Towns and cities outside of London are going to receive an update in infrastructure as well as the capital. Plans have been announced to fund infrastructure for: Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Leicester and Cambridge. The news will be welcomed by campaign groups and the general cycling public alike who have been calling for funding and change in these areas for a long time. We wonder whether this could be the big breakthrough in funding cycling has been after for year now.
As for the area of Berkshire plans have been announced, some haven’t been completed but others have – receiving some less than desirable comments from some cyclists.
The plans were proposed by: Reading Borough Council, Wokingham Borough Council and West Berkshire Council. The proposed package will support the implementation of a new National Cycle Network (NCN) route 422, key improvements to existing NCN routes and, where those routes do not link well to neighbourhoods. The improvements proposed include lining, lighting, signing, junction treatments and some more substantial works and new facilities. In November 2014 it was announced this particular route would share a 137m fund to improve Thames Valley Berkshire creating new facilities on the A4 Maidenhead to Slough.
Sustrans has worked with local authorities and other stakeholders to develop this Cycle Network, NCN Route 4 (London to Reading) passes through the Royal Borough from Egham in the east, via Windsor, Eton, Bray, and Maidenhead, before heading off towards Henley in the west. There are also links to Slough and Heathrow (NCN Route 61) and to Cookham (NCN Route 50).
Other routes are: the NCN5 (from Reading to Holyhead via Oxford), and NCN23 (from Reading to Southampton via Basingstoke). NCN4 and NCN 23 to the south and NCN4 to the west run parallel to, rather than through the residential neighbourhood areas of Whitley, Southcote and Calcot. The population served by the proposals is approximately 175,000 (2011 Census), equating to half the urban area.
The package also includes revenue aspects, which will be met by the local authorities and Sustrans. This is a commitment to:
- Maintenance: e.g. resurfacing the relevant routes prior to new lining
- Apprenticeship: running a maintenance apprenticeship scheme annually
- Cycle Hire: supporting public cycle hire along the routes at least until 2017
- Monitoring: supporting ongoing monitoring through the cycle counters installed as part of the LSTF programme and other annual and project-related surveys
- Community Engagement: maximising the impact of Sustrans’ Pocket Places initiative in South Reading to reach the wider community adjacent to proposed route improvements.
Cycling safety is definitely gaining momentum and focus from both local authorities and the government, they seem to finally see the importance of consistent funding. The changes that have been mentioned to improve routes are what cyclists lead and we like the idea of improving the links between various places of the cycling network.
However some of the small changes that have been implanted have come under immediate criticism from some cyclists a New cycleway in Lower Earley has been branded ‘unusable’ by some cyclists who claim that the lighting isn’t up to scratch and many are complaining that they also have to share the cycleway with pedestrians too. It only opened in October 2014 at a cost of almost £750,000, a rocky start to say the least. Cycling campaigners have described a new bike hire scheme in Reading as a vanity project that ignores the appalling state of the town’s roads. The ReadyBike hire scheme offers 200 bikes located at 29 docking stations. But, Adrian Lawson of Reading Cycle Campaign said the £1.2m budget should have been spent on improving cycle lanes.