Southwark Cyclists invited the Lambeth and Southwark constituency candidates from the main parties to join us on a ride to look at the good, the bad and the ugly of active travel in Southwark. This was an opportunity for us to share the London Cycling Campaign’s three key asks, for us to talk about issues specific to Southwark and to hear their views on the future of London.
The Liberal Democrat candidate Florence Cyrot, and Catherine Dawkins from Southwark Green Party (standing in for assembly candidate Claire Sheppard) took us up on the offer. We went on separate rides with Florence and Catherine to fit their schedules but both rides followed the same route and we discussed and demonstrated the same infrastructure.
We started in London Bridge, where we looked at the wonderful ‘street space’ scheme on Bermondsey Street, primarily brought in to provide space on pavements for social distancing. Four concrete blocks and some temporary wands have changed Bermondsey Street from a traffic-choked mess, where it used to feel dangerous to cycle, to a street with room for outdoor tables and chairs and lots of people on foot. We showed the candidates how these temporary changes have transformed the street and are helping local businesses by providing space for customers. We would like the London Assembly to encourage councils to keep the street space changes.
Next we headed along Cycle 14, passing the lively businesses in the railway arches along the Bermondsey Beer Mile, and onto Jamaica Road. We enjoyed the new wide, smooth cycle lane, physically separated from motor traffic, and paused opposite the Gregorian pub to talk about the need for a combination of safe quiet streets and protected routes on main roads, in order to build a working network. We focused on how people on foot and people on cycle interact and how good design can ensure a street space that works for both. We also talked about how essential it is that schemes retain vehicle access so that deliveries can continue and people such as blue badge users can continue to access shops and services. We also talked about how cycling can work as a mobility aid and how by rebalancing the street we open up the space to people.
We stopped opposite the Gregorian pub to discuss how expanding the cycle network would require us to tackle difficult streets such as St James Road. This is a key north-south link for north Southwark. We explain due to the narrow nature of parts of the road this is a case where filtering would be the best option. We also talked about how this would benefit local people who live on the street which was never intended to be a main thoroughfare.
As we headed east, we crossed to the south side of Jamaica Road and into Southwark Park. We are lucky that in Southwark the council allows cycling in all the parks, since this enables learners, families and social cycling – but it needs to be supported by good parallel street routes.
From Southwark Park, we walked down to look at Lower Road, where the streetscape is hellish for people on foot and bicycle, with multiple crossings and cramped islands. Where those accessing public transport, both bus and tube, are deprioritised and the car is king. We talked about how the one-way gyratory around Surrey Quays overground severs communities and how it negatively impacts business. We explained there were plans to improve the area but the Mayor had been slow to act. We would like the next assembly to hold the Mayor to account for this inaction and delay, closing the gaps in the cycle network.
The three London Cycle Campaign Asks
1. Accelerate the roll out of a high-quality cycling network across London rapidly, and deliver 50% of Transport for London’s Strategic Cycling Network.
2. Help Londoners reduce their private car use by ensuring everyone has access to shared mobility options (such as dockless e-bikes and electric car club bays) within 300m of their home or workplace.
3. Implement a fair, simple Smart Road User Charge to reduce congestion, air pollution and climate emissions.
Both Catherine and Florence gave their support for all three of the asks. Please email the mayoral candidates so they also commit to these asks.
Florence was very positive about Cycleway 4 and said she felt it democratized the street space. On low traffic neighbourhoods she said where they worked she supported them and said it is important to ensure schemes do work for local people.
We very much enjoyed meeting with both parties and we hope we can build a good working relationship with all parties that represent or seek to represent Southwark as Councillors, Assembly Members or Members of Parliament. If you are running in an election and would like to join us for a ride please get in contact with Southwark@lcc.org.uk and we will arrange a similar ride. Moving London in the right direction on active travel is going to need us to work with all parties and build relationships with each.