June 2017 Kingston Consultations


Kingston Council has already completed one of its GoCycle (formerly mini-Holland) schemes and has several more at various stages of implementation.

The council is now inviting feedback for two new, smaller, schemes. The first extends the Portsmouth Road scheme to the town centre, while the second revives the New Malden to Raynes Park link that was postponed amidst the threat of massive bills from Thames Water and hysterical claims in local newspapers.

Interestingly, both consultations follow a different pattern to the previous ones, with neither asking whether the reader actually supports the proposal. This should make for a lot of qualitative data in the Comments section.

Note that the New Malden route has been published before but didn’t reach consultation stage.


Kingston High Street

Link to consultation page.

Closing date: 17 July 2017

Kingston HIgh St
Kingston High Street route. (c) Kingston council

As the map suggests, this is a short route, completing the recently finished Portsmouth Road section. The detail is shown below:

Kingston High Street Detail (c) Kingston Council
Kingston High Street Detail (c) Kingston Council

Here’s the overview provided in the consultation:

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 22.02.32

Overall this seems good. There’s one opportunity for comments – here are some thoughts to bear in mind:

  • How will the loading bays be funded? These should be funded from the roads budget, not the GoCycle money
  • Loading bay hours should be clear and no longer than strictly necessary. This will create a hazard and should not become a spare parking bay
  • The route generally looks acceptable; it’s a logical extension of the existing Portsmouth Road route.
  • However, the shared use section at the bus stop may well be busier to what has been observed on the existing section. This will require very careful review.
  • Are the dual purpose pedestrian / cyclist crossings clear enough to drivers? From observation, drivers often seem unwilling to let cyclists cross what they believe is a crossing for pedestrians
  • How will this route work for cyclists wishing to head down Kingston Hall Road towards the new Wheatfield Way route? It’s unclear whether a cyclist will be able to leave the separate route at the roundabout or will have to leave the route earlier.



New Malden to Raynes Park

Link to consultation page

Closing date: 17 July 2017

This route opens up a link for pedestrians and cyclists between two town centres. As mentioned earlier in this post, this route was one of the original routes that was postponed. Here’s my take from first time round.

New Malden to Raynes Park (c) Kingston Council
New Malden to Raynes Park (c) Kingston Council


The first page of consultation focuses on the wildlife and access to the environment. Which is reasonable, riding somewhere peaceful is always pleasant.

Moving onto the second page, this focuses on security and seems to be addressing some of the complaints from last time.

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This is interesting. And largely reasonable. More of a community space is likely to attract use, which makes this safer for people. But… does the community space money come out of Mini Holland funding? This might appear churlish, but this is a limited pot that is designed to make cycling safer, not provide a peaceful space for dog walkers. As a reasonable test, we could ask whether the road budget pays for similar public realm improvements? It would certainly be useful if we could offset the impact of motoring in this manner.

The picture above this raises other concerns, however.

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This image shows a shared space for cyclists and walkers. See how the two pedestrians have been forced apart for a sprinting cyclist! Hardly ideal. Given the desire (see above) to make this a community space, it’s not unreasonable to expect people to be meandering and pausing as they walk dogs. This will undoubtedly cause conflict with people wishing to ride from one town centre to another. Even without the high-speed lycra warrior beloved of the local-news letter-writer, there is a need to separate these different users.

Onto some questions.

Firstly about usage and how the respondent would use the link. While this is out of the way for my typical usage, it’s definitely something that is an improvement for people nipping to the shops by bike and that’s worth noting.

The following page has four questions about journeys and the space. Again, nothing about support or otherwise.

Moving on, there are questions about what you’d like to see here. We are asked about seating and public art but not about separate pedestrian and cyclist lanes.

And finally there is the opportunity to provide free-form notes under Further Comments. Some thoughts:

  • The cycle route must be sufficiently wide to allow people to cycle next to each other, holding a conversation, with cyclists coming the other way.
  • The cycle route should be clearly separated from the pedestrian space, allowing for dogs wandering on long leads.
  • The protected nature of the nature trail is welcome. However, the Taunton Avenue end needs to be better specified. This has parking on both sides of the road and exits onto a main road. Care will need to be taken here to ensure that this is truly suitable for all cyclists, from 8 – 80 year olds. Do Merton Council have plans for this?
  • Regular maintenance will be required – including winter gritting – to ensure that this route remains usable and safe



Please do fill out the consultation forms. The only way that this will be a success will be via a network of high quality infrastructure that allows cycling to be the default choice for short trips around the borough. Low quality routes that are mixed with pedestrians will not achieve this aim.


Portsmouth Road Opening

It seems a lifetime since the first proposals for the Portsmouth Road mini-Holland scheme came out. Back then we had a coalition government, we weren’t leaving the EU and Kingston’s cycle scheme was still termed Mini-Holland rather than Go Cycle.

