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Following on from the blog article last week asking whether COVID-19 will cause a ‘new normal’ in local transport plans, and the recent government announcements about emergency funds for cycling and a five-year plan to double cycling rates in the country, I’ve written another letter.
This time I’m writing to both Warwickshire County Council and Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council to find out what their new plans are (if any) to support cycling in the borough and county in this time of pandemic and into the future, to ensure that transport planning does not return to ‘business as usual’.
It’s important that pressure is put on to councils to adopt new infrastructure, even if it is initially only temporary grade facilities rather than best-standard infrastructure. The better stuff can come later. Lighter infrastructure is cheaper and quicker to install. It’s also easier to test and refine changes to roads – e.g., the location of modal filters which, if created by concrete planters, can be easily installed, moved or removed as necessary.
If you also wish to write to your local authorities and councillors, please feel free to take and adapt this letter.
When I get a reply, I’ll update the blog.
Dear Warwickshire County Council (WCC) and Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council (NBBC)
(cc: local councillors),
Following the government’s announce of £250m of emergency funding for temporary cycle infrastructure and the repeat announcement of £2bn funding to double cycling and increase walking by 2025, I’d like to ask what the Councils’ plans are to better facilitate cycling in Warwickshire and Nuneaton.
I am aware of existing plans from WCC to implement a cycle route between Nuneaton and Coventry, as well as cycle infrastructure on the A47 Longshoot. There are also provisional ideas for proper facilities on the A444 Weddington Road. NBBC is planning changes through some of Nuneaton’s central parks which may better facilitate cycling – these are all plans that existed pre-COVID-19 and I hope will be welcome additions when they are completed, subject to them meeting the required high standards. However, until they are built, they provide no benefit in the short-term. Do the councils have any plans to accelerate development of existing schemes?
In addition, temporary grade facilities need to be implemented now to improve and support cycling uptake during the pandemic and onwards. Cycle retailers including Halfords have reported significant sales increases relating to cycling and anecdotally, the numbers of casual cyclists on the roads has visually increased during lockdown as motor traffic levels have fallen dramatically. Now that the Government is encouraging those who can back to work, it is important to minimise the increase in private car use, particularly with the advice being to avoid public transport where possible.
A return to increased traffic levels is bad on a number of counts: it risks a return to congestion which is off-putting to a lot of would-be cyclists and hindering to journeys overall; it increases pollution where COVID-19 is a respiratory disease as well as impacting the broader issue of the Climate Emergency; the risk of increased collisions/crashes and ill health from poor air quality poses a potential additional strain on health and emergency services.
There are a number of measures that the appropriate councils should be implementing now; perhaps not necessarily the high-grade infrastructure that is still ultimately needed more broadly but which takes greater time and money, but measures that are presumably less expensive and can be more easily added with less major works.
Examples of these measures are included after this letter for both councils.
Similar measures are being taken in locations around the world and indeed in the UK where the benefits of walking and cycling have been recognised. It is important that the councils of Warwickshire also do the same. This must not be limited to larger towns and cities. Smaller towns and villages must also benefit and be properly connected with safe infrastructure – for example, a safe cycleway linking a village to a nearby town can help to reduce the demand on village bus services whilst still minimising the need for people in that village to take a car.
The recent plans for improving cycling with new high-quality infrastructure in the county have been encouraging. I look forward to hearing what additional measures Warwickshire and Nuneaton and Bedworth will be implementing in and around Nuneaton now to ensure that the recent uptake of cycling isn’t temporary but something that can be harnessed to help with personal transport both at this time of pandemic, and also for the future.
I hope that both councils will take on board suggestions following this letter to improve the environment for pedestrians and cyclists, minimising the need to use the car except as a last choice option. Whilst motor vehicles do still have their place, of course, It is vital that with transport we do not return to ‘business as usual’ where cars dominate to the detriment of everyone.
(Full name and address given)
Urgent Cycling and Walking Improvement Measures
Warwickshire County Council:
- Implement blanket 20mph speed limits in urban areas only excepting certain key routes where alternatives for safe cycling and walking exist.
- Prevent parking in and on all existing cycle infrastructure. This currently causes issues forcing cyclists out of the lane into general traffic, or causes bottlenecks when cycle routes have been narrowed by intruding parked cars.
- Use modal filtering to prevent smaller streets (particularly residential areas) being used as cut throughs or rat-runs by drivers. These can be implemented using, for example, concrete planters, where cycle and pedestrians access continues unhindered.
- Closure of roads to motor vehicles outside of schools (excepting blue badge holders) at pick-up/drop-off times to free up street space for social distancing and to reduce harm to children caused by vehicle emissions. Similar ‘school streets’ have been implemented elsewhere in the UK pre-pandemic and the same should happen in Warwickshire to discourage travel to school by car.
- Provide safe cycle routes to schools within catchment areas, liaising with NBBC as necessary.
- Creating lightly segregated cycleways using wands and (where multiple lanes currently exist) the reduction of motor vehicle lanes.
- Widen pavements and prevent all pavement parking to aid social distancing for all and ease of passage for persons using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, with prams etc.
- Implement the policy to develop all new road schemes putting cycling and walking first, to build-in the required high-quality infrastructure from the start so that retrofitting later is not required.
Looking specifically at Nuneaton, there are a number of locations where lightly segregated infrastructure would be beneficial. This is not an exhaustive list but some initial suggestions:
- Along the corridor for the existing planned Nuneaton to Coventry route, ahead of it being built to a permanent high standard. Work with Coventry City Council to determine if they have changed heart in continuing this route to the city centre.
- Along the A47 Longshoot road ahead of the planned provision of a proper high-grade cycleway, to aid connection to Hinckley and the Aldi supermarket on the A5.
- Along the A444 Weddington Road. A non-segregated cycleway exists here already, and provisional ideas are being developed to enhance this route to a ‘cycle superhighway’. Wand based segregation should be provided in the meantime to make this sometimes-intimidating route with large vehicles more appealing to and safer for casual riders.
- Higham Lane between Lidl and the A5 to improve access to Nuneaton from Higham-on-the-Hill and the new residential developments by the A5.
- Eastboro Way, connecting to the A47 Longshoot, to better enable cycling for those who work at the industrial estates in this area.
- Bulkington Lane and Lutterworth Road, to improve the connection between Bulkington and Nuneaton.
- A444 between Nuneaton and the George Elliot Hospital to better enable cycling for hospital workers, patients who have the ability to cycle, and visitors.
Urgent Cycling and Walking Improvement Measures
Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
In addition to any measures covered under Warwickshire County Council that the Borough Council may have input into:
- Remove obstructions that prevent or hinder access by non-standard cycles and that create bottlenecks that could cause congestion (bad for social distancing) and surfaces that the virus can survive on for a time (e.g., chicane/staggered fencing, excessive bollards, k-frame barriers and similar often found on off-road routes). These are common on, for example, the Wembrook Trail (part of the national cycle network) between Paul’s Land in Attleborough and the Town Centre.
- Provide safe cycle routes to schools within catchment areas, liaising with WCC as necessary.
- Ensure all plans for cycleway improvements and new schemes incorporate best standards, reflect the need for social distancing (i.e., routes are sufficiently wide and segregated between pedestrians and cyclists) and properly connect to the on-road network in an accessible, obstruction free fashion.
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