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Dragon Interview: Authors of the ‘Alternative’ London Road Survey

Published on: 16 Feb, 2024
Updated on: 19 Feb, 2024

Image of London Road taken in August 2022. Google Street View.

Surrey County Council’s plans to improve the cycle/pedestrian tracks along the London Road between Burpham and the town centre have excited passions, as seen by the large turnout for a public meeting on the subject in January last year.

One group which does not wish to be identified for fear of personal repercussions were dissatisfied with SCC’s efforts to consult local residents so conducted their own ‘alternative’ survey. Their identities are known to The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

Martin Giles interviewed them …

Describe your group, does it have a name?

London Road Active Travel Survey. Set up by an independent group of local residents to launch a survey that would enable local residents to express their views on key issues about the proposed London Road active travel scheme.

See also: ‘Don’t Bow to Naysayers’ Say Cycling Campaigners

Why are the identities of those involved not made clear?

We never felt this topic was about the individuals involved. We produced a website that we launched alongside our survey, which has always been publicly available for those interested and explains who we are and why we set up the survey.

It was an oversight not to include the web address on the flyer (at the time our main priority was to distribute the flyer). The contact email address was always public – both on our website and included in our survey.

Why is it separate from the London Road Action Group (LRAG) formed in the wake of the well-attended public meeting in January last year?

The London Road Active Travel Survey group was set up specifically to conduct the survey. We have a good relationship with LRAG, whose purpose is slightly different. LRAG was not keen to launch a public survey in early November. As there were only about five weeks before the Surrey consultation closed, it was felt important to conduct our survey before it was too late.

What is the ‘Alternative’ survey? Why did you feel it was necessary?

To ask key questions that were not posed by the Surrey survey, namely on:

  • If you supported the scheme or were against it
  • Guildford congestion
  • Pollution (more congestion leads to more pollution)
  • Good/bad use of money
  • Parking reduction by Stoke Park
  • Safety of shared cycleways and Dutch roundabouts
  • Business impact
  • York Road filter lane
  • Where to prioritise cycle spend in Guildford

The questions posed in the London Road alternative survey distributed to 7,000 homes in Guildford.

You criticise the SCC consultation saying the questions were not objective, not designed to discover true feelings about its scheme. How do we know yours are? Can you send a copy of the questionnaire for readers to make up their own minds? Can we publish the link to the website showing the survey results?

On the Surrey questionnaire, the main aspect for us was that it did not ask about the questions in 4 (above), which we think are key

To address your point on bias, we were conscious that could be levelled against us (after all, why should our questions be any better/worth answering?). Hence, we prepared and published a “sources” document on our website that related to all our survey questions and the statements in our flyer. We fact-checked these so that people could see how we have arrived at our statements and why we believed the questions appropriate to ask.

The questions in our survey are on our website We have also attached a copy of them for your ease of use.

A page from the survey findings report published on the alternative survey’s website

You distributed 7,000 leaflets. How many responses did you receive?

1,241 people responded, 96 per cent of whom were from GU postcodes, and 77 per cent from GU1/GU4 postcodes.

How come some responses (4 per cent) were from those living outside Guildford?

As London Road is a major artery into Guildford it impacts people coming in and out of Guildford as well as those living on or close to London Road itself. For instance, a number of people who responded have children at schools in Guildford, but some live outside Guildford. We know that a number of people who received our flyer raised it with other people they felt would be impacted by the scheme, so word travels.

Summarise the main results of your survey.

The headlines are that the responses showed:

  • 87 per cent want the scheme to be cancelled, 11 per cent want it to proceed and 2 per cent had no view
  • 87 per cent thought it a poor use of money – 10 per cent thought it was not
  • 89 per cent were against re-routing… to residential roads – 6 per cent were not
  • 77 per cent were against more Guildford congestion: 8 per cent were not
  • safety concerns for the proposed scheme – roundabout 82 per cent against v 10 per cent; shared cycle/pavement 76 against  v 16 per cent
  • 80 per cent thought it would be bad for business  v 10 per cent
  • 78 per cent were against the reduction of parking spaces by Stoke Park 13 per cent were not
  • 86 per cent wanted to keep York Road filter lane, 9 per cent did not
  • 73 per cent thought it was not the right way to spend money on cycling in Guildford 7 per cent thought it was.