The proposed scheme was, let’s be frank, shoddy.

We had councillors claiming that the current “balance” that overwhelmingly favoured motor traffic should be maintained. We had protests that nobody would use this. And we were offered a scheme that would do nothing for those who wanted to cycle but felt that it was too dangerous.

And the council listened to the response. The scheme was inevitably delayed while it was rethought. It opened, in part, some time ago. The remaining part of stage one dragged on. And on.

Today, it was formally opened. And it’s good. I had a very brief hello with Terry Paton who, with Hillary Gander, has continued to push for this facility and more at council level. Kingston Cycling Campaign have tirelessly pushed for this and Andy Allen has been working with the council snagging the route so it can be used as a template for future routes.

No, the route doesn’t go all the way to town. And as a single route rather than a network, it won’t transform Kingston cycling. But forget the snark.

This proves that we can create bike routes in Kingston.

This shows that safe, separate, routes away from traffic are popular and encourage people to use their bikes.

The route is already being used by all manner of cyclists: tandems, families, people pootling to the drops and groups of roadies on a long ride. The mission is now to roll out more schemes, adding in the learning from this scheme.

Finally open!
Usable by all cyclists
The end of the route… for now

Now, if only the riverside cafe starts serving a decent latte, they’ll find a huge trade from passing cyclists given the new ease of access from the bike route..

Designing for Failure: Wheatfield Way


Wheatfield Way is a key route for the Kingston upon Thames GoCycle scheme, providing what is likely to become a busy bypass of the town centre that connects the station with Surbiton and the university buildings. A safe and convenient cycle route for all people on bikes, separate to pedestrians, is vital for this corridor.

Instead, the designs merge cyclists with pedestrians at each of the frequent junctions along this route. This is poor for pedestrians, especially those with disabilities. It is particularly poor for cyclists and will fail to encourage the take-up of cycling that Kingston needs to switch short journeys from car use.


Wheatfield Way joins Kingston’s one way system. This section has at least two lanes for motor traffic in each direction, with further lanes added for filtering. It is often busy, but in quieter times the posted 30mph limit appears to be observed in the breach. There are several pedestrian crossings, all of which are two stage (i.e. the pedestrian has to wait for two light changes).

Subjectively, it isn’t fun to cycle along, even on a road bike.

wheatfield way.PNG

This route was part of the summer 2016 consultations. Significantly, it took no space from road traffic, instead taking space from pedestrians.

My response to the original proposals is here, as is a further review of the shared space.

The consultations include a plan to reduce the speed limit to 20mph. However, there appears to be little change in road design to make a driver feel that 20mph is an appropriate maximum speed. Crucially, there is presently a central barrier between the carriageways which varies in width to provide filters for turning traffic. While this barrier might be helpful for a 30mph zone, it is unhelpful for a 20mph limit. By removing the separation between directions, the perceived danger increases and drivers naturally slow down towards the posted limit. Mark Treasure covers this in an excellent article on designing streets so speed limits are self-enforcing

Removing the barrier gives several benefits:

  • A self-enforcing speed limit
  • A shorter crossing distance, allowing pedestrians to cross the road in one movement
  • Frees up space for a proper cycle route

The Council Response.

The consultation report for Wheatfield Way, produced by Atkins, can be found here. It is not stated what experience Atkins has in designing high-quality cycling facilities.

It is notable that opposition to the Shared Use Footways is a theme to the responses throughout the document. People know that mixing cycles and pedestrians is inappropriate and dangerous, particularly for those people with sight or hearing disabilities.

The council response to this is to state that this shared use is going ahead anyway. The reasons given in the consultation are that there is no space and that drivers would be adversely impacted otherwise.

This felt like nonsense, so I submitted an FOI request why this was so. Here are the key parts of their response.

FOI response.PNG

Poor car drivers.PNG

So there are two elements to this. Firstly, Kingston upon Thames believe that the guidelines back shared space. And secondly, they’re concerned about the impact on motor traffic.


The Guidelines

Let’s start with the Shared Use document. This dates from 2012 – i.e. before the learning from the Embankment separated cycle route, etc. In fact, the flow chart for design of a route on page 8 doesn’t appear to offer an option for creating a separated route. So this appears to be somewhat irrelevant to a scheme is largely separated from motor and pedestrian traffic.

Nonetheless, here’s what they say about Share Use (between cyclists and pedestrians):




…and when segregation of modes is helpful, the document states:


I would contend that directly merging cyclists (on what is intended to be a speedy town-centre bypass) into pedestrians walking from a car park to a shopping centre will create conflict, no matter how many surfaces of “different colour and texture” the council uses. This signage only tells people that there is shared space. It does nothing to remove the problem shared use causes.

