Sunday, 18 November 2007


In her letter to Assembly Member John Biggs dated 27 May 2003, TfL's Head of the Cycling Centre of Excellence, Rose Ades, wrote: 'I asked Sustrans to include a colour coding option within their signing feasibility study for the Wandle Valley. However I understand from Mr Parker's letter to you of 25th April, he did not consider this appropriate. This is a pity, because we would now have a better idea of [the] different options, costs and benefits.'

In her letter to me dated 26 April 2004, Victoria Hills pointed out: 'I understand that TfL [were] working with Sustrans to develop signage on routes, which include[d] considering opportunities for the colour coding of routes, and that you were invited to participate in this work but were unwilling to do so.'

The Customer Services Manager at TfL, Julie Bernard, explained to me in a letter dated 13 October 2004: 'A study report was received earlier this year which investigated cycle route signing including your colour coding proposals. Consultants advised that there were few practical benefits and that such an approach would add to [the] complexity, confusion and cost. The proposals for which you are now seeking a feasibility study are essentially the same. It is a pity that you declined to participate in that independent study when the opportunity arose.'

On 14 August 2006, Dave Wetzel, Vice-Chair of the TfL Board, asserted: '[W]hen TfL offered you the chance to test your ideas in the Wandle Valley you rejected it on the grounds that it had to be the whole thing or nothing.'

Time and again the fault was deemed to be mine. But there are, as ever, two sides to a story ...

On 8 April 2003, the then London manager of Sustrans, Isobel Stoddart, emailed me to say: 'I have been asked by Transport for London to evaluate your colour system with a view to assessing its suitability as part of a signing schedule on one of the National Cycle Network routes.'

Isobel and I subsequently discussed this offer on the telephone. Then, eleven days before I sent off my letter to John Biggs, Isobel summarised our position in an email to Rose Ades:

From: Isobel Stoddart
To: Rose Ades
Subject: Wandle Trail Signing Strategy
Date: Monday, 14 April 2003

Dear Rose

Bretts are now well into the signing schedule report for the Wandle Route.

I have spoken to Simon Parker re. applying any of his concepts to the demonstration signing programme on the Wandle and he doesn't feel that it would be appropriate to try and trial it here. I also find it difficult to decipher how it might be applied in this situation.

Thanks Isobel

Isobel Stoddart
London Manager

If Isobel could not understand how my signing strategy might be tested during the Wandle Trail Signing Study, and if TfL would only speak to her, then where did that leave me?

The main reason Isobel and I found things 'difficult to decipher' was because two months earlier, on 11 February 2003, the Chair of the Borough Cycling Officers' Group (BCOG), Chris Bainbridge, had written to Rose Ades as follows:

Dear Rose,

Proposal for a Colour Coded Network of Cycle Routes

As you know, Simon Parker’s concept of a London-wide network of colour coded cycle routes was discussed at the BCOG meeting last October, and to a lesser extent at the January meeting.

There was a great deal of interest from boroughs in the idea of using colour coding in some way to distinguish cycle routes and help cyclists get across London, and we believe that the idea should be studied further. I attach a table of the views of those boroughs who have written to me. Some have reservations, but about a third of boroughs have written in to me expressing general support. I attach a table summarising these responses.

Simon himself, who has put a tremendous amount of work into developing his ideas, has suggested a possible feasibility study, which I attach [not included here]. My own view on this is that it should have two additional aims at the beginning:

· Establishing the desirability and feasibility of using colour coding for cycle routes in London.
· Establishing the most appropriate means of doing this.

Yours sincerely

Chris Bainbridge
Chair, London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group

Barking & Dagenham: Colour coding should be decided at borough level, with zoning system similar to travelcard

Brent: Supports concept & feasibility study

Greenwich: Support for concept of colour coding & Feasibility study

Hackney: Supports investigation of concept

Lambeth: Supports concept, integrate with LCN+

Lewisham: Supports feasibility study into colour-coded maps and signs

Corp. of London: Support concept of colour-coding and feasibility study

Southwark: Support further investigation of concept

Tower Hamlets: In favour of carrying out further investigations into colour coded routes

Westminster: An idea worth investigating further

Wandsworth: Support concept & proposal for a feasibility study

In typical fashion, Rose did not reply to this letter. The boroughs and Isobel and I were all waiting for an answer. Isobel, for instance, had told John Biggs in an email dated 27 February 2003: 'I would like to express my interest in seeing how Simon's proposal could be taken forward and what the likely benefits are.'

