Dear Islington Councillors, we have a problem

We agonised over this letter for the last three days. People that have long given up on Islington Council and for that matter Cycle Islington said it’s a bit restrained. LCC advised constructive engagement.  It was difficult.

Thanks especially to Chris Kenyon and Christian Wolmar for their input at the CI September meeting. All of the CI committee apart from the uncontactable Simon I were involved in the drafting of this letter. Thanks to LCC’s Simon Munk for his wise counsel and Stop Killing Cyclists for putting Nov 8th into the calendar.


Read Cllr Webbe’s holding response on Nov 4th 2017, Cllr Webbe’s full response on Dec 1st 2017

2nd November 2017

Dear Cllr Webbe and Cllr Watts,

I’m emailing on behalf of Cycle Islington to reiterate our frustration with the limited progress on improving access to cycling, including creating safe cycle routes, within the borough. We would like to find constructive ways forward to unlock the potential for active transport –  walking and cycling – in the borough, among a wide range of people.

We acknowledge that TfL Cycling Program money is being spent by the borough, but this is not translating to meaningful physical improvements which will increase safety for people on bikes or attract more people to use their bikes for trips in or through Islington.  

On Wednesday 8th November, a London-wide campaign group called Stop Killing Cyclists are holding a demonstration and vigil outside Islington Town Hall to coincide with the inquest into the death of Jerome Roussel who was crushed (see Note 1 below) by an HGV on Pentonville Road whilst cycling earlier this year.

Their reason for targeting Islington Council is outlined on their event page:  They wish to “expose Islington Council’s woeful record on installing protected cycling infrastructure, with hardly a metre of protected cycle lanes installed since 2010 and insistence on building inadequate Quietways, clogged up with parking and rat-runs. Islington council has full legal powers over almost 95% of roads in the borough. The London Mayor has powers over only 5% of its roads.”

We wish to make it clear that no one in CI has initiated or asked for this action. However many CI members will support it, and we recognise and understand the need for it. There is a widespread belief among CI members and cycling activists- on social media and across London- that there is not a strong, proactive agenda for traffic reduction, cycling and walking being pursued in Islington. This issue has long been identified by the wider cycling community, many of whom travel to or through Islington on a bike. We have previously publicly defended the council’s actions, in the anticipation our regular meetings would help  the council to adopt a more proactive approach to investing in infrastructure to enable cycling. Yet sadly, our regular input and advice is still rebuffed rather than incorporated into a strategy for improvement. Progress on the ground has never extended beyond minor tweaks, in contrast to more ambitious work in other boroughs – Islington has fallen behind its neighbours.

Here are some of the issues we have repeatedly raised at meetings:

Main road tracks and modal filters – our requests for protected tracks on main roads and traffic reduction (modal filters) on Quietways have been either fully rejected or not implemented to date.

Quick wins and minor schemes  Cycle Islington have repeatedly provided ideas for “quick wins” or minor schemes for LIP funding. To date, none of these have been acted on or even made it into next year’s Local Implementation Plan.

Secure bike hangars – Whilst other boroughs were securing TfL funding to install large amounts of secure residential on-street cycle storage, Islington council did little. Other councils are now topping up provision annually with LIP funds and charge around £30 to £40/year, but Islington has only two on-street hangars to date and is planning to charge users £104/year per bike, which exceeds the parking permit cost for a 1.3l engine car. (https://www.islington.gov.uk/parking/parking-permits/parking-permit-costs-table).

TfL roads and cross-borough routes – it is our view that Islington Council has repeatedly been a source of inertia on such issues, rather than providing solutions or embracing ideas for improving cycle infrastructure for example Balls Pond Rd on CS1 and Nag’s Head Gyratory. We do recognise Islington’s sustained support for improvements at Archway, Highbury Corner and Old Street roundabout, but these schemes have all been pursued primarily by TfL and while they have moved forward, little else has.

In summary, given the Mayor’s strong desire to encourage active travel (walking and cycling) over other modes of transport and to reduce motor traffic and pollution across London, Islington Labour must support this by developing a clear and public, wide-ranging strategy of how this will be achieved in the borough. It has shown little desire or ambition collectively thus far to achieve such a shift in approach.  Present execution painfully lags both the Mayor’s and the NHS’s visions for encouraging active travel and healthy streets.

There should overarching leadership of this strategy both at executive level within the council and at senior officer level, with a major shift in approach and ambition, and progress should be regularly reviewed.

Cycle Islington remains very much committed to acting as a critical friend, and working constructively alongside a proactive, forward-thinking council which strives to take every opportunity to make Islington’s streets healthier and safer places to be.

On behalf of Cycle Islington.

Tabitha Tanqueray

10-Nov-2017  Note 1. Since this letter was sent, the inquest revealed that Jerome Roussel was not crushed by an HGV but cycled into it.  He was recovering in hospital but he died of an E.Coli infection seven weeks later.  We apologise to his family and Cllrs Webbe and Watts for this inaccuracy.