Why Protest About Vastern Road?
The Protest Ride on Saturday is, of course, to call attention to the dangerous situation of Vastern Road roundabout. Whilst it is objectively one of the biggest hot spots for accidents involving cyclists, this might seem a bit too narrow a focus for some.
Just to reassure you Reading Cycle Campaign are the last to deny there are many other awful junctions for cyclists across Reading. We would like Castle Hill Roundabout, Norcot Roundabout and many others to be evaluated urgently, and if it comes to it there are plenty of reasons to campaign on them too.
As a matter of fact, when you are on your bike in Reading, it sometimes feels like cyclists are forgotten about exactly when they are at their most vulnerable, which tends to be at junctions. It seems Reading’s highway engineers just give up on this because it all became too hard or complex for them to deal with.
I don’t believe this is true by the way. I think Reading’s highway engineers probably try very hard and give their designs a lot of thought. Where the outcomes are clearly insufficient for cyclists and other road users, this is likely due to the fact that cycling was not part of the core brief of these projects, but an afterthought and that community feedback was not taken seriously or ignored.
Both of these are political problems. And this is where Vastern Road roundabout and the area around the station in general comes into focus. Let’s not forget that only in 2013 the majority of the scheme was finalised after a project that took several years to execute, and even longer to plan and design.
There were high hopes from cyclists for a safer route from one side of the tracks to the other and generally better ways to navigate the station area. The reality is that at the end of it all, despite all the promises, it was not delivered. The stats show that the situation on Vastern Road roundabout has actually been made worse. No amount of cycle parking at the north side of the station can make up for that.
Vastern Road roundabout is not some unfortunate historic situation our town is forced to deal with. It is our own very recent creation and yes, it needs to be fixed, but perhaps more importantly we need to make sure that next time the opportunity comes for a big redesign we get this right from the start.
That means cycling needs to be considered from the very beginning of the design process and that means it should not the first thing that gets compromised on. It also means community feedback needs to be taken seriously.
Not so much for us who already cycle everywhere, but for those that might. So if you agree Vastern Road roundabout should be improved urgently, and if you agree Reading Council should make cycling a key part of its transport strategy, please join our Protest Ride this Saturday 23 March starting at Christchurch Meadows next to Christchurch bridge at 3pm.
Leendert van Hoogenhuijze