Question Time at Islington Council

Holloway Schools Former Cycle Racks

Holloway School’s Former Cycle Racks

TfL have abandoned the funding for Cycle to School Partnerships so it looks like the Tufnell Park Cycle Loop has stalled. The conversion of Holloway School’s ample cycle parking into picnic tables is clear evidence that Islington is failing to get local children cycling to school.

Holloway School Cycle Racks Mid-Conversion

Holloway School Cycle Racks Mid-Conversion into Picnic Tables

Islington Council allows the public to ask questions at Full Council meetings so I asked what the council would do to get children cycling in Tufnell Park. The question was  answered by Councillor Claudia Webbe who is Executive Member for the Environment.

Councillor Claudia Webbe

Councillor Claudia Webbe

Below is the verbatim record of our exchange at the Full Council Meeting on Thursday 4th December. Councillor Webbe recieved the first question in advance and then I was allowed a supplementary question. The council meeting was chaired by the lady Mayor who, I thought, made a rather unwarranted intervention for a council trying ‘to make it easier for members of the public to make their voices heard at council meetings.’

David Lincoln

Holloway School recently converted its impressive bicycle parking racks into picnic benches. This is sadly indicative of the failure to get Islington’s children cycling to school despite many children saying that cycling is their preferred transport option and despite the tremendous health & social benefits that could be achieved by incorporating this physical activity into children’s daily routine . Now that the ‘Tufnell Park Loop’ bid for Cycle to School Partnership funding has been rejected by TFL, what practical steps will the council take to facilitate a sustained increase in children cycling to school and play in Tufnell Park?

Councillor Webbe

Thanks for bringing this very important question. You asked about the cycle parking racks. What I want to say to you is we are very supportive of the bid to TfL and I’m equally disappointed with the result. However none of the bids for Cycle to School Partnerships programme across London were successful. None of the bids. And this was due to TfL reallocating funding to their quietways programme. TfL have very recently informed us of that they have decided to absorb the Cycle to School Partnership Programme into the Quietways programme for the following reason. They state that it was always their intention to support a small number of pilot projects. However a significantly greater number of proposals were put forward from London local authorities than could have been supported under their programme or under their budget. When reviewing the Cycle to Schools Partnership Programme submissions from London Boroughs it became clear according to TfL in many cases there was overlap with the proposals for Quietways and so as a consequence they decided to consider these as part of the wider network of Quietway routes.

David Lincoln

Thank you for the answer. My interest is not really just about an unhealthy fascination with bicycles but London has a big problem with obesity and the answer is glaringly obvious. Your answer was about TfLs reasons but there was a lot of investment from Islington and Camden Councils and volunteers into the bid. I wonder if you think it would be a good idea to ensure that investment wasn’t wasted and maybe we could explore ways that at least elements of the scheme in Tufnell Park………?

 Lady Mayor

Could you please just pose the question? You are supposed to be asking a supplementary question not making a speech so can you move onto the question part?

David Lincoln

I thought I was asking a question?

Lady Mayor


David Lincoln

My question was do you think that the investment should not be wasted and we should explore ways of implementing elements of the scheme so the children of Tufnell Park, in fact people of all abilities, can cycle safely as part of their daily routine?

Councillor Webbe

I think it goes almost without saying that the very nature that we were able to be ready to submit a funding bid to Transport for London for the Cycle to School Partnership Programme, we were making a very strong statement as a Borough about our commitment to children and their ability to be able to cycle safely to school and be able to have the input to enable them to do so. Consequently as a Borough we’ve been doing quite a lot when it comes to children and cycling. We have been doing it for years, if not decades, but years at least. And what we’ve been doing, therefore, are quite a range of things. We’ve had a programme, in fact I was delighted to join with the Leader of the Council and with our Shadow Transport Minister to visit a school where we witnessed a Bikeability programme for children in schools. And we witnessed that kind of programme that we do, not just at one school, but at many. And in all our primary schools we offer cycle training, we call it Bikeability, to enable children to understand how to cycle safely. We also deliver Bikeability in half our secondary schools. We have gained TfL funding under the Borough Cycling Programme to extend delivery and the reach of these beyond 2014 into 2017, so three years of programmes. There is support for several of our Youth and Play Projects where staff have been trained as cycle instructors. Our Borough wide 20mph scheme is, in effect, a cycling promotion since perception of cycling risk is the number one barrier to starting to cycle. So we in a sense want to say to you, David, is that we are a pro-cycling Borough. Not only are we a pro-cycling Borough but we support that to come from the next generation of children to be able to cycle safely to school, we think this is absolutely important and we will do everything possible and will continue to do everything possible to make sure that is a reality despite where TfL may be. And we are pursuing our Quietways programme so that it’s not lost and we will introduce cycle safety for children in those programmes as well.

