The Crystal Palace Park Community Stakeholder Group are consulting this week about how best to spend £2.4m of GLA regeneration money on short-term improvements to the park.
The consultation is being held at the Park Information Centre (Penge Entrance) – do go along if you can.
11am – 4pm, Sunday 15th June
3pm – 8pm, Wednesday 18th June
11am – 4pm, Saturday 21st June
More details here – an online consultation is also planned but we don’t have the details yet.
What’s possible for cycling in the park, and why does it matter?
The park lies on two important London Cycle Network (LCN) routes – LCN23 from Croydon to the City via Dulwich and Camberwell, and LCN75 from Crystal Palace to Bromley via Beckenham. The LCN has suffered from underinvestment in recent years, but this is due to change with LCN23 in particular being a candidate for early upgrade to Quietway status – at which point it should be good enough quality for children as young as 8 to ride to and from Dulwich Park, Burgess Park etc. with an accompanying adult. Enabling cycling within the park makes getting to LCN23 itself much easier.
The park is surrounded on most sides by busy “A” roads, several of which have steep gradients, and none are a place where children or older people feel able to cycle. So a good level of bike permeability within the park provides important connectivity between the adjoining minor roads – as well as being a great way to access facilities within or adjacent to the park itself – the NSC, the bus and train stations, and the Triangle. Most nearby minor roads already offer reasonably good cycle facilities, or have the potential to do so with relatively little intervention.
Connections to and from the park
While there are plenty of opportunities to improve things for cycling on the roads adjoining the park, from the mundane (upgrading PELICAN crossings to TOUCANs and improving traffic signal phasings for pedestrians and cycles) to the ambitious (creating a medium distance traffic-free cycling route along the old High Level Railway alignment), these are beyond the scope of the GLA funding and therefore not considered in this post.
Connections within the park
The park has a considerable gradient, the western edge being approx. 200ft higher than the east. Only the northern end of the park currently provides step free access along the whole east/west axis; even for able-bodied pedestrians, the southern edge has poor permeability due to car park fences and NSC access roads.
The NSC, located in the centre of the park, has good east/west permeability, at least for those able to cope with steps, and this access could be made wholly or partly step-free, however it’s something of a barrier for those wishing to travel north/south through the park as the northern flank of the NSC site is currently impermeable.
A particular focus for cycling improvements should be on making it easier to access the NSC from the north/west corner of the park at Fountain Drive – this is easy to fix and there is clearly demand.
So what’s needed for cycling in the park?
Much is possible with a few small, well-targeted interventions. The below map outlines a network possible with few and inexpensive changes, which will be outlined below.
The two dotted lines (north and east of the NSC) represent routes which may be more difficult to deliver – while pedestrian & cycle accessibility to the NSC to and from the north is desirable, it may not be acheivable in the short term for security reasons. Step-free access from east of the NSC overbridge to the lower park is possible – and would be of considerable benefit to buggy and wheelchair users as well – but would require a lift or a long ramp and so is likely to be expensive.
The proposed routes are a mixture of access roads and pathways. In all cases, it is proposed that an advisory 10mph speed limit apply to cycles and, where relevant, other traffic.
Note that no route is proposed along the south-west corner of the park – the gradient here is very steep, and pedestrian access is by 2-3 flights of steps. Making this area suitable for a cycle route will be costly, disruptive and does not represent good value for money.
The proposed interventions
1 – Resurfacing around the Italian Garden (Priority: Med)
The paths near the Italian Garden, to and from the access points north and south of the bus station, should be resurfaced to provide better access for buggies, wheelchairs and bikes.
2 – Resurfacing along the Terrace paths (Priority: Med)
The paths north and south along the terraces should be resurfaced to provide better access for buggies, wheelchairs and bikes.
3 – Connector route south of Rockhills (Priority: High)
The existing path should be resurfaced and a short segment of new path created to where Old Cople Lane adjoins the park.
4 – Landscaping between Old Cople Lane and park (Priority: High)
Currently there is a small hillock of rough ground between the lane and the park. This renders this access route unusable for wheelchair and buggy users, and hazardous for cyclists. Removing a small amount of earth would create a level access between the lane and the terrace.
5 – Fire gate at Old Cople Lane (Priority: High)
For security reasons there is a fire gate on the lane next to the Caravan Club turnoff. The lane occupies the full width of the carriageway, making it impassible for cyclists without a dismount. There are pavements on the lane but they are poorly surfaced, so access for buggies and wheelchairs is also challenging. The fire gate should be replaced with a narrower gate of the same type, or a lockable / folding bollard or bollards, to maintain the security function of keeping vehicles out but allowing bikes, buggies and wheelchairs to pass through.
6 – Step free access from NSC to upper park car park (Priority: High)
At present there is no step free access from the NSC to the upper park. This means that those who can’t negotiate a short (4 step) flight between the upper car park and the Paxton bust are faced with a very long detour – all the way out to the access road at the southern edge of the park, and back in again. This is especially problematic for people visiting the NSC from north of the park (Lewisham & Southwark boroughs) as there is no direct access to the NSC from the north. An inexpensive ramp here would be a huge help for cyclists and buggy users arriving at the NSC on foot.
7 – Speed bump alterations on park access road (Priority: Med)
The full-width high-angle speed bumps are a valid and effective traffic calming measure, but a jarring experience for cyclists. Creating small gaps in the humps allowing cyclists to pass through un-bumped would be a welcome improvement – or replace the humps entirely with the sinusoidal type which are less jarring at low speeds.
8 – Secure cycle parking at the Bus Station (Priority: Low)
The wonderful Crystal Palace Triangle is, and is likely to remain, a difficult area for the young and old to negotiate on a bike – for those not prepared to ride with main road traffic, it’s best explored on foot. The bus station has excellent potential to provide a high degree of passive surveillance for a cycle parking facility, and a nearby secure cycle park would also assist multi-modal bus+bike journeys.
9 – Remove or unlock the gate on the ridge-top path east of the NSC access road (Priority: Med)
This security gate appears to serve little purpose – it’s outside the NSC perimeter, accessible from both sides on foot and by bike, and yet, for reasons which aren’t clear, is usually kept locked. Removing or permanently unlocking this gate would allow a level north/south route across the park east of the NSC, and give cyclists an alternative to the narrow and twisty paths around the lower lakes. Allowing and encouraging people to use this route – especially adults on bikes – would reduce conflict on the lakeside paths when the park is busy.