Onto the London Cycling Design Standards. The relevant section is 4. Cycle Lanes and Tracks.

This clearly states that Shared Use is poor for both cyclists and pedestrians and is only an option where pedestrian flows are light. This is not the case, especially at the junction adjacent to the Cattle Market car park.


What’s more, this quite sensibly states that pedestrians will have priority.

lcds pedestrian priority.PNG

Yet this is meant to be a flagship cycle route. Can you imagine a flagship road route being unveiled with shared pedestrian space and pedestrian priority, purely because it was thought to be a little difficult to overcome a relatively simple problem? It would be laughable.

Interestingly, the Junctions and Crossings section has nothing on merging cyclists and pedestrians. Presumably, this is not seen as an effective, coherent or safe solution


Part 4 of the FOI response stated that other designs were rejected “because of the unacceptable impact on highway traffic capacity”. It’s worth looking at the designs in more detail.


A Better Design

So what can we do here to provide space for cycling? And will this really harm the space for motor traffic?


The first two images remove barely any space for motorists. However, they provide a much-improved space for both pedestrians and cyclists, keeping the two modes separate and allowing pedestrians to cross the road in a single movement.

The second images will be more controversial to the council as they involve a reallocation of space from motorists to other modes. The single lane out of town should not be too impactful; this route is rarely busy for both lanes. This design widens the route to two lanes to allow for the turn into Fairfield South but removes the right turn to Ashdown Road. The design also provides for a better line of sight for drivers turning left into Fairfield Road.


The final design involves cutting the number of lanes through town from three to two. Ultimately, this answers the question of whether towns are for motor cars or people. The routes into town are all single or double lane at most. Widening the roads through town simply means that our town centre is temporary storage for through traffic, adding pollution and noise to a place for people.

wheatfield (2).png

My proposal for town allows for the large number of people crossing the roads from the cattle market as well as from Old London Road. Furthermore, I provide a dedicated bike route parallel to Old London Road which avoids cyclists being pushed down a road that regularly closes for events and thus invites conflict with pedestrians.

Old London Road. Proposed as a cycle route.

I must confess that the left turn to Eden Street is unresolved and I invite comment. My present thoughts are that traffic light timing could allow for a crossing to be made parallel (but separately) to pedestrians.


Vital to all these images is that turns on the cycle lane are kept smooth – the initial designs showed tight turns that will not be possible for cycles with trailers. Furthermore, a high quality bike lane without obstruction is an ideal route for emergency vehicles to bypass those occasions where there is significant traffic.

Yes, these final options take away some space from motor vehicles. However, a five lane road through a town centre is excessive and induces much traffic. Removing some space will initially add a degree of congestion, but if compensated for by a high quality cycle route we actually add more capacity and convenience for Kingston citizens.


Finally, we should look at whether this facility works for all cyclists. Certainly, faster cyclists are unlikely to wish to use the current design. The mess at junctions is simply not worth getting off the road for. What we have seen from Embankment is that high quality facilities are used by cyclists of all ages and speeds.

This scheme as it stands might work for slower cyclists. But it’s unlikely to persuade people out of their cars into bicycles. It’s clear that this scheme does nothing to redress the imbalance that presently favours drivers.

However, it is easy to see how this scheme can be improved. A small squeeze on motor traffic provides large benefits in safety, convenience and comfort to those travelling by other means. The funding for GoCycle was provided by TfL to provide world-class cycle schemes. It should be used for that.

Kingston Go Cycle: Kingston to Tolworth

The third route from Kingston in the Go Cycle Autumn Consultations is from Kingston to Tolworth. This follows a busy route to the A3, passing along two shopping high streets.


You’ll notice there’s a massive gap in the middle: more on this later.

As before, here are the links to fill in the consultation. It’s vital that Kingston council receive as many responses as possible.

Link to consultation

Link to PDF  of the route (copied and scribbled on in this post)

Summary of Responses

My responses to the consultation are below. A more detailed view of the proposal follows.


In Depth Comments

The scheme continues from Wheatfield Way, past the university on Penrhyn Road.

tolworth 1.png

This scheme is largely sound, but some areas require thought. The continuous footways we saw across junctions on the Kingston Vale route are missing here. The crossing to the university should also be made available to cyclists as it is likely that this will be heavily used once cycling is made more subjectively safe.

The scheme avoids Surbiton Hill Road, which makes sense. This is a narrow hill with an unsighted bend and a 20mph limit that many drivers view as advisory. However, details on the actual route for cyclists are scant: Surbiton Crescent is presently undergoing a trial closure to through traffic, while Avenue Elmers is a designated “quiet road” yet there are no provisions to ensure the road is quiet. This will be of particular concern at school times; we should be aiming to encourage school children to ride to school rather than retaining the status quo.

tolworth missing link.png

Once onto Ewell Road, the scheme is largely sensible. The cycle route is sensibly positioned behind parking spaces. There isn’t any note of cycle parking provision; this should be investigated.

