A4 Cycle Route (Phase 1) Consultation

West Berkshire Council is in the process of developing plans for a new cycle route along the A4 from Newbury all the way to the district boundary in Calcot. This will form part of the new National Cycle Network Route 422, which will link Newbury and Thatcham to Reading, Wokingham, Bracknell and Ascot. The scheme has received funding through the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and will be one of the biggest cycling schemes in the county since NCN Route 4.

Given the length of the scheme, it will be rolled out in phases. The Council has just gone out to consultation on phase one. This will see improvements on London Road and Benham Hill, from the junction with Faraday Road right up to the Wye Vale Garden Centre roundabout.

The scheme will create safe space for cyclists on the road and will include the following changes:

  • cycle lanes on both sides of road where width allows
  • making better use of available road space by removing hatching and right turn lanes where it is appropriate to do so
  • removing traffic islands to get rid of ‘pinch points’ for cyclists
  • installing advanced stop lines at signalised junctions
  • new dropped kerbs to help cyclists get on and off the route

There will also be improvements to off-carriageway facilities. This recognises the fact that not all cyclists have the confidence to mix with traffic and there are areas where accessibility is currently restricted for those in wheelchairs, mobility scooters and with pushchairs.

The following improvements are proposed:

  • widening and resurfacing sections of pavement, and converting them to shared paths
  • giving cyclists priority across the entrance to the B&Q / Dunelm Mill retail park
  • removing unnecessary road signs, and relocating street furniture
  • creating wider pedestrian islands to improve crossing points for all users

It is also proposed to introduce new double yellow lines, in areas where there is a problem with cars parking and blocking footways. There will be separate consultations to follow for these restrictions as they require Traffic Regulation Orders.

You can send your comments or objections to this proposal to the Highways Project Team, no later than 22 October 2017.


Spokes Carry Out Local Cycling Audit

St John's Roundabout

One of Spokes’ early achievements was a Cycling Map of Newbury and Thatcham, which was produced after a detailed audit of the local cycle network by Spokes members.  It was a great success and helped to get more people out on bikes.

West Berkshire Council has now asked if Spokes can carry out another audit of the urban cycle network in Newbury, Thatcham and Hungerford, while Reading Cycle Campaign are covering Theale and the Reading fringe. The audit will help to inform how the cycle network can be improved, including for the various new developments that are planned.

The audit has to be completed by 31 March 2016, so we have recruited volunteers from our membership to help us over the next couple of months. This team effort will be coordinated by our Highways Officer, Dr Tony Vickers.  We are focusing initially on ‘commuter routes’, identifying gaps that could be filled, junctions that could be improved, and anything else that would make life a little easier and safer for a cyclist.

If you would like to help with the audit, or if you have any ideas about how the local cycle route network could be improved, then please get in touch and let us know.  We would love to hear your ideas.


VMS is not the answer to safety problems


You may have come across this recent article in the local media, which suggest that West Berkshire Council are considering putting up Variable Message Signs on the A4 between Thatcham and Theale to encourage motorists to look out for cyclists. Spokes does not feel that variable message signs are the right solution, since they are simply an attempt to tackle the symptom rather than the cause of the problems experienced by cyclists along this busy main road.

There are several Spokes members who regularly cycle this stretch of the A4 and the consensus opinion is that the main problems relate to locations where central islands have been constructed. These have presumably been installed to reduce vehicle speeds and / or to prevent overtaking at key locations along the route.  However, they have been found to create significant problems for cyclists as motorists try to overtake at the islands. Our members have cited several near misses at these locations and we feel that the islands compromise the safety of cyclists.

The ideal solution would be to have a high quality, fully segregated cycle track alongside the A4. This would make it safe and pleasant for people to cycle between the various towns and villages along the A4. Failing that, the next best solution would be construction of cycle bypasses at the road narrowings, or to come up with a completely different design that does not place cyclists and motor vehicles into direct conflict.

We will seek to work with West Berkshire Council to come up with an effective solution and will raise this at the next Cycle Forum.


Strava Heatmap

If you take your cycling at all seriously, then there is a good chance that you will have used Strava’s smart phone app at some stage. Strava’s primary purpose is to let cyclists log their rides and compete virtually against their personal best times, or against other people in their local area. However, with the data that has been collected since 2009, other uses for the data are starting to become apparent.

When the data from individual users is aggregated, it starts to show trends and common routes used by cyclists. Strava has released this data in the form of heatmaps, which show the routes cycled by users, with emphasis and weight given to the most common routes. This can be used to help identify where cyclists currently ride and where spending on cycling infrastructure should be prioritised.

Looking at the Newbury and Thatcham area highlights the importance of the A4 as a cycle route. Spokes has long campaigned for this route to be upgraded and this data adds additional weight to the argument. It is also interesting to note how well used the towpath is, including the section between Boundary Road and Thatcham Station. If so many people are using the towpath when it is in such a poor condition, imagine how many would use it when it is upgraded!


Help Needed for February Cycle Count

We are looking for volunteers to help with our next cycle count. This is a really important activity for Spokes, since the payment that we get from the Council is main source of our funding and is one of the reasons that membership is free.

There are 17 sites which need to be counted from 07:30 to 09:30 on 25th, 26th and 27th February:

Site 1: Newbury – Kennet & Avon Towpath (Beneath A339)
Site 2: Newbury – A339 (on Railway Bridge)
Site 3: Newbury – Robin Hood west arm (London Road)
Site 4: Newbury – Kiln Road / Walton Way
Site 5: Newbury – Love Lane (roundabout at Trinity School)
Site 6: Newbury – Andover Road (just north of St Bartholomew’s School)
Site 7: Newbury – Junction of Northcroft Lane & path to Monkey Bridge
Site 8: Newbury – Junction of Valley Road and Fifth Road
Site 9: Newbury – Junction of Battery End with Wash Common Recreation Ground
Site 10: Thatcham – A4 West of Lower Way
Site 11: Thatcham – Thatcham Station
Site 12: Thatcham – Corner of Bath Road & Green Lane
Site 13: Theale – Junction of High Street & Waterside Drive
Site 14: Hungerford – Staggered junction near Town Hall – Church St & Park St
Site 15: Calcot – Junction of Langley Hill & Bath Road
Site 16: Tilehurst – Junction of Dark Lane & Overdown Road
Site 17: Purley – Junction of Knowsley Road & Oxford Road

If you can help with any of these, then please email us (chair@westberkshirespokes.org). You can do more than one count on subsequent days if you would like. Locations will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

We really appreciate the help that we get from our volunteers, who turn out in all weathers. To say thank you, everyone who counts for at least one hour will be entered in a prize draw for £50 of Banjo vouchers.