Thursday 7 December 2023

Ealing's Future Cycle Network

On Wednesday 6th December, Ealing's cabinet considered a major report on cycling, the Cycle Network Plan: Ambitions for Cycling 2023-2033.  On the whole, it's good news. The council has taken on board most of Ealing Cycling Campaign's suggestions for routes, and the report contains some excellent proposals to make cycling safer and more pleasant in the future. More of those in the next blog. For now, we'll focus on our main issue of concern. 

Remote Routes

The council's plans to run strategic routes through parks and along the canal towpath. There are several problems with this idea.

Too narrow

For much of its length through Ealing, the canal towpath is less than 2 metres wide. While this works for a leisure route where there are few walkers and cyclists, it becomes a problem when numbers increase. The national guildelines on shared-use paths say they should be 3 meters wide for fewer than 300 cyclists per hour. Where numbers are greater than this, they should be 4 meters wide. Back in 1978, the council considered running a cycle trail alongside the canal towpath and concluded that it would require the acquisition of a further 15 ft (4.5 m), all along the canal. Unless the council can widen the canal to the present national standard, it is likely that making it a strategic route will create more conflict and discomfort for both those on bikes and those walking.

Too remote

Most of the canal is remote and unlit. Many people do not feel safe cycling along it, esspecially at night. For almost four months of the year the sun sets before 5.30pm, making the route unsuitable for people returning from work or after-school clubs and activities. 

Not in the Council's control

The canal towpath is run by the Canal and River Trust, so the council can't control its use. Until relatively recently a section near central London was closed at night.

For the above reasons, Ealing Cycling Campaign is asking the council not to make the towpath a strategic route, but to designate it a leisure route. We have also raised the issue of strategic routes running through parks. One route is planned to run through Walpole Park, which is closed at night. Where strategic routes through parks are proposed there must be a commitment that they will be well lit, open 24/7 and monitored for security. Ideally, they should follow national guidance and a suitable street-lit on-road alternative should be provided. 

The plans will go out for public consultation in the new year. The report is available on the council's website. Item 8 on the agenda.