David Lincoln

Do you agree that Holloway School converting cycle parking into picnic tables is a bit disappointing and not really a sign of success?

A third question is not allowed and wasn’t answered (even though it is actually the question I asked in the first place.)

The Full Council Meeting was live streamed and the recording can be viewed here: The segment for my exchange with Councillor Webbe start at 43.40 and ends at 50.40

Everyday is Match Day in Tufnell Park

Even if they are not an avid supporter of Arsenal Football Club, residents of the Northern end of Tufnell Park Road will still know when there has been a game at the Emirates by the post-match traffic queues. Suddenly the streets are filled with the throb of idling engines as the mass of cars wait their turn to go through the notoriously short green phase of the traffic lights at Tufnell Park Junction.

Now, everyday is like Match Day in Tufnell Park with traffic heading north backing up three blocks as far as The Junction Tavern. Presumably, Tufnell Park Road is experiencing an increase in traffic diverting from Holloway Road to avoid the congestion caused by the replacement of the railway bridge at Upper Holloway.



As well as the increased noise and pollution, just getting around the neighbourhood becomes problematic especially for locals who need to use a car for their journey.

While this level of congestion is not desirable, efforts to ease it by altering the traffic light phasing might be misplaced. There is evidence that displaced traffic might ‘evaporate’ if the alternative routes do not avoid the obstruction it is trying to avoid.

Contrary to widespread assumptions car drivers adapt to changes in road
conditions in highly complex ways which computer models cannot
accurately predict.

Short term
* initial cramming of roads was followed by searching for alternative
routes and times
to travel.

Medium term
* More varied and flexible trip-planning;
* changing mode of transport;
* reviewing the need to travel;
* trip combining.

Longer term
* switching locations of activities or even home or workplace.

Individually or in combination these diverse driver
responses to congestion can result in a proportion of
traffic ‘evaporating’

This from page 18 of the following:

The bridge work is not due to be completed by 2016 so we will have plenty of time to see if the traffic jams get worse or just go away as drivers adapt to the conditions.

One adaptive driver behaviour is to try out the side streets looking for ways to beat the queues. Yesterday I cycled past a driver who got fed up of queuing on Tufnell Park Road so pulled a three point turn  before passing me again on Yerbury Road apparently looking for a way back through to Holloway Road and likely went via Mercers Road.

In my view, residential areas like Mercers Road and Carleton Road should be access only, closed to non-local through traffic to prevent them becoming rat-runs and to promote conditions for cycling and walking in Tufnell Park.

Make Space for Cycling and Ease Congestion on Public Transport

Six thousand passengers enter Tufnell Park Tube Station every week day so if it is closed for seven months for lift replacement then Transport for London must mitigate against the disruption it will cause to local residents & businesses.

Closure of the station would divert thousands of passengers and cause congestion at neighbouring stations, on local buses and on local roads. It would take seventy-five buses to carry six thousand passengers (assuming they could be perfectly filled).

If people were given the right support, they could instead choose to cycle which would help to reduce the crush on the replacement buses. Each passenger on a cycle seat frees up another seat on the bus. More than ten per cent of the local working population already bike to work so potentially significant numbers of journeys could be diverted onto two wheels.