And again, continuous footways are required. These are vital for pedestrian welfare; it means that people pushing buggies or those in wheelchairs don’t have to negotiate awkwardly placed drop kerbs or constantly cede priority to motorists.

tolworth 2.png

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Further down the road there are two staggered traffic islands. No doubt these will have railings, giving the effect of caging in pedestrians and cyclists. Care should be taken to ensure that cargo bikes and bikes with trailers can easily negotiate these islands – this is not the case with the current island.

tolworth traffic island.png

The route ends at Tolworth, with a curious centre cycle lane that is presumably designed to link up with the existing green centre space on Tolworth Broadway.


There is a gap from the shared crossing over Ewell Road to the single-width lane towards Kingston. A continuous footway over Lenelby Road would resolve this. And yet again, continuous footways are needed throughout the scheme.

Here’s where the route ends up.

tolworth centre space.png

The plans indicate that cycles will be routed down the green island in the middle of the road. The island is presently used as a safe haven by pedestrians attempting to safely use the advisory crossings. It is to be hoped that formal crossings will be put in place to allow cyclists and pedestrians to cross safely.

A far better solution would be to continue the single carriageway cycle lanes on the pavement side of the parking, put in some proper crossings, and remove the centre island. Forcing the traffic closer is known to have a calming effect on speed and would help ensure that the 20mph limit is observed (the photo above suggests that Google’s car wasn’t…). Given that this area was recently renovated, I suspect that won’t be an option.


Again, a reasonable route but this definitely needs more work in places. The gap between Surbiton Road and Ewell Road needs addressing, as does the lack of continuous footways.

Road crossings need particular attention, especially where a two stage crossing is used, to ensure that they’re suitable for all types of cycle as well as less able pedestrians.

Link to consultation


Kingston Go Cycle: Kingston to New Malden

Following yesterday’s post on the Kingston to Kingston Vale route, here’s the second of Kingston’s Autumn Go Cycle consultations.


Do fill in the consultation: it’s vital that the council receives as many positive responses as possible.

Link to Consultation

Link to PDF of the route (which I’ve again scrawled on here).

Summary of Reponses

My responses to the survey are below. A more detailed examination follows.


In Depth Comments

This route is somewhat more straightforward than we’ve seen previously. There’s a junction at one end and a pretty much continuous route to New Malden at the other. More controversially, this route removes a bus lane. Current modelling suggests that this is feasible.

review 1.png

The route begins with the London Road / Cambridge Road junction from the Kingston Vale scheme and continues down Cambridge Road. As indicated above, a bus stop bypass would be preferable to unloading passengers into the space for the bike route.

Of more concern is the design in box B. The shared footway here is poor, requiring cyclists to cross two light-controlled junctions to join the two-way route. It is surely likely that this nuisance will cause many cyclists to continue along the road and simply attempt to join the cycle route later, negating the point of the infrastructure.

review 2.png

The Gloucester Road junction above is busy, providing a route to the hospital. The sharper turn and wider footpaths are welcome. As noted above, the cycle lanes must be clear to ensure drivers don’t simply pull out across them.


The remainder of the route contains some new zebra crossings and several side roads with continuous footpaths. The junction with Elm Road is interesting, containing a shared space running next to the cycle path. This appears to be so that cyclists can easily travel to Westbury Road. But then why not make this a cycle only space, rather than an ambiguous shared space? It appears that there is room here.

The parking spaces would ideally be to the road side of the cycle route; however, that may add unnecessary bends to the route. One hopes that the council monitors whether the cycle route is obstructed by the parking and alterations made if required.


Another decent route from Kingston Council. Compared to the first proposals for Portsmouth Road this is a huge leap forward. Once again, this needs some tweaking but the intent is good.

Please do remember to fill out the consultation. This is open until 17 November.



Kingston Go Cycle: Kingston to Kingston Vale

Kingston Council have published their latest Go Cycle proposals for consultation. Here’s a look at the first of those, Kingston town centre to Kingston Vale, shown below in green.

kingston vale i.png

Note the complete absence of routes in North Kingston. This route provides some duplication for routes in Richmond Park but has the advantage of being permanently open.

Link to consultation

Link to PDF of route (substantially scrawled on in this post)



Summary of responses

My responses to the survey are below. Further comments on the Kingston Council publication follow.


