Parents Claim that Ealing Cycle Lanes are 'Useless'

Allegedly undermined by bad parking, congestion and lack of enforcement

Children forced to use centre of road due to car parked in cycle lane. Picture: Mark Uddin

May 24, 2024

Parents in Ealing have said they won’t let their children cycle due to safety concerns despite the council saying it has spent millions on new cycling infrastructure. It is being claimed that illegal and inconsiderate parking, congested roads and a lack of traffic enforcement around Ealing Broadway have rendered parts of cycle lanes virtually useless, forcing children and adults to cycle on pavements or on busy roads.

Videos have emerged of children forced to ride into the centre of roads due to cycle lanes being blocked by parked cars, something that resident Mark Eccleston says is all too common. He is a father-of-three who has lived in Ealing for the past 18 years and an avid cyclist.

“I think this is one of the worst boroughs in London,” he tells the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS). “There is a sense that there is a ticking clock until you will be knocked off.

“My wife has been knocked off, my kid was [also knocked off] on his way to school. One of my children is disabled and he had a mobility trike but it just became unfeasible for him to leave the house, so we had to get rid of it because there isn’t enough protection for cyclists.”

Mr Eccleston says that in the past he has faced dangerous driving and abuse that has made him second-guess cycling himself. He said, “People will wind down their windows and shout at you, you get close passes and you will wave at them and they follow you down a back alley. If you cycle around for a couple of hours every day that will happen every time.

“It just takes one or two in a day where you go ‘that was so dangerous or so abusive’ that you think ‘you know what I’m not gonna risk it’ and then you are driving again.” From his own experience and the experience of his children, he says he has grown so concerned about cycling that he no longer lets his children do it.

“You don’t need that mindset in your day – ‘I hope I don’t get run over’ – while trying to get home,” he said.

“Kids should be able to cycle, they should be able to actively travel but there just aren’t enough safe school roads.”

Mark Eccleston. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/ MyLondon

When Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) were introduced to Ealing, Mr Eccleston says he felt much more comfortable letting his children cycle to school.

However, Ealing Council opted to remove many of its LTNs around two years ago after responses to a consultation indicated some were unpopular. Mr Eccleston says this was pivotal in his decision to stop his children from cycling.

“When we had the LTNs it was a different world and our kids could get to school safely but we stopped them once they were removed. When the cars came back it was a bit like ‘well I’m not gonna just stay at home and wait and see if they survive’ so now I walk them to school.”

He accuses the council of being ‘political cowards’ kowtowing to motorists, who he believes are building a hostile culture to cyclists within the borough. “The message from the top of the council seems to be as a motorist there is nothing you can’t do,” he said.

“I’d like to see more enforcement. It sends out a message that [motorists] have responsibilities. It is not a natural freedom that you should be able to drive wherever you want. It is a luxury.”

Congestion and parking undermining cycling infrastructure around Ealing Broadway. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/ MyLondon

While cycling has become increasingly political in London often with battlelines being drawn along the capital’s roads more firmly than any road markings, campaigner and Ealing resident Mark Uddin says his focus is fixed on children’s safety.

As the father of a keen cyclist himself, Mr Uddin says his son has to take unnecessary risks on a daily basis simply to enjoy the most basic of childhood activities. “My son should be able to leave the house without fear of being knocked down, but it’s dangerous,” he told the LDRS.

He took the LDRS on the usual route his son would have to take to get to school only a 10-minute cycle away, which includes the heavily congested Ealing Broadway.

Mr Uddin is quick to point out cars parked down the main High Street, blocking safe access for cyclists who may want to use bus lanes to ensure a safe distance between them and the traffic. He complains of the lack of enforcement by traffic wardens which he sees as giving a free licence to motorists to park wherever they like.

“Look, they aren’t supposed to be here. None of these cars are,” he says as he points down Ealing Broadway’s main street. Mr Uddin has captured many instances of children in risky situations due to cars parked in inappropriate places, he claims.

Posting on his Twitter account, he shared a video of school children forced into the centre of a main road to avoid a car parked in a cycle lane with the caption: “West Ealing High Street. Sometimes, a picture tells its own story.”

Nick Moffitt, from Ealing Cycling Campaign, says as a father of a daughter who has been cycling for a decade, he has seen streets that used to be quiet and safe turned into rat runs.

He said, “Speaking as a father, over the past decade I have seen the growth of SatNav apps dramatically change the character of our residential streets. Ten years ago, my daughter and I could ride through quiet back streets with very little traffic.

“These days, everyone has a phone or dashboard device directing them down some of these streets in a hurry. They have become one quick link in a longer journey, like any motorway bypass.”

Despite the risks, Mr Moffitt says he believes a child that has been well prepared to cycle should be safe in Ealing, “My daughter currently rides to secondary school on her own, and has done since she was 13. I rode the route with her for a couple years before that, and we talked in depth about what it would mean for her to ride alone. I did not take it lightly, but I was confident that she could learn to make the journey safely.”

He says that Ealing is behind its neighbours like Hounslow when it comes to cycling infrastructure, a sentiment echoed by Mark Eccleston. He also raised parking enforcement as a serious concern for cycling safety.

He added, “Regarding parking enforcement, it is clear that paint is not enough to fix our streets. Even the slightly-raised kerb of a stepped track is often ignored by motorists; I regularly see HGVs parked across double-yellow lines, treating stepped tracks as loading areas – even outside primary schools.

“I understand that Ealing Council has recently taken parking enforcement back in-house, and they just announced hiring more staff specifically to take this on, so I hope that shows improvement soon.”

An Ealing Council spokesperson said, “We have invested millions of pounds into new cycle lanes and safe routes to school for local children, as well as bringing parking services back in-house so we can clamp down on illegal parking in cycle lanes.

“We’ve introduced 28 ‘school streets’, closing off roads beside schools at the morning and afternoon drop-off to allow hundreds more children to safely walk, scoot or cycle to school. We’ve recently opened new segregated cycle lanes in Northolt and Greenford and are finishing work on the next stretch of the Uxbridge Road cycle lane. We’re also taking on 20 new parking enforcement officers to keep our streets clear of congestion and bad parking.

“We are investing in new mechanical cleaners – which are small enough to clean segregated cycle lanes – and this half term we’re also running free Bikeability training for kids at many of our schools.”


Rory Bennett - Local Democracy Reporter