes or separate quiet roads, and ultimately normalising cycling.

On 29/04/14 23:45, Alison Dines wrote:

We chose some big schemes for the ward asks as we found that in the LCC survey many people highlighted how difficult it was to cycle in places like Highbury Corner or Archway. In Islington, Labour have replied as one party with the attached e-mail which includes a letter and spreadsheet and your e-mail is timely as we are discussing how best to use their response.  We are hoping for local ward engagement with the Space for Cycling campaign so I hope other Labour candidates will reply to the e-mails they receive.

On 30/04/14 11:21, Councillor Paul Convery wrote:
Dear Alison,
Thank you for copying me into this reply. It seems like I shall probably end up being marked down by LCC as “non-compliant” which will be pretty absurd. I am not backing the LCC “ask” for York Way for a number of reasons which I epxlian below. But am I still a pro-cycling, road safety supporter? Yes, absolutely. I ride a bike and use public transport. So does my entire family. I have never owned a car in my life. I don’t even posess a driver’s license. But the LCC campaign is just about to categorise me as a non-supporter, a bad person, an anti-cycling candidate.That is not good politics. I think LCC has really been a bit sloppy in picking some of the ward asks. Some are not merely practical and supportable, but Islington Council is already taking steps to implement them. Others e.g. the Tollington one, is very difficult because, it’s a scheme that recently went out to public consulation and was overwhelmingly not supported because it seemed to involved complex and adverse traffic displacement.The Caledonian ask is much more complicated than it seems even though, superficially, who could possibly not support it, as I’ve been asked? One correspondent who just wrote back to me this morning said “gosh how can’t you support this … didn’t you know a young woman died there some time ago”. Well, the fatality of Min Joo (“Deep”) Lee on October 3rd 2011 is deeply ingrained in my memory. I am one of a small number of people who has viewed the horrifying CCTV recording showing the moment she perished. That’s why I helped the campaign attempting to get TfL prosecuted for corporate manslaughter in that death.

The reply that I have sent to the approximately one dozen emailers says that there may be much safer ways to bring cyclists travelling north-south through our neighbourhood and through the Kings Cross junction in particular. I also mention that York Way is not an Islington Council controlled road because Camden is the highway authority and we therefore have less direct control over it than if it were an Islington road.

But I also think there may be higher priorities for cycle-friendly initiatives in Caledonian Ward, for example, east-west permeability and safer routes to school for children on bikes. I have not been party to the mechanism that, in the words of the campaign “local people have decided” they want a segreagted cycle lane on York Way. But this proposal has never been discussed with the Council and certainly not raised with members representing either Caledonian Ward or Somerstown Ward (the Camden side of the road).

York Way is a particularly difficult road not least because it forms part of the Kings Cross gyratory system. Over the past 4 years, we have worked hard to remove the gyratory system which blights hundreds of homes in our neighbourhood. The gyratory is mainly controlled by TfL who have proved very resistant to change until quite recently. However, as a first step, Islington Council is shortly going to return part of the Caledonian Rd to 2-way working. So, we are making some progress. As part of these works, a new crossing treatment will be engineered for cyclists at the junction of Caledonian Road and Killick Street.

My reservations about the York Way scheme are two-fold:
(a) we are trying to remove the KX gyratory and return roads to more conventional configurations because those are safer for a start (particularly for pedestrians). It may be that a segregated cycle lane on York Way can be integral to that but, on first sight, it looks more like an “ask” which could compromise the case for undoing the one-way traffic up York Way.
(b) the proposal’s rationale seems to be that you should add a further extension to the Elephant-Kings Cross North-South Cycle Superhighway. But the Superhighway to KX proposal has a serious flaw: it funnels even more traffic (cyclists) into the already overcongested Kings Cross junction. Kings Cross is now completely saturated by every mode of surface transport: pedestrians, vehicles, cyclists. And that is going to grow in the medium term. So, increasing the volume of any mode of transport right into the middle of the Kings Cross junction is crazy. In my view, we should test whether alternative routes through/around Kings Cross are better. After all, if you look at the S4C “ask” for Barnsbury Ward it mentions a scheme to encourage cyclists off Pentonville Road, onto an alternative parallel route which would then lead east-west cycle traffic to bypass Kings Cross. I think that’s a very sensible principle which we should apply to north-south cycle traffic too.

