Making the case for contra-flow cycling

Dave

Allowing cycling in both directions on streets that have been made One Way for motor traffic is not totally new in Wandsworth.  Petworth Street (off Battersea Bridge Road) and more recently, Childerbert Road in Balham have long permitted it, with clear signage alerting drivers to the possibility of meeting cyclists coming towards them.

One Way Streets – Two-way Cycling?

Just a word of history

It will be difficult for most of us to remember! But years ago, Wandsworth’s streets were, like all streets, two-way for all users – pedestrians, cyclists, carts, motorists.

But almost a century ago the car started to be No. 1. It was a symbol of affluence.  And so convenient – for those who could afford it.  Motorists became the most influential users of the public highway by far.

  • They demanded to be allowed to drive faster with higher and higher speed limits.
  • They wanted one way streets because, with no oncoming traffic, they could increase their speed.
  • In fact, so many features of the streetscape we are now familiar with came into existence as a result of putting the interests of motor vehicle users first – notices on poles with information for drivers located not on the carriageway, but on the pedestrians’ pavement; pavements made narrower in order to give more road space to vehicles; crossings that made people on foot wait longer and longer and regulations giving them less time to cross.

Things are now changing – with the City of London leading the way

The City realized that by far the most numerous users of its streets were people on foot – workers, shoppers and visitors.  Cycling to the City was becoming a hugely popular way for commuters to get to work. And the safety of all users of its streets who are not driving their cars has become paramount.

So the Congestion Charge was introduced. All the City’s streets were made 20mph. And since 2009, the One Way streets – 80 of them – have allowed cyclists to cycle in both directions.

And the result? Not a single reported collision between pedestrians and contra-flow cyclists in the City in the nine years since contra-flow cycling was introduced.

And things are beginning to change in our Borough of Wandsworth too

Allowing cycling in both directions on streets that have been made One Way for motor traffic is not totally new in Wandsworth.  Petworth Street (off Battersea Bridge Road) and more recently, Childerbert Road in Balham have long permitted it, with clear signage alerting drivers to the possibility of meeting cyclists coming towards them.

In 2018, the Council decided to do what boroughs like Westminster and Lambeth had already done, often rather extensively. Wandsworth is now trialling (for a limited period of time) contra-flow cycling on five additional streets – Candahar Road in Battersea, Trinity Crescent in Tooting, Furmage Street and part of Twilley Street in Earlsfield, and Temperley Road in Balham. Local residents have already visited these streets and think that the signage has been excellently done (with one exception that is likely to be corrected).

In Autumn 2018, two more streets will be trialled – Disraeli Road and Norroy Road in Putney.

Should we pedestrians be worried?

Many of us have become so used to looking only in one direction when crossing a One Way street that we worry that contra-flow cycling will endanger pedestrians. The experience of the City – and indeed of whole cities like Paris – indicates that there is nothing to worry about. On the contrary, cyclists moving in both directions along One Way Streets compel drivers to go more slowly – to the great benefit of pedestrian safety.

Dave Irwin in Wandsworth Living Streets has prepared a short visual presentation about contra-flow cycling, why it is being introduced more and more widely in modern cities, and the reasons for seeing it as a way of improving pedestrian safety, as well as shortening journeys made by cyclists. Do take a look at it here.

DI-01

 

One thought on “Making the case for contra-flow cycling

  1. Sorry but I disagree with most of this. I firmly believe that moving traffic in whatever form in the same direction is safest. I say this having been ‘collected’ by a cyclist whilst trying to cross Blackfriars bridge – the town planners have had a field day and made this one of the most confusing road / bike interchanges known to mankind. Just a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt or killed.

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