In May, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Secretary of State for Transport stated that the government expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians, adding that such changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel.
Examples of the changes given by the Department of Transport included:
- ‘pop up’ cycle lanes
- using cones and barriers to widen footways
- reducing speed limits
- introducing pedestrian and cycle only zones for specific streets
- closing roads to through motor traffic in residential areas
These changes would be temporary (so don’t need to go through full consultation), but with the advice that local authorities should seek input from stakeholders during the design phase and monitor and evaluate any temporary measures they install, with a view to making them permanent, and embedding a long-term shift to active travel.
Around the country many local authorities have been implementing pop-up cycle and pedestrian schemes and RBC has drawn up a list of 7 short term projects to reallocate road space to pedestrians and cyclists. Some of these are already implemented at the time of writing.
Reallocation of road space is something we have been requesting for a long time, so these are welcome initiatives. However, with the short term rush to get the schemes implemented we were not given a chance to comment on the proposals and one scheme in particular has the potential to make things worse for cyclists.
We have outlined the 7 schemes below:
1. Gosbrook Road
A one-way system is proposed for Gosbrook Road and Westfield Road. Initially it seemed that this did not include contra-flow cycle lanes, which would have resulted in long detours on these key routes for cyclists, either putting them on the main Prospect Street, or more likely encourage footway cycling along the original routes. After RCC lobbied the Council a contra-flow cycle lane has now been confirmed on Gosbrook Road, but not on Westfield Road.
The scheme is supposedly to assist pedestrians socially distance due to the narrow footways on Gosbrook, and hopefully not an attempt to introduce a traffic gyratory scheme in Caversham. Certainly there have been assurances that this scheme is not intended to be more than a temporary Covid measure – see separate interview with Councillor Adele Barnett-Ward.
One-way traffic results in increased traffic speed, with resultant disbenefits to cyclists and pedestrians, unless very effective traffic calming and speed reducing measures are implemented. A 20mph (or less) speed limit in these roads, or all of Caversham centre, would be another better alternative.
2. Reading Bridge
The provision of cycle lanes in both directions (on carriageway) by removal of the centre southbound overtaking lane is welcomed. RCC have been asking for this for more than a decade. The central lane over the brow of the bridge has always been a safety hazard which encouraged speeding motorists, but did nothing to improve traffic capacity at the dangerous Vastern Road roundabout.
The cycle lanes have now been marked (mid June) along George Street from Gosbrook Road to Vastern Road. This is a really good scheme despite the advisory cycle lanes being only 1.2m wide, adjacent to 3.0m vehicle lanes. Reduced speeding over the bridge should also help pedestrians and cycling conditions on the roundabout too.
3. Oxford Road
The addition of some lengths of cycle lanes are welcome, although more and better cycling improvements are needed.
These measures were discussed with the campaign at the Cycle Forum 2-3 years ago.
4. Whitley Street
Conversion of the nearside southbound lane to cyclists only is welcomed but this is often blocked by double parking!
5. Southampton Street/Silver Street
The incorporation of cycle lanes (on carriageway) by removal of the hatched markings is welcome. RCC have been requesting this for at least a decade!
6. Redlands Road
A southbound (uphill) cycle lane (on carriageway) is proposed with cycle priority (Advance Stop Line?) at Christchurch Road; these are welcome.
7. Sidmouth Street
Make the road one way (northbound) for all traffic and introduce a contra-flow cycle lane in the current south-bound lane.
RBC first proposed the above at a Policy Committee meeting on 18 May. Previously we had sent a list of suggested schemes to the Council, but none of these were included. Generally we support most of the cycle lanes that are proposed as some have been on the Campaign’s wish list for many years.
No action seems to have taken place on correcting the important cycle signing in the town centre. These would be particularly useful to new cyclists who are unclear about what routes they may use.
The NCN422 cross-town route must be close to completion now. Time for someone to go and check all is in place, or make a list of defects and improvements needed!
RCC Campaigner for RCC