Isabelle Clement is the Director of Wheels for Wellbeing, an award-winning charity supporting disabled people of all abilities to enjoy the benefits of cycling.
Wheels for Wellbeing is part of the team of organisations appointed to help Sustrans deliver the TfL Quietway programme ensuring the routes are inclusive and accessible.
Isabelle takes us on a journey down Quietway 1, recording her thoughts.
I was very pleased to handcycle from Waterloo to Greenwich again on Q1, now that most of its planned improvements are made. I had ridden it last year, with Anne Wright riding her trike, so we could point out any elements which impeded access by wider/longer cycles and I wanted to see how much had really changed, now that the route has been given the Quietway treatment.
I was disappointed to see that the route starts in the middle of very busy Southbank traffic making it an un – Quietway initially. Traffic flows started to calm beautifully once we’d crossed over Borough High Street into Trinity Street. Sadly, we then met the Trinity Street barrier again, so far unchanged (the huge chicane-creating triple barrier, which seriously impedes cycling by wider/longer cycles). I am glad Southwark Council have agreed to widen it (but not remove it due to some very vocal residents). Some cycles are likely to remain excluded from the route. We will test it again, post widening.
On from there, things had improved noticeably! A narrow contraflow has been widened, making it much more pleasant to handcycle through. As we got to the end of Webb Street, through Swan Mead, gone were the dangerous camber and narrow pavement, and best of all, the ridiculous chicane barriers we'd had real difficulties wrapping ourselves around to get through last year. We now had a clear approach, through a wide and inviting two way track. Along Oxley Close, I was very impressed with how several previously pedestrian-only areas with tricky bollard forests/barriers have become barrier/bollard-free and inviting for cyclists. I wasn’t 100% sure about the “double humps” under the bridge (a bit odd on 3 wheels) but this is apparently necessary, to avoid a previous problem with inconsiderate motorcyclists returning to the area.
Where the Quietway crosses seriously busy roads (The Cut; Borough High Street; Tower Bridge Road; Dunton Road etc.), a variety of solutions have been found, which have mostly removed the intimidation factor for cyclists. I felt that the signage could still do with improving so novice users of the routes would be given maximum help to anticipate rather than hesitate, but overall, it worked well. I realised whilst riding the route that lights phasing clearly are based on fast, fit cyclists getting through quickly and will be raising this as an issue with TfL. Starting from stationary with a handcrank or on a trike does seem to take longer than on a two wheeler and this is relevant as part of Quietway design.
The approaches to South Bermondsey station and the new Millwall by-pass are beautiful and inviting (if a little steep), in great contrast to what was before! No more cycling on the main, busy road to get to the cycle path along Surrey Canal Road. From that point, the route wasn’t 100% finished but we could see improvements to some seriously cycle unfriendly areas literally in the making as we cycled by and eventually had to stop due to resurfacing work in progress.
Overall, I feel that the route is much improved and is inclusive in design (with some improvements still needed or in progress). The raised tables on Belvedere Road in Lambeth are dangerously broken up, affecting all, but particularly those cycling on more than two wheels. In general, I disagree with the extensive use of raised tables as a traffic calming measure, especially with the use of expensive cobbles. These jar your spine if you can’t stand on your saddle (especially when going way down off the raised table) and they are much more likely to fail and result in wobbly cobbles and potholes, making them not only expensive to build but also to maintain. Sinusoidal humps are always preferable in our book.
I very much hope local people along the road find that trunks of the Quietway increase their confidence to cycle (and that this is repeated across London). As we cycled along, who else but Ashok Sinha, CEO of LCC greeted me as he happened to be passing us in the other direction. No novice cyclist, but enjoying the benefits of Q1 all the same!
For me, the ride left me with the brilliant feeling of being out there, on a relax cycle ride, able to chat with co-riders, rather than stressed and concentrating on staying alive!