In Depth Comments

The route starts at the station, using an existing cycle route that passes under the railway bridge. Right now this becomes a complete bodge at the traffic lights, with the cycle route blocked by the traffic light.

kingston station crossing.png

The route passes two crossings, making this an “always-stop” junction for pedestrians and cyclists. This should be revised; it’s not reasonable to expect those on foot or cycle to always wait while warm, dry, motorists are given priority.

kingston vale a.png

Once onto Canbury Park Road, this quietway is OK. It’s not suitable as a main route – the lack of protection from traffic is a problem – but as a feeder route for main cycling routes it’s good. It would be useful to see some clarification around how cyclists will be protected at the busy end near Wickes and Big Yellow Storage.

Onto the main route. This starts at the Wheatfield Way end of Old London Road. I criticised this when the detailed plans were published and I’ve since heard that the foot / pedal shared space will be redesigned. However, this won’t involve a reallocation of space from the three lane urban motorway.


Even without the Shared Space merging, space will be extremely tight. There is barely sufficient space for pedestrians to cross the road already; putting three cycle routes through this seems optimistic.

Nonetheless, this shows a much improved junction from London Road to Old London Road and a proper segregated junction onto the New Malden Route:

kingston vale c.png

This still requires a two-stage crossing for pedestrians – it would be good if this could be revised.

On to the next section and this part is largely good, with the exception of the railway bridge. This manages to fit a bus lane in, which is being removed. Surely there is therefore room to continue the bike lane here?

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norbiton rail bridge.png

The continued pavements are welcome, especially on the entrance to Asda which presently has no pedestrian phase on the traffic lights.

I’ve also marked that Birkenhead Avenue should be made one-way. This is presently a rat-run, with traffic avoiding the one-way system using this residential road. Making this one-way back into the one-way would avoid this behaviour, with the bonus of removing an always-stop pedestrian light at the other end.

kingston vale e.png

Continuing past the railway bridge, we reach Manorgate Roundabout. It’s clear that the council have attempted a Dutch style roundabout in the limited space available. On the good side, there is a zebra crossing on every arm of the roundabout – a big improvement on the present situation. On the downside, this incorporates pedal / foot shared space, which is unhelpful for cyclists and dangerous for pedestrians, particularly those with disabilities. I’d be very interested to hear of alternative designs.


This is a busy roundabout, with many buses and HGVs using it. The likelihood of these blocking at least the cycle crossings, if not the zebra crossings, is extremely high if current behaviour continues.

Progressing up Kingston Hill, the road narrows and we’re forced back into shared space.


As noted, there needs to be space for cyclists to overtake downhill. In reality, I suspect many road cyclists will continue to use the road to avoid conflict with slower riders.

Note also the need for a pedestrian crossing from the Albert to the downhill bus stop. Without this, there’s a scramble to cross the road or a lengthy detour.

The remainder of the route has a mixture of some shared pedal / foot space where the road narrows excessively and continuous footways over side roads. While not ideal, I can see why the shared space is employed. I’m most concerned about the shared space employed around the shops at Kingston Vale; there must be a better solution available here:



Overall, this is far better than earlier Mini-Holland proposals, although operating on different roads to those seen in the summer consultations. It is encouraging that the Shared Space at Wheatfield Way / Old London Road will be reconsidered. With a few tweaks and the question of Manorgate Roundabout notwithstanding, this is a good scheme. Looking forward to spades in the ground.

Facts don’t matter

Working in tech at this present moment is refreshing. For several years there has been a movement towards acknowledging that those closest to a problem are best placed to fix it, and that the role of a manager is best placed to define desirable outcomes within which solutions may be freely found.

There are a number of reasons why this appeals. It removes the much of the political gameplay and focuses on getting results. It means that opinion is viewed as hypothesis that should be tested. And it views a failure as a learning opportunity. Opinions are allowed to change as learning is acquired.

However, this can make the rest of the world difficult. To a techie – and many who aren’t – the facts are clear and available so why don’t people use them? Why do they stick to an argument even when it apparently makes no sense?

Humans and the Cost of Change

There are many reasons for this. In fact, it’s only human to stick hard to a viewpoint once formed. Matthew Syed notes this in his book Black Box Thinking.

Festinger predicted that when the world didn’t end as a cult predicted, the cult’s belief would be strengthened rather than diminished. And this happened. Contrary evidence was presented and yet, far from changing their mind, the cult only reinforced their views.

This is due to the personal cost of change being high. In tech, things change every couple of years and learning is embraced. As things are going to change, you might as well get used to this and create environments which decide winners on the basis of evidence and deliberately make the personal cost of change low. This isn’t the case in the rest of the world.

Changing a viewpoint is expensive. Kate Gray and Chris Young have looked at how to manage change in an organisation: they note that there is no point targetting the extreme opposition simply because of the effort needed to change their mind. Far better to target the floating voters who are not entrenched and therefore will have a lower personal cost of change. (If you’re unfamiliar with their work, take a look here for a discussion on how they went about winning hearts and minds during a Change programme).

