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The new Portsmouth Road 'super' cycle Highway

3 years ago...

I cycled down some of this today towards Kingston and the new bike lane abruptly ended and then you are forced onto the main road - but without the old cycle lane in existence anymore. The point at which the cycle path ends suddenly becomes really dodgy and it feels really dangerous. The road narrows and there is absolutely no margin for safety. On top of this all the road markings are ambiguous and half faded away. At least in the old days there was actually a cycle lane! I think if they going to make such a radical change to this road they need to properly crack on and get it done as soon as possible because right now I have already seen two people nearly get knocked over and the whole Portsmouth Road cycle Highway thing ( mini Holland project?) has made life dangerous for cyclists confusing for motorists and pretty dodgy for pedestrians. Seriously if you're going to do something like this you need to crack on and get it done quickly and not mess about. The rate of progress on this has been astonishingly slow. Infect all looks like it's completely abandoned now.

Comments

I drove in from The Scilly Isles roundabout to Giggs Hill Green this morning, now this is a wide stretch of road with a substantial cycle lane each side. As this stretch of road is perfectly adequate, I think it is a prime candidate for an extension of the "Portsmouth Road Super Cycle Highway", do you not agree? ;)!

Merry Xmas to all members of the "Portsmouth Road Super Cycle Highway Appreciation Society"!

Yesterday I saw two cyclists riding abreast towards Kingston on Portsmouth Road.... But not in the cycle Lane! They seem to be a law unto themselves.

The law is badly written on this point! Cyclists are allowed (and sometimes encouraged) to ride two abreast and they are legal able to use the roadway even when there is totally separate provision just for them.

This worked fine in the 'old days', but isn't at all ideal post-2012. If the various cycle schemes going in around London were properly thought out I don't think that the outdated laws would cause a problem.

Well they are allowed to ride on the road. Direct your questioning toward the council's act of madness.

I am a cyclist and a motorist and regularly use this section of the Portsmouth Road. Kingston council have created an obstacle course for both cyclists and motorists and unlike other similar schemes I have yet to meet anyone who has anything good to say about it. I rarely see cyclists using the cycleway but I have seen many still using the road and on one occasion saw three cyclists using the pavement next to the cycle way!

It will probably cost another few millions to re-engineer it so that it makes sense.

I am becoming a fan of this new trend of blending slapstick humour with road layout. In Portsmouth Road the most inspired piece is the bus stop area. It is quite fabulous to see an arrangement in which one can now confidently alight from a bus, having stopped several yards from the kerb (ha ha ha nice one) only then (I love this bit) - to step directly into a one million pound high speed dedicated cycle path! Ha ha. Of course there are secret cameras hidden nearby preparing for a comedy TV show, capturing film of bus passengers being run into by random cyclists. Of course I will tell my 83-year-old mother to not use the bus now, naturally, but for younger folk, this surely will be a hoot. Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton and the like were great but for true comedy genius, there is another level of farce. Thank you, Kingston council. You put a smile on my face.

Yep, as somebody who both cycles and drives that road, I thought it was insane from the moment I saw it.

What gets me is that it's supposed to benefit the new or nervous cyclist, but how on earth are they supposed to reach this marvelous sanctuary without cycling on the roads which allegedly frighten them?

It actually looks a bit like a Bus lane design. Maybe in due course it will become one. I cycle but haven't used it yet.
I find it a bit confusing as a vehicle driver.

Work is happening in phases:

November 2015 - we'll fence off the site, prepare the site, provide temporary crossings and bus stops, we'll make sure that you can always get to all the properties on the road and Queens Promenade
November to April 2016 - we'll put in the two-way cycle path between Brighton Road and Palace Road
May to October 2016 - we'll build new steps, ramps and make public space improvements to Queens Promenade and we'll excavate the pavement in sections between Palace Road and South Lane
May to October 2016 - we'll build the two-way cycle path between Palace Road and South Lane and we'll make signal changes and layout improvements at the Brighton Road junction

We anticipate construction to be complete and the area open for use by autumn 2016.

(!!)

Stop ! my sides are hurting.

