Views on Kingston cycleways

by Henry Medcalf, a local young bike rider.

The Kingston cycle network has evolved hugely over the past 5 years. This has taken a lot of thought and planning and has created a very varied borough in terms of infrastructure and the quality of that infrastructure. Here are three things, in no particular order, that I like and dislike about cycling in the borough of Kingston.

Three good pieces of infrastructure in Kingston:

  1. Cycleway 30 (C30) between the Norbiton roundabout and Wilko, Kingston

This cycleway in north Kingston is one of the most complete and comprehensive cycle routes. It provides a safe link between Norbiton and the commercial centre of Kingston. Once you arrive in Kingston, you can link onto C29 going north to Kingston Station or south towards Tolworth. It will also link to Cambridge Road for a route towards New Malden once that project has received funding.

The cycleway is two-directional on one side of London Road, is fully segregated, with traffic lights at crossings and signage all along the route. The route allows you to bypass multiple traffic lights, including the Cambridge road junction which poses a risk to beginner cyclists.

The stretch of cycle route isn’t without its criticisms, however. There has been lots of scrutiny of the junctions with Gordon Road and Birkenhead Avenue. There is a lack of clear signage for drivers that the cycleway has priority. As a result, drivers encroach out into the cycleway, creating risk for injury. This would be rectified by adding more obvious signage or moving the current signage to a more primary position in full view of the driver.

2. The lowered curb by Kingston railway station

The dropped kerb reduces congestion on the crossing

Although a small detail, the lowered curb on the crossing of Sopwith Way is one of the most well thought-out changes since the introduction of the Mini-Holland scheme. It allows easy access to the segregated cycleway under the bridge. The presence of a route for cyclists also limits overcrowding between the two traffic light poles during peak hours – an essential consideration due to social distancing. The presence of a lowered curb is a highlight in an otherwise forgotten 1990’s era cycle route.

3. Low Traffic Neighbourhood on Lower Ham Road

A new no-through route makes Lower Ham Road feel much safer

One of the most recent changes in Kingston has been the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). These have come in the form of ‘modal filters’ that only allow pedestrians and cyclists through, but block cars to prevent the streets being used as short-cuts. The most effective example of this has been the modal filter introduced on Lower Ham Road beside Canbury Gardens park. This was built with the intention of preventing cars from using Eastbury, Chestnut and Woodside Roads to avoid Richmond Road. The road closure has had a positive impact and appears to have encouraged more cyclists to use the road. It creates a low traffic route from the centre of Kingston to the boundary with Richmond.

Three not so great pieces of infrastructure in the borough:

4. Cycleway 30 (C30) from Crescent Road to the A3

Shared space at a bus stop is far from ideal

This new stretch of cycleway stretching along Kingston Hill has been one of the most talked about and controversial pieces of cycle route built recently. Stretching over the hill and down to the A3 to the Robin Hood junction, the cycleway has been split so there is one lane on each side of the road. The cycleway is continuously segregated for the whole stretch.

Most of the controversy has come from the placement of the cycleway to cut through the bus stop platforms. There is a risk of conflict between pedestrians waiting or boarding the bus and cyclists coming down the cycleways. There is also inadequate signing to warn people waiting for the bus that the space is shared with cyclists. In addition, the bus timetable signs are placed awkwardly to the point where they become a hazard for cyclists coming down the route. To rectify this, I would change the bus stops to have islands, much like the bus stop near Kingston University on Penrhyn Road, and include a pedestrian crossing to alert people of bike traffic.

Another one of the issues in my opinion is that the cycleway doesn’t link up to any good onward cycle route. Unlike the above mentioned earlier part of the C30 route, once you are at the Robin Hood junction, you lack options for where to go. This is especially inconvenient for commuters, who would benefit from a proper link into the centre of London, instead of the poorly thought out LCN 3 route.

5. Cycleway (C29) A240 Surbiton Road crossing

Putting the cycleway on the other side of the road would have avoided this problem

C29 was the most complicated cycle route in the new Mini Holland project and it isn’t without its faults. The crossing near the junction of Surbiton Road and Penrhyn Road is one of those. Coming from the north, the cycle track suddenly changes into shared pavement space, increasing risk of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists. There is then a shared “Toucan” crossing to the other side of the road.

After crossing the road, cyclists have to dodge a telecoms box, pillar box and a bus shelter before turning right to join Surbiton Crescent. I would have kept the cycle track on the northeast side of the road past the shops to a signalled crossing to Surbiton Crescent.

6. Clarence Street bike-free zone

Current rules permit delivery lorries but not pedal cycles on Clarence Street.

Clarence Street is by far the busiest area in Kingston town centre. Despite this, it lacks proper cycle infrastructure. The pedestrian-only street is off limits to cyclists, however the “Cycling prohibited” signs are small and obscure. Despite its off-limits nature, Clarence Street is used as a direct east to west link for cyclists to and from Surbiton, Hampton Wick and Kingston Station. Cycling is permitted on nearby Castle Street which is narrower and in the Market Place which is busy throughout the day

In my opinion, there should be a cycleway that goes along Clarence Street with kerbs and pedestrian crossings to ensure minimum friction between cyclists and pedestrians. This would create links between C29, London Cycle Network (LCN) routes 74, 75, 3 and 33 with Kingston Bridge.