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Sean Howes
On March 2, 2020

At the last Southwark Cyclists meeting we were very lucky to have Dr Will Norman, the Mayor’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, come and talk to us. Dr Norman covered the progress he and the Mayor have made on delivery the Cycleway and the challenges they face. It was a packed meeting with standing room only for the few latecomers. Our team live-tweeted the meeting and this covered what happened at the event: https://twitter.com/southwarkcycle/status/1227677372826226689 

Here we want to cover two things: first, the information about a probable network for South East London, and how we play our part in helping to get there.

From the shared slides, Dr Norman showed the existing network and the future proposals for TFL. Here we can see purple routes that are a Quietway approach, blue routes that are cycle superhighway approach. In red, the alignments from the strategic cycling analysis and the green shaded areas are livable neighbourhoods. This is the big picture of where TFL routes should get to by the end of the Mayor’s Transport strategy that are known. This does not include routes we know are coming such as Old Kent Road or Southwark only schemes. With all routes being delivered to the TFL standards, this means routes like Cycle Superhighway 7 are being revisited and brought up to standard along with the existing Quietways as part of bringing them into the Cycleway programme. You can read more about the cycleway quality criteria here: https://lcc.org.uk/pages/tfl-quality-criteria   

map link: https://maphub.net/seanhowes/will-norman-future-inner-south-east-cycle-network

So lots of new routes and a refresh of many existing. Combined with Southwark’s existing infrastructure and the council’s own proposals you can see it’s the start of normalising active travel in the Southeast. Making it something we all can do without fear or fuss. The need for safe welcoming infrastructure was something Dr Norman was 100% clear on. The message as infrastructure is a must and while the rest of the supporting measures are useful they need infrastructure to be the most effective. 

The commitment to minimum standards has been a huge step in the right direction. Meaning we can ensure the worst and most wasteful schemes do not get funding. We know LCC central wants these standards raised further and that is very much a battle the LCC is best placed to fight from the central organisation. It is not a battle for us to have with councillors or schemes directly. 

We, as a local group, want this network delivered as quickly as possible and to the highest quality. Dr Norman was again very clear on how we can best achieve this. The message was that our relationship with councillors and officers needs to be that of a critical friend. With more focus on the friend than the critical. This is something the local group in Southwark has been working on and will continue to work on but we will need your help. Whenever you are talking with councillors, at public meetings, on twitter, etc as a person who wants this network you need to keep this in your mind and ensure it shapes your interactions.  

As a group, we need to build relationships with as many Councillors as possible and you can be a key part of doing this. If you want to help us you should contact secretary@southwarkcyclists.org.uk with your name and postcode so we can help you identify your Councillors and build that relationship. We can work together to build that relationship and help guide you through the best ways to build that critical friend relationship.  

As individuals when we are doing things such as talking at meetings and responding to consultations we need to bring with us a “Yes and” mindset. This will help us encourage the good the Council and Councillors do. So you should always consider your feedback through this lens. When looking at a plan find the good bits and say “Yes we support this and you could also do x or y to make it even better” rather than “No we don’t support this unless you do x or y”. This will encourage the council to do more and ensure the council are better able to understand that when we are being critical of a scheme its important to listen to. As too often sensible criticisms of unsafe approaches get lost in a sea of negativity. We want to be a group and people the council look forward to hearing from and not one they dread talking with.

Lastly, we must form a broad coalition working across groups to build alliances with common goals where active travel provides for the change we need. This means working with other groups focused on walking, cycling, clean air, road safety, safe neighbourhood groups and many more such as local residents association and faith groups. By building a broad coalition we can ensure there is community buy-in from schemes. This again is an area you can help with. If you are a member of any such organisations get in touch again via secretary@southwarkcyclists.org.uk outlining the group and we will start building out those relationships and what both groups can offer each other. 

So let us take Dr Normans great advice and keep this in our minds as we work towards our common goal with other local groups, Southwark Council, and TFL. We have a real opportunity to make South East London a place people cycle as a first choice, at all ages at all times of day and in all conditions because we have safe, welcome and easy to use cycling network. 

Notes: The shared map lists phases this is extracted from the slide deck that was shown and may not be any representation of the order routes will be delivered in. We just wanted to keep that information.  

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