Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum Response to Transport for London’s Get Cycling / Central London Grid

(Consultation closed on February 14 2014)

Fitzrovia West – Our Area, the Context

We have set up a steering group and are applying to Westminster City Council to establish the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum in order to represent residents and businesses in the area

We are fortunate in Fitzrovia West to be exceptionally well served by public transport. That situation can only improve when Crossrail opens as we are between Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street stations. We may be more accessible by public transport than anywhere else in London. Certainly there is nowhere else in the country- or maybe the world- so fortunate. Additionally, if one needs to go from door to door in a motor vehicle, it is easy to find a black cab- or use a Zip Car. If we want to take the air and exercise we cycle or walk. This is urban living at its finest for those who are lucky enough to live in this area. It can only happen in a dense urban area and so we are in a unique position.

The introduction of the Congestion Zone has helped this area enormously as, prior to its creation, the neighbourhood mostly ground to a halt between 11am and 5.30 pm on weekdays with emergency vehicles unable to get through. It was not uncommon to see ambulance helicopters land at Oxford Circus. Meanwhile all the vehicles were pumping out exhaust fumes.

As Westminster’s Cycling Strategy reports ‘Car ownership data for Westminster shows an increase in the number of households who do not own a car from 56% in 2001 to 63% in 2011’. Only 37% of households in Westminster own a car- it is probably lower in Fitzrovia West, which is very densely populated and there would not be room for 37% of households to park a car.

When the Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Rd opens, according to a recently published report by Arup, there will be 250% more people coming out of the station than at present. We tried to imagine Oxford Street with 250% more people than at present and the press of people on surrounding areas. This is in addition to relaxed controls on planning which are greatly increasing the density of our area. It is hard to see where or why there would be room for parked cars in this scenario.  Crossrail is also likely to bring more cyclists into the central area.

We very much welcomed the introduction of TFL’s blue bikes to London and they have introduced many new users to the joys of cycling and, by boosting the numbers of people on bikes, they have helped to raise awareness of cycling by other road users.


Get Cycling / Central London Grid – Our comments


According to Westminster’s Cycling Strategy ‘Between 2000 and 2012, there was a 150% increase in cyclists passing through a central London’. We see that as a good thing. As car ownership declines the number of people on bicycles increases. Many people are shifting to bikes rather than cars and the bicycles take up less room on the road, do not pollute the air, do not add to climate change and permit traffic to keep moving.

We agree with that document that ‘Greater emphasis must be placed ….on making cyclists feel safer on London’s roads and reducing accident casualties.’ Most of those who say they would like to cycle in London, but do not, cite lack of safety as the reason.

Your grid shows cycle ‘routes’ three of which go through Fitzrovia West and those routes would then presumably be made safe for cyclists. But Fitzrovia West, like the rest of central London, is covered by a grid of streets, all of which are accessible to, and presumably safe for, motor vehicles. (Motorists are never advised to wear helmets.)The present situation is that motor vehicles may go anywhere in Fitzrovia West and be safe and it appears from this document that that is what is proposed here. As this draft document is TFL’s “Get Cycling” Strategy what we would like to see is a determination that someone on a bicycle could, as a motorist can at the moment, go anywhere in Fitzrovia West (and London) safely. We would like cyclists and pedestrians to have the advantages to which motor vehicles are presently accustomed. We do not wish just a few streets in central London to be safe for cyclists- we wish all streets in central London to be safe for cyclists and pedestrians and therefore safe for everyone. We would like children to be safe cycling to school.

By encouraging cycling, we would also like to see TFL do much more to reduce traffic caused air pollution, which is a health hazard.

We would like to propose the following measures to make central London safer for cyclists and pedestrians. This does not necessarily mean spending a lot of money. It does mean:

1.    Introducing a speed limit of 20mph on all roads in Fitzrovia West and other central areas. This would not necessarily increase overall journey time but would prevent racing between traffic lights. As stated in ‘The Mayor’s Vision’ “There is clear evidence that traffic travelling at speeds of 20mph improves the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians”.

2.   Public realm improvements and attractive landscaping whenever development is  taking place- safety measures can easily be incorporated.

3.   Tweaking at difficult and dangerous junctions -often quite simple interventions can make a huge difference.

4.   Separation where necessary can be achieved just by some strategic planters or bollards

In terms of detail on particular streets we agree with the points made in response by the Westminster Cycling Campaign, in particular:

In its present state, New Cavendish Street falls far short of the standard expected of a Quietway, because of problems caused by the volume of traffic, parked cars and conflict with left-turning vehicles at certain junctions. And it is one-way. However, we are not keen on the alternative route via Duchess Street, which is far from being direct, legible and coherent. So our favoured solution is to transform New Cavendish Street, as Westminster once did with Ebury Street.’ Westminster cycling Campaign

We welcome the fact that TFL is looking to improve the safety of cyclists and to raise awareness of cycling and we agree with the vision of this publication but the suggested proposals fall short of implementing that vision.

We were unable in the documentation to find any reference to your own TFL London Cycling Design Standards and we wish to see London’s roads raised to those standards.

As examples of good practice:

Our vision in Fitzrovia West is for a habitable city and therefore we admire the work of Jan Gehl. Here is his ‘Contested Streets’ video showing how it is done in Copenhagen

We also admire the cycle route in London  from Northchurch Street N1 running east through de Beauvoir Square which has been very simply transformed from a rat run for cars to a wonderful place to walk or cycle simply by the use of some strategic bollards (while still allowing access for motor vehicles). Now everyone wants to live there. That strategy could be applied to many other streets in London.

Barbara Corr         on behalf of the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum

Details of the TFL overall strategy and detailed maps – including ‘Quietways’ through Fitzrovia West – can be found here.