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Cycling: It’s not just a case of getting from A to B, it’s about healthy streets for all

Anyone who regularly uses their two-wheeled friend is well-versed in the benefits of cycling: it’s the quickest way to get anywhere, it’s free, it keeps you fit, and you feel part of a ‘club’.

Cycling in Lambeth is certainly getting better. Cycle Superhighways 5 and 7, the Quietways network, residential bike hangars, more cycle racks outside shops and roving Dr Bike stations offering free cycle maintenance checks and advice, free cycling training and a try-before-you-buy bike loan scheme are all making cycling easier and safer for Lambeth residents. 

Lambeth Walk GP Dr Mitra contacted Cllr Joanne Simpson to lobby for new cycle parking

But what about the other benefits? We are not just cyclists. We are all someone’s neighbour, a fellow citizen; perhaps we are parents, a carer or are involved in our local residents’ association, church or community group. We don’t just leave the house, cycle off to work and then come back again. We visit the shops, go to the pub, we see friends and family. We share the spaces where we live with lots of other people: the woolly but oft-used phrase of the town planner – the ‘public realm’. 

New attractive cycle parking following lobbying from Cllr Joanne Simpson and Vauxhall Walk residents

Improvements for cyclists benefit the whole community. Take for example the left turn ban from Kennington Road onto Kennington Park Road as part of CS7. Residents living nearby (‘Methravia’ to the locals) were understandably concerned about the potential for rat-running in their streets. Working with residents, I led on a consultation to temporarily close one end of Ravendson Street to motor vehicles. Not everyone was in agreement as some residents living on Kennington Park Road were concerned about extra time added to their car journeys. The closure has been in place for over a year and residents now contact me to tell me about how the reduction in traffic means their children play in the street. There is local appetite to make the measures permanent and make more of a feature of the bollards, by introducing benches and planters so that residents can sit and enjoy the new space.

This is where money from the North Lambeth CLIP comes in. You may already have heard about the Cooperative Local Investment Plan from Lambeth Cyclists or your local Councillors by way of a leaflet or the weekly e-newsletter. As a recap, CLIP is the mechanism Lambeth Council is using to help Councillors decide on spending priorities from the money that the Council receives from a tax on new housing and office developments in the area (Community Infrastructure Levy). The North Lambeth CLIP area includes Prince’s and Oval wards and Councillors are keen to hear from residents about how it should be spent. 

Oval's Cllr Claire Holland with former Lambeth cycling officer, Richard Ambler.
Lambeth has lost Richard as part of the cut-backs.

Projects can be big or small. It could be to make public realm improvements, like at Ravensdon Street or outside the parade of shops on Vauxhall Street where the cycle parking is ill-placed and awkward-shaped and the planters with railings are mis-used as bins. Should residents in the area want it, CLIP could be spent to redesign the whole of that area, making it an attractive and welcoming place for people to use – including cyclists! 

Vauxhall St parade in need of some community inspiration

CLIP could also be used to identify and rectify snagging problems on people’s routes. A big bugbear of mine is the two sets of railings on Oval Way, a small residential sidestreet between the Oval and Kennington Lane. Not only do they make it difficult for cyclists, they are also difficult for parents with pushchairs and people in wheelchairs. 

Oval Way barriers.

Same with cycle parking. I can sometimes be found enjoying a glass of red in the Duchy Arms on Sancroft Street. But if I want to park Beatrice there (my trusty and battered Pashley), I have to use the street sign and it takes me 5 minutes to get the angle right so that my lock will fit. Some people on bikes might just not bother and head up to the Black Prince at the top where there is ample parking (and which is also an equally excellent pub).

Finally, CLIP can also be used not just on physical things (capital) but revenue-based projects too (albeit time-limited). At a recent meeting I held with some North Lambeth cyclists there were some great ideas such as a roving bike mechanics service on our housing states which could be combined with a training programme for young people. CLIP might also be used to fund ‘bike library’ at local schools so that all young children have the opportunity to learn the joy of riding a bike.

The main thing is that all these ideas must come from you. So please start thinking about what projects or programmes you will suggest as part of the CLIP process. And get talking to your neighbours, emphasising that this is not just about cyclists, it’s about healthy streets for everyone. You might think some greening in your street to slow down traffic is a good idea (and it probably is!) but have you won over your neighbours and got their support for your idea? Including the grumpy woman next door who thinks cyclists are louts, but who would perhaps support your idea if you chatted to her about how traffic-calming means her children would be safer crossing the road? 

Have you thought about where you typically cycle in the area? Do you visit one shop over another for your pint of milk because the cycle journey is easier, or because there are no bike racks? We want to hear about that route! What do you like/dislike about where you cycle at the moment? Where is it working and where is it not? 

Community planting group making Vauxhall St segregated cycling loo nicer for all

Please have a look at the consultation. Speak to your neighbours and share with your friends and family in the area. Encourage people to support your proposals or to come up with their own. 

Please also have a read of the Prince’s Councillor blog to see other ideas of what people are suggesting.

And if you are out and about and would like to tweet, please use the hashtag #NoLaCycle (NoLa is what Young Lambeth Co-op have abbreviated North Lambeth too. They are young and cool, and we Councillors are not, so we did not argue....)

Any questions about the CLIP (or any other matter), or if you would like me to come and speak to your local community group to talk about CLIP further, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Finally, if you’re not already a member, please consider signing up to Lambeth Cyclists, a friendly bunch who do some great lobbying of the Council.

Best wishes and #NoLaCycling !

Cllr Joanne Simpson

Labour Councillor for Prince's Ward

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