Implementing measures that support cycling would, of course, require some resources but evidence from the United States demonstrates that investment in cycling infrastructure brings economic benefits to local businesses. This would help those shops and businesses in the vicinity of the station that stand to lose significant footfall during the closure.

buydqivciaet40fLondoners would cycle more if there were dedicated cycle paths. Temporary or experimental cycle lanes could be added to surrounding roads such as Junction Road & Fortess Road. Signage and way-marking of existing cycle routes should be enhanced and action taken to overcome barriers and inadequacies that are know to exist along these routes.

Cycle parking at the nearest alternative stations at Archway, Kentish Town, Gospel Oak & Upper Holloway should be greatly increased for displaced passengers who find they have to go a little further on their commute than their usual station and choose to cover the distance by bike.

pile-up-300x225Boris bike stations could be trialled at Tufnell Park, Kentish Town & Archway Stations to extend the Barclays Cycle Hire network beyond Camden Town and provide a cycling alternative to this section of the Northern Line. The BromptonDock scheme inArchway shows there are alternative models of cycle hire that could be made available too.

TfL could work with local bike shops to get subsidised bike loan or bike purchase schemes to incentivise those who are put off cycling by lack of funds. Not everyone has room at home for a bike, so secure on-street parking or communal bike lockers could be sited to allow everyone access to the benefits of cycling.lambeth-secure-cycling-1

The benefits to health and avoidance of air pollution are further compelling reasons to get more commuters cycling as part of their daily routine. Many of these ‘new’ cyclists will continue to cycle when the station is reopened, contributing to the Mayor’s declared aim of normalising cycling and easing the pressure on public transport. Even if the station can be kept open, and one lift replaced at a time, there would most likely be congestion and disruption which would benefit from diverting passengers onto bikes.

So come on TfL, Camden & Islington councils: make space for cycling in Tufnell Park and ease the pressure on public transport.

The Tufnell Park Cycle Loop

Tufnell Park Cycles to School Re-imagined

Islington and Camden Councils have reinterpreted our proposed safe route to school and submitted an application for Cycle to School Partnership funding. The Councils’ submission is being kept confidential but we have been given permission to publish this Islington Council briefing note.

The Tufnell Park Cycle Loop

Islington Council in conjunction with Camden Council are promoting the Tufnell Park Cycle Loop, a jointly sponsored project aimed at encouraging children in the area to cycle to school and operated / funded through the new Cycle to School Partnerships. The Loop covers an area to the north of the London Boroughs of both Islington & Camden and is primarily centred on the Tufnell Park area.

The submission that was provided to Transport for London is subject to funding approval and normal Islington resident consultation processes.

The Loop itself encompasses six local schools; four primary schools and two secondary schools, and will utilise a series of quieter roads to circumnavigate the area and access the schools. In addition to the schools; the Loop also encompasses a series of local features including parks and play areas; key places that children, parents and the school themselves will want to frequent.

The project was the initial brainchild of a local action group called ‘Tufnell Park Cycles to School’ and David Lincoln, a local resident and member of the group with the foresight to identify a cycling opportunity in the area and help promote cycling to school . The initial idea rapidly gained popularity and support from local parents and stakeholders alike; to the extent that the local authorities jointly applied to Transport for London for funding for the scheme.

Firstly, it aims to provide a safe and quiet route linking the schools; and thereby encourage both children and parents to make use of the route. In conjunction with this; a ‘Bike Bus’ is to be investigated; providing dedicated ‘stops’ along the loop. The Bike Bus is one of a series of ‘soft measures’ aimed to promote and encourage use of this route.

Secondly, the Loop provides an informal link to neighbouring cycle infrastructure.

The Loop itself covers part of the northwest section of the London Borough of Islington (the Junction and St George’s Wards) and the eastern section of the London Borough of Camden (the Kentish Town Ward) and covers a total length of approximately two miles.

The area itself is primarily made up of residential two-way ‘quieter’ roads containing various traffic calming measures and corresponding 20mph limits, the Loop utilising these roads as far as possible. The initial Loop does, however, need to cross a number of specific cycle barriers including the A400 Fortess Road and the A5200 Brecknock Road in order to access adjoining boroughs, both locations necessitating special attention in terms of collision mitigation measures. All junctions around the Loop are to be assessed as to cycle permeability and safety with a view to improvement where possible.

