West Berks Cycle Forum (December 2017)

The main topic of discussion was the Kennet & Avon towpath, particularly the sections west of Newbury and east of Colthrop, which Spokes has flagged as being in need of complete reconstruction in order to make them safe for cyclists. Mark Evans had been invited from the Canal and River Trust, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it due to an emergency call-out. However, Cllr Steve Ardagh-Walter managed to set up a separate meeting with him on 9 January. In the meantime, Spokes members will carry out an audit of the canal towpath to document the issues in more detail. We will be looking to get a commitment to add these sections to their maintenance programme as soon as possible and also to change their maintenance inspections to better take account of the needs of cyclists. We realise that funding may be an issue, so we are already looking at different options.

We were delighted to be told that following the recent public consultation, West Berks Councillors has agreed to progress the first section of National Cycle Network Route 422 in Newbury between Faraday Road and the Wyevale roundabout. This will see on and off-road provision for cyclists with new sections of route as well as improvements to existing sections.

Spokes gave a presentation on cycle wayfinding based on the results of an audit of cycle routes between Newbury town centre and the top end of Faraday Road. This had identified numerous issues, including a lack of consistency between on-street signs, on-line cycling journey planners, and the printed version of the Council’s cycle map. We also found that cycling information was completely missing from the finger-posts and monolith maps in the town centre, with several conflicting or missing signs adding to the confusion. Some of the issues have arisen as a result of individual schemes being introduced over a number of years with no holistic review of signage. Fortunately, many of these issues can be picked up as part of the NCN 422 scheme.

The minutes for the December meeting of the Cycle Forum (and minutes of previous meetings) can be found on the About Us section of the Spokes website.

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Give us your thoughts on ‘quick win’ schemes for cyclists

Cheap Street, Newbury - cyclists exempt from banned right turn

Often, little changes can make a big difference for cyclists – for example, exempting them from a banned right turn, or providing a contra-flow in a one-way street.  These schemes can create useful short-cuts and help to make cycling safer and more attractive for local journeys.

West Berkshire Council has told us that there is money available in this year’s budget for small schemes like these and has asked us for suggestions. Ideas so far include:

  1. In Newbury, allow cyclists to turn right into Cheap Street from Market Street.  This would help cyclists travelling from West Fields to Sainsbury’s and Hambridge Road.
  2. Formally designate Newbury Town Centre as a ‘Pedestrian and Cycle Zone’. Although cycling is already allowed in Bartholomew Street and Northbrook Street, existing signs are confusing.
  3. Where possible, exempt cyclists from one-way restrictions on roads in and around Newbury town centre.
  4. Put direction arrows in each lane on the St John’s Road approach to the Burger King roundabout in Newbury. This would reinforce that the middle lane is for straight ahead movements only. Increasingly, motorists are turning left from the middle lane, which goes against Rule 186 of the Highway Code. This results in cyclists being cut up when they are travelling from St Johns Road to Greenham Road.

If you can think of a small change that would make a big difference to your journey, then please let us know. We can’t promise that they will all see the light of day, since each scheme will be subject to a safety audit and appropriate consultation, but we’re happy to pass on ideas for consideration.

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Spokes takes on the Cycle Forum

Council Offices

West Berkshire Council recently announced that they could no longer formally support the Cycle Forum due to a lack of staff resources. However, all parties agreed that the Cycle Forum provided a useful platform for identifying and discussing local cycling issues and for consulting on proposed cycling policies, schemes and initiatives.

It was therefore agreed that the Cycle Forum could continue with Spokes taking responsibility for pulling together the meeting agendas and preparing the minutes. Cllr Adrian Edwards agreed to remain as chair, while the Council would continue to provide some administrative support in terms of sending out agendas and minutes, and booking the meeting rooms.

Spokes is keen to reinvigorate the Cycle Forum and we are currently exploring options for a new website to promote the exchange of information and ideas in the periods between meetings.

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National Pothole Day

Like the Great British weather, the condition of our roads is a perennial cause for complaint, but unlike the weather we can all do something about the potholes on our roads.

Street Repairs, the people behind the online pothole reporting website and smart phone app, have organised National Pothole Day to try and galvanise people into action, encouraging them to report potholes that they encounter on their local roads.

We come across potholes and other defects on our roads every day, but many of them go unreported. A small pothole can be quickly and inexpensively repaired. However, the same pothole, if left over the winter, will grow in size through repeated freezing and thawing of the water accumulating in it. After just a few months, the pothole will become a safety hazard and will be much more expensive to put right.

To ensure that the roads in West Berkshire remain in a safe and usable condition, the Council carries out routine safety inspections. All public highways are routinely inspected by qualified inspectors who then arrange for repairs to be carried out to address any defects that they find. The frequency of inspection is dependent on the type of road and the traffic using it. On minor roads, these can be quite lengthy, which means that some problems can go undetected for weeks or even months.

Street Repairs makes it easy to report problems on the roads, by providing one website through which residents can submit any issue, to any local council anywhere, any time. Smartphone technology allows residents to report problems in real-time. You can attach photographs and give a detailed description whilst out and about. Updates on the status of your report are sent back to you via email and text message.

There are apps for iPhone and Android and you can also report problems via the website: www.streetrepairs.co.uk. So next time you see a pothole, don’t just mutter under your breath and carry on, take the time to report it and get it fixed!

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Space for Cycling

You may have seen some publicity in the media around the Space for Cycling campaign. This is a joint call to action launched by independent local and regional cycling groups across the UK following a very successful launch by London Cycle Campaign in 2013.

Space for Cycling has a Steering Group formed by the major national cycling organisations and city campaigning groups who have already made a start on their campaigns for elections that are taking place in May 2014.

While West Berkshire Council doesn’t have any elections this year, it is clear that cycling has fallen a long way down the local list of political priorities. The Get Britiain Cycling Report, published last year, recommended a spend of £10 per head on new cycling infrastructure rising to £20 as cycling increases. This is the MINIMUM spend that is required if we are to make cycling mainstream.

If you strip out maintenance dressed up as bridleway improvement schemes, West Berkshire Council is planning to spend just £0.65 per person on cycling facilities this year. This isn’t good enough, so Spokes is encouraging you to go to the Space4Cycling website pledge your support and email your local councillors to ask them to make Space for Cycling. Together we can make a difference!

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