Back in 2020 Harrow Council received £495k from Transport for London and another £100k from the Department of Transport. What did they do with the money? For those of us who lived near Honeypot Lane, one of the roads chosen for new separated cycle lanes, the answer was to create the worst congestion we had ever seen; the picture in the Harrow Times article was something we saw daily. What is not apparent from this picture is that just out of frame to the right is the local fire station; had someone’s house been burning down the fire engine would have been trapped in the fire station as the physical barriers of the cycle lane prevented vehicles moving into it to make room for the fire engine.
And this separated cycle lane, halving the lane space available for vehicular traffic on Honeypot Lane was not even needed; there was already a marked cycle route up the service road on the western side of Honeypot Lane, which linked to the existing Jubilee cycle route that delivered cyclists to exactly the same point at the traffic lights at the end of Honeypot Lane but instead took them through quiet back roads that already had a 20 mph limit. The plans of these are on the Council web site. So why create a new cycle route that merely duplicated an existing route? Could it be that the Council Officers never left their offices, but just drew lines on a map with no regard for what was there in reality?
One feature of the Jubilee cycle route is just how badly it is signposted. For cyclists, travelling east along Broadcroft Avenue, there is a sign directing them to use the light-controlled crossing to get to the eastern side of Honeypot Lane to continue their journey, but for cyclists wishing to go in the opposite direction there is no direction sign from Honeypot Lane. The first route marker is over 200 metres along Broadcroft Avenue, which might, just, be visible to a hawk-eyed cyclist, were it not for the five mature trees along the verge in between. It really should not be necessary for a cyclist to have a smartphone taped to the handlebars in order to navigate Harrow’s cycle routes.
But, if you think Harrow’s cycling routes are bad, it is still above average for north-west London. Hillingdon’s is the best but even they don’t provide a link to Harrow’s cycling routes web page, although they do to the TfL cycle route mapper; at present once you cross a Borough boundary, you are on your own which, when crossing into Barnet or Ealing is literally true as those boroughs provide no usable cycling maps at all. Brent Council has a DIY mapping option but, looking at its representation of Harrow cycle routes, it doesn’t discriminate between cycle routes along roads and those along muddy tracks.
So what can we do to improve matters: first improve online information about cycle routes. There is every reason to have a cycling page on the Council web site that not only shows routes in Harrow but how they link to other Boroughs’ cycle routes and has a direct link to the TfL cycle route mapper.
Next we need to improve physical information. One can comfortably drive around suburban roads, just following the direction signs; why should cyclists not have the same information that would allow them to follow quiet routes without having to consult a map?
Lastly, we need to talk to cyclists and find out what they really want; there is no point in creating cycle routes that no-one will use.