Changing Gears on Fossil Fuels

Simon Sinclair and friend Sam are soon setting off on an epic bike ride raising awareness of oil extraction in Surrey and inspiring people to cycle as they go. We asked Simon some questions to find out more:

Sam riding an earlier tour

Hello Simon. What’s this challenge then?

My friend Sam and I will be cycling from Kingston to Barcelona on Saturday 3rd July. We’ve given ourselves a month to complete the trip, and we plan to do around 50 miles a day (with the occasional day-off, of course). We are expecting it to be pretty tough, what with the heat and mountainous terrain!

What causes are you promoting?

So we have two related causes. The first is to raise awareness of oil and gas exploration in Surrey, which most residents aren’t aware of, and to raise money for the legal challenge against the permission to extract oil from the site at Horse Hill (Horley, Surrey) for the next 20 years. A good overview of this challenge can be found here.

The second is a general promotion of cycling; we’d love to inspire more people to take up cycling for a variety of reasons – the physical and mental health benefits, saving money, tackling air pollution and reducing carbon emissions to tackle the climate emergency, to name a few. We hope to do this by bringing people to join us (<Facebook Events link) on our first 20 miles and by sharing on our Facebook page tips and inspiration throughout our journey to get more people on their bikes. To join Sam and Simon on their departure on Saturday 3rd July please sign up on the Facebook Events link above. It’s a 9am meet-up for 9:30 departure from Kingston’s Memorial Square (Postcode KT1 1RJ)

How did you plan your route?

Our original preferred route was similar to one that Sam has done a couple of times previously; Kingston to Horse Hill (we will be visiting the oil site and hearing from locals about the campaign against it) down to Brighton, across to Hastings (where we planned to do a talk at a school where we have previously worked) and back to Newhaven, over to Dieppe via ferry, along the spine of France, including Paris, and through the Pyrenees to Spain. Along this route we had planned to visit various sustainable communities and renewable energy projects and interview people involved.

However, we have had to come up with a plan B due to restrictions on Brits entering France. This involves cycling from Kingston to Brighton (as above), then to Portsmouth to take the ferry to the north-west coast of Spain, west to Santiago de Compostela, then back across the centre of the country, finishing in Barcelona. We hope to find similar communities and projects to visit as per plan A!

Have you done other long bike rides?

I (Simon) have never done a long distance bike trip before! I only really started getting into cycling at the end of last year when I got my first proper road bike for my birthday, and I have been slowly building up my distances over the year. I’ve done three or four 20 milers so far – so still a long way to go to get to the 50 miles we will be doing on day 1…but hopefully this will show that if I can do it, anyone can!

Luckily, Sam is much more accomplished. He cycled from Ireland to Japan with his Dad when he was 18, which took a year. He has also cycled to Spain and Italy. So I feel more at ease knowing we have his expertise to draw on…

Sam and Simon on their trial ride

Tell us about your bike/ luggage

Sam will be taking the same bike he used on his Ireland to Japan trip – a Dawes Super Galaxy touring bike. Unfortunately, my road bike won’t be suitable for the extra weight and longer distance. Luckily, Sam’s Dad, Mark has kindly lent me the bike that he used on their trip to Japan – a Dawes Sterling tour bike – for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you Mark!

So fairly old bikes but we tested them out on a 20 mile trial ride from Canterbury to Folkestone the other day and they’ve still got it.

On loan: Mark’s Dawes Sterling Tour

Where will you stay?

We plan to camp for most of the way, so it will be a mix of campsites and free camping, which is allowed in France and Spain. We are paying all the expenses out of our own pockets so trying to keep them to a minimum, however we will no doubt be grateful for a proper bed every now and then so I am sure we will visit the occasional hostel too”

What foods do you like to keep your energy up?

We are determined to eat and drink healthily for the entire trip, and starting now. So no more alcohol, caffeine or processed sugar. No doubt we will be needing a lot of carbs  – pasta, rice – and fruit. Personally, my go-to energy food will be porridge with banana, whilst for Sam its banana, peanut butter and date sandwiches.

KCC wish Simon and Sam the best of luck with their adventure.

You can go to their fund-raising page here:

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.

RideLondon FreeCycle

Saturday’s RideLondon  FreeCycle event is fast approaching. It doesn’t get the same amount of publicity as the RideLondon London-Surrey Classic (the one for all the sporty types doing up to 100 miles as fast as they can), but the FreeCycle event on Saturday 28th July has the most number of participants. You don’t have to register to take part and as the name suggests, it’s free to take part. (insert smiley face)

FreeCycle, if you have never seen it, is a mass bike ride on closed roads around central London including many famous London sights  including the Mall outside Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, The Strand, the City of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and Waterloo Bridge. Around 70,000 people take part each year, just pedalling round at their leisure, appreciating the views in a safe traffic-free environment and investigating the attractions and displays dotted around the route.

Each year volunteers from the Kingston Cycling Campaign take a group of around 100 people up to Buckingham Palace for the closed road circuit. Will you be coming with us this year? Meet us in the northern end of Kingston Market Place near Ultimate Outdoors ready to leave at 9:30.  Remember it’s free and no booking is needed.

