Wealdstone town centre consultation – Feb 2020

Update April 2020

Harrow Council is proposing the traffic orders for the scheme, with a deadline of 15 April 2020 for objections. Our concerns about the scheme have not been addressed – particularly the difficulty for cyclists travelling southbound (High Street will be one way northbound with no cyclist exemption). We will therefore be submitting an objection to the traffic orders; we feel that the scheme needs to be reviewed and should not be rushed through during the current COVID-19 crisis.

How to submit an objection: All objections and other representations relating to the proposed orders must be made in writing and received at the address given below quoting reference DP2020-08 not later than 15th April. All objections must specify the grounds on which they are made and must include your name and full address. Email: transportation @ harrow.gov.uk

Consultation Feb 2020

The scheme was originally consulted on in February 2020. It involves changes to the bus routes in order to accommodate increases in the number of buses and to reduce delays to buses. Road and footway surfaces will be replaced, and there is a new short section of cycle track along High Street linking Gordon Road and Canning Road, part of the TfL Wembley to Wealdstone cycleway.

However, the scheme makes no attempt to reduce motor traffic, it makes cycling conditions worse and is poorly designed for pedestrians. We therefore oppose this scheme.

One of the problems with the scheme is that it makes part of the High Street one-way with no cycling contraflow. This is a major problem which will prevent people from cycling southbound or from accessing the High Street from residential roads via Grant Road.

Key locations where improvements are needed to the Wealdstone town centre scheme

The plan above shows key improvements that are needed for the scheme to make walking and cycling easier and safer. If you are responding to the consultation, please mention these five points.

We have taken a more detailed look at the scheme and the surrounding area, particularly with regard to cycle routes between key destinations.

Cycle routes surrounding the proposed Wealdstone High Street scheme. Outline of the scheme limits is shown in black. Red dashed lines show cycle desire lines that are not currently part of the plan, but which need to be included as part of a comprehensive network if cycling is to become a preferred mode of transport.
  • Part of the High Street is one way with no cycle contraflow. This means that cyclists have to take a detour along George Gange Way, which is dangerous for cycling. A segregated contraflow cycle lane needs to be provided on the one-way section of High Street.
  • Some of the cycle routes are shared with pedestrians, but this is not appropriate for busy town centre. Busy cycle routes should be segregated from pedestrians.
  • Some of the pedestrian routes do not have crossings along desire lines. Continuous footways should be used across minor accesses on the High Street, and zebra crossings should be provided wherever people are likely to want to cross busy roads, such as at the Canning Town / High Street junction.
  • Car parking and loading bays on the High Street are positioned in locations that will prevent space being available for cycle lanes. The location of parking and loading bays should be revised, with some of them moving to side roads in order to prioritise space for walking and cycling along the High Street.
  • The plans assume that motor vehicle routes and traffic volumes will remain as they are. Harrow council should investigate ways of reducing car traffic through Wealdstone town centre, such as road user charging or closing certain roads to cars. We suggest closing Masons Avenue to cars to enable it to become a high quality walking and cycling route.
  • The scheme provides only a limited selection of safe, high quality cycle routes, whereas many more direct routes are available for motorists. As shown on the map, we need cycle routes between:
    • Harrow and Wealdstone Station and Headstone Drive (for access to the Kodak development)
    • Harrow and Wealdstone Station and Harrow Leisure Centre (a direct route that avoids the detour through the town centre)
    • High Street and Grant Road (a minor road which provides access to residential areas to the north-east of Wealdstone)
    • Local links between Harrow and Wealdstone Station and the High Street, and between the station and the proposed cycle route over the bridge

Harrow Cyclists / London Cycling Campaign response

We submitted a set of detailed suggestions along with the summary response below.

This scheme is opposed. It will not enable more people to cycle in the area, nor will it fulfil the potential identified in TfL’s Strategic Cycling Analysis (SCA) nearby for cycling, nor will it make existing cycling significantly safer.

The scheme may deliver benefits for buses and bus passengers, and improve the public realm in the area, but by failing to adequately tackle motor traffic dominance at this location, the scheme will fail to deliver the best outcomes for anyone.

We would urge Harrow Council to, as a matter of absolute urgency, and particularly considering the council’s declaration of a climate emergency, do the following:

  • Produce a robust climate emergency action plan and new transport strategy alongside, demonstrating how, as a council, it will act to rapidly reduce car use and unleash the potential for cycling (and walking and public transport use) in the borough and for its residents.
  • Update all Highways engineers and officers training to reflect modern approaches to designing for and enabling cycling, to ensure all Highways schemes are designed to fulfil a re-tooled transport strategy with appropriate mode shift targets including reductions in car use.
  • Ensure all councillors, particularly those in the cabinet, are fully briefed and trained to understand cycling, cycling schemes, and the role of motor traffic in a climate emergency.
  • Both councillors and officers should consider visiting schemes elsewhere in London to learn from, such as those in the Enfield and Waltham Forest mini-Hollands particularly.
  • Commit to engaging fully with resident experts and campaigners on such schemes going forward well before public consultation, and importantly, listening to them and taking on board criticisms.

