Archive for the ‘Cycling, road safety and transport’ Category

Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign at Oval Farmers’ Market

02 Mar

The community stall at the Oval Farmers’ Market has always been a good place to canvas views of the local population on a variety of issues.  Yesterday, it was being used by the Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign. Activity at the stall appeared brisk.

I wasn’t directly involved (too busy doing follow up consultation on the Oval Triangle and attending a Friends of St Marks Churchyard meeting) but understand the  majority canvassed were not aware of the proposal to demolish the bus station and were against it once they had heard.  A minority had no opinion on the matter and only a small minority were content for it to be demolished.

There can be little doubt that the Vauxhall gyratory area needs to be improved.  However, Lambeth and TfL appear to have polarised local opinion by ‘promoting’ what they think the solution is before they had asked the local community.  Now there seems to be some back tracking going on but the damage has already been done.  My preference would be to get behind a positive vision for  Vauxhall gyratory and I haven’t seen one yet.

Let’s not forget that the TfL/Lambeth legacy to the area has been three of the top 10 most dangerous junctions in London for cyclists (Vauxhall gyratory, Oval junction, Elephant and Castle).   Vauxhall Bus Station opened in 2004 and ten years later it is threatened with demolition by those responsible for putting it there in the first place.  Their past record does not instil me with confidence that a sensible vision for Vauxhall will emerge from this process.  Perhaps it is time to let the local community try.


Oval Triangle cycling event

27 Feb

With all the Clapham Road flooding going on this evening it seems more pressing matters will be on people’s minds but I did want to mention an event that took place this morning on the Oval Triangle.  It may not be the safest or quietest venue but the Oval Triangle was chosen to launch the Transport Committees cycling report.  Those who visited were offered a little breakfast, a free bike service from Dr Bike and security marking from the police.  Val Shawcross and others from the London Assembly were there.

I was really pleased to be seeing this space used in this way and hopefully it will be used again.  TfL are expected to make some money available to improve this strategic green space in the middle of the Oval Junction. Some preliminary consultation has already taken place with the next round being held at the Oval Farmers’ Market on Saturday

Here are some pictures from this morning.






Clapham Road flood and road collapse

27 Feb

Our sympathies to all those residents and businesses affected by the Clapham Road floods this evening.  It looks like Palfrey Place has been badly affected.  If anyone needs any help please make contact.  Apparently a water main burst and after a bus passed, the road collapsed.  Nicky from Abi’s Deli was interviewed and maybe appearing on TV tomorrow morning

Here are some pictures of the Clapham Road flood from earlier  and I’ve posted a few short video clips here.

As the road has collapsed I suspect it will take some time to fix so if you are thinking about driving tomorrow think again.


Some thoughts on business friendly parking

05 Feb

Multiple penalty notices

We are in a time of transition with cycling on the ascendency and car driving becoming an increasingly minority occupation – at least in inner city areas like Kennington/Oval/Vauxhall. However, many shops and businesses still rely on customers who drive and that is likely to remain the case for some years to come.  The challenge is to find a solution that works for everyone.

If you look closely at different commercial areas you will see a wide variety of parking restrictions in force.  For example, compare the relatively business friendly parking around Little Portugal (South Lambeth Road) with Kennington Cross and the Oval Parade  All three areas are predominately TfL controlled red routes with Lambeth controlled parking in the side streets.  None of them are even close to being ideal business friendly parking.

Consider loading bays 10:00-16:00 being a common offering on red routes. Now go into shops like Dirty Burger in Vauxhall and Abis Deli on the Oval Parade and ask them about the reality of loading bays. Legitimate delivery drivers are constantly getting tickets and some have refused to deliver. Never mind the theory, the reality is damaging local businesses.  Let’s change track for a moment and consider the big supermarkets.

