Four years after being awarded £32 million to develop its cycle network, new figures suggest cycling in Kingston in on the up.
The first Cycling in Kingston Annual Report shows that cycling along Portsmouth Road, the site of the first significant development to be completed, had increased by 104% at peak times since 2014.
But the report, released in January, also suggests that the proportion of trips in Kingston made by bike have not changed, resting at a lowly 4%.
Jon Fray, of the Kingston Cycling Campaign, said: “It’s frustrating that things have been promised for years and years and yet we still don’t have anything like a complete network.”
Kingston was one of three boroughs to receive a share £100 million from the Mayor of London and TfL to develop its cycle network.
So far the Portsmouth Road development, which offers a separate space for cyclists from the south end of the borough through to the High Street, is the only major development to have been completed.
But Councillor Hilary Gander, Kingston Council’s portfolio holder for sustainability, argued that there was plenty of reason for encouragement in the recently-released figures.
She said: “What we have already is transforming cycling in that small stretch.
“And it’s only the first piece of the network.
“When it all joins up it can be so much more.”
And Mr Fray acknowledged that the Portsmouth Road cycle lane was a major improvement.
He said: “It’s a compromise but it’s so much better than what was there before.
“So many people just wouldn’t have used that road before because there were buses using it, there were heavy lorries.
“But now that there is separation, a lot of people who wouldn’t have cycled before can use it.”
Fear of traffic is the main reason for 49% of non-cyclists for not cycling in Kingston, according to the recent report, although that figure is down from 62% in 2014.
Mr Fray said he felt optimistic that the network would be ‘substantially complete’ within the next year.
The Wheatfield Way cycle lane, running from the university to Kingston station, and a non-motorised route from New Malden to Raynes Park, are both due to be completed in the next few months, while work on Penrhyn Road is already underway and is expected to be completed early next year.
Mr Fray attributed the change in pace to the change in council administration last year, when the Liberal Democrats took over from the Conservatives.
He said: “The council now definitely gets cycling and wants to promote it.”
Mr Fray explained that the new administration was willing to adopt quicker, cheaper measures than their predecessors, while continuing to ensure cycle lanes were separate from the traffic.
For instance, many of the new developments will use large large ‘bolt-down’ paving, rather than the small, expensive granite blocks favoured by the previous administration.
Mr Fray said, “The council has wanted it in the past because it makes the streets look smarter but we think, ‘Well that’s a waste of money, really.’
“It’s not just the cost of the material but the time it takes to lay. They’re tiny little blocks, it’s like paving it inch by inch, its crazy really.”
Mr Fray said he hoped that in the long term the new cycle network would triple or quadruple the number of trips made by bike in Kingston.
And Councillor Gander emphasised the potential health benefits of the network, arguing that while building works might slow traffic now, they would eventually help to diminish air pollution and reduce obesity.
She said: “While we may be creating a problem short term by building the lanes, we hope that long term we’re going to be a part of the solution.”