Cycleway proposals withdrawn

We have an update for you about the “Barnet Cycleway” (see previous post  ( below) of  12 January.

Following  FBWRA “lobbying” of Councillors the Cycleway proposals have been dropped from the Agendas for the meetings of the two Council Committees that were due to consider them this month and in early February. We believe that Council Officers have been told to go “back to the drawing board”, as it were.

One of FBWRA’s criticisms of certain aspects the proposals was that they were unpopular with those, mostly local residents, who had responded to the June 2019 consultation, but there were other issues, apart from “not listening to ordinary people”, as well – unfortunately we did not have space to cover them in the Newsletter article-  we are doing so now.

First, “gold plating” ( a term used to describe how a simple proposal is made  more complicated, or given a wider scope, than is actually necessary to achieve the original objective)-

If it goes ahead the Barnet Cycleway has to meet the TfL Cycleway criteria – otherwise the Mayor of London will not provide the money to pay for it!  These criteria recognise a range of different designs and “highway environments” as being acceptable for a Cycleway.  Council officers seem to have been pursuing a strategy of “gold-plating”, by imposing elements of the scheme in excess of those required to meet the Cycleway criteria.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request made to the Council, FBWRA was provided with a copy of a “Sponsor and Quality Criteria Review “document relating to the proposals. This seems to show that, in relation to the controversial Ashurst/Buxted Road junction, all the Cycleway criteria are satisfied with the exception of that relating to traffic speed. Consequently   it is unnecessary to restrict access through the junction (as proposed) to reduce vehicle speeds; speeds can be reduced by other strategies.

The above is borne out by a comment from Sustrans (instructed by the Council to design the scheme) about this junction in this review document- “[the] new layout is to reduce traffic” yet, as explained above, TfL’s Cycleway criteria analysis seems to show this is unnecessary, and the only issue that actually needs to be tackled to meet Cycleway criteria here is to slightly reduce traffic speed (not volume) – so – gold-plating

Second, Council officers pursuing their own “agenda”, rather than following directions from elected Councillors.

When Council officers wrote to local residents last month, reporting on the consultation outcome and setting out how officers intended to push ahead with the scheme (despite its unpopularity), they wrote that the proposal for what would initially be a “temporary traffic filter” at the  Ashurst/Buxted Road junction was to prevent rat running traffic between Friern Barnet Lane and Woodhouse Road (even though preventing “rat running” as such is unnecessary for the creation of the Cycleway – see above).

However, the entire Cycleway scheme has been presented to Councillors as a cycling scheme, not as an initiative to tackle “rat- running”.  On 2 September 2019 Council officers held a meeting with Councillors representing Woodhouse and Coppetts Wards, which was attended by Councillors Hutton, Cooke and Rawlings. Officers from Barnet, Re and Sustrans also attended. Councillors were told that it was “Useful to remember that this is a cycle scheme” and that the” purpose of the scheme- [is] ensuring cyclists can safely navigate through the area.” (This is from another FOI response provided to FBWRA). No mention of rat-running.

We understand from an email sent to FBWRA by a Council officer that “political instruction” for the Cycleway proposals   derives from Chipping Barnet and Finchley and Golders Green Area Committees’  “parallel decisions” on 26 October 2016 regarding the scheme including arrangements for approval of concept designs for consultation.

The Officer  Report to the  Committees  in 2016 makes no reference to reducing rat-running as being an objective of, or of measures to reduce it as being  part of, the proposals.  Instead, the Report states:

The routes, intended to form a cross-London network of high quality, low-traffic cycle routes, will mainly use quieter back streets, parks and other greenspaces, and will be particularly suited to less confident cyclists who want to use low-traffic routes, while also providing for existing cyclists who want to travel at a gentler pace.

A route linking North Finchley and Hornsey is proposed and the agreement of the committee to Quietway Delivery Plan for the route, as far as it affects the committee’s area  is sought to provide TfL with assurance that the scheme is supported before releasing funding for further work.”

As mentioned above, the Report considered by the Committee in 2016 made no reference to reducing rat-running as being an objective of the proposals, nor do the Minutes of the meeting make any such reference.

So, there appears to be no “political instruction” for measures to be taken to reduce “rat- running” through the Ashurst/ Buxted Road junction – instead, Council officers have been pursuing this objective as a “frolic of their own”.

It is good to see our democratically elected Councillors taking back control.

David Thompson

Chairman, FBWRA