Warwickshire says “Get On Your Bike”

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With the Local Plan for growth due to go before Government inspectors early next year, Warwickshire County Council has been working to address the major problem already identified by most people: infrastructure.

As Peter Butlin, the county council portfolio holder for transport and planning acknowledges: “Options to expand the capacity of the highway network in historic towns like Warwick and Leamington are limited.

“It is therefore vital we begin to explore other ways of managing travel demand.”

Not only cycling but encouraging walking aided by improved public transport and Park and Ride schemes are vital, according to experts at Surrey-based transport consultants Atkins.

The firm has been working with a handful of district and county councillors, and “stakeholders” like Cycleways to come up with solutions.

Last week the idea that Warwick might consider introducing a congestion charge to ease traffic jams and clear the polluted air in the town centre was raised as one of the options. This would only apply to motorists passing through the town - certainly not those driving into town to shop.

Among those on the consultation group was county councillor Angela Warner, who as a local GP is particularly concerned about ill health linked to traffic fumes.

She said: “If people are going to be liberated from their cars, a more innovative approach to solving cycling challenges in Warwick is required.

“The town is just too hazardous at present for safe cycling, especially for youngsters. And this needs some serious attention.”

Also on the group was Leamington district councillor Jerry Weber, who said: “Taking cycling and walking to the top of the agenda in delivering sustainable transport in Warwick, Leamington and Kenilworth will take more than warm words. The report from the county council is a good start but I would like to see real advances in planning for a truly excellent cycle network in our three towns.

“Cycleways and Sustrans can offer invaluable expertise in this planning. Get the infrastructure right and we are half way there.”

* In its report for the county council, transport experts Atkins talk about “moving people, not cars” - an expression that found powerful echoes among the local “stakeholder” group, particularly Chris Begg of Cycleways.

Mr Begg said: “The major housing developments proposed in the Local Plan will cause further congestion and pollution unless there is a radical change in how people travel to work, to the shops, to schools and to hospitals.

“Far too many of these - often short trips - are made by car which is unsustainable.”

Mr Begg welcomed the “stakeholder” consultations and has produced his own detailed review of cycling provision in Warwick and Leamington under the title: “Cycling - a Solution, not a Problem.”

He said: “At present most local cycle routes do not meet national standards and are not joined up - and in some cases are not even safe.

“Our review recommends that county engineers are trained to design cycle routes which are indeed easier and safer and which link the places people actually want to travel between.

“Similarly, the large scale developments now being considered must adhere strictly to national and local planning policies to deliver the sustainable transport envisaged by Atkins.

“Cycleways stands ready to help.”