Additional practical information:

Departure from Kingston:  Please be ready to leave the Market Place at 9:30

Return Journey: Our ride leader Roger will advise you where to met up and at what time. The time is likely to be about 3pm. Our group is likely to arrive back in Kingston between 5 and 6pm.

The route is about 14 miles up to London, the FreeCycle route itself is about 8 miles and of course the ride home is about 14 miles too. That makes a total of 36 miles. Our pace is very moderate so we think most people who are confident riding will be able to manage this. Children must be accompanied by an adult. You are responsible for your own safety and must adhere to the Highway Code.

What to bring: We’re expecting it to be hot so bring a full water bottle or two, sun protection and a well maintained bike. Bring a lock if you intend to park your bike in London. You are not required to wear a cycling helmet or a hi-visibility jacket; the choice is yours. We have a marshal who will assist you in the event of a problem with your bike.

Train travel: We’d love you to join us for the ride up but if you don’t think you can’t manage it you could consider taking your bike up to London on the train and join the FreeCycle event at Waterloo Bridge. If you want to cycle up with us and take the train home, that’s fine too.

Hire bikes: You could travel up to London and do the FreeCycle ride on a TfL Santander Cycle Hire bike

The End


FAQs for the Portsmouth Road scheme


We’ve seen comments on social media and in the local papers about the mini-Holland two-way cycle track that’s under construction on the Portsmouth Road, and we’d like to help clarify any issues and correct any misinformation that is in circulation. Therefore we have put together a list of responses to frequently raised issues. Kingston Council is responsible for the design and implementation of the scheme. We hope that you will find these answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” helpful.
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Taking Action on Air Pollution

By Jon Fray for the Kingston Cycling Campaign

At the beginning of January the Kingston Cycling Campaign (KCC) responded to Kingston Council’s ten page draft Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP), pointing out a number of concerns and omissions. The Plan correctly identified that most of the air pollution is caused by road traffic and acknowledged that domestic and industrial boilers and other sources also contribute to high levels of oxides of nitrogen and particulates. Maps in the Plan show that those pollutants were concentrated on busy roads, especially along the route of the A3 and the Kingston Town Centre, which won’t be a surprise to anyone.


Bike Parking - Copy

Road space reallocation: 10 bikes can be parked in the space taken by one kerbside car

We found the Plan to be lacking in ambition in that it did not seem to address the issues of high levels of traffic but settled for actions such as “measures to support cycling including led commuter rides, Dr Bike sessions and maintenance classes”.  While we approve of these things we think they are probably too passive. Our response was that the Plan should recognise the importance of reallocating road space for safer cycling more pleasant walking and bus priority measures in order to provide the improvement in conditions that that people want if they are not to drive.  Quite remarkably the AQAP did not even mention Kingston’s mini-Holland schemes and the £30 million awarded to provide protected cycle routes around the borough. There seems to be a lack of awareness even within the Council of the importance of mini-Holland schemes.
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20’s Plenty in Queen’s Road, Kingston Hill

Queens Road Kingston Dec-12 (18) copy

Queen’s Road is familiar to anyone who has visited Richmond Park through Kingston Gate. It is a road heavily used by people on bikes going to and from Richmond Park and the footways are busy with people going to the park on foot too. Whereas the speed limit in Richmond Park is 20mph, the limit on Queen’s Road is still 30. There is also a substantial amount of traffic going to and through Richmond Park. During peak hours drivers avoid the Norbiton roundabout by cutting along Queen’s Road and King’s Road.

Queen’s Road is a residential road except for the Albert Pub at the Kingston Hill end and Park Hill School and Nursery and St Paul’s Church. The roads leading off Park Road to the west, downhill, sensibly have a 20 mph speed limit. One of these roads, Alexandra Road has St Paul’s Junior School and St Alexandra’s Infant School and of course lots of children going to school walk along and cross Queen’s Road. Recently the views of some councillors in Kingston has been that there should be 20 mph speed limits outside schools.
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Campaigners meet with Kingston Council

Members of the Kingston Cycling Campaign meet every three months with officers of Kingston Council to progress improvements and repairs for the benefit of cyclists. Today, (13th October), four campaigners met at Guildhall 2 to discuss the Mini-Holland project, Kingston’s Local Implementation Plan (LIP) and some of our Top 40 projects that we want to see done. Not only that, but we reported the missing bike logo at the new ASL (Advanced Stop Line) at Sury Basin by the Richmond Road Sainsbury’s and the failure of the Tolworth Greenway where some sections of the coloured surfacing have been sinking. A particularly interesting discussion was the concern about the safety of the junction of London Road and Coombe Lane. The problem is that cyclists and motorcyclists riding in the bus lane towards Kingston are being clouted by drivers turning right into Coombe Road (traffic in the bus lane is often hidden by stationary traffic), or by left turning vehicles. We discussed some solutions that could address the collision problem. We would like to see a solution that provides some segregation and stop cyclists getting hurt.