Work is happening in phases:

November 2015 - we'll fence off the site, prepare the site, provide temporary crossings and bus stops, we'll make sure that you can always get to all the properties on the road and Queens Promenade
November to April 2016 - we'll put in the two-way cycle path between Brighton Road and Palace Road
May to October 2016 - we'll build new steps, ramps and make public space improvements to Queens Promenade and we'll excavate the pavement in sections between Palace Road and South Lane
May to October 2016 - we'll build the two-way cycle path between Palace Road and South Lane and we'll make signal changes and layout improvements at the Brighton Road junction.

We anticipate construction to be complete and the area open for use by autumn 2016.

I think they have messed up the project timelines rather seriously, unless something very radical is going to happen very quickly in the next few days!

It is a bit embarrassing that they haven't updated the website, they should have done so unless work is really going to accelerate in the coming weeks.

The end of October is 7 weeks away, so a decent contractor who is focused on the work could easily still deliver it in that time, but the ones that have been working on it so far seem to lack any type of focus whatsoever.

It needs to be completed quickly, because it is very dangerous for all road users in it's current state. Cyclists are not using the part of the cycle lane that has been constructed because it doesn't lead anywhere. Instead, they are cycling in what is left of the road, which is no longer wide enough to accommodate this.

Motorists are getting angry with cyclists for holding them up, and this is how accidents happen. In actual fact, the cyclists are legally allowed to use the road anyway even when there is separate provision for them, but I doubt many of them would do so if the cycle lane was complete and becomes logical to use.

"Motorists are getting angry with cyclists for holding them up, and this is how accidents happen."

If drivers have anger management problems they shouldn't be driving.

I am sure I speak for many but the only anger I see these days on the roads comes from cyclists those riding on pavements are even worse.

"Motorists are getting angry with cyclists for holding them up, and this is how accidents happen." < How does this work then? Driver has a tantrum and knocks cyclist off. If that's how people are they should not be allowed to drive.

Well I suppose if they aren't sufficiently organised enough to finish the roadwork they're probably not sufficiently organised to update their website. Working for the council seems to mean : no accountability, no commitment, no pride, no goals, no ambition. Just a shambolic collective of expensive and pointless incompetence.

It is ill thought out,absurdly positioned,(try coming out of the Harts car park),little used by cyclists riding from Kingston and around the Long Ditton area the bike lane always has cars parked in it from before the Jaguar garage to the Scilly Isles.
It will be interesting to see how many accidents occur now that this masterpiece of poor planning has been installed.

It is a complete shambles, I still see cyclists using the original road, not even using the cycle lane! What a waste of public money and a complete nuisance for car drivers.

Hey Anonymous, have you noticed that the cycle lane hasn't been completed yet? Maybe, just maybe that's why not every cyclist is using it.

Yes I think the fact that it still isn't finished is perhaps something we have noticed! It's been going on for months and months and the council claimed it would be done by autumn. When does autumn finish pray? I can see this dragging on for at least a year and when it is finished we can all turn round and ask what was the purpose of that?

Agreed

Yes I have also noticed other cyclists ignore it. I think because how dangerous it is. Kingston hospital could have used that money, they're flat out especially in A&E. Maybe the council have run out of budget on it. That would explain the dire lack of progress. It is ironic actually how until recently one was able to cycle down Portsmouth road along a little cycle lane. Now after council involvement and no doubt significant disbursement of public monies the road has become a like death trap. An insane outcome and I think there are real possibilities that someone is going to get hurt if my experience is anything to go by. (Had one driver nearly hit me and my wife trying to cross the road on a zebra crossing which he though was decommissioned). Those ambiguous zebra crossings just look half abandoned. Ultimately I think all this simply underlines the excessive nature of our council tax - local authorities can just nonchalantly throw our hard earned money away into the wind in this manner. Who actually is responsible for this?

The Portsmouth Road was a death trap. The vehicle speeds were far too high. That's why people died on it. That's why there's a speed camera on it. now it is narrower people driver slower. There are more pedestrian crossings in the new design. Was it better when people drove at illegal speeds? Give me an answer. Yes or no will do.

This group is part responsible, they have a local coordinator. Make your feelings known to them

The London Cycling Campaign
2 Newhams Row, SE1 3UZ
020 7234 9310
londoncycling@lcc.org.uk

I work at the LCC office - please email campaign@lcc.org.uk instead, or even better, get in touch with the Kingston Cycling Campaign https://kingstoncyclecampaign.wordpress.com/ - as I've no idea who that one goes to (I think it's the editor of the LCC's mag) and how often it's checked. And yes, do make your feelings known.

