Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Whatley Avenue, Merton

Running parallel to Bushey Road, Whatley Avenue is an altogether more pleasant way of cycling west towards New Malden. The road itself doesn't have cycle lanes but generally speaking it's quiet enough. However, there are a couple of really annoying and potentially dangerous features.
First is the crossroads with Martin Way. Martin Way - apart from having one of the world's worst cycle lanes, which I'll blog about in due course - is busy enough to make crossing it difficult and dangerous. Which is why Merton Council have provided a light-controlled crossing - just kidding, of course they haven't! Here's what they've done:

First thing, see above, just before the junction, you're expected to make a right turn onto the pavement. Not only will cars behind you not be expecting such a maneouvre, you're also at risk from traffic turning into Whatley Avenue from Martin Way. Imagine trying to make such a turn with a couple of children.
Ok, so you've made the turn and stayed alive. Follow the cycle path round and you're at Martin Way:

Yes, a dismount sign! There's a refuge in the middle, but it's totally inadequate - no attempt to restrict traffic speed through the crossing point, and the refuge is too narrow to protect a bike unless you turn it sideways. There's helpful signs on the road telling you which way to look though.
So you've crossed Martin Way successfully, you continue on the path:
Yes, another Dismount sign awaits you, and you have to make another right-turn, with its attendant dangers, back onto Whatley Avenue.
At this point, Whatley Avenue is a cul-de-sac. The road surface is pretty atrocious but at least it's quiet. At the end, there's a path across Cannon Hill Common to Grand Drive (below).


As you can see, it is a rough (very rough) narrow gravel track, and gets very muddy in wintertime. Once you're at the end of the track, you emerge (still in the common) onto an access road. Again this is in very poor condition (below).

Note the gates you see are not open 24hrs, so you need to bunny-hop over the kerb and through some more mud between the gates and the post on the right-hand-side there.
OK, now you're at the junction with Grand Drive. Grand Drive is busy road, and again there's no crossing. There is a pedestrian refuge just to the right, but that does more harm than good (more on that later).

The cyle route takes you right onto Grand Drive and then immediately left into Coppice Close. This is a busy 30MPH road, quite narrow, and narrowed even further by the island, so the chances of getting rear-ended here are not insignificant.

Travelling in the other direction, emerging from Coppice Close and then turning left to the common, it is even more hazardous:
In this direction on Grand Drive, the island is place just where you need to slow down to make the left turn, so there is an even greater danger of an impatient driver making an ill-timed overtake just before the island and cutting you up, or rear-ending you.

To summarize: this route could be OK. Whatley Avenue isn't a problem, it is the fact that Merton's planners haven't got a clue about what the hazards are. When there's a busy road, they just give up and go home. It could be so much better. At Martin Way, there should be a light-controlled crossing, or at the very least a proper junction with traffic calming before it that allows cyclists to wait in the middle without needing to swerve onto the pavement and dismount a couple of times. It really isn't rocket science. Grand Drive is admittedly trickier, because it is quite narrow. Here, the central island needs to be removed as this is clearly a danger. There should be a cycle-priority crossings, and cycle lanes and traffic calming. Highway engineers might bleat about traffic flows but this should not be an issue, as traffic has to wait at the Bushey Road junction anyway.

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