As co-founder of West Berkshire SPOKES with my wife Martha, I still receive your excellent newsletter RCC. But it pains me to see the position of ‘West Berks Campaigner’ remain vacant.
I am the Highways Officer of SPOKES and engage regularly with the Council at a quarterly Cycle Forum, which is chaired by Cllr Steve Ardagh-Walter, who does take a serious interest and is the Council’s Cycling Champion.
We are pleased that so far almost all of NCN 422 from Newbury to the east of Thatcham is going to be on the road (subject to public consultation) and much of the credit for that goes to our excellent SPOKES member and Highways Officer for the Council Josh Kerry, who has designed it. Much of it passes through Steve Ardagh-Walter’s ward, so that may also be relevant!
SPOKES members spent hundreds of hours in early 2016 undertaking a Cycling Audit of almost the whole district, which has provided the Council with many years’ worth of tasks of varying priority and cost.
RCC members helped in the ‘far east’ of the District (Reading travel-to-work area). The ‘quick wins’ agreed by the Cycle Forum and budgeted for the next 2-3 years are better route signage to/from – and improved cycle parking at – main trip generating locations.
SPOKES members have carried out the Council’s thrice yearly cycle counts ever since SPOKES was formed, on a contract basis (with all receipts going to SPOKES itself). This provides a fund for training members to run cycling proficiency courses for adults and carry out Dr Bike inspections, which are run by our Chair Caroline Lane, who is also a part time Council officer in Transport Policy and runs classes in schools in her work time.
We are considering other campaigns, such as one targeting medium sized employers, who are notoriously bad at providing cycle racks and showers: most likely their leases give them no incentive, so it may be their landlords we must reach.
Cycle routes into and through the biggest employment area in our District – north of the Racecourse station and south of the River Kennet – are about to massively improve thanks to a new 2-way B-road linking A339 and Hambridge Road, removing the biggest excuse for not cycling to and from work there.
Currently heavy traffic has to use ‘quiet’ residential streets one-way, which makes it awful to bike from most of the housing to most of the jobs within 3 miles.
We meet to discuss cycling issues every month on the first Wednesday evening in a different pub, enabling some of us to experience cycling conditions on routes we might otherwise not use. Martha and I are retired and purely ‘utility’ cyclists, living close to Newbury town centre. But most of our members are serious all-round leisure/utility cyclists with commuter and school runs, so we run a regular programme of leisure rides for all kinds of rider.
I will leave it at that for now. I’m reluctant to volunteer to be your West Berks regular contributor, because I am very Newbury focused and we really need someone from the east of the district to comment and campaign on conditions between Theale, Pangbourne, Burghfield, Purley and Reading Borough for your magazine. But I didn’t want your readers to get the impression that no campaigning is taking place to improve cycling facilities in West Berkshire.