Sides clash over Cycling Superhighway 11 at Hampstead meeting

Daniel Howard at Swiss Cottage Cycle super highway public meeting

Daniel Howard at Swiss Cottage Cycle super highway public meeting - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A church meeting witnessed an almighty clash between furious residents and Transport for London (TfL) representatives last night over the proposed Cycle Superhighway 11 scheme, which will connect Swiss Cottage to the West End.

A map showing the changes proposed in Swiss Cottage (Picture: TFL)

A map showing the changes proposed in Swiss Cottage (Picture: TFL) - Credit: Archant

The wrath of Hampstead reverberated through St Stephen’s Church as London’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, defended the CS11 scheme and told the 300-strong audience that they weren’t reflecting the views of the silent majority.

To heckles and jeers, he said: “People who don’t like these schemes tend to come to meetings like these, whereas people who do like them tend to stay at home.

“It’s about finding out what the community as a whole thinks and not the people who come to public consultation meetings.”

But Daniel Howard, a former Camden police officer who started a petition against the scheme, said: “The three and a half thousand people who have now signed this petition are not all NIMBYs.”

Mr Howard argued that Transport for London (TfL) do not fully understand the scheme’s implications because its staff do not have the “thousands of years of collected local knowledge and road use” that drivers in the area possess.

He said CS11 is “a totally, fundamentally flawed cycle superhighway” because it is the only such scheme “strangled by a noose of construction and pollution”.

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Mr Howard and other audience members argued that TfL’s plan is fatally flawed because they have failed to factor in the construction of HS2, set to begin in 2017.

But Mr Gilligan said: “We can’t just not build it because it’s near HS2, otherwise we would avoid all building.”

He told the audience he did not believe the scheme would cause the chaos, gloom and gridlock that is being predicted by many.

He said: “Don’t imagine that the exact same amount of traffic will cram onto the roads. You always get people abandoning their cars.”

Mr Gilligan said that if the scheme goes ahead, it could be modified, depending on results of the consultation.

He said: “It’s very rare that we build a scheme exactly as we propose it.”

Audience members challenged TfL over “illegal” levels of pollution, which they say the scheme will create, because the area already suffers from toxicity in breach of UK and EU guidelines.

But another audience member, shouted out: “That’s why you need more cyclists!”

Members of the audience in favour of the scheme argued that it will reduce pollution in the long run if more people feel safe enough to take to their bikes.

Mr Gilligan assured the audience there will be no cycle lanes on Finchley Road, and said there was a great deal of misinformation flying around about the scheme.

The meeting was organised and chaired by solicitor and local campaigner, Jessica Learmond-Criqui.

Concerns raised over emergency services

Opponents of the scheme, including Conservative councillor, Leila Roy, expressed their fears that CS11 could have dangerous implications for emergency service vehicles battling to get through traffic.

Cllr Roy said: “I am genuinely worried for people’s lives, because we have the Royal Free here in Hampstead, and ambulances have a hard enough time getting through as it is.”

Her fears were echoed by Daniel Howard, who began the petition on in opposition to the scheme.

Mr Howard said: “I am a former police officer, so I speak from experience of the roads. The last thing fire, police and ambulance services want is more gridlock.”

Other audience members said the philosophy of “four wheels - bad, two wheels - good” was a simplistic one which ignored the needs of the elderly and the disabled.

One resident said: “It’s all right saying you can cycle if you are an able-bodied 25-year-old, but there are many people for whom cycling is simply not an option. TfL has not mentioned the elderly and the disabled in their scheme once.”

But Andrew Gilligan denied the scheme was intended to drive everyone off the road.

He said: “The population of London is growing by about 10,000 a month

“Lots of people do need to drive, but if we do not do something about the roads, the gridlock you describe will just get worse and worse.”

School run misery

Further concerns were raised that the number of schools in the area have not been accounted for in TfL’s modelling of the scheme.

One concerned resident said: “There are no less than four schools in the Lauden Road area. It may be safer for the cyclists but what’s going to happen to the children and other pedestrians? Will they be safer?”

But a TfL representative insisted the CS11 scheme should improve things for pedestrians as well as cyclists

Daniel Howard said that TfL’s stated aim to eliminate “rat runs” was doomed to fail.

He said: “I like to call ‘rat runs’ alternative routes. ‘Rat run’ is a pejorative term.

“CS11 will create more rat runs than it gets rid of because people will seek to avoid it.”

To ripples of laughter from the audience, a TfL representative said they expected Finchley Road car journey times to improve slightly, although he admitted there would be “some slight increase” in waiting times around Swiss Cottage, Childs Hill amd Hampstead itself.

Conservative councillor for Frognal and Fitzjohns, Gio Spoinella told TfL: “I am a cyclist, In principle, the idea of increasing the number of cyclists is good.

“But you are airbrushing out the negative impact on pedestrians. This scheme is not going to work unless you do something to move traffic off the road from Hampstead to Hendon Way.”

“Illegal” levels of pollution

Audience members challenged TfL over “illegal” levels of pollution, which they say the Cycle Superhighway will create by causing cars to back up in traffic for longer.

An opponent of the scheme said: “We live in an area congested with carbon NO2 You can’t see it, but it kills you.

“The levels of N02 we have in this area are already in breach of UK and EU guidelines - and HS2 will make this worse.”

But one of the few audience members in favour of the scheme shouted out: “That’s why you need more cyclists!”

Supporters of CS11 argue that it will reduce pollution in the long run if more people feel safe enough to start cycling.

One supporter said it was unfortunate that battle lines appeared to be firmly drawn between drivers and cyclists.

She said: “We should talk to each other more often.

“One thing that unites us is wanting to get pollution levels down. But you need to get out of your cars.”

London zoo fears

Bosses at London Zoo have expressed opposition to CS11, claiming that the closure of Regent’s Park to cars would stop deliveries and coaches of schoolchildren from reaching them.

A spokesman for the Zoological Society of London said: “Some of our visitors, like schoolchildren, have to rely on cars or coaches. The closure and timing restrictions of Macclesfield Gate would make it extremely difficult for these visitors and crucial deliveries, including animal feed, to get to London Zoo,

“As such we have registered an opposition to the proposal because of the proposed gate restrictions.’

“The revenue generated from all visitors at London Zoo helps to fund charitable worldwide work for wildlife and we want to make sure all of our visitors are able to access the Zoo easily. ZSL London Zoo is keen to work with TfL to find an alternative”

The public consultation is now closed, whilst the petition against CS11 on has reached over 4,000 signatures.