Further detail of the breakdown is shown in the pie-charts on our website. We took the
same range of answer options as the Surrey survey to make it as objective as
possible (ie Strongly agree/agree/neither/disagree/strongly disagree/don’t know)

We need cycling to be safer, don’t we? In 2022 over 15,000 cyclists were injured in the UK and 91 died (the lowest number since 2002)?

Yes, we are in favour of safer cycling. We believe safety is important for all users – cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

However, in relation to the proposed design, we had a number of safety concerns and felt it might achieve the opposite (notably the Dutch roundabout and shared cycleways)

If we make it safer more will cycle, won’t they? That would be a good thing, wouldn’t it?

Yes, safer cycling will probably lead to more people cycling. It appears there may be a misconception – our survey was not launched to stop more people cycling. We believe that being active is very important and we are very supportive of people doing more if they can.

However, whether the scheme should proceed or not is a separate question which involves many considerations, notably how the scheme would impact a wide range of people and all road users. Hence why our survey asked questions about other important ways that it would impact people living in or using Guildford, such as the points in Question 4.

It is worth noting that Surrey’s projected increase in cycling is 148 cycle journeys a day v the current c. 19,000 vehicle journeys and the government guidance on modal shift resulting from this increased cycling is it would only reduce vehicle journeys by c.16 a day.

Are you against shared cycle/pedestrian routes?

We do have safety concerns about shared cycle pedestrian routes.

The government guidance on this matter is LTN1/20, which states that shared use between pedestrians and cyclists should only be “as a last resort” (LTN1/20 6.5.4).

How would you make London Road safer and better for all groups? Or should it be left as it is?

We don’t have a silver bullet for how to make things better for everyone. The reason for our survey is we were very concerned about a proposal that we believed would in fact make it worse for everyone.

We received feedback from a number of people who proposed a variety of ideas. It is worth noting that many cyclists answered our survey and said they were against the scheme – it was not just motorists and pedestrians.

Common reasons included they felt London Road was fine and money could be better spent elsewhere (eg fixing potholes, different routes in Guildford, other uses). In terms of the London Road route, some suggested using Stoke Park and the route by the river (NCN route 223) as alternatives.

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Responses to Dragon Interview: Authors of the ‘Alternative’ London Road Survey

  1. Chloe Sutcliffe Reply

    February 16, 2024 at 6:17 pm

    I am a social scientist and write surveys professionally. These survey questions come over as incredibly biased against the scheme, so it is not particularly surprising that the only people who bothered to answer them are those that agreed with that sentiment.

    • Malcolm Stanier Reply

      February 17, 2024 at 8:13 pm

      Have you viewed the SCC Survey questions?

    • Ben Paton Reply

      February 17, 2024 at 8:39 pm

      Chloe Sutcliffe says: “These survey questions come over as incredibly biased against the scheme…”

      This is just a bare assertion. No evidence or argument is given in support of the assertion.

      Why, exactly, do the survey questions ‘come over’ as ‘incredibly biased? Where is the analysis?

      Why is a simple question like are you for or against “biased”?

      Isn’t that what we are asked in general elections?

      A “scientist” would be able to answer this.

  2. Bethan Moore Reply

    February 16, 2024 at 10:36 pm

    I’m quite astounded that The Dragon has dedicated two articles to this so-called survey and in their “interview” failed to ask the most important question of all.

    How can we trust these results when no email verification was used on the survey?

    It was entirely possible to enter a fake email address, fake postcodes, fake names.

    What have the anonymous authors got to hide?

    There was nothing to stop them even making up results themselves. Who would ever know? After working in market research data collection some years ago, I know that 17 per cent response rate would be a flag to check something was wrong.

    This is not proper journalism. This is not a proper survey. These results are not trustworthy.

    And that’s without mentioning the bias. What a surreal situation when the authors claim that the Surrey County Council survey was biased and then use that as justification to create a “survey” that’s almost a parody of bias.

    What is going on?

    Editor’s response: One of the “articles” you refer to is a reader’s letter. Of the two news articles published one gave the cyclists perspective (‘Don’t Bow to Naysayers’ Say Cycling Campaigners) and one that of the organisers of the “Alternative” survey (Dragon Interview: Authors of the ‘Alternative’ London Road Survey).