Specific comments on this scheme:

The scheme continues to provide multiple routes for private motor traffic through Wealdstone town centre. The High Street north-south alignment should be made bus, cycle and pedestrian only (with loading either via side streets or only at certain times). Private motor traffic should be redirected to the A409 entirely. This approach, or one like it would vastly improve public transport here, create a far better shopping environment and enable far more people to walk and cycle through the town centre and to/from it.

The current scheme materials state one aim of the scheme is to “make improvements to the quality of cycle routes in the High Street area and make accessing the town centre easier and safer for cyclists”. The changes proposed to cycle routes are so disjointed and partial that they provide no overall improvement, and by removing the option for people to cycle southbound along the High Street they actually make the town centre less accessible by bike.

Specifically, the short sections of cycle track fail to connect to each other or even safely cross any junctions, including side streets. They will therefore not enable anyone who does not currently cycle here to start, nor will they be well used or confer significant safety benefits to those who do cycle here currently despite deeply hostile road conditions.

TfL’s Strategic Cycling Analysis (SCA) highlights several routes that should be prioritised for much higher cycling levels in the area, including a north-south route from Harrow Weald to Harrow, Harrow to Pinner, Wealdstone to Edgware and Harrow to Kingsbury and Hendon. The SCA also highlights zones where there is the highest potential to grow cycling. to the west of Wealdstone and Harrow is one such area, while to the south east of Wealdstone is also an area of highest current cycle demand. This scheme does not appear to coherently engage with these corridors and zones. It should.

Reducing through motor traffic in the town centre, particularly in consideration of the zones the SCA highlights, implies strongly that the areas around the town should also be considered to remove the option of through motor traffic displacing onto residential and other non-distributor streets, using “low traffic neighbourhood” principles.

Walking is also poorly provided for in a scheme that fails to include necessary crossings in some locations, uses staggered crossings, and crossings away from the desire line in other locations.

Harrow council’s response, and our comments

As you will be aware the proposed scheme is a compromise between the needs of all road users that use Wealdstone town centre but is focussed predominantly on improving travel by bus, walking and cycling. Our transport study in 2017 highlighted that the regeneration programme will increase the number of homes and drive an increase in the population with an increasing number of journeys made on the network by sustainable travel modes because of the impact of planning policies on restraining car ownership and use. The increase in the extent and severity of controlled parking zones in the town demonstrates the increasing pressure and difficulty to park on-street for residents. The main increases in journeys are therefore expected to be by public transport, particularly bus, and the core aim of this scheme is to facilitate improved reliability of bus services as well as providing the opportunity to expand bus services in the future to cater for this increasing demand. A business case and transport model has therefore been developed to demonstrate an acceptable level of network performance from the proposals and this has been validated by and accepted by Transport for London who will now release a significant level of funding for the scheme on that basis. However, the scheme does more than just improve bus infrastructure but also follows “healthy streets” principles as required by TfL and has looked at all transport modes including walking and cycling. In particular I would point out the following:

We do not feel that the scheme has adequately considered cycling. Few of Harrow’s councillors and engineers have experience of cycling in Harrow, and it is essential to involve people with such experience (such the Harrow Cyclists group) if a road layout is going to actually work for cycling.

The scheme provides an additional controlled crossing point for pedestrians along George Gange Way at the junction with Canning Road. As you know George Gange Way has very high traffic volumes and creates a significant level of severance for pedestrians in the town. All the other traffic signal junctions within the scope of the scheme have been redesigned to ensure effective controlled crossing points for pedestrians at key conflict points between vehicles and pedestrians..

We support the pedestrian crossing of Canning Road but would recommend that cyclists are also permitted to use it, in order to improve the general cycle permeability of the area. The High Street / George Gange Way junction can also be improved – an additional pedestrian crossing to the east side of High Street will save time for pedestrians and can be accommodated within the existing traffic signal timing (see annotation on the plan). Grant Road was originally built with access to the High Street but this was severed by the 1990s redevelopment; this is an opportunity to restore connectivity for cycling at no additional cost, and would improve the cycle permeability of the area.

The whole of the High Street environment will be designed to support pedestrian movement with the use of widened footways, Copenhagen style crossings and raised platforms to prioritise pedestrian movement which will be good for the High Street local economy and help to make the centre of Wealdstone more attractive and vibrant. It will follow similar principles to the scheme implemented in Station Road, Harrow Town Centre.