The next time you go to a big Sainsburys or Tescos take a few minutes to count the cars coming in and out and ponder on what the environmental impact is. Also, count the number of bicycles in and out and the relative amounts people seem to be buying using each of those transport methods.  It should be fairly obvious that if it were not for the car parking spaces, supermarkets of that size could not exist. Look what happened to Sainsburys when they down sized. Fewer car parking spaces, higher prices. Take away their car parking spaces completely and they are on a more level playing field with other shops.Now lets go even bigger.

Large Westfield style shopping centres and retail parks
A few people have cited Westfield Stratford City as a good example of a shopping centre well served by public transport and that would certainly be true. However, let’s remember that they also have some 5,000 car parking spaces and charge £5 to park all day. In contrast, drivers wishing to shop around the Kennington Oval area would have to pay £4 per hour and as a result, very few would choose to shop

Impact of declining shops
The current situation is that many shops that people want to see in their local area have long since closed and those that remain open are suppressed.  As we lose our local shops we end up having to walk, cycle, drive  or travel by public transport further.   This adds to the demand on public transport and roads.    One strategy to reduce demand is to help local shops thrive. Unfortunately, ill thought parking restrictions do the exact opposite and have now become part of the problem. I’m not suggesting a return to the past with lots of small Victorian shops but on the other hand if we can find a parking formula that works for local shops in a particular area then we all win.

Finding a solution for an area
Now here is the rub.  In many areas like the Oval Parade there is generally insufficient pedestrian and cycling traffic for shops to thrive purely on those sources of customers.  What is particularly frustrating for  shops based in such areas is that they are subject to the noise and pollution of thousands of cars passing but get hardly any income from them .  Compare that with a well utilised supermarket car parking space each of which may be contributing to up to 10 short range car journeys per day with corresponding sales.

Different business types and their parking requirements
Of course not all businesses need car parking spaces equally. Consider an area with a mix of estate agents, take-away shops, convenience stores, delicatessens, dentists, hairdressers, butchers, pubs, restaurants etc. Estate agents generally rely on internet business these days and can survive without parking spaces.  In contrast, take-away shops and convenience stores can get away with 20 minute/30 minute bays as customers can pop in and out quickly or even take a gamble on double red lines. Cafes and restaurants on the other hand need people to stay a little longer.  Also, if a customer wants to visit several shops half an hour is not enough.

So what is business friendly parking?
Supermarkets and retail centres are the masters of this and they know perfectly well what car parking arrangements work for them – usually free parking up to 2 hours. In contrast, shops in traditional commercial areas are subject to the whims of TfL or their local authority.  I use ‘whim’ deliberately because when you start to look closely at local restrictions you quickly realise that in many cases they have little relevance to the shops they are supposed to support.  A classic example is the recent increase in ‘take-away’ friendly TfL 20 minute red route bays to 30 minutes as if one size fits all.  It may not be TfL’s policy to give a competitive advantage to take away shops and convenience stores but in a way that is exactly what they do.

Now the last thing I would argue for is free all day parking.  If you did do this, e.g. South Lambeth Road, shop owners and local residents would probably just block the spaces up with their own cars.  It may be better than nothing but comes no where near the efficiency of a supermarket car park.

There is a clear line between business friendly and business damaging parking and it is easy to tell the difference when you observe what is happening in a particular area.   I don’t pretend to have all of the answers but if the research is done then a solution will emerge.



Vauxhall Gyratory cycling experiment

19 Jan

[Don’t be tempted to try this!]

I set out this morning with a simple idea – to test the relative merits of cycling different routes around the Vauxhall gyratory.  In the end, I had to call the experiment off because I thought it too dangerous even though it was a sunny Sunday and traffic was quieter than normal.

The intention was to cycle the following routes at a moderate pace and see what the average timings were. Here are the results:

  • Inner road route (5 laps) : average 3 minutes 18 seconds
  • Outer road route: (1 lap) 6 minutes 25 seconds
  • Cycle lane route  (2 laps) average 9 minutes  15 seconds

All traffic and pedestrian lights were complied with (6 on the two road routes and 10 on the cycle lane route) . As it turned out the experiment was flawed.  It would have been better to test typical routes through the Vauxhall gyratory rather than go completely around it.   The outer route I had in mind (tracking as close as practical to the cycle lane route) proved too dangerous due to having to cross the flow of traffic in place. Whilst I could have persevered, it didn’t seem a justifiable risk for a flawed experiment.  