    • Bethan Moore Reply

      February 18, 2024 at 1:13 pm

      While I appreciate the editor’s attempts at balance. I stand by my assertion that the survey was not conducted in a way that allows us to trust the results.

      I challenge the authors to prove that every response reported came from a real email address.

      • Malcolm Stanier Reply

        February 18, 2024 at 3:18 pm

        Perhaps the SCC survey should be challenged as that doesn’t seem to be any more verifiable. Is Ms Moore just trusting SCC to be straightforward and honest?

        • Bethan Moore Reply

          February 19, 2024 at 5:02 pm

          I had to verify my email address on the SSC survey. So yes, it did appear they had a more robust system.

          I’m happy to challenge them too.

          • John Perkins

            February 22, 2024 at 12:57 am

            I have three “verifiable” email addresses at the moment and can easily set up many more.

  3. Valerie Thompson Reply

    February 17, 2024 at 9:58 am

    These results are pretty conclusive that this expensive scheme is not needed, not wanted, a waste of money, of no benefit to most of the community and no benefit to traffic entering Guildford from the A3.

    It might benefit cyclists, but even they are not totally in favour.

    It is nonsense to claim that there will be a huge increase in cycling if this scheme goes ahead. As usual, no consideration is made for those unable to cycle, shoppers with heavy bags, people with children and dogs, the elderly, the infirm, lorry drivers, delivery vans and people who are driving along this the route to get somewhere else.

    So much money has already been spent on surveys and publicity. It is time to call a halt to this ridiculous idea. The last paragraph above indicates where most people would like the money spent.

    • Helen Skinner Reply

      February 17, 2024 at 9:19 pm

      Still repeating the same old argument. “Some people can’t cycle so we shouldn’t have cycle infrastructure”. But people under 17 can’t drive, neither can many others for a variety of reasons, quite a few people can’t walk; no one suggests we get rid of roads and pavements.

      As for spending the nationally awarded active travel funds the council won for this scheme on potholes, good luck with that one.

      Maybe if this advertorial “interview” weren’t quite so sycophantic Martin Giles might have picked up on some of these points before publishing this piece.

      • Jim Allen Reply

        February 18, 2024 at 12:46 am

        I note Ms Skinner is regurgitation of the same old cyclist arguments. Balanced approach for all road users for all distances would balance the arguments. I don’t know what sycophantic means but I guess it applies to Ms skinner as well!

  4. Helen Skinner Reply

    February 17, 2024 at 9:12 pm

    I had a look at this survey when it came out and it was a joke. There was no verification of email or postcode. They should have been asked how they verified that the responses they got were genuine as their response rate is exceptionally high, one might even say suspiciously high.

  5. Niels Laub Reply

    February 21, 2024 at 12:03 pm

    The Surrey County Council’s online questionnaire asked for a name, email address and post code – although the post code was optional. By contrast, the alternative online survey asked for a name, email address and a post code which was mandatory.

    It was because we insisted on a post code that we were able to determine that 91 per cent of the respondents were from Guildford post codes and that therefore most of the responses came from residents who will be directly affected by these proposals.

    The alternative survey received a total of 1,241 responses over a short six-week period and 87 per cent of those responses were opposed to the scheme.

    These results were presented to Tim Oliver (Con, Weybridge), the leader of Surrey County Council, at a meeting on December 18 which was attended by Angela Richardson MP for Guildford.

    The results of this alternative survey were also submitted to the council within the deadline set for submissions for the public consultation.

    We believe that the Surrey County Council have an obligation to take the results of this alternative survey into consideration.

    Tim Oliver, leader of Surrey County Council, said at a meeting on February 15 that the council officers were not prepared to consider the results from the alternative survey on the grounds that the results were not verifiable.

    The same accusation can be made of the Surrey County Council’s online questionnaire.

  6. Derek Payne Reply

    April 9, 2024 at 12:43 pm

    Further to Mr Laub’s note, I would suggest that if SCC wanted to verify the validity of the “alternative survey”, they could simply take a random selection of email addresses from the survey and ask the question (13 would be 1 per cent; 130 would be 10 per cent). They could also check the electoral register, as many people use email addresses similar to their names.

    A pair of responses from one address is likely to be valid given many properties have two adults inhabiting.

    Maybe those who have concerns around the validity should ask SCC to verify the survey.

    It could be that it is considered preferable to avoid verifying the results, as I think we have a good idea of the likely outcome.

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