22 September 2016

A Cycling and Walking Masterplan for Forest Hill and Beyond

By Brendan Cuddihy (Planning & Transport Committee)
One of the aims of the Forest Hill Society is to enhance the quality of life in SE23 and over the years the Society has had some great successes in this respect. However, two aspects of life in Forest Hill and the surrounding areas that remain below par are cycling and walking. Car use is relatively high as more active travel modes are not seen as attractive by many. The hilly nature of the locality, of course, plays a part in suppressing bicycle use, but the reality is that our streets are simply too hostile for most people to even consider getting around on a bike. Walking can also be an unpleasant experience as many of our streets are blighted by high traffic levels. Sadly, serious injuries and fatalities are not unknown on our roads.

In light of this, the Forest Hill Society is teaming up with the Sydenham Society and SEE3 to prepare a cycling and walking masterplan for the local area. This masterplan will look at our streets and consider physical measures to make them better places in which to cycle and walk. It will also look strategically across the wider area, and will identify where people want to walk or cycle.
For instance, safe routes to schools would certainly play a central role. The ultimate aim will be to make cycling and walking the most attractive choice when deciding how to travel around Forest Hill and Sydenham.

Getting more people cycling and walking would provide many benefits to the community. As well as improving road safety, there would be: reduced noise and pollution for people living on busy roads; economic benefits for local businesses from increased spend associated with cycling and walking; greater social equity from improved access and reduced travel costs for non-car users; and increased independence for children, the elderly and those with disabilities. And for those times when we need to drive, fewer cars on the roads means reduced congestion.

However, there are challenges — chief amongst them being our unique geography. The South Circular and the railway line present significant barriers to ease of movement around the area. Some creative thinking and bold ideas may be needed to deal with these barriers.

Our initiative to develop a masterplan comes at an opportune time, as Lewisham Council is set to adopt its first Borough Cycling Strategy; and in Sadiq Khan we have a Mayor of London who is keen to promote cycling and walking, and combat poor air quality and the public health epidemics of obesity and inactivity.

We are currently engaging with the councillors from Forest Hill, Sydenham and Perry Vale to build political support for this initiative. We are also continuing to monitor announcements from City Hall regarding cycling and walking — one of Sadiq Khan’s election pledges was to implement a ‘mini-Holland’ cycle scheme in each borough. Mini-Holland funding would allow for the rapid implementation of the masterplan. However, we are determined to push ahead with our local initiative even in the absence of mini-Holland funding, albeit as a longer term vision for the area.

Over the winter and spring we hope to kick off a series of community workshops inviting residents and workers to design the cycling and walking masterplan. By working with the community and relying on the help of organisations such as Lewisham Cyclists and Lewisham Living Streets, we can make Forest Hill a great place to get around by bike and on foot, for the benefit of all.


David Cook said...

Thus sounds like a very worthwhile initiative all round. Can I flag up one spot in particular, which is the junction of Lordship Lane and the South Circular (corner of the Harvester/Grove Tavern). The lack of pedestrian crossing signals makes this dangerous, especially when there is a cricket club right by the junction that a lot of the older juniors travel to without parent/guardians. I know Dulwich Ward councillors have been lobbying TfL for years about this without success (not clear why).

David Cook said...

Another spot I'd like to flag is that when walking or cycling route from Forest Hill to Dulwich Park, going past the Grove Tavern, along the South Circular, there is no pedestrian crossing in order to get across and into the park.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea. I am certainly interested in a cycle friendly route of getting from Perry Vale to Dartmouth Road. The most logical choice would be to upgrade the German Bridge so that it has a more shallow gradient and would allow not just cyclists, but also parents pushing buggies and disabled access.

Once this (small!) problem is solved, there is the further problem of space for cycling on Dartmouth road its self.. and then getting from Forest Hill to the "safety" of the Waterlink Way cycle routes (Houston Road?).. and then...

I've recently joined the London Cycling Campaign and I know that the local branch (Lewisham Cyclists - on facebook) would be interested in contributing to this initiative.

Becca w said...

Great ideas. I also find that drivers go too fast around forest hill. Southwark have rolled out 20mph speed limits on many of their roads - perhaps lewisham needs to do the same. As another poster has flagged there is a lack of pedestrian crossings, there is also a need for one at the junction of Cranston rd and woolstone road which is difficult to cross and a primary route for Jose walking to Kilmorie primary school.
Another issue I'd like to know more about is air quality on the south circ, and Catford Hill where the traffic is often backed up for long periods of time. This is a main route for children walking to St Dunstans and numerous local primary schools.

Forest Hill Society said...

Lewisham is now a 20mph borough (in the last couple of weeks) and you will start to see 20mph signs wherever the Red Route ends, or where you enter Lewisham. For example at the junction between London Road and Dartmouth Road.

Air quality is certainly an issue on the South Circular and main roads joining it. You can get an idea at http://www.londonair.org.uk/london/asp/annualmaps.asp

Kate Polling said...

This is a great idea, I've been cycling in Forest Hill and Sydenham for many years, often with a child in a seat on the back, but I think a lot of people are put off from doing so by safety fears.

I second the comment above about connecting Perry Vale to Dartmouth Road. Cycling via the South Circular is scary, even for an experienced cyclist, and I wouldn't attempt it with a passenger. Walking is also unpleasant if you're pushing a buggy so can't easily use the underpass and have to go the long way round on narrow pavements by very busy roads. The walk/cycle bridge over the railway in Ladywell Fields is lovely to use and something similar instead of the German footbridge alongside a spruce up of the footbath past Millennium Green would make a huge difference.

Infrastructure like that would probably improve our chances of getting some TFL cycle routes through the town centre linking us up with the cycle bridge at Crofton Park, Waterlink way etc.

Have you been in contact with Sustrans? They've been signing up new members along cycle routes in South East London recently.

Unknown said...

Yes, we definitely would want to help with this. I know Brendan made some very useful comments on our draft cycling strategy,and we have been attempting to make links with Living Streets in Lewisham too. Maybe a joint meeting is needed at some point. (Jane Davis, Coordinator Lewusham Cyclists)

Unknown said...

The main barriers to cycling in Forest Hill are the railways and the South Circular. Those who have posted about a safe route from Perry Vale to Forest Hill have only the German Bridge (just past Dietrich Bonhoeffer church) to help them. No good if you have any kind of disability, either personal or additional, such as a heavy or non standard bike, or accompanied by or carrying children. I think there are many who would benefit if this were made accessible. It's a link for many to local facilities, schools etc.

Unknown said...

I agree completely about the problem of the junction of Lordship Lane and The South Circular at The Grove Tavern. The lack of a pedestrian crossing is a nightmare. The situation has actually been made worse for cyclists following the resurfacing of The South Circular this Summer. There was previously an Advanced Cycle Lane Box at the traffic lights heading North towards East Dulwich. This was not reinstated after the resurfacing. This means that cyclists heading straight down Lordship Lane now have nowhere safe to go at the junction and are trapped by cars and lorries turning left at the traffic lights. It would be so easy to replace this box but nobody at TFL seems to want to do anything about it. I have even been told that the box never existed even though it can be seen on Google Street View.

Becca w said...

Great to hear, that was an easy "win" then :-P
I have also cycled round here for many years and would second the concerns about lack of ASL at top of Lordship Lane and about having to use the south circ to get out of forest hill which, in the mornings is backed up through the centre of FH with traffic,meaning that cyclists have to weave through narrow spaces until you get to use the bus lane further up by the Horniman. I wonder if there is any scope for pavement widening and a shared use path?