Gray Young model.png
Gray / Young Electoral Politics Model

So the task of winning people is less than we might think: we don’t need to persuade everyone. But how can we change peoples minds at scale when facts seem to be ignored or wilfully discarded?

It is instructive to look at some examples of why people might make decisions.


To me the Brexit debate seemed clear as a simple question of risk. On the one side was a known entity, however flawed. On the other was complete uncertainty with no limit on the downside. What was always stated by the EU was that freedom of movement was the price for single market access. The Leave side seemed confident that this would not be the case (as my son often is when he demands ice cream without eating his dinner first) and made several promises that were not backed up by previous voting records of the politicians.

Despite this, they won

Everyday man doing everyday things

. Some of this was a clear dislike for the government, but much of this support seemed to have been built over the years by Nigel Farage. Love him or loath him, people appear to identify with him. And yet he is a public-school educated multi-millionaire who has little in common with many of those who voted for him. What they appear to have identified with is the persona of Farage: the man who refuses to obey the norms of politics and who stirs the hornets’ nest with controversial statements. He is clearly positioned as different to most politicians and thus stands out.

Cycling Provision

Our towns often suffer from dreadful pollution and the population is increasingly unhealthy. The Netherlands has shown that many short journeys can be made by cycle instead of car if good infrastructure is put in place: this is relatively inexpensive and has been shown to have positive outcomes on public health. It is also notable that motor traffic flows well here, taking advantage of what is almost a permanent end-of-term effect.

Lycra Lout?

However, discussion around cycling tends not to focus on this, but on a persona of the cyclist as a law-breaking uninsured hooligan, intent on doing everything they can to cause crashes, annoy pedestrians and increase pollution in towns. Small wonder that the person typically making these connections cannot imagine themselves cycling short journeys in everyday clothes in safety away from motor traffic. Essentially, their persona is somebody who travels by car and there is no readily available persona of the family who travel by bike.

Positive Personas

My hypothesis is that in both these situations, people seem to have identified with a persona that affirms their views and reinforces their conclusions. This is sometimes built around a person, but may simply be a concept (the parent who drives a 4×4; the lycra lout cyclist). A factual argument will simply bounce off this persona; indeed, it may even reinforce the strength of opposition.

Remember that at this point we only wish to target the undecided voter. While it’s tremendous fun to troll those who have an aversion to fact, it’s ultimately taking time away from more effective means of gaining support. Instead, would a fact-based story around a persona be more effective? That persona would identify with the concerns of the undecided voter but address them with the fact we’re attempting to portray.

We don’t wish to create another Be Like Bill character that is a patronising figure of fun. But when attempting to win over that vital undecided vote, we cannot simply deliver dry facts. Instead, we could represent the debate with believable personas that directly address the concerns voiced, rationalising the desired behaviour and ostracising the undesirable outcome. For the cycling discussion, give a platform to a disabled person who finds their bike gives them freedom and who needs good infrastructure. For the Remain Brexit discussion, give a voice to those who have concerns about immigration but believe the solution is to work with, rather than against, the EU.

At this stage, this is simply a clumsily-written hypothesis. I’d love to hear whether this has legs and, if so, could be developed further. Or, if this is established practice and I simply need to read more.

Wheatfield Way Shared Space

On Wednesday 14th September, I attended a Residents Meeting at Kingston Guildhall. Much of this was allocated to discussion on the next tranche of Go Cycle [Mini-Holland] developments. However, the meeting soon became a heated debate focussed around New Malden and its fountain. Time went on, and I unfortunately had to leave before the rest of the programme was discussed at 11pm.

While I support much of the non-New Malden briefs in principle, there is much that needs to be cleared up before the building begins. In particular, the proposal to share space between people on foot and people on bikes must be changed. This bodge is done at practically every junction on the Wheatfield Way scheme, changing what should be a useful link route into a conflict-ridden mess.

So let’s look at this.


Wheatfield Way is a busy road with often fast-moving traffic, being part of Kingston’s infamous one-way system. At one of its junctions it acts to cuts off small shops and a Wilcos from the rest of the shopping area. The crossing is typically busy, with pedestrians often struggling to pass each other and cross the three-lane road in the brief time they’re allocated. There is a cycle lane here, linking Old London Road with Eden Street.


Mini Holland

To recap, mini-Holland was provided to redress the balance of car-dominated boroughs. Money was provided to generate real change, providing high quality cycling facilities that would enable the latent demand of people who want an alternative to their cars, but are fearful of the present cycling environment.

Given that many journeys are short (a third are under 2km) shifting a reasonable proportion of short journeys out of cars and onto cycles has huge potential to reduce town centre congestion with the corresponding health benefits.