For what it's worth though, while I don't think the track is perfect - far from it, I also do think that sniping at one isolated scheme that doesn't really connect to anything and does represent a radical shift in approach from Kingston council isn't the most constructive thing to do. This track isn't for current fit, fast road cyclists - it's for people who don't feel OK about cycling along that road at present. When I rode it just after it opened, on a wet and blustery day, there were already kids heading home from school on it. That's the future - kids, families, mums etc. on bikes.

So yes, do get in touch - but if all you've got to say is "argh, I hate it", then don't expect an amazingly useful response!

Cheers,

Simon Munk
Infrastructure Campaigner
London Cycling Campaign

I am shocked at what has happened to Portsmouth Road. I've been cycling this route to work for 20 years. There is so much wrong with this scheme I find it difficult to know where to begin but your comment that "This track isn't for current fit, fast road cyclists - it's for people who don't feel OK about cycling along that road at present" has prompted me to reply.

I was waiting at the zebra crossing waiting for an opportunity to cross and get onto the cycle-way and ended up chatting to a short-distance cyclist. Someone who you might describe as not "feeling OK about cycling". She was a confused as I was as to what this development is for as she told me she never had a problem cycling along the cycle paths on Portsmouth Road. It's a relatively straight, safe route to cycle and already had cycle paths along both sides of the road. We now have to negotiate two lanes of traffic to get onto it, negotiate back across two lanes of traffic if we want to turn left up any of the side streets (I've counted the side streets; there are 14 extra instances of danger now that weren't there before) and then cross back via a zebra crossing to carry on our way into Thames Ditton. And what if one is a 'fast road cyclist'? I'm cycling along at 17 miles an hour and am now taken up onto a shared pavement 4 foot wide! What if I feel confident and just want to travel along the road and not use the cycle path? The road isn't wide enough now for cars never mind bikes so every week I have been screamed at, swerved at and tooted at by irate drivers.

I avoid Portsmouth Road now and although it adds a mile to my journey I cycle along Hampton Court Road to my destination as it has safe, easy, cheap cycle paths painted along both sides of the road.

£30 million. What a waste. Extraordinary.

The demonstrable evidence is that the road is wide enough for cars, lorries and buses. I fail to see how it's not wide enough for you on your bicycle.

The simple demonstrable fact is that before, there was an actual cycle lane! And now after spending over £1.3 million to er, provision better cycling, there is no cycle lane. This is Kafka on steroids.

Excellent, balanced comment. Most serious cyclists seem to be defending this scheme on the basis that any money spent on cycling is money well spent, so it is nice to see someone who is prepared to question that.

Driving up the Portsmouth Road tonight I saw a car drive out the Harts Boatyard down the cycle lane towards Kingston as though it was the road, and a few hundred metres on a car had mounted the cycling lane sign / metal pole at the start by the lights, the driver being questioned by the police...keen cyclist myself but I have to say it's a mess.

You're right to point out that there are so many bad drivers about. Some of them are drunk too. Is it any wonder that people don't want to be in the same road space as drivers who are driving too fast, unable to see clearly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

Seconded!

I don't think people are 'sniping' at it, the cold simple reality is that the road has been butchered for no obvious reason and for which taxpayers have been levied an enormous sum of money. It wasn't a cycling group that dug up the road privately and did this damage. It was the council. They should hang their heads in shame. Just try cycling down Portsmouth road into Kingston now. It's not far of from being a death trap. As a keen local cyclist I no longer use that road anymore going into Kingston as it stops abruptly and you are forced into a now narrow chicane of angry traffic.

This venture has obviously caused frustration for both cyclists and motorists. It is all very well some people commenting that the scheme might end up being beneficial for inexperienced cyclists and will be "good for families", however, this constitutes occasional usage. Portsmouth Road is one of the main arterial routes in and out of Kingston, a lot of people travel along this route twice a day, every day, to and from work, not to mention commercial truck usage and buses. So to chop up this route, without what appears to be any real forethought with regard to the effect it will have on cyclists and motorists was reckless, a waste of taxpayers money, and does not benefit the majority.