In addition, the busy signal-controlled junction at Tufnell Park Road, Dartmouth Park Hill, Brecknock Road, Fortess Road and Junction Road has also been reviewed; a junction that, if cycle facilities can be accommodated safely, could enable the use of Tufnell Park Road to be to be incorporated into the Loop. This would be a more direct and potentially easier and more accessible section than having to utilise the more complicated and hilly Dartmouth Park Hill section. Junction Road is also to be assessed as to its suitability as part of the Loop.

Proposals resulting from the study would utilise a variety of cycle safety measures based on current design philosophy, in order to encourage the use of the route and ensure greatly improved cycle safety for children.

The Cycle Loop would link six schools namely: Yerbury Primary School, Tufnell Park Primary School, The Bridge Secondary School and Holloway Secondary School in Islington. Acland Burghley School and Eleanor Palmer Primary School are located in Camden.

The Cycle Loop would provide a safer means for both existing and new cyclists to travel to school by using cycle safety measures implemented as result of this study.

The objectives of the Cycle Loop scheme are to increase the uptake of cycling as a viable means of travel to school by, but not restricted to, younger children primarily aged 4-11. This would increase the number of school run trips made by bicycle and also achieve resultant benefits in terms of congestion reduction, public health and air quality improvements.

The number of people cycling in Tufnell Park is growing but it appears that children and young people are missing from the cycling demographic.

Main Recommendations

The most crucial elements of the scheme is the provision of cycling features at junctions and main roads and A-roads, therefore it is recommended that the following key areas are investigated, developed, designed and delivered according to the preferred proposal options:

  • Burghley Road signalised access to the 5-arm Tufnell Park Road junction
  • The design and implementation of the 5-arm Tufnell Park Road junction: ‘Scramble Zone’ or Cycle only phase on each of the 5-arm junction. The ‘Scramble Zone’ is a completely new concept, which involves an all green phase for cyclists, this would need extensive further feasibility and safety auditing, which is why an alternative option of including individual cycle only phase has also been included.
  • Provision of northbound mandatory cycle lane with light segregation by using Barcelona style ‘Armadillos’ on Junction Road leading up to proposed Station Road signalised junction
  • Implementation of proposed traffic calming measures and complementary cycle safety measures on the ‘quieter’ borough roads;
  • Design and implementation of the priority change at the junction of Tufnell Park Road and Dalmeny Road. This feature would have immediate benefits for existing cyclists who cycle north / south to connect to Camden and King’s Cross
  • Design and implementation of the Brecknock Road / Anson Road Toucan crossing

Costs for Delivering the Cycle Loop

The estimated overall cost for the design and implementation of all of the preferred proposals options in each borough is:

  • London Borough of Islington: £1,133,000 over three years
  • London Borough of Camden: £611,500 over three years.

If this bid is successful all funding will come from Transport for London, for both Islington and Camden elements of the scheme. Transport for London are currently shortlisting all the submissions with a view to informing  successful authorities in late March 2014.


Cycle to School Partnerships

Cycling through Tufnell Park playing fields. A wider, smoother surface would improve the path for cyclists, pram pushers and wheelchair users alike.

We’ve just got hold of TfL’s guidance for bids to the Cycle to School Partnership funding stream. This is a shame because the closing date for applications was 20th December so there is no chance now to submit or influence a bid.

Cycle to School Partnerships are a funding vehicle to support an increase in the number of children cycling to school as part of the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling.

The proposal  encourages

“communities to design their own safe cycling routes to school, including segregated cycle infrastructure, new and better crossings, filtered permeability, or some combination of these”.

Schools and councils were invited to bid for pump-prime funding by

“demonstrating how its proposals will substantially improve the number of children cycling to school , with infrastructure improvements that address key barriers to school cycling.”

Applicants were asked to suggest a route or routes connecting at least four schools to their main pupil catchment areas.

“A typical route might, for instance, circle through a neighbourhood, taking in all the schools in that neighbourhood. Additionally, or possibly alternatively, you can suggest wider neighbourhood traffic restriction measures to make a whole network of streets around schools largely traffic-free and attractive to child cyclists.”