The Unacceptability of Shared Space

The present proposal has a two way cycle lane along Wheatfield Way, that merges with the pavement at junctions to provide shared space between cycles and pedestrians.

This is shoddy, lazy and invites conflict.

Bad for Cyclists

One of the major benefits of good cycling infrastructure is the ability for all riders to travel as fast or slow as they like away from the dangers of traffic or from pedestrians who travel at a very different speed, often stopping without warning. Conversely, poor infrastructure gives up at junctions, bundling people on bikes into conflict with either motorists or pedestrians, both of whom resent the interlopers for very different reasons.

This is that latter type of infrastructure. Confident road cyclists will simply avoid it, undoubtedly attracting the ire of drivers as they cycle on the road. And less confident cyclists or those accompanying children will simply take the car, rather than trying to “share” space that is already full of pedestrians. Certainly, attempting to find a route through people waiting for a traffic light to change will prove difficult for cyclists with trailers or cargo bikes: exactly the sort of practical bicycles mini-Holland should attract.

Bad for Pedestrians

Who loves waiting at traffic lights while people on bikes try weaving their way past you? You’re clearly in their way, but where else can you wait? Nobody likes this. It’s rubbish. A busy road in front of you and cyclists around you trying to get through a busy junction. It’s awful. The only possible outcomes from this are conflict and anger.

Appalling for Disabled Groups

Picture that inconvenience for fully sighted pedestrians. And now do it blindfold. You can’t see where cycles are; indeed there’s little indication for you that cycles should be expected in the same place. And you can’t hear bicycles either – one of the reasons streets can be more pleasant with bicycles than motor vehicles is the reduced noise.

You’re simply going to avoid this space. It’s dangerous and not somewhere to be if you can’t see. The same applies if you’re deaf and can’t hear people calling to let you know they’re passing on one side or another.  I ride a bike and would call myself a cyclist. I’m also deaf in one ear and frequently miss such verbal cues. Personally, I would not feel comfortable in a shared space environment and that’s with a disability I regard as an annoyance rather than debilitating. 

The Equalities Act 2010 requires that all UK Local Authorities have an obligation to ensure that all streets and public areas are accessible to everyone, including people who have physical or sensory disabilities (from here, retrieved September 2016).

While Kingston council believes this to be the case, I strongly disagree. This will be extremely uncomfortable, unpleasant and dangerous for the disabled and impaired.

Kingston Council on Equalities Impact Assessment


Kingston Council statement on accessibility

I do not believe, despite the council assurances, that this meets the Equalities Act requirements.


Fine for drivers

Naturally, this scheme is fine for drivers. No space is removed from those causing a polluted, hostile, environment for people. The council will continue to provide a three-vehicle wide space for motors that are frequently occupied by a single person.

One person for three lanes of space. Contrast this with the space for many pedestrians.


A Better Option

Here are the current plans. The three lanes of traffic are retained and the light blue cycle path merges into the pedestrian space where this is orange. The existing cycle path to Old London Road – under the row of telephone boxes here – is lost to shared space.

Existing plans. No change for drivers, shoddy for everyone else

And here’s what they could look like.

As things good be. Good for cyclists, good for pedestrians. Still not terrible for drivers.

Both roads that feed into this space are widened from two lanes. So let’s instead widen them after the station, with early “get in lane” signage to prevent jockeying for position.

This allows a full two-way separated cycle lane through the junction. There is some question about the cycle route joins with Old London Road and Clarence Street. At present there’s a short cycle route that joins roads on each end of the cycle route. There needs to be some provision for cyclists travelling along Wheatfield Way to be able to turn into Clarence Street but this should be relatively easy to fix.


How this Works

  • This resolves the problem that shoddy infrastructure won’t be used.
  • This resolves the problem that bicycles and pedestrians do not mix well.
  • This resolves the problem that disabled people will feel excluded by the ambiguity of shared space.
  • And this redresses the balance in a fair allocation of space away from being dominated motor traffic.

In short, it’s a better project that’s worthy of the mini-Holland moniker and will works towards the goal of getting people onto sustainable means of transport

As an aside, the other shared space junctions along the road are equally appalling. They’re easily resolvable and I expect to see continuous cycle lanes in the final designs.

Housing without Cars

We recently holidayed in Cornwall, on a farm that had converted several old buildings to holiday homes and gradually built new buildings. It’s a lovely place; the farm is still working so there’s plenty of opportunity for children to feed the animals in the morning and go on nature trails.


It’s clear that families are a big customer segment, with nearly thirty houses on site. There’s a playground, a soft play area and a store from which forgetful parents can borrow a bucket and spade for the day. Naturally, children run around the place with little care for any consequences. Yet despite so many families coming and going during the day and the resulting traffic movements on and off the complex, this doesn’t cause any problem for small children.