Literally have Just seen two adults and 2 children nearly mown down by a car in Portsmouth rd, the section closest to Kingston. A car had nowhere to go and thankfully pulled back at last minute. Thus is terrifying, two adults and two very young kids on bikes. The council should be sued for this abortion of a road "scheme". There's no sign of any workers on the cycle lane project, no warning signs or anything. If you cycle, my advice is steer clear of Portsmouth road, seriously. It's a death trap waiting to snap.

The council are working against themselves here. The scheme looks ridiculous as it stands, but there are no workers onsite most days of the week. If there are many more incidents like the one you have witnessed, especially if injury is caused, the lane will gain too bad a reputation and people won't want to use it even when it is finished.

Simon,

Thanks very much for providing a balanced view on this issue. I have lost count of the number of times that I have seen people from pro-cycling organisations supporting this scheme 100% and not accepting there are any flaws.

The current investment and interest in cycling is massively positive, for both groups of cyclists that you mention and, by extension, the community as a whole.

However, when the investment is made badly, as many believe it has been in this case, it can actually become quite divisive.
For example, I agree with your comment that this lane is not aimed at ‘young, fit cyclists’, but other road users might not. Take an HGV driver who uses Portsmouth Road on a daily basis. From their perspective, a major arterial road has been reduced to little more than half its original width to allow for the cycle lane, and then cyclists are using both the cycle lane AND what is left of the road at the same time.
It is important to note that it is 100% legal for the cyclists to use both, but I just think that it does little to to improve relations between cyclists and other road users and that is a shame.

Well put.
I have a colleague who has been cycling back and forth to work along Portsmouth Road for the last 15 years and in his view £1.3m pounds has been spent on solving a problem that didn't exist in the first place. His thinking being that Portsmouth Road was wide enough anyway for both vehicles and bicycles to cohabit safely enough. It's much easier to "solve" (I use the word loosely) a problem that didn't really exist.

For confident cyclists, there was no problem to solve in the first place, and they will be negatively impacted by the cycle lane, both because they are more likely to be injured by motor vehicles on a much narrower road, and because it could further diminish the reputation of cyclists in the view of other road users.

For other cyclists, I think that there definitely was a problem to solve in the first place. I live off the Portsmouth Road, and I feel I will actually benefit from the lane if/when it is completed properly as it will give me a safe route of getting into central Kingston where I can then link up with the riverside path, Ham Lands, Richmond Park, Bushy Park , Home Park etc. without ever having to cycle on a route exposed to traffic.

The problem is that the cycle path doesn't look like it will ever provide a particularly logical solution, and has just served to annoy other types of road users.

Anyway, it is all very well criticising, so here a fee of the options I would have investigated:

1. Building the cycle lane narrower. I think it is great to have a cycle lane wide enough to allow for overtaking of slower cyclists, but if the original road is too narrow to allow it to be built safely, AND the faster moving cyclists aren't going to use it anyway then surely it makes sense to have a narrower path?

2. Utilise the Queens Promenade. A lot of trees have already been lost to this scheme anyway, so why not use the lower portion of the promenade for cycling and then split the main part as you get closer to the Kingston end.

3. Learn from other schemes. There have been a lot of very successful cycle schemes implemented around London, so why does this one seem so different?

Have emailed these folks but no reply thank you anyway for the information

Thank you for this information I have emailed several days ago and received no response. But thank you anyway

When this work in Portsmouth Road is finally complete then:
a) The emergency services vehicles won't be able to thread their way through traffic jams like they used to be able to.
b) Large vehicles (e.g. rubbish collection trucks) will be unable to enter or leave the side streets without swinging out on to the opposite side of the road, which is dangerous.
c) Traffic jams, and hence pollution will increase because (i) the left filter lane for Brighton Road is usually inaccessible and (ii) not all cyclists will use the cycle lane, in particular the ones that want to access an intermediate side street.
d) It will be virtually impossible to pass a bus that has stopped to pick up passengers (more pollution).

But apart from this, I think the cycle lane is a great idea. Does one need a frontal lobotomy to become a traffic planner? (Just an idle thought from one of the silent majority :))

Yes I think you probably do need a frontal lobotomy to be a traffic planner but with the looming doctors strike coming up you'll have to go private. In the meantime I wholly concur with your comments. I don't think the Kingston traffic planners could organise a bun fight in a bakery. But I look forward to having to eat my words, and it all magically coming right somehow...

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