On the indicative plan we can see only one ‘Copenhagen-style’ continuous footway, at the junction of Gordon Road and High Street. Minor accesses on High Street (e.g. near 9a and 17a) which should also have continuous footways, but the plan shows conventional road junctions instead. Zebra crossings are required on pedestrian desire lines across busier junctions, such as the junctions of High Street with Canning Road and Palmerston Road. ‘Raised platforms’ do not confer pedestrian priority; formal zebra crossings are required.

Station Road in Harrow Town Centre is very different from what is proposed for Wealdstone – it has low levels of traffic because it is open for buses, cyclists and access only, whereas most of Wealdstone High Street will be open to all traffic. Palmerston Road and the south section of the High Street will be particularly busy as it is the designated route for through traffic. We recommend that northbound traffic on the High Street is limited to buses, cycles and access only.

Our proposals for a strategic north / south link between Kenton and Harrow Weald in conjunction with TfL will be future proofed within the proposed scheme to ensure they fully integrate. In the future we plan to fully develop north / south and east / west cycle routes that pass through Wealdstone and provide improved connectivity with other areas of Harrow. This scheme is not expected to develop the full north / south route but will ensure that the infrastructure is already in place within the town so that when these projects are taken forward they will connect easily. As you know TfL’s strategic cycle analysis shows demand for a north / south cycle route along this corridor and this is why TfL and Harrow are investing in a separate Cycle Way project over the next 2-3 years.

We are pleased by the intent of this strategic cycle route planning, but would recommend that the council involves people with experience of cycling in Harrow (such as ourselves) at an early stage in designing the network. We do not want Harrow to waste more money on schemes such as the Metropolitan, Jubilee and Northern cycle routes, which were designed without the input of cyclists, do not conform to design standards and are likely to be used very little.

The existing east / west cycle route through Wealdstone Square and Canning Road will be improved within the scope of the scheme but we expect to develop this route further as part of our proposals to  implement a Liveable Neighbourhood.

We are pleased that this route is being taken forward, however it is compromised by the lack of segregation from pedestrians along the busy town centre section. This route does not eliminate the need for other east-west routes to directly serve destinations such as Harrow & Wealdstone station.

You have suggested alternative interventions for the scheme and I have reviewed these and I have the following observations to make as follows:

Closure of Masons Avenue to traffic at the junction with the High Street – The Ellen Webb Drive / Masons Avenue corridor is a key east / west route for traffic with approximately 1000 vehicles per hour at peak times passing through the junction and along this route. If this proposal was modelled I would expect the reassignment of this traffic onto other parts of the road network to be along the High Street and The Bridge with a significant negative impact on congestion and delay on the High street, the A409 road corridor and particularly on local bus services. The businesses in Masons Avenue would experience access difficulties with deliveries as delivery vehicles would need to turn around in a cul-de-sac with insufficient space to do so. This could also negatively impact on trade for the businesses as well. There would be a lot of local opposition to such a proposal and it is unlikely that this could be delivered successfully.

If the council prioritises the need for a cycle route, it is possible to create space for cycling along Masons Avenue. The capacity constraint for cars is Forward Drive, and Oxford Road provides an alternative east-west route parallel to Masons Avenue. Options may include a complete closure or one-way operation of traffic on Masons Avenue; the solution should be designed in collaboration with residents and businesses, but the council must take a lead by championing the need for a safe cycle route. Businesses can of course benefit from better cycle infrastructure, to enable deliveries by cargo bike or make it easier for customers and employees to reach them.

Without a cycle route along Masons Avenue, people living near Harrow Leisure Centre or further east (such as in Kenton) would have to take a long detour along via Canning Road and the railway underpass to reach Harrow & Wealdstone station. Harrow cannot increase the mode share of cycling if cycle routes are so much longer than driving routes.

Harrow council’s proposed cycle network (blue lines) is so sparse that some journeys are over a kilometre longer by bike than by car. Masons Avenue is an essential desire line for journeys between Kenton and Harrow & Wealdstone Station.

Cycle route along The Bridge / George Gange Way – Proposals for this are contained in our Liveable Neighbourhood bid and will be taken forward if the bid is successful.

We are pleased that this route is contained within the Liveable Neighbourhood bid. It will require reconstruction of the George Gange Way / Palmerston Road junction in order to provide a safe cycle crossing that meets TfL design standards; we recommend that the inadequate design in the current plan is not built.

