So, since the last Wokingham cycling update earlier in the year, I think it’s fair to say that everything and nothing has changed. This may sound like a negative statement to make but I’ll explain why I think it’s more of a cautiously positive one.
The completion of Wokingham’s section of NCN 422 which is due to link the town centre with the Coppid Beech Roundabout at the Council’s border with Bracknell Forest has been proceeding since the start of the year and is due to complete next year.
The route combines a widening and resurfacing of the shared use cycle/ footpath alongside the Wokingham bound lanes and then additional on road lanes on either side of the London road to carry more confident cyclists.
This cycle route has divided opinion as most cycle routes do and despite it falling short of the kind of recommendations that have come out of the Government’s recent ‘Gears for change’ document, it is still a vast improvement on what was already there.
I have seen quite a number of families using the cycle/footpath, which is very heartening, and whilst there are definitely criticisms, I think it is important to focus on the positives.
Hopefully if it is as well used as it seems to be, then there will be a chance to retrofit improvements like separation of cyclists and pedestrians and raised crossings/priority pedestrian and cyclist signage for the pathway as it crosses roads that intersect with London Road.
The fact that what has been done appears to be better than existing infrastructure along the A329 shows a certain commitment from WoBC and shows that things are at least moving in the right direction.
Another development has been the coming together of a group of Wokingham Borough residents, with a common aim of pushing forward the Active Travel agenda in the borough and improving access for all residents.
I was invited to join the group, who are called WATCH (Wokingham Active Travel Community Hub), soon after its inception in June and since then we have been looking at ways of entering into constructive dialogue with WoBC.
We have managed to hold remote meetings with all the main Council parties and had a very constructive discussion with Cllr. Pauline Jorgensen (Exec member for transport) and one of her transport officers.
Our main aims initially are to try to be constructively involved with the development of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) and to see how we can help develop walking and cycling routes with the My Journey team at the Council.
We are also aiming to talk to and hopefully link the many very local Active Travel groups around the borough and hopefully help to pull together a united voice. So far we have had had interesting discussions with groups in Woodley, Twyford and Charvil.
The same goes for my role as RCC Wokingham rep and WATCH member, as both groups share many common goals and aims. I will be aiming to coordinate where possible and to harness the expertise of members of both groups for the mutual benefit of both areas.
So with regard to the everything and nothing changing statement at the beginning, I hope the above illustrates why I have reason to be cautiously optimistic. 2020/21 will see the completion of what appears to be the best cycling infrastructure I know of in the borough along London Road (it’s fair to say the competition for this award is not great but still progress is progress).
In addition, I am optimistic about WATCH and impressed so far with the positive response we have seen from many councillors across the political spectrum.
Whilst very little concrete change has been achieved so far, I am hopeful that over the next 12 months we will start to see the positivity translated into commitments and plans and actions that can move Wokingham forward in a sustainable way.
WoBC Campaigner for RCC