Dear RCC members,
It’s been a busy few weeks for me; I’m now getting into the Chairman’s role and a lot has been happening so this will be quite a long letter.
The Reading Cycle Festival
This was an excellent opportunity to meet lots of keen cyclists and recruit some into the campaign. I heard first-hand how many of you use your bikes to get around the town and the many obstacles you encounter. I hope that the festival will become a regular event so it can help to encourage more cyclists out and about.
Much thanks to Karen Robertson who looks after campaigning and events for us and among lots of others who put in sterling work on and before the day, I must mention Greg Woodford of Avanti Cycling who worked with Karen to make the whole thing happen.
Reading Borough Council (RBC) has been busy as well with a proposal for a bike hub in the centre of the town and a consultation on their plans for dedicated cycle lanes on the Shinfield Road. Your committee have discussed both these proposals but at the time of writing we had not yet agreed a final response to either.
There is an article elsewhere in this newsletter which describes what we know about both these proposals. As always, we want to hear from as many of you as possible and learn what your views are.
There is one thing that concerns me with both these proposals. I can see no plans for monitoring the schemes to evaluate just what they are achieving. For instance, has RBC carried out any surveys to see how much use their fine newly resurfaced cycle lanes on Sidmouth Street are getting – and speaking of which…
I live near the hospital and we have seen the second stage of the area traffic calming scheme brought into operation recently with speed humps, traffic cushions and chicanes built into the roads. Below is my personal view and I would like to hear from as many of you as I can, as to how you have been affected by this scheme and whether you think it is working.
But first a little tale which may not reflect all that well on my ability as a cyclist. One Thursday evening my wife and I were going to the Concert Hall in the Old Town Hall for the first live classical concert to be held there since the onset of COVID. We decided to go by bike and set off in the dark at about 7pm, clad in high viz and bedecked with lights front and rear.
As we cycled down Morgan Road, over the new speed humps, we were pushed from behind by a white van. I kept my place on the road and he had to stay behind until we turned into Kendrick Road, where as soon as he could he roared past. It wasn’t a very close pass, but close enough for me to need to move over.
Fifty yards down the road he joined a queue of traffic waiting to turn onto London Road. There was a queue because Sidmouth Street was closed for resurfacing and London Road was jammed with vehicles.
As I caught up with the van, I moved out to pass him and perhaps remonstrate with him for the overtaking, but as I slowed, I hit a large pothole in the centre of the road and my front wheel went one way and I went the other.
Fortunately, there was nothing coming in the other direction, and I suffered nothing worse than a bruised elbow, but it got me thinking about just how bad Reading’s roads have become.
Kendrick Road was resurfaced not that long ago in two halves and there is a groove running down the centre. This is now breaking up and forming potholes like the one I hit. It was invisible in the dark, as are older speed cushions where the original painted triangles have worn away.
Another major problem of cycling after dark is the effect of speed cushions and road humps on the headlights of motor vehicles. When cycling on Addington Road, not only do you have to get out of the way of cars that want to go over the cushions in the middle of the road, but the constant up and down of their headlights is an extra danger to all road users. Cycling after dark is certainly getting more difficult.
My current view is that the traffic calming measures in my local area have neither significantly reduced the speed nor volume of traffic but have made cycling on these ‘calmed’ road even more perilous than before.
I’d love to know how much has been spent on these schemes and whether any work has been done to see what effect they have actually had.
Certainly, as a car driver myself, I don’t see any improvement in road behaviour and in fact I’d argue the bad drivers have become worse. If I could say one thing to RBC, it would be to give us decent road surfaces to cycle on.