Anyway, on 27 May 2003 Rose did write to John Biggs. I have already quoted from part of this letter. This is how it was concluded:

'Investment in a high quality network (LCN+) was agreed by a year long Task Force involving the boroughs, ALG, walking and cycling groups. There is a much more extensive network of functioning routes which are shown in the London Cycle Guides. However there are significant issues around signing, obstruction and clutter, vandalism and the cost of maintenance that make it impractical (because the costs outweigh the benefits) to sign a more extensive network.

'However I am happy to consider proposals for 2004/5 from Camden, a group of boroughs or an individual borough for a pilot scheme for an innovative approach to route signing.'

Thus it was that on 22 July 2003, five borough cycling officers met at Bedford House, Camden, and agreed a way forward 'for a pilot scheme for an innovative approach to route signing.'

Subsequently, on 22 September 2003, Chris Bainbridge wrote again to Rose, as follows:

Dear Rose,

Proposal for a Colour Coded Network of Cycle Routes

Further to my letter of 11 February, and your response of 27 May to John Biggs, I attach a bid for a feasibility study into the colour coding of cycle routes which covers the boroughs of Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Wandsworth. Bromley, as the south east sector leader, will be the lead borough for the project.

This study is the outcome of work undertaken by the five boroughs, with Simon Parker, who first proposed the idea, and would meet the immediate aspirations of BCOG.

I hope that you will be able to look favourably on the bid.

Yours sincerely
Chris Bainbridge
Chair, London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group

BSP 2004/05 Supporting Information

Total Scheme Cost: £60k
Scheme End Year: 2005

Main Scheme Elements:

1. A Feasibility study on a colour coding scheme to complement the LCN existing routes. It will indicate route direction on existing borough cycle routes. This will be the basis of minimal functioning. The opportunity to improve signage where necessary can be incorporated into this study.

2. This is a cross-borough pilot scheme taking place 'in Lambeth, Lewisham, Greenwich, Southwark and Wandsworth. Agreement on the format of the study has been agreed by all the boroughs in the South East Sector and the London Borough of Wandsworth in the South West Sector, copied to Sustrans for information. The study needs to cover a reasonable area taking in all the different directions of the routes.

3. This study has been requested by members of the Borough Cycling Officers Group in order to determine the impact on cycle routes throughout all London boroughs on a comprehensive cycle network.

4. This scheme will assess if and how this idea could be applied over a larger area.

Links To Other Schemes:

This scheme could also incorporate route numbering and linking where appropriate into existing cycle route schemes.

Design Statement:

A feasibility study is proposed in order to assess the viability of:

i. A colour coding system which informs the user of their direction of travel, in terms of coloured routes;

ii. Minimum functioning, which allows for a comprehensive network and which is intended to complement the LCN+ and other existing cycle routes.

Scheme Objectives:

To improve the clarity and usage of cycle routes London-wide in line with the Mayor for London's transport strategy.

Details Of Any Consultation or Committee Approvals To Date:

The background to this scheme has already been put forward to TfL earlier this year, after discussions at two previous BCOG meetings.

Benefits on completion:

To enable a comprehensive assessment to be concluded on how full implementation of the scheme would effect the network with its overall impact and cost.


The maintenance aspects of this scheme would need to be considered, but are likely to be in line with the expected costs of the existing signage and markings of existing routes in London.

As before, Rose failed to respond. I had to wait more than a year to hear the fate of that BSP bid. It was Julie Bernard, the Customer Services Manager at TfL, who told me what had happened in a letter dated 13 October 2004. Let us remind ourselves what she said:

'A study report was received earlier this year which investigated cycle route signing including your colour coding proposals. Consultants advised that there were few practical benefits and that such an approach would add to [the] complexity, confusion and cost.'