In conclusion:

  • At over 9 minutes, I found the cycling route tortuous and can understand why some cyclists and pedestrians choose to ‘jump’  lights;
  • On the cycle lane route, there was more  conflict with pedestrians than expected so much so that I preferred to use the roads.  In any case, parts of the route had to be on the road anyway.
  •  On each lap I was obliged to stop on at least two occasions but often much more.  Although it may be possible to cross sections of the gyratory e.g. Vauxhall Bridge towards Kennington without stopping it it unlikely that you could go around the gyratory at a steady pace without being forced to stop at some point.



Vauxhall cycle lane survey

17 Jan

A recent article in the Guardian bike blog included a video clip of a cyclist travelling  around some of London’s most dangerous junctions including the Vauxhall gyratory.

The cyclist featured in the video was criticised by one online commentator for not using the cycle lane at the appropriate points promptly triggering some counter criticism that the cycle lane itself was not well designed. In order to test out the view points, I carried out a very quick survey this evening watching how cyclists were using the cycle lanes and the alternative road route under the bridge near the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT).  Here are some pictures to illustrate the issues.

  • The first picture shows a batch of cyclists opting for the road route under the bridge ignoring the safer but slower cycle lane to the left.  Note the road signage and worn road markings which do not make it easy for someone new to the route to find the cycle lane.
  • The second picture shows a cyclist coming out of the cycle lane near the RVT.  Note also how the cycle lane on the road starts, arguably, after the main danger has passed.   The pavement outside the RVT (from where the picture was taken) narrows so much so that cyclists often have to come to a complete stop as they compete for space with pedestrians or wait to join the flowing traffic.
  • The third picture shows a cyclist and a pedestrian waiting to cross the road.  Almost invariably, the cyclist will continue on the dedicated cycle lane.


The survey took about one hour at around 5pm  time when it was getting dark and traffic was busy.  A total of 106 pedal cycles exited either the cycle lane or alternative road route under the bridge..   Here are the results:

  • 58% (61 of 106) took the road route, the remaining 42% took the cycle lane route;
  • 59% (63 of 106) turned right,  towards South Lambeth Road the remaining 41% headed straight on towards Kennington;
  • Of those who headed straight on towards Kennington, approximately half (21 of 43) used the road route and the remaining half the cycle route;
  • Of those who turned right towards South Lambeth Road (as the cyclist featured in the video did) , 63% ( 40 of 63) used the road route and the remaining 37% the cycle route.

Although I did not specifically measure the relative time that cyclists have to wait I estimate that cyclists taking the safer cycle lane route would add between 30 to 60 seconds to their journey when turning right and up to thirty seconds when heading straight on.

Based on this very small survey, the cyclist featured in the video was doing what the majority of cyclists do when turning right.  Of the 40 observed doing something similar, only 1 (in my opinion) was badly positioned having to cut across traffic to a safe position.

A number of  subsidiary observations were made during the survey:

  • There were two near misses (pedestrians almost being hit) during the hour or so of the survey  – once by a car and once by a cyclist;
  • Of the 40 turning right from the road none joined the segregated cycle lane because there was no practical means to do so other than by jumping up on the kerb;
  • Almost all cyclists crossing the road at the RVT continued on the segregated cycle lane towards South Lambeth Road.  Only 1 of 23 went back on the road
  • Of the 22 who used the segregated cycle lane, only a minority 36% (8 of 22) joined the marked cycle lane at the start.  The 64% majority cycled on the pavement for at least 20 or more metres before joining the cycle lane.

