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.



Fallen capital at St Marks Churchyard update

11 Jan

On Saturday 21st December 2013, a high sided delivery vehicle visiting the market dislodged the ‘capital’ of one of the St Marks Churchyard entrance pillars causing the capital and its capping to fall to the ground (‘Capital’ is an architectural term for the ornate part at the top of a column). Fortunately, no one was hurt but the capital, its capping and concrete paviours below sustained some damage. As Christmas and New Year have intervened, progress in getting the damage repaired has seemingly been a little slow but the work is not trivial and it will probably take a few months to sort out. It is expected that the works will be organised by Lambeth Parks but will be paid for by the relevant insurance company.

The Friends of St Marks Churchyard met today and undertook to chase progress. For posterity, below are some photos taken on the day of the incident and 21 days later.


St Marks Church war memorial upgrade

20 Dec

St Marks Church war memorial has been upgraded and people will now be able to approach it more easily. I do have some reservations about the upgrade though:

(1) It might have been better if they used traditional York stone to match the traditional church pathways. Perhaps the new paving stones might look better when they age but at the moment, the churchyard hard paving areas are becoming a patchwork of different materials,

(2) As a point of principle, if a grass area is paved over, it would be nice to offset that by freeing up some existing hard paves areas for planting/grassing over (That misnamed “Kennington Oval greenspace” opposite the Oval Station).

I understand some benches will be coming but in the mean time, here are some pictures to mark the progress so far.


Oval Farmers’ Christmas Event

17 Dec

The Friends of St Marks Churchyard started in October 2013 and they were organising their first Christmas event last Saturday.  Lots of new members were signed up and the mulled wine was definitely worth having.  I was very impressed by the effort put into contacting local businesses who made donations towards the event.  Carols were courtesy of Kennington Choir. Here are some pictures from the day.



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.]






The search for Kennington Oval

02 Dec

Several fellow tweeters have commented on the Kennington Oval [the name has got to change] article about what the name of the triangular space opposite Oval Station and St Marks Church should so here is a follow up.

Kennington Oval greenspace sign
Just to prove that it is the ‘Kennington Oval’ here is the sign to prove it. The sign mentions Brit Oval (now Kia Oval) so perhaps those who chose the name felt that the ‘Kennington Oval’ had become available.






Kenningon Oval green space signs

And in case we didn’t get the message the first time, Lambeth Parks kindly tell us again on a nearby sign that this is indeed the Kennington Oval. So far, I have detected five names for the area albeit with slightly different boundaries. For the record they are:


Kennington Little common

The area marked in red on the right is, I believe, the original approximate boundary of Kennington Little Common which at the time was also known as Gallows Common or Gallows Green due to the hangings that took place there






Kennington Oval greenspaceAround 1820, the site was divided by Camberwell New Road – a turnpike resulting from the building of Vauxhall Bridge.  This effectively created a smaller triangle from the larger one.


Footfall at existing and proposed Bee Urban Location

01 Dec

Bee Urban is a social enterprise based at the Kennington Park Keeper’s Lodge with outposts at multiple locations.     Although they are due to be relocated as a consequence of the Northern Line Extension, the Kennington Park Keeper’s Lodge site is on Lambeth’s disposal list so their future at the site is not guaranteed.  The current proposal is  to move them to the Kennington Park depot area.

Some businesses/enterprises like Bee Urban depend to varying degrees on footfall.
The following time-lapse film illustrates the difference in foot fall between the existing Bee Urban location (Kennington Park Keeper’s Lodge) and proposed location (Kennington Park depot area).

A sequence of four time-lapse  films were shot on Sunday 1 December between about 10:30am and 1:30pm with each sequence covering approximately 30 minutes.  The films were shot a rate of 1 frame every 4 seconds. The weather was overcast.  Footfall on a sunny day is likely to be higher and on a rainy day, lower.  To reduce effects of footfall varying by time of day, the camera position alternated between the two locations being changed every 30 minutes or so.  The film was shot when Bee Urban was closed to ensure that any self-generated foot fall was excluded.

