In response to a series of 25 accidents injuring cyclists at just ONE junction, Reading Cycle Campaign have decided the time has come to protest.
Reading Borough Council have failed to take any action whatsoever since 2012 when we first alerted them to the trend in collisions.
This follows on from the design of the roundabout which we criticised for being unsafe when it was still a drawing 3 years earlier.
Here’s our plan:
What we’re doing
On Saturday 23 March at 3pm we will ride over the roundabout and through the station underpass en masse. We will do this repeatedly to make our point, and then convene to a place in the town centre for some socialising.
We would really like you to join us, and suggest we all dress as smart as we can. We would like us to be seen as ordinary folk on bikes, as opposed to cycle enthusiasts.
We are meeting in Christchurch Meadows near the north side of the new Christchurch Bridge.
On the same day the park will be the finish of the London to Reading bike ride, so with the presence of hundreds of other cyclists there will be a phenomenal presence in the park, we may even get some new recruits!
I expect to ride around for an hour or so, through the station underpass in ones and twos, so as to demonstrate that it is perfectly safe to do so without troubling pedestrians and other users.
We’ll regroup and ride to Friar Street, Station Road and Blagrave Street before getting back to the troublesome roundabout, and back through the station underpass.
We’ll have lots of publicity in advance, and notices going up to let drivers know what we’re doing and why.
Why we’re doing it
This is very closely linked to the prohibition of cycling in the underpass, where we walked through during our last protest ride when we objected to the design of Christchurch bridge.
On that occasion, despite a huge response to the consultation on the design, the Council went ahead and made it shared use. Almost everybody who responded to the Council, both pedestrians and cyclists, asked for segregation.
In busy periods that bridge is so difficult to cycle over, unless you want to ride at walking speed, regular commuters experience quicker journey times if they cycle over Reading Bridge.
Then they come to the notorious Vastern Road Roundabout where all the accidents happen.
The Council has a bloody hand in this. If the bridge was easier for cyclists to use and the station underpass was also legal for cycling, then this would provide a safe and fast route over the Thames and under the railway.
The only way you can do this now is either via Vastern Road or Caversham Road. Neither are fit for the average cyclist. And, of course, it isn’t obvious just how dangerous this roundabout is until you get hit.
What’s been done isn’t enough
Despite nearly £900 million spending on Reading station, and over £6 million on the Christchurch Bridge, transport planners in Reading have singularly failed in providing a safe link into the town centre from Caversham.
Cyclists, who, of course, can solve many of the congestion air quality and public health issues faced by our town, have been been barred from the station underpass, because it is too low!
This is not a safety issue: the recommendation (widely ignored everywhere else) is for comfort, and a tunnel of that length should be 2.7m high if cyclists are to use it.
So on that basis, (it is 2.4m high) we have been banned, although we can walk through. The nonsense is for it to achieve the same standard of comfort for pedestrians, it should be 2.6m high, so why didn’t RBC ban pedestrians?
No good reason! Other than their longstanding inability to make the town cycle friendly.
So as the station underpass is supposedly off limits, the law abiding cyclist uses a roundabout that knocks them down like skittles.
Action is needed
I asked the Lead Councillor for Transport to lift the ban, but so far all I have is some sympathy and a suggestion that he asks officers to look at ways of permitting cyclists.
Now, there is never going to be a physical change, so it is only ever going to be a moral one; if RBC wanted to (or the Lead Councillor did) they would simply pledge to remove the ban.
They haven’t done this, so it is time to object more forcefully.