In my assessment, there is clear room for improvement in this area for both pedestrians and cyclists.  No doubt there are many possible solutions but here are some:

  • A wider pavement outside the RVT;
  • A proper filter to allow those going ahead to Kennington to join the traffic flow without having to stop (this would probably encourage more to use the cycle lane rather than the road under the bridge)
  • A means to join the segregated cycle route towards South Lambeth Road for those turning right.



Northern Line Extension Agreement with Lambeth

12 Dec

In cross examination at the Northern Line Extension Public Enquiry  (see Transport for London (TfL) revealed that they will be paying nothing for the use of Kennington Green and Park.  Although they are paying nominal amounts for the subsoil rights – £50 in the case of Kennington Green – they will be paying nothing to occupy the land as such.

The following link shows a copy of the NLE agreement dated 12 November 2013 between Lambeth, Transport for London and London Underground

TFL17 Lambeth and TfL agreement Nov13

The agreement includes money for “Relevant NLE Sites Consideration” which I interpret as TfL paying Lambeth for the following:

  • £50 for Kennington Green permanent land/subsoil interests
  • £800k for the acquisition of the Kennington Park Keeper’s Lodge including permanent land/subsoil interests throughout Kennington Park
  • £24k towards Lambeth legal and surveying expenses


A further £50k + VAT towards costs of relocating Bee Urban will also be paid. Additional costs associated with re-instating the spaces once the NLE work are complete would be required regardless.  For example, Lambeth require a deposit and would charge community groups/commercial users for any damages to the green spaces on top of any daily rate.  Page 49 of the following guide indicates Lambeth’s charges for commercial events

The financial aspects of the NLE agreement appear to be very favourable for TfL so much so that I commended them on their negotiation skills.  On the other hand, Lambeth residents appear to have been short changed by up to £2.9M based on the following analysis.

  • Sale of Lodge at under market price £150k  (£950k-£800k)
  • Kennington Green Charges  £547,500  (£500 x 365 days x 3 years)
  • Kennington Park Charges  £2,190,000  (£2,000 x 365 days x 3 years)

The precise amount will depend on what is a fair market price for occupying public green spaces.  Community groups would be charged several hundred pounds per day for occupying such land and commercial operations even more.  TfL are proposing exclusive access 24 hours per day for several years and there should be an appropriate daily charge for that occupancy.

As far as I am aware, Lambeth did not consult with the public on the contents of the NLE Agreement and if there is some ‘benefit in kind’ at work here this must be made transparent.  The tax authorities would not take kindly to public bodies using sleight of hand to avoid paying what is due and this seems to be the case with the current NLE Agreement

 I would not wish to suggest for one minute that anything illegal or improper has gone on here. I’m sure officials on all sides would have been acting with the best intentions.  However, there is a rather large financial shortfall that needs to be accounted for. 

With this in mind,  I have in the first instance written to Lambeth asking for the matter to be investigated and have also raised the issue with the NLE Public Enquiry.


[Declaration of Interest:  Although the NLE tunnels pass near my house, I am personally in favour of it.  My interest is mostly about the impact on local shops and businesses.  At the Enquiry I was making representations on their behalf particularly those around the Kennington Oval area.  Unfortunately TfL seem willing to sacrifice local shops and businesses in these areas (in the short/medium term) for what they think will be a long term benefit.  I disagree with their analysis. There is an existing commercial imbalance in the area caused by the congestion charge zone and ill thought out parking restrictions.  The NLE will add to the imbalance. I will continue to press for rebalancing and improvements to the public realm in commercial areas a I believe this will help local shops/businesses to flourish.]






Is Kennington Station on the right side of the road?

26 Nov

The simple answer is no, Kennington Station is on the wrong side of the road or at least it needs another entrance/exit on the other side of Kennington Park Road.

There has been much debate about Kennington Station with the local community wanting to have it upgraded as a pre-requisite of the Northern Line Extension.  TfL on the other hand don’t want to upgrade it, at least not yet.  There has been a lot of technical discussions about the need for upgrade but one thing I haven’t seen discussed is the above ground pedestrian flows so I thought it worth doing one of my ad hoc surveys to see what the patterns are. The following survey is not intended to be statistically robust but it does seem to indicate a need for an entrance/exit on the other side of the road.

