Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spin of a different kind

Today I took part in a 'cycling benchmarking' exercise in Lewisham. Basically, cycling officers from various other boroughs came to hear about initiatives within Lewisham to improve cycling, then went on a bike ride along some of the borough's best cycle routes (eg LCN route 21 from Deptford to Sydenham). The bit I didn't stay for was the feedback session when everyone says what they think was good/bad/could be improved about cycle provision in the borough, as they didn't want elected members there in case officers held back in what they said. Fair enough, I'm sure I'll get a summary of what was said in time. Interesting day though, and it gave me a few more ideas for the scrutiny review we are currently doing on the Sustainable Development Committee on 'Alternatives to individual car use'.

Lewisham is slightly unusual compared to some other London Boroughs in that 70% of its population travel to work outside the borough, it has a much higher than average percentage of people who use the mainline trains as their main form of transport, and although vehicle ownership has reason in recent years, it is still below the average both for London and nationally.

Since Lewisham has had a dedicated LCN+ officer in position, a number of improvements to local cycle routes have taken place and lots more are planned, but as with anything, there is always more that could be done and only so much that can be done by one person with limited time and budget.

There have certainly been a few improvements to the route (LCN route 21) I take to work in the morning, from Ladywell to Deptford via Brookmill Park. The barriers at the entrance to the park have now been removed, so cyclists no longer have to dismount, markings deliniating cycle and pedestrian paths have been added (though plenty of pedestrians still obliviously walk on the cycle path) and a section of quaint but treachorous cobblestones along Creekside has been replaced with tarmac. The cycling officer commented that what made it all worthwhile for her was when she met a disabled boy on a trike who couldn't previously access the park because of the barriers who was now able to ride his bike through it like everyone else.

While I think Lewisham has made some progress in improving cycling provision over the last couple of years, there is clearly still lots more to be done to make it a more cycle-friendly and less car-dominated place. What would you do to encourage Lewisham residents to get out of their cars and walking/cycling/using public transport instead? Comments please, preferably before Tuesday 24th October, when I have the next Sustainable Development Select Committee, and we are hearing evidence from a number of organisations and representatives including Living Streets and Streetcar.

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