Cycle route along Ellen Webb Drive / Masons Avenue – the main east / west corridor for cyclists is along Peel Road, George Gange Way, Canning Road, Wealdstone Square and Headstone Drive. An additional  east / west link is therefore unnecessary. Proposals to improve the existing east / west route are our priority and are contained in our Liveable Neighbourhood bid. These will be taken forward if the bid is successful.

An additional east-west cycle route (via Ellen Webb Drive, Masons Avenue and Harrow & Wealdstone station) is absolutely necessary, if Harrow genuinely wants cycling to be a desirable and convenient mode of transport. Without it, the route from Kenton to Harrow & Wealdstone Station is over a kilometre longer by bike than by car.

Station Square area – This area will be predominantly for pedestrians due to the high pedestrian footfall in this area but will contain secure cycle parking for the station.

It makes no sense to build cycle parking without safe cycle routes to the station.

Cycle route along High Street (north of Canning Road) – A two way cycle track is already proposed between Canning Road and Gordon Road to facilitate the proposed future north / south Cycle Way route. The proposed extension of the route to connect to Grant Road does not connect with any particular cycle routes strategically and has therefore not been facilitated on that basis.

A network of ‘strategic’ cycle routes is of little use without safe, direct and convenient connections to surrounding areas. The connection to Grant Road will definitely be useful for people living on or near Grant Road, and the road was originally built with a connection to the High Street. This scheme provides an opportunity to remedy the severance at minimal cost.

In your letter you have expanded upon a wide range of issues outside of the proposed scheme and I do have some comments with regard to these other points:

You make clear that there is a need to reduce the level and impact of motor traffic in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and it is true that this is an extremely important strategic objective for TfL and for Harrow. However, you have missed one important aspect of delivering this change. The target to achieve 80% of journeys in London by sustainable transport is to be achieved by 2041. This recognises that any changes implemented need to be gradual and transitional in order to achieve that target so that the public can adjust to significant lifestyle changes and choose to travel by alternative modes. I would suggest that proposing highly impactful measures that severely restrict motorists without considering how that change will be accommodated will simply make residents hostile to change and fail to deliver on important modal shift objectives. Harrow advocates a more gradual process of change in which residents can accommodate new ways of travelling more easily in a sequence of smaller step changes over time. This approach is more likely to receive the support of residents and ultimately to achieve the objective. Whilst your proposals may ultimately be a vision of the future in 10-15 years you have not considered how to deliver this with public support. The proposed Wealdstone Town Centre scheme needs to deliver important infrastructure to facilitate modal shift which is already happening now. Our proposed Liveable Neighbourhood, if successful, will provide a much greater opportunity to make more fundamental change to the way people travel. This would include a significant behaviour change programme in addition to the physical changes to infrastructure.

By declaring a climate emergency Harrow council has already committed to reduce motor traffic much sooner than 2041, and other boroughs have shown that it is both desirable and possible. The rapid changes in travel habits as part of the Covid-19 response show what can be achieved with strong political leadership and public education. 

We support the delivery of low traffic neighbourhoods but there is a need to work with the public to deliver such schemes as highlighted above.

We agree, and we are pleased to see the recent collaborative design work led by Sustrans in Headstone South, which we would like to see extended to many other neighbourhoods.

Cycle parking will be introduced into the town centre scheme and locations will be identified at the detailed design stage.

Our walking proposals will include the use of widened footways, Copenhagen style crossings and raised platforms to prioritise pedestrian movement throughout the High Street as mentioned previously.

As we mention above, Copenhagen-style continuous footways are suitable only for minor roads and accesses; zebra crossings are required to provide pedestrian priority at uncontrolled junctions such as High Street / Canning Road and High Street / Palmerston Road.

We are in contact with the Harrow Association for Disabled People and we are taking on board their comments from the consultation particularly with regard to disabled parking bay provision.

Cycling provision for disabled people is also essential.

The Council already has a Wealdstone Public Realm Implementation Guide which sets out material choices and design standards for the public realm. This was developed at the same time as the Wealdstone Square scheme.

The design must be easy to understand, and clearly differentiate spaces used for pedestrians, cycles and motor vehicles. The visualisation in the consultation materials has the cycle track the same colour as the footway, which is unacceptable. We recommend the use of a consistent colour for cycle tracks, such as the red tarmac used in Waltham Forest and the Netherlands.

In conclusion whilst I understand the points you are making I would like to assure you that the overall package of improvements is intended to be an effective compromise for all users of the town centre with a focus on prioritising sustainable travel in line with our current transport policies. In order to receive this significant investment from TfL we need to take forward the core principles of the business case and transport model developed otherwise the scheme will not proceed. The feedback from the consultation has been positive overall and there is wider support for the scheme. We will therefore ensure that cycling issues are addressed effectively during the detailed design stage and we are happy to liaise with Harrow Cyclists over the details as necessary.

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