Standing opposite the Kennington  Station for one hour (from 17:10pm), the numbers entering and leaving the station were counted. Of those leaving the station, their direction was noted Here are the results of the survey:

448 exited the station and 35o entered

Of the 448 who exited the station:
* 150 (33%) stayed on the same side of Kennington Park Road as the station and 298 (67%) crossed over.
* 215( 48%) went towards Elephant and Castle (both sides of road), 135 (30%) went towards the Oval and the remaining 98 (22%) along Braganza Street.

In 2012, the average weekday exit figures for Kennington Station were 6,737. Assuming 67% cross Kennington Park Road we have  approximately 4,500 making that crossing each weekday (each way) and this is just those using the station.  If other pedestrians are added the figure would be much higher.

Kennington Station was built in 1890.  With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better if the entrance/exit to the station was built on the other side of the road thereby reducing the numbers of pedestrians needing to cross the road.  The current pedestrian flows above ground do seem to support the case for modernising Kennington Station.




Which way do people turn when they come out of the Oval Station?

25 Nov

The burning question on absolutely nobody’s mind but my own is “Which way do people turn when they come out of the Oval Station?”

This apparently trivial question has something to do with the Northern Line Extension and its’ impact on shops/businesses along the Oval Parade. When the proposed Nine Elms Station opens, at least some local residents/employees will use that station instead of the Oval. This will, theoretically, result in a reduction in numbers of people walking along the Oval Parade and if that happens, some shops may lose out.  The following survey is not intended to be statistically robust but it hopefully gives an indication of the problem that businesses may face.

Standing outside the Oval Station for one hour (from 17:20pm), the numbers entering and leaving the Oval Station were counted. Of those leaving the station, the direction was noted Here are the results of the survey:

517 exited the station and 415 entered

Of the 517 who exited the station:
* 289 (56%) crossed the road towards St Marks Church;
* 165 (32%) walked along the Oval Parade;
* 43 (8%) crossed the road towards Kennington Park Estate;
* 20 (4%) walked back towards the Oval.

In 2012, the average weekday exit figures for the Oval Station were 9,138. Assuming 32% pass along the Oval Parade we have  approximately 2,900 passing along there each day (each way).  Many will cross the Clapham Road but a proportion will make their way towards South Lambeth Road.  It is this proportion that may prefer to use a new station at Nine Elms.  Short of asking everyone where they live and how much they spend it is not practical to determine an actual economic impact but a range can be estimated using some basic assumptions.

Assuming 100 divert to Nine Elms having spent an average £2 per day along the Oval Parade, local shops would lose in the order of £50k from their turnover.  If 200 diverted, £100k would be lost etc.  As a very rough rule of thumb, £50k turnover in a retail business equates to roughly one job or for a service business roughly two jobs.  Again as a very rough rule of thumb, for each 100 reduction in foot fall approximately 1.5 jobs would be lost.

The NLE will almost certainly result in a reduction of footfall along the Oval Parade and a corresponding reduction in turnover on those shops/businesses that depend on that footfall. No one can know for certain what that reduction will be.  The effect may prove negligible or large enough to put some shops out of business.

In terms of impact on particular shops it is known that not all businesses will be affected equally. For example, estate agents rely increasingly on the internet. In contrast, delicatessens, cafes, gift shops etc. rely almost entirely on foot fall and they are the ones that will be most affected should the  NLE result in a reduction of footfall along the Oval Parade.





Are weight limits on residential streets being enforced?

25 Nov

Prima Road, adjacent to St Marks Churchyard, has a vehicle weight limit of 3 tonnes. Given that most residential streets in Lambeth don’t seem to have such a weight limit, it is surprising that some overweight vehicles have found their way onto this particular street. I’m not an expert, but my interpretation of the weight limit plates is they are indeed over the limit which begs the question as to why the rules are not being enforced.