Obviously this is an election period. People use it to make demands. Fair enough. As candidates we are all big enough and experienced enough to take this on the chin. But it is not a good way for LCC to engage with a Labour led Council that is fundamentally committed to road safety and to encouraging cycling when you put-up demands which appear designed to “fail” some candidates not because they actually oppose more space for cyclists but because the proposal itself is too complicated to just superficially “support”.

On 30/04/14 17:27, Richard Truscott wrote:

I am a Labour Party member but I’m particularly motivated over Space4Cycling to ensure LCC & the cyclists cause is not marginalised as a fringe “outgroup” issue of only interest to extreme greens. That’s I suppose Labour philosophy in general; a force for progressive politics but that can command a majority; I argue in the Labour Party for cycling (& get a good hearing) but recognise it needs to be balanced against other worthy causes & what can be achieved. And I do believe it is practical & justify able to create more space for cycling, proper Dutch space; for instance I argued (too late it turned out) within LCC & within the Labour Party for Drayton Park to be properly Dutch-ified with continuous segregated cycle lanes, but I think helped get the rotten original scheme at least made less bad. I’m confident under Labour Islington would be keen to create good Dutch style segregated cycling facilities where achievable & commanding public support. So let’s avoid becoming marginalised and engage with all parties fairly!

  • Anita Frizzarin

    What Islington Labour as a whole appear not to understand, is that motor traffic needs to be replaced by bicycle traffic, because that will raise everyone’s health; one consequence of that is the reduction in council and NHS expenses. Obesity, depression and heart problems are all largely due to lack of exercice and polluted air. The “best start in life” for all children, which Labour claim to be keen on, is being given a bike, and the cycle lanes that go with it. What we get instead, is addition to car parking spaces, “we can’t just fine parents who park outside schools”, and “that cycling scheme will displace traffic”. The fact that non-drivers spend more in shops than drivers is ignored too. Anita from Archway

  • John A

    There’s been an interesting exchange of tweets between Cllr Paul Convery and Jono Kenyon in which Paul Convery explains why it’s OK to increase the amount of parking, it’s to save people having to drive around looking for somewhere to park. And at a very basic level that’s true. However I can remember sitting in Islington Council offices in the late ’90s when officers were telling us that congestion charging and controlled parking where the most important traffic reduction tools. Although we may not realise it, traffic levels are far lower in London than they might otherwise have been.

    Paul Convery and other councillors argue that owning a car doesn’t mean using it. I haven’t looked at the research but I see lots of local anecdotal evidence that contradicts this. The people that I know that own cars always find some reason why they need to drive their car somewhere (sadly that includes cycling friends) whereas the people that don’t own cars always seem happy to manage without them. Yes owning a car gives you access to a job. It means that you can drive to Barnet each day for work, but some person living in Barnet is being deprived of a job. Owning a car may give people access to more jobs but car ownership does not create more jobs. I would think, thanks to the public transport network, that people living in Islington probably have as good if not the best access to jobs as anyone living in the UK.

    Owning a car has a big impact on social patterns. I tend to meet up with people most often that are most easy to reach and by and large that’s by public transport, whether they be in and out of London. I am far likely to make friends with someone that lives within cycling range than someone that lives in South West London. But friends with cars seem to drive all over the place. Do they have a better quality of life? I don’t believe so.

  • John A

    Yet more about parking. Islington Council’s Sustainability Review Committee recommended that “the Executive be requested to ensure that in future all new developments actively discourage car use and are car free developments and that residents of these new developments are not able to obtain residents parking permits”.

    On 27th March 2012 Paul Convery, at the time Executive Member for Planning, Regeneration and Transport replied “The car free development policy will remain for residents who move into these developments. However, in support of the Councils fairness agenda, the council will provide existing Islington Resident Permit holders (on-street and estate permits) with a permit if they move into a car free development.”

    This is just a bizarre use of the fairness agenda. It undermines the council’s core transport policies. How fair is it to the other residents of the car free development? Eventually everyone living in a car free development could have a parking permit. Are on street and estate parking permits being reduced at the same street time. Yes sure!

  • Pingback: LB Islington struggling to transform policy into practice (cars vs bicycles) | Going Green in Pooterland()