What I found out afterwards was that, 'the focus of the [Wandle Trail] study was revised and the consultants asked to take a wider view of signing on shared-use paths in London.' In other words, the Final Report became, at least in part, a Strategy for Signing in London.

As I say, I had no idea that consultants had even been asked to look at my work until Julie Bernard revealed as much in October 2004.

What the consultants had advised, apparently, was that there were few practical benefits associated with my signing strategy. For this reason the BSP bid from the boroughs was rejected. I smelled a rat.

I got back in touch with Julie. Could she please send me a copy of the consultant's report?

From: "enquiries" @
To: Simon Parker
Subject: FW: Study Request - SM003663/3
Date: Tuesday, 14 December 2004

Dear Mr Parker

Thank you for your email. I am very sorry that you have not received the requested information in the post.

My colleague in the CCE Department definitely sent out the above as I called to confirm this with her, at the time. She has yet again, confirmed this afternoon that she posted the information to you. Please see her message below.

Please find attached, a copy of the information as per Victoria's email.

Again, I apologise for this postal problem that has occurred regarding this issue.

Your sincerely

Njideka Meniru
Customer Service Advisor


Mr Parker,

Please accept our sincere apologies. I have given up on replying on the post - as this is now the fourth time I have sent this to you.

Kind regards,

Victoria Bennett
Cycling Centre of Excellence

What the report actually said:

4.2 Alternative uses of colour

Proposal for colour graduation of whole LCN

During research into the Wandle Trail PBA [Peter Brett Associates] were advised of a proposal received by Transport for London (TfL) from an independent consultant regarding colour coding of the entire London Cycle Network. This proposal was highly complex, based on the use of different colours for each and every route that forms part of the LCN [my emphasis]. The colour selected for each route would then be used on every sign along that route, and in all maps and publicity of the LCN. It is understood that one element of this proposal suggested that each route should be resurfaced in the chosen colour.

Further complications were added by plans for the colours to be selected in a graduation across the city, which would lead to adjacent routes using only slightly different colours, rather than a noticeable contrast.

It is considered that the above proposal, although known only in outline, would appear to create a very complex and potentially confusing network. While a continuously coloured surface could become a relatively easy visual target to follow, the similarity between the colours of routes through adjacent parts of London could reduce greatly the effectiveness of this element at points of interaction between the routes. Secondly, by encouraging users to follow a coloured line continuously for route identification, there is a risk that advanced perception of risk could be compromised by the attraction of cyclists’ gaze downward instead of ahead.

Maintenance of the scheme would also be difficult, where new routes are proposed: a new colour would have to be found that ‘fitted in’ between the other local colour graduations.

It is considered that this proposal would lead to complexity and cost, while lacking sufficient clarity, and would not be of benefit at this time.

Throughout all my dealings with Rose, she behaved like a dog asleep in the manger. She did not eat the hay, and neither did she allow me, a member of the herd, to eat it.

Once, in between naps, she threw me a crumb.

The general view of the five boroughs which met in Camden was that a large area was necessary to determine the viability of my proposal. As the BSP bid says, 'The study needs to cover a reasonable area taking in all the different directions of the routes.'

To be clear, it is difficult to see what value there would be in investigating a signing strategy comprising five different directions of travel, each with its own colour, as part of a study which was designed to look at only one route.

Rose Ades suggested that if I had taken part in this study, TfL would have had a better idea of the different options, costs and benefits. Like she gave a shit about that.

I do not know how or why consultants were asked to look at my signing strategy, or by whom, but it is clear that the author of the above report was not shown any of my maps. Had this happened, I fail to see what substantial difference it would have made whether I personally took part in this study, or not.

Time and again the fault was deemed to be mine. But there are, as ever, two sides to a story ...

One could just about understand TfL's righteousness, I suppose, were it not for the fact that my proposal was so wantonly misrepresented.

The case is, TfL deliberately chose to mislead consultants--and by extension, everybody else.

Hee, hee, hee! You guys. Few practical benefits. Add to the complexity, confusion and cost. Yeah, nice one. You really had me fooled for a while there.

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