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“The message seems to be as a motorist there is nothing you can’t do”: Politicians are “cowards kowtowing to drivers” in area “too dangerous” for children to cycle thanks to illegal parking rendering bike lanes “useless”, claim campaigners

The council, however, says it has “invested millions of pounds into new cycle lanes and safe routes to school” – a month after also being accused of watering down an active travel scheme to prioritise bus times

Just over a month after it was accused of “prioritising bus times over cyclist and pedestrian lives” and “putting motor traffic first” by appearing to scale back proposals for a new active travel scheme, Ealing Council has once again come under fire from local cycling campaigners, who claim the local authority isn’t doing enough to clamp down on illegal parking that has rendered many of the London borough’s cycle lanes useless, making it “too dangerous” for children to ride their bikes to school.

However, the council says it has “invested millions of pounds into new cycle lanes and safe routes to school for local children”, including introducing 28 school streets.

But according to Ealing resident Mark Eccleston, children are often forced to cycle alongside motor traffic due to the plethora of cars inconsiderately parked blocking cycle lanes, which he says has led to multiple collisions involving his family, along with abuse from passing drivers.

“I think this is one of the worst boroughs in London,” Eccleston told the Local Democracy Reporting Service. “There is a sense that there is a ticking clock until you will be knocked off.

“My wife has been knocked off, my kid was [also knocked off] on his way to school. One of my children is disabled and he had a mobility trike, but it just became unfeasible for him to leave the house, so we had to get rid of it because there isn’t enough protection for cyclists.

The father-of-three continued: “People will wind down their windows and shout at you, you get close passes, and you will wave at them and they follow you down a back alley. If you cycle around for a couple of hours every day that will happen every time.

“It just takes one or two in a day where you go, ‘that was so dangerous or so abusive’ that you think ‘you know what I’m not going to risk it’ and then you are driving again. You don’t need that mindset in your day – ‘I hope I don’t get run over’ – while trying to get home.

“Kids should be able to cycle, they should be able to actively travel but there just aren’t enough safe school roads.”

> Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Ealing ripped out 'during school run'

Eccleston added that he felt much more comfortable allowing his children to cycle to school when Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) were first introduced in Ealing, but says the decision to remove many of these traffic-calming active travel schemes over the past three years was instrumental in advising them against riding their bikes.

“When we had the LTNs it was a different world and our kids could get to school safely, but we stopped them once they were removed,” he says. “When the cars came back it was a bit like ‘well I’m not going to just stay at home and wait and see if they survive’ – so now I walk them to school.”

Eccleston also accused Ealing Council of being “political cowards” kowtowing to motorists and the pro-car lobby.

“The message from the top of the council seems to be as a motorist there is nothing you can’t do,” he said.

“I’d like to see more enforcement. It sends out a message that [drivers] have responsibilities. It is not a natural freedom that you should be able to drive wherever you want. It is a luxury.”

> Driver of Royal Mail van tells cyclist: “If I was messed up in the head you would’ve died”

Meanwhile, Nick Moffit, from Ealing Cycling Campaign, also believes that hitherto quiet streets have been turned into dangerous rat-runs in recent years, and that stricter parking enforcement is necessary to ensure cycle lanes – painted or properly segregated – are useable.

“Speaking as a father, over the past decade I have seen the growth of SatNav apps dramatically change the character of our residential streets,” the cycling campaigner said.

“Ten years ago, my daughter and I could ride through quiet back streets with very little traffic. These days, everyone has a phone or dashboard device directing them down some of these streets in a hurry. They have become one quick link in a longer journey, like any motorway bypass.

“Regarding parking enforcement, it is clear that paint is not enough to fix our streets. Even the slightly-raised kerb of a stepped track is often ignored by motorists; I regularly see HGVs parked across double-yellow lines, treating stepped tracks as loading areas – even outside primary schools.

“I understand that Ealing Council has recently taken parking enforcement back in-house, and they just announced hiring more staff specifically to take this on, so I hope that shows improvement soon.”

> Council's free bike initiative praised... but “huge issue” of safe cycling routes must be addressed too, campaign argues

However, responding to the criticisms, Ealing Council defended its record on active travel and announced that it is hiring 20 new parking enforcement officers to clamp down on the borough’s rash of blocked bike lanes.

“We have invested millions of pounds into new cycle lanes and safe routes to school for local children, as well as bringing parking services back in-house so we can clamp down on illegal parking in cycle lanes,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ve introduced 28 ‘school streets’, closing off roads beside schools at the morning and afternoon drop-off to allow hundreds more children to safely walk, scoot or cycle to school. We’ve recently opened new segregated cycle lanes in Northolt and Greenford and are finishing work on the next stretch of the Uxbridge Road cycle lane.

“We’re also taking on 20 new parking enforcement officers to keep our streets clear of congestion and bad parking. We are investing in new mechanical cleaners – which are small enough to clean segregated cycle lanes – and this half term we’re also running free Bikeability training for kids at many of our schools.”

> “Watered down” cycling and walking scheme “putting bus times before cyclists’ lives”, claim road safety campaigners

Last month, as noted above, Ealing Council and active travel charity Sustrans were accused of “prioritising bus times over cyclist and pedestrian lives” and “putting motor traffic first”, after modified designs for a Liveable Neighbourhood programme appeared to have binned previous proposals to install protected cycle lanes on a busy road where a cyclist was killed in 2017.

