Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Petition to support the New Malden to Raynes Park Mini Holland cycling and walking route

Please sign our petition in favour of the proposed New Malden to Raynes Park Mini Holland Cycling and walking route;

http://bit.ly/new-malden-greenway

Background

The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames has a once in a generation opportunity to improve its facilities for walking and cycling and for environment and community friendly travel for all its residents and visitors. Last year the Borough was awarded more than £30million from the Mayor’s Outer London Cycling Fund (the Mini Holland Programme) and has christened the project “GoCycle”. The idea is to promote active travel for all, particularly children, the old and women.

https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/improvements-and-projects/cycle-mini-hollands

http://www.kingston.gov.uk/info/200355/go_cycle/1118/about_the_go_cycle_routes_and_projects/3

A vital part of this programme is this connection between New Malden and Raynes Park; a new walking and cycling route about a mile in length. It will run alongside the railway on the north side on Thames Water supply pipes and go under the A3 dual carriageway. The new route will open up an area of valuable green space, for all ages to enjoy, cycle, walk, learn and relax. We hope it can be a linear park like the Crane river route in Richmond or the Parkland walk in Haringey. It will provide a quick, direct and easy traffic free route between the two town centres in a way that is not possible at present and reduces the severance, and even sense of dystopia, in this part of London caused by the A3 urban motorway.

The plan is that this route will link with the Transport for London cycling Quietways 4 and 5 from Waterloo to Clapham and on to Wimbledon which will extend to Raynes Park. It will also link to the Cycle Superhighway at Colliers Wood. This route will, in fact, join Kingston town centre and the Mini Holland or GoCycle routes to Central London. The prospects for the route are good. It is intended to link to the bridge over the railway in the middle and with the Cut in New Malden at one end and Raynes Park Sports Ground at the other.

Protesters or Nimbys

Unfortunately a group of local residents have started a petition opposing the greenway. It would be tempting to dismiss them as a group of ‘NIMBYs’ (Not in My Back Yard) but let us resist temptation and deal with their arguments rationally, although in relation to some of their points (which seem scarcely rational) this is actually quite a difficult task.

‘Lycra alley’

The protesters oppose plans for what they call a ‘lycra alley.’ Well that’s good; as far as we are aware no one is proposing a ‘lycra alley’; by which we assume they mean a narrow space for pro racing cyclists, clad in figure hugging club kit, to speed along. The Mini Hollands are intended to encourage ‘8 to 80’ cycling for all ages, genders and abilities. That is why they embrace routes separated from motor traffic the hazards of which discourage women, children and the elderly from cycling.

Community Costs

The protesters concede TfL will pay the full costs of construction. They complain about the ongoing maintenance costs, which are likely to be minimal and trivial (Thames Water have to maintain the water pipes with or without the route) compared to the considerable active travel and community benefits of the scheme.

Crime, anti social behaviour and safety

The protesters suggest that the path would be a haven for ‘anti-social behaviour’ and threaten people’s safety. It’s claimed that ‘youths would roam the site with guns and shoot the birds’ which would be ‘undesirable for the birds’ and state that ‘public access to [the area] would greatly increase the risk of fire’. They also highlight the risk of cyclists and walkers ‘being struck by aberrant golf balls’ from the nearby golf course.

Fly tipping and litter

The path would also, say these not so friendly locals, be an ‘easy target for fly-tipping and litter’ it’s claimed, specifically ‘noxious chemicals, asbestos, needles, syringes and other hazardous clinical waste’.

Light pollution

Is a concern of the protesters. No doubt RBK through careful and consultative design can select low level, or intensity, lighting which makes the path safe at night but does not interfere with the sleep of residents. The light pollution will be nothing compared to that of local street lights and the vehicles on the A3.

Network Rail

The protesters worry (they are very anxious folk) about the nearby railway line which they fear would ‘raise serious security issues for Network Rail and users of the facility’. They worry about trespassers, thieves and ‘terrorists targeting the line or signal boxes’.

Other ‘terrorist attacks from disaffected groups or individuals’ are also a concern, given the Thames Water pipes. Other security concerns, specifically that the cycle path would be used as an ‘escape corridor for criminals, which would result in an increased risk of burglary, assault and anti-social behaviour in the entire surrounding neighbourhoods of New Malden and Raynes Park’.

Property values and insurance implications

The protesters consider the planned path would have a ‘deleterious effect on property values’. Of course the evidence is that better cycling facilities and green spaces increase property values and that motor only wastelands depress them. A link between the added criminal activity that would supposedly result and local property insurance premiums has also been made; that seems extremely tenuous. Clutching at straws to oppose the route comes to mind.

Illegal habitation

Another wild, and rather odd, suggestion the protesters make is ‘illegal habitation’, claiming that the cycle path would ‘increase the risk of illegal habitation by individuals sleeping rough, or by more organised groups’. There is also apparently a ‘new additional risk of settlement by illegal refugee groups [sic]’ too.

Unexploded Ordinance

Perhaps most tenuous, is the claim that the creation of the cycle path would unearth ‘unexploded WW2 ordnance’ given the strategic importance of the railway line during that war. So Russian soldiers wasted their lives in the battle of Stalingrad when the battle of the New Malden railway bridge was preoccupying Adolf Hitler and his Generals ?

Finally the protesters have two important rational arguments.

Environmental and Ecological damage

This is a legitimate point but Thames Water have to repair and replace their water pipes which have flooded recently. This will disturb wildlife and habitats in any event. RBK are carrying out an ecological survey. They have retained Sustrans who have a record in delivering sustainable transport facilities which preserve and enhance local ecologies and wildlife, even in preference to direct or convenient cycle routes. These issues can and should be addressed but it is perfectly possible to retain an ecologically friendly environment alongside low impact forms of transport such as bike riding and walking.

The route goes under the A3 urban motorway and is never more than hundreds of yards from that notorious road which blights this part of south west London. This has a far greater impact on the local environment than any cycling or walking route. Should these local residents instead campaign for closure of that road ?

Security

Householders whose rear gardens adjoin the route have reasonable concerns about security but RBK say;

“Crime prevention is one of the scheme’s priorities hence we have been working, from the initial stages of the project, with specialist police officers from the ‘Design Out Crime’ team as well as Transport for London’s Community Safety and Crime Reduction Team, to make sure appropriate safety measures are built into the design of the scheme.

As a result of this early engagement, it has been agreed that wherever possible the path will be located away from the boundary of neighbouring properties’ back gardens, leaving plenty of space for enhancing the landscape with defensive planting; one that creates a protective barrier between garden boundaries and the path (ie holly and hawthorn). Additional fencing will be installed in areas of potential vulnerability.”

Conclusion

In short residents legitimate concerns can, and will be, addressed. The protesters fears are unfounded and the benefits of the route far outweigh any of the possible arguments against it. The cycle path will be a valuable asset and will open up green space for all ages to enjoy. The route would create safe space for cycling and walking, for people of all ages and abilities, making local trips between New Malden and Raynes Park much more accessible.

Many other residents from wider surrounding areas are very supportive and enthusiastic about the scheme. We have found many supporters. It would be a shame for a vocal minority to disrupt these exciting plans that would benefit so many people and we must make Kingston Council aware of that. Please sign our petition;

http://bit.ly/new-malden-greenway

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