Cycling in Hammersmith and Fulham under the GLC

originally posted on hfcyclists

On YouTube a video has been uploaded originally made in 1984 to show progress made on cycling by the Greater London Council in coordination with boroughs. At the time the Greater London Council (GLC) had helped fund the beginnings of a cycling network and improve cycling throughout London. Much of the work took place in Hammersmith and Fulham. There are even animations (specially commissioned) which show how many of the early junctions in Hammersmith worked.

GIF Animation of crossing under Hammersmith Flyover
Animation of crossing under Hammersmith Flyover

Of particular note to us are absolutely amazing sections showing then new facilities at various parts of Hammersmith. Every facility has inevitably been reworked in the decades since and indeed some are actually even preserved in a form on Google Street View (which we’ve linked in captions below the images) that has only recently been further revamped. The point to note from all of this is that it does at least appear the borough have been capable of renewing and maintaining a cycle network if not extending it in the years since. These are just some that we’ve noticed, let us know if you spot any others.

Cyclist on Holland Park Roundabout, 1984
Cyclist on Holland Park Roundabout. Since then railings have gone, lights have changed but it’s still 4-5 lanes of traffic to navigate by bike  > see now on Street View
Quiet route paralleling Fulham Palace Road
Quiet route paralleling Fulham Palace Road, this continues to work fairly well though you’ll often see local school children riding on the pavement.  > see now on Street View
Crisp Road Contraflow
Crisp Road Contraflow, this has changed a lot as trees have grown and is constantly under threat due to nearby developments.  > see now on Street View
Addison Bridge avoiding Holland Park Roundabout
Addison Bridge avoiding Holland Park Roundabout, this is absurdly narrow. It has since had parking removed and has segregated lanes in either direction.  > see now on Street View
Bridge Road crossings under Hammersmith Flyover
Bridge Road crossings under Hammersmith Flyover, even in 1984 it was odd not to allow contraflow cycling coming towards the camera. Will we fix that after 30 years? > see now on Street View
Woman cycling around Shepherds Bush Green - lovely practical bike!
Woman cycling around Shepherds Bush Green – lovely practical bike. It’s more likely we’d see such a cyclist using the paths over the green which came in after this film. However, for many journeys cycling on the road is the most sensible option despite the risks. > see now on Street View
Then proposed links to enable cycling from Shepherds Bush Green into the main roads. These mostly survive but have been under threat in recent years and are not as complete as shown. Cycling on the green is now simpler shared use but with additional poorly executed paths around the edge. It is no safer today!
Then proposed links to enable cycling from Shepherds Bush Green into the main roads. These mostly survive but have been under threat in recent years and are not as complete as shown. Cycling on the green is now simpler shared use but with additional poorly executed paths around the edge. It is no safer today!

All this and more is in the video which is a very informative and fascinating 24 minutes or so of viewing. You’ll realise just how quickly changes can and were made back then, and of course how few changes have been made since. We note that most changes in Hammersmith and Fulham have been to the quality of these interventions but not to create that many more . The main thing sadly missing is the contraflow lane on Hammersmith King Street which followed some years later, just after the GLC was abolished by the Thatcher government.

The film ends with a comment which remains accurate even today, sadly: “If we are to create another generation of cyclists, we must plan London for them now.” On which note, don’t forget our Space For Cycling meeting is on Monday!

Some Research Of Our Own

Now beyond the material in the film we have also been doing research online, in libraries and in borough archives.

There is very little in newspapers of the time online (other than the Times archive) but that reveals that the GLC’s team in 1982 comprised 4 full-time and up to 36 part-time staff. It was found that changes in Fulham (probably the quiet route paralleling Fulham Palace Road) had increased cycling by 22%.

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 18.45.34

The plans of the time were advanced even in 1982 when the Times wrote (May 03, 1982; pg. 5; Issue 61223) of “cycle ways, possibly underground” being considered across London. This was happening during a time when public transport provision was being forced to be reduced in London and traffic on the streets was growing. Cycling was positioned by the GLC as an alternative (40% of those losing services were expected to walk or cycle, as opposed to 20% to drive).

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 18.45.43

The then new crossing into Hyde Park from Bayswater cost £85k (roughly £254k in cost today) of which the Ministry of Transport contributed £56k. Those were the first bicycle traffic lights in London, installed in 1982. It seems sad that we are only just seeing moves towards low level lights in London now.

eBay brought our coordinator a copy of an original map from around the time of this film for planning routes with the GLC. We’ve quickly scanned it in to share as it’s a timely reminder both of how long ago and how compromised past efforts were, but also shows where there are differences and similarities to the current Central London Grid proposal.

Hammersmith and Fulham GLC Cycle Map Early 80s
Hammersmith and Fulham GLC Cycle Map Early 80s – click for full size.

It is very interesting to compare this to the current (last revised in 2006) map of walking and cycling routes as available on the council website today. The basic grid was delivered with interventions at a few key places in the early 80s. Some routes have been added, some taken away. Though note that now the map is much more likely to include a road with a bus lane or even just cycles painted on the road. It is probably quite interesting to look at why certain roads were no longer considered part of the network. Cycling on main roads has become more accepted by the council, but interventions – other than segregated contraflows or bus lanes – have not.

Hammersmith and Fulham Walking and Cycling Map 2006
Hammersmith and Fulham Walking and Cycling Map 2006 – click for full size

You might ask how seriously are the borough taking cycling, when the biggest shopping centre in West London isn’t even on the local cycle map. And if you are inspired to campaign then you could help us work on Space For Cycling, come to our meeting on Monday 17th February or read over our comments on the Central London Grid and send your own response.

We’ll follow up in time with some period leaflets and other items we’ve found, though we welcome any contributions people have of memories and artefacts of cycling in London and our local area. Drop us a line by commenting below or email us.

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