09:46AM, Thursday 31 December 2020
A cycle route linking the north-east and south of Maidenhead could be implemented after the council received central Government funding for sustainable travel measures.
The Royal Borough has announced several projects that could be viable with the £335,000 in cash, announced by Government last month as part of its ‘Active Travel Fund’.
The money is the second lot of funding and is aimed at longer-term ideas for active travel. These include low traffic neighbourhoods in the borough’s main towns; school streets, where traffic is restricted at certain times around schools, and a route linking cyclists with opposite ends of Maidenhead, avoiding the A4.
Pot one of the funding saw the council implement controversial bollards in the town centre as part of temporary efforts to encourage social distancing and high street footfall post-lockdown in the summer.
The borough says that the latest cash will contribute to its £2.8million ‘Missing Links’ cycling project –aimed at improving Maidenhead’s cycling infrastructure – as well as supporting its recently adopted Cycling Action Plan and climate targets.
Opposition councillor Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield) said he welcomed the proposals, but called for road users to be better educated.
“I can only say it is a good thing, as long as it is done properly,” he said.
“Just putting in a cycle lane is not the end of it – you have got to help people and educate them how to use it. There is a massive education job to be done.”
Cllr Hill also questioned whether low-traffic streets would work, adding people are too dependant on their cars.
“It is one of those things that is good on paper but in practice it will be difficult to make it work,” he said.
“We are overpopulating Maidenhead and that is causing congestion – and now to actually try and say ‘we are going to have low traffic roads’ seems to be clashing with the massive increase in building. It does not all fit together.”
He added: “I would rather educate the cyclists better from an early age and have free education programmes for any cyclists that wants them in the borough. And try and put a few decent cycle routes into the towns.
“I think post-COVID, hopefully there will be less traffic on the road and more working from home.”
On school streets, Cllr Hill said these could be seen as ‘restrictive’ and called on parents to walk with their children to school, or encourage them to walk in groups.
“I would struggle with people not being able to go down a road at school hours. It seems authoritative and restrictive to me,” he said.
“The thing to do is for the children to walk to school. You can understand the parents being worried but you have got to learn to grow up and fend for yourself some time.”
In response to Cllr Hill’s concerns, the council’s lead member for transport Cllr Gerry Clarke (Con, Bisham and Cookham), said he was confident the measures proposed would deliver benefits.
He added that a consultation was due to start on them in January.
“Some people have got the wrong end of the stick. This is an additional funding stream which we have tapped into – we have got more money which is going to deliver more benefits,” he said.
“The [council] officers produced a bid that was the best we could produce and the money will prove very useful.”
Cllr Clark also clarified that low traffic streets could include schemes such as one-way streets, narrowing of lanes and changes to signage.
He also added that parents and residents have been calling out for measures like school streets for some time.
On overpopulation concerns, he added: “This is clearly a balance. We have got an increasing population – we need to have road capacity.
“We also have a regard for safety at these junctions and looking at more cycle ways and routes.
“It has always got to be looked at in the round. Nobody spends money on roads because it is a good idea to spend money. We do it to deliver benefits.”
In response to Cllr Hill’s call for more education for cyclists, Cllr Hill said: “I have asked officers to look at supporting cycle training.
“That is a thought that is being looked at. I can’t make a commitment to it, but I do know there is a means of providing training. It is an aspiration.”
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