There are clear differences in foot fall between the two locations.  Although the area outside the Keepers’ Lodge appears relatively busy in terms of footfall, this is poor in commercial terms.  Based on this limited sample, footfall appears insufficient to sustain a profitable business dependent on foot fall alone.  It would suit a business which generates new footfall or one that relies on the internet sales/telephone ordering.  In contrast the footfall at the proposed depot area is virtually non existent.

Note:  Immediately behind the camera position at the depot area there is a path leading to St Agnes Place and Kennington Park Adventure Playground (the path was closed at the time of filming).  The building on the left is the café with a path in front to the right.  The current landscaping and path locations mean that the footfall on these paths is too far from the proposed Bee Urban site entrance to benefit them.  

As currently configured, the Kennington Park depot area is not suitable for a business/enterprise dependent on foot fall.  Any business located there would have to rely solely on a combination of self-generated footfall and internet sales/telephone ordering.


Kennington Oval [the name has got to change] clear up

30 Nov

Many thanks to all those who turned up to clear ‘Kennington Oval’.  It was a confusing start though as people didn’t know where ‘Kennington Oval’ was so volunteers started in the churchyard!  Still, the team finally found it by 10:30 and managed to make a good start on clearing up.     Let’s hope Lambeth street care,  who are responsible for cleaning the area, get the hint.

The name of the space has certainly got to change. I’m not sure who in Lambeth started calling this triangular space  Kennington Oval but it is plain wrong.  I think it best that we leave ‘Kennington Oval’ for the cricket ground and the road that goes around it.  As the space has been triangular since about 1820 – getting on for 200  years – I think we might as well start calling it Kennington Triangle .  This seems particularly apt as the volunteers ‘disappeared’ for a while this morning and contractors seems to avoid the area as if it were the Bermuda Triangle 🙂

Starting to get a few ideas about how best to use the space but it is early days yet.  A leak was pointed out near the bus stop – water is flowing up through the ground near a tree and flowing out onto the pavement.  Apparently it has been like this for years.  Surely not.   Here are a few pictures of the day.


How old is the ‘Oval desert island’ (aka Kennington Oval) and how did it come about?

28 Nov

The Kennington Oval may refer to the road adjacent to the Oval Cricket ground, the cricket ground itself or, rather confusingly, the triangular piece of land opposite St Marks Church and the Oval Station.  This article is about that triangular piece of land that TfL controlled red routes have arguably turned into an urban desert island although the triangular shape itself is getting on for 200 years old.

This map of 1868 clearly shows the triangle as does this map circa 1820.  However, this slightly earlier map from 1817  seems to suggest that the triangle was then linked up to the site where St Marks Church, Kennington (built 1822-24) now is but as the area of interest is right on the edge of the map, it is not conclusive.

The triangle almost certainly arose as a consequence of Vauxhall Bridge (originally Regent Bridge) opening in 1816.   The opening of the bridge established a demand for  Camberwell New Road  – a turnpike road authorised by an 1818 Act of Parliament (according to British History on line).  The new road linked into to Harleyford Street and then on to Vauxhall Bridge.  The siting of St Marks Church emphasised the boundary and the triangle was properly formed probably by 1822 at the latest but probably no earlier than 1818.

The triangular space is bounded by the A3 (Kennington Park Road) , A23 (Brixton Road) and A202 (Camberwell New Road).  These same sides of the triangle were, in 1868, named upper Kennington Lane, Kennington Road and Windmill Row.   The  1822 and 1817 maps show upper Kennington Lane as Harleyford Place.  Camberwell New Road was then New Camberwell Road.

It is a possibility that the New Camberwell Road followed an existing path defined perhaps by desire lines and the path may well have continued to Harleyford Street thereby defining the third side of the triangle so the shape may be relatively ancient.  However, it probably became a distinct triangle defined by roads circa 1820 which means that the ‘Kennington Oval’ is coming up for its 200th anniversary.  It would be nice to get the space sorted out including it’s ambiguous name. It is now being suggested that the space be given a more appropriate name – Kennington Triangle being one option.