The reason is that people are happy to not park right outside their homes. An exception is made for loading and unloading, but after this there’s an understanding that cars belong in the car park. And this isn’t an issue, despite the car being used every day (unlike at home). A walk of a minute with bags, beach paraphernalia and children on traffic-free paths simply isn’t a problem. The roads also lend themselves to dead slow driving. Narrow, weaving, paths and the odd sharp corner with prominent signs stating that children are roaming.

Narrow, twisty, lanes


This leaves the paths free to walk on and for children to play on. Bikes were ridden, scooters were scooted and skateboards skated. Best of all, children were free to charge around the place and let off steam. We didn’t have to worry about whether they’d be run over, we could simply let them shoot off to the playground and catch up at a sensible pace.

This approach isn’t difficult to replicate. Yet we still build new developments with space for driving and barely any space for families. Houses seemingly must have space for parking, where a communal car park would be a better solution. There are, of course, issues to be resolved. It’s far easier to wash a car that’s outside one’s house, for a start. But it doesn’t have to be the norm that houses must have space for a car attachment. Removing the motor traffic makes the pace more human, whether on foot or bicycle.

Charging point for electric cars
Busy car park, away from children and routes to play-areas



How to avoid cutting one’s balls off

The Dad-Joke

There’s a story about a man who suffers from appalling headaches. They started as a minor inconvenience, but after 20 years have worsened and now affect every part of his life: failed relationships, a series of sackings, etc., etc. So he finally goes to the doctor. After many tests, the doctor diagnoses the problem: the patient’s testicles are pressing against the base of his spine, causing pressure which leads to the headaches. There’s only one solution: castration.

The patient initially declines, but ultimately pain gets the better of him and he agrees to the surgery.

So the surgery happens and the patient feels like a new man afterwards. Without the headaches, he realises this is the restart his life needed. To celebrate and kick-start his new life and job hunt, he goes to buy a new suit.

He walks into a tailors and says he’s looking for a new suit. The tailor looks him up and down. “You’re a 44-inch chest”, he says. “Brilliant”, says our patient. “How did you know?”

“Easy”, replies the tailor. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years. And you’re a 16-inch neck”.

“Bang on”, says the man. “How about the trousers?”

“36-inch leg” says the tailor. “And a 36-inch waist”.

“Gotcha!” shouts our hero. “I’m a 34-inch waist and have been since university.”

“Oh no,” the tailor insists. “You’re a 36-inch waist. If you wear 34-inch trousers, you’ll wear 34-inch underpants. And they’ll be far too tight – they’ll compress your balls against your spine and give you terrible headaches”.


The Product Stuff

Without wishing to over-analyse an excellent Dad-joke, this is how many people approach product management. There are two issues here.

Finding the actual problem

Instead of identifying the root cause of the problem, we fix the local, obvious, issue. While this often alleviates the symptoms, it doesn’t resolve the underlying problem. Such a resolution is therefore sub-optimal and possibly even harmful in the longer term. Here, they appear to have found out the cause. But they haven’t uncovered what caused the cause.

So when we approach a problem, why don’t we always use techniques such as 5-whys to dig down to the root cause? Why do we tackle only the immediate cause?

Well, firstly it’s a tricky habit to get into. Fixing a problem is satisfying and that buzz can be obtained quickly with an immediate fix. We set our mindset on achieving small wins, failing to optimise for long-term gain. Our sprint is full, so we put in a quick fix and mark this done.

Secondly, we’re often busy, with many competing demands. Fixing a problem feels like it is detracting from our main goals. Why spend time on fixing this when there are quarterly targets to be hit? So we avoid the potential hassle of coordinating with other departments and spending time identifying a root cause by simply fixing the surface issue. It’s good enough, and we can get on with our main priorities.

Safe-to-fail Experimentation

The second problem is that cutting one’s balls off is quite clearly not a safe-to-fail experiment. While this resolved the immediate problem, it is an irreversible action. In the language of Chris Matts, it is most definitely a commitment rather than an option. One can imagine that at the punchline our patient would have preferred to be holding an option rather than having committed early.

The realm of product management is that of uncertainty. There are outcomes which we are tasked with moving towards, rather than a fixed set of features that we must implement. To meet these outcomes, we identify small, safe-to-fail, hypotheses that we can test to see if they move closer to our aims.

The safe-to-fail part is key. Given that we cannot have certainty in advance about which features will and what won’t move our metrics the right way, we must have the option to reverse the feature at low cost should it fail. As responsible product managers it is not acceptable to hold merely a hypothesis and yet to create a complete, fixed, product (this is the realm of mass-production). Instead, we validate the hypothesis via testing and we always have a rollback option.


So two lessons from a terrible joke.

Always check for the root cause of a problem. And be sure to run safe-to-fail experiments, rather than commitments you’ll later regret.