A consultation was held earlier this year concerning proposals to overhaul West Ealing Broadway as part of the Transport for London-funded West Ealing Liveable Neighbourhood scheme, an £8.5 million project Ealing Council says will “transform” the area, creating “more attractive, accessible, and friendly public spaces” by reducing motor traffic and rat-running and encouraging active travel and public transport by introducing new cycling and walking routes.

Lido Junction, West Ealing (Ealing Cycling Campign)

However, Ealing Cycling Campaign and the Make Uxbridge Road Safe group claimed that the latest designs put forward for the project by the council and Sustrans represent a “radically scaled back” version of the proposals first introduced in 2019.

These original proposals included protected bike lanes along a section of road where former Metropolitan Police officer Claudia Manera was killed in a collision with a lorry driver in 2017.

However, campaigners noted that the latest proposals consulted on in March fail to include any protected space for cyclists along the Uxbridge Road, despite three other residents being seriously injured in collisions since Ms Manera’s death.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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10 comments

Avatar
Miller | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

As nowadays a regular on the Uxbridge road through Ealing I can confirm that the sectors of protected cycle lanes are few and parking in cycle lanes is rampant.
It's still better than Reading though.

Avatar
cmedred | 3 weeks ago
9 likes

Instead of hiring 20 new parking enforcement officers, wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to write a law exempting people from the crime of vandalism if their actions involved damage to a motor vehicle parked in a bike lane? It wouldn't seem to take that many smashed windshields before drivers got the idea that bike lanes were not a good place to park. 

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to cmedred | 3 weeks ago
7 likes
cmedred wrote:

Instead of hiring 20 new parking enforcement officers, wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to write a law exempting people from the crime of vandalism if their actions involved damage to a motor vehicle parked in a bike lane? It wouldn't seem to take that many smashed windshields before drivers got the idea that bike lanes were not a good place to park. 

while we are at it, make it explicit that walking on top of cars parked on the pavement is not only permitted, but encouraged.

Fed up that the much wanted pavement parking ban is still being kicked down the road, but of course dangerous cycling can be tacked on to any old bill because it's a priority.

Banning pavement parking only gets harder the longer the current situation carries on as more and more drivers are getting used to annexing pedestrian space for storage of their property.

If only foresight had been shown when motor vehicles were becoming popular and legislation was passed requiring all cars to be stored on private property overnight.

Avatar
kingleo | 3 weeks ago
12 likes

Our cities and towns are full of machines that move around and store empty seats on the roads - the seats are hardly ever used.

Avatar
rogerbeardswort... | 3 weeks ago
11 likes

A car with an L plate parked on a yellow box junction. Doubt the learner is going to be taught good habits.

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hawkinspeter | 3 weeks ago
19 likes

So, why can't a PSPO be used to criminalise parking in cycle facilities and then employ private companies to tow away the vehicles at the owners' expense? Could be a nice little earner and would drastically improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Avatar
brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 3 weeks ago
8 likes

Ah, but then the council might recover money as fines from hard working otherwise law abiding motorists, and the govt can't allow that!

Avatar
Safety | 3 weeks ago
10 likes

In the run up to the general election it would be useful in articles such as this to mention which party is in power. Even though it's a local authority it's is indicative of a parties real approach rather than their pre election promises.

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to Safety | 3 weeks ago
7 likes

Labour

Avatar
polainm replied to Safety | 3 weeks ago
10 likes

I think the chronic blinkered addiction to the perverted 'rights' of drivers is beyond any one political party.

Any UK resident who cycles in Europe knows immediately that the UK has a violently toxic hatred of people using bicycles as transport. Editors can freely print incitement to decapitate cyclists with tightly strung wire at neck height across cycle routes. Ministers can waste days on pointless new laws to address 0.6% of pedestrian deaths by cyclists, the figure for all road deaths is probably more than a hundred times less.

Rothermere and Murdoch don't care about accurate balanced reporting, only whipping up societal friction points to drive click-through and advertising.

Most driving councillors represent the driving majority who demand parking and driving rights for their two tonne SUVs, whilst destroying their bodies with obeseogenic sedentary habits for a reactionary healthcare system in the throes of collapse.

Tax should have allocation markers IMO. Congestion charges should be renamed obesity levy. Roads should have bicycle lanes marked 'Healthy Lane' and motor vehicle lanes 'Sedentary Lane' although that might be a confusing word for most van drivers who believe they're in GTA.

All transport ministers can only use public transport and bicycle. Councillors have to cycle the routes they approve at least once a month.

Ultimately it's all very simple to fix with just moving three zeros of any budget from driver dominance to cycle enablement. 'We've spent £millions on cycle schemes..' claims is often a lie and a means to punish cyclists by whipping up 'waste of money' anger from the baying foaming at the mouth Mail readers.

Yet the same angry mob has no issue with plans to spend £1.4bn improving the A1 Black Cat roundabout near Bedford. This single driver-only upgrade has a greater cost than the entire Active Travel budget for same year. 

There is only one cross-party mindset for unbalanced modal infrastructure, and it's a fast track to a slow obese death; heart congestion, driver diabetes, motoring depression and mental degeneration from particulate matter. 

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