“Your application must show how the route and/or street network in your application will become one that children will want to cycle on and one that parents will feel is safe enough to allow their children t o cycle on. The route/street network must provide new benefits.”

“Routes must be likely to attract users. A route, however safe, that takes people too far out of the way is unlikely to be well used. A route must have regard to children’s physical capabilities (children, especially younger ones, may not be able to cycle as far or as fast as adults).”

Reducing the school run by car is stated as among the most important objectives of the scheme. Applicants are obliged to

“commit to actively discourage parents from bringing their children to school by car, and to show how they will do so. This could include parking and dropping-off restrictions for non-residents, or street closures, or closures to through traffic at and around the schools concerned.”

The guidance does talk about ‘soft’ measures and states that  training and promotion are important elements of the scheme but the emphasis is on infrastructure.

“Please note: Infrastructure change is a mandatory requirement of the scheme. Each application must include the creation of a route or routes and/or a low-traffic neighbourhood, the discouragement of the school run, and all the infrastructure measures needed to support it.”

I am very impressed by the language in this guidance and think it shows vision and ambition to get children cycling to school. It recognises that the most significant barrier to child cycling  is parental concerns over safety rather than lack of awareness and proposes infrastructure change rather than an emphasis on promotion. It also confronts the school run by car by making its discouragement part of the selection process of the bid.

The successful Cycle to School Partnership bids are due to be announced at the end of March 2014. We hope that Islington submitted a sufficiently robust bid to be selected but we feel that Tufnell Park Cycles to School proposal was exactly the sort of scheme that the guidance intended to generate. It’s a shame that the bidding process is so opaque and we only saw the guidance this month (February). But I am hopeful that real progress will result from the Cycle to School Partnerships across London so that we will see significant and sustained increases in the numbers of children cycling to school. And communities that are safe and attractive places for children to cycle should be accessible for all.

Prevention not blame

RoadPeace Justice Watch

No one, least of all the Mayor, should be talking about blame in relation to the recent  scandal of cyclist deaths.

Even if a cyclist contributed or even caused a collision—does anyone really think that a death penalty is justified? We hope not.

The focus should be on prevention, not blame.

This summer London launched a new road safety plan, Safe Streets for London, which was based on the safer system approach. This was a major change for TfL and welcomed by campaigners including RoadPeace.

The plan aims for “roads free from death and serious injury”. Sweden introduced Vision Zero in 1997 and whilst many other countries and cities have since adopted it, London is the first in Britain to do so.

The three key principles of Safe Streets for London are:

  1. People make mistakes
  2. There are physical limits to what the human body can tolerate

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“More Needs to be Done to Tackle Obesity Timebomb” says NICE

“More Needs to be Done to Tackle Obesity Timebomb” says NICE

Professor Mike Kelly director of the centre for Public Health at NICE said “Obesity in children and young people is a serious and growing concern.”

NICE is recommending family based lifestyle programmes, including healthy eating, getting the whole family to be more active and reducing the amount of time spent watching TV and playing computer games.

An easy, cheap and sustainable measure would be to enable all children to cycle to school. Children love cycling and surveys show that cycling to school is the main preference of most children.

Children Love Cycling

Children Love Cycling

But here is where the well-meaning message from NICE encounters noise. In Tufnell Park, where most households (65%) don’t own a car and over 10% of commuters cycle to work, less than 3% of children cycle to school. Parents don’t let their children cycle because the roads don’t look or feel safe enough. It often feels quicker, safer and more convenient to deliver children to school by car.

Tufnell Park Cycles to School proposes a safe route to school linking 6 schools and 6 local play spaces. It aims to integrate cycling, walking or scooting into children’s daily routine in safety. Parents need to be reassured that their children can engage in activity safely or the message is lost. If it feels safer to let children play Fifa on the games console than to kick a ball around in the park because they have to cross a busy road to get there, then they’ll be kept indoors.

We believe that local authorities have a responsibility to tackle this problem and provide the conditions that enable families to achieve better health outcomes. Tufnell Park Cycles to School could play a significant part in helping local children to achieve recommended activity levels in a way that is fun, convenient and easy for parents and children to stick with.