13 June, 2014
News has emerged that two new cycle lanes are to be constructed along the A329, serving Wokingham between the Three Tuns crossroads in Earley right along to the Coppid Beech roundabout, so says getreading.co.uk.
Cycling is a great activity - promoting fitness and lessening an individual's impact on the environment. However, cyclists - note the distinction - divide opinion, with a few more reckless bikers giving the whole population a bad name. Consequently, the announcement of on-carriage cycleways may not be universally welcomed.
We look at the impact of the new project on Wokingham:
Increased safety: Figures from the 2011 Census reveals that the number of people cycling to work and for recreational purposes in Wokingham and Bracknell has fallen in a decade. The biggest dissuader - even more so than the weather - is road safety.
However, Wokingham Borough Council says that the cycleways will connect with shops, businesses and schools, thus providing a safer route for those that currently cycle in the area and perhaps encouraging more people to don their helmets and get on their bikes. What's more, cycling charity CTC says cycling safety in general has improved by 61 per cent between 2002 and 2012. This additionally may improve pedestrian safety, by removing cyclists from the pavements along stretches of busier roads.
Necessity? Comments posted to the Get Reading article question whether or not the multimillion pound scheme is actually necessary. Some call the initiative a 'vanity project', claiming that the roads accommodate bikes easily at the moment. Others say they happily cycle without problem and can't see why other services should be cut or shelved as a result. Should it, as Cadoxton Conner asks, "really be a top priority?"
Improvements: The cycleways form part of a wider improvement to the A329, which will include resurfacing work and the replacement of bus shelters - which is a bonus in itself. However, it is thought that the scheme will additionally help alleviate congestion and lower pollution. Councillor Keith Baker says the road is wide enough to safely support the lanes, without having any impact on the existing flow of traffic. It stands to reason, then, with more people potentially swapping the car for their bikes, there will naturally be fewer cars on the road, allowing traffic to move more freely and easily.
Disruption: According to Wokingham Borough Council, the cycleway and associated improvements will be built 'in four phases over a number of years' - which may spell prolonged disruption to motorists. Work is due to begin in July, but will pause while improvements are carried out on the Loddon Viaduct, resuming in September. The second phase will start in January with the third and fourth 'scheduled for the next few years'. The council website concedes that there will inevitably be some delays due to the nature of the work.
Health benefits: CTC claims that people who cycle to work take 18 per cent less time off work due to sickness than those that drive or use public transport. In fact, the charity adds, the risks associated with getting on a bike are actually outweighed 77:1 by the health benefits cycling brings. It claims that for every unfortunate fatality, 541 lives are saved due to increased activity and improved air quality.
Who's paying? The £2 million scheme will be funded not from the public, but predominantly from the Department for Transport. Wokingham Council bid for - and won - an award from the Local Sustainable Transport (now known as My Journey Wokingham) scheme. The remainder of the funding has come from individual private developers.
It's inevitable the construction of the cycleways will have many differing impacts on Wokingham but perhaps the biggest should be the need for increased tolerance - whether you're a cyclist, a motorist or a pedestrian. That way, everyone can enjoy the region's roads and paths without issue.