Planning for Cycling

In order to delivery high quality cycling infrastructure for new development, it is important that we engage with West Berkshire Council through their planning process. This post looks at some of the ways that we do this and describes some of the improvements that we are aiming to achieve or that have already been secured as a result of this process.

The Local Plan is a key document that sets out the Council’s plans for how the area should be developed. It is currently being reviewed and once adopted, it will set out the Council’s policies for the period to 2036. We responded to the recent consultation on the Local Plan Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report to highlight the need for investment in cycling infrastructure to help mitigate the transport effects of new development. In particular, we identified the need to create new cycle links to greenfield sites such as Sandleford and North Newbury, as well as improving the existing network, including of the Kennet & Avon Canal towpath.

We also pressed for the Local Plan to safeguard the route of the former Newbury to Didcot Railway Line as a traffic-free cycling and walking route. This would provide opportunities for active travel to help make outlying villages such as Long Lane, Curridge, Hermitage, Hampstead Norreys and Compton, more sustainable locations for development. The first phase of making the dismantled railway track accessible to the public between Hermitage and Hampstead Norreys has begun this year and is expected to be complete by 2019. More investment and commitment to a vision to open the entire route would provide a community asset for West Berkshire residents that would become a tourist attraction in its own right.

One of the biggest developments in the area is at Newbury Racecourse and as part of the planning consent, the developer is required to contribute £300,000 towards upgrading the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath.  We have been working with the Council to advise on where the money should be spent and what specification should be adopted. We have asked for the money to go to the most heavily trafficked section between the football club and the back of Tesco on London Road. We have also requested that they use a bound surface. Although more expensive than the current, unbound surface, it will last much longer and will prove more cost effective in the long-term.

In addition, our eagle-eyed Highways Officer is always on the lookout for major planning applications where there are opportunities to improve provision for cyclists. For example, he recently commented on an application at Newbury Business Park, seeking improved cycle access to the north to improve access to Trinity School and Vodafone, as well as improvements to on-site cycle parking.  Elsewhere, we have identified an opportunity to link proposed developments off New Road and Pyle Hill in Greenham. These may seem like small things, but they all add up and help to ensure that new development is cycle friendly.

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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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