On yer bike - again
By Cllr Vilnis Vesma
The Government has announced support for cycling as a way of boosting health and wellbeing - a move which I welcome. Cautiously.
The difficulty, certainly in Newent, is the near-impossibility of constructing the completely segregated cycle lanes that seem to be the focus of the new announcement, or of banning through traffic from residential streets. It won't be long before there are over 1,100 houses fed from the single access point at Foley Road, for example (so no "through traffic" there anyway) and Culver Street, which is barely wide enough for a single line of traffic, carries unrestricted heavy agricultural and goods vehicles. As with much of the Forest administrative district, the road system (if you could call it that) comprises windy, hilly lanes and B roads that are quite hazardous and hard work for the cyclist. If the Government's aim is to reduce the load on the NHS, they wouldn't promote on-road cycling around here.
Of course we have some excellent resources like the forest cycleways near Cinderford and the beautiful ride down the Wye from Symonds Yat, all excellent for those with a car and a bike rack. And for the more hardy and fit, the famed 'Newent Loop'. But what we don't see in Newent is what you'd normally see in Tewkesbury for example - streams of children cycling to school, safely sharing the footway with pedestrians. It would be nice if the Government's new initiative helped our Town Council overcome its pathological fear of cyclists.
But actually athough I wholeheartedly support cycling as healthy recreation, I think that it makes no sense whatever as a component of transport policy for our area. For all that our Green Party fellow district councillors promote "active travel", they must surely accept that cycling is no substitute for a car if you are travelling in bad weather, late at night or when the days are short, going shopping, or with small children or frail relatives, commuting more than five miles, or indeed under most normal circumstances. Cycling to work is predominantly a metropolitan activity; any travel strategy for this area has got to be based on a realistic deployment of shared and public transport based on proper research of when, whither, whence and why people need to travel.