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May 13, 2020

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CHAPEL HILL -whys and wherefores

 

Cycle Basingstoke campaigns for better conditions for cycling. Why?  More cycling benefits everyone as we described  in the other post on 4th July.  That is the principal reason why we support the closure of Chapel Hill to motor traffic as a pilot scheme.  We would welcome any feedback from you (positive or negative) at secretary@cyclebasingstoke.org.uk or register your opinions on the sustrans map.

 

Because of the increase in size and number of modern cars air pollution has increased and space for cycling has decreased dramatically as shown in our picture.  Electric cars will not make an appreciable difference and will move the pollution elsewhere.  Covid-19 restrictions have led to decreased air and noise pollution and increased pedestrian and cycle traffic.  Do we want to keep these new found freedoms?  Travel on public transport is still restricted, do we want to go back to the car or continue cycling and walking? Social distancing rules still make it difficult/impossible for shared use cycle pavements.

 

The shared use footway on Chapel Hill is not safe for cycling downhill, there is high risk of collision with a pedestrian or coming off the kerb and overturning in the path of a car.  The entrance to the side road is blind, so there is a danger of a collision with a car exiting here. 

 

A lot of traffic comes off the ringway into Houndmills and along Chapel Hill to reach the town and further destinations.  Surely these vehicles should be using the ringway and entering along Churchill Way West at Thorneycroft roundabout or from the sliproad between Reading road roundabout  and Eastrop roundabout or the sliproad from Eastrop roundabout.  So far the only measure to restrict traffic on Chapel Hill has been to ban lorries of 7.5 tonnes following their satnavs.

 

How can we create more space for healthy and  environmentally friendly  transport modes?  The obvious measure is to restrict motor vehicle access to Chapel Hill.  This would also make it easier and cheaper for local commuters to cycle to the station instead of using the car and paying car parking charges or parking up Vyne road and restricting space for safe cycling. 

 

Chapel Hill is a vital link on a cycle route between the  North and South of the town.  At present it is not cycle friendly, even with the shared use footway and it is really scary in the tunnel - no fun being squashed between an overtaking car and the railings.

Cycle routes from the north effectively stop at Priestley road junction and also at Sherbourne road junction.  Chapel Hill changes open up a safe route for young people living north of the railway line to reach destinations on the south side, whether it is attending college (QMC. BcOT), going to the shops, sports centre, cinema, a sports event or club (e.g training/competing at Down Grange).

 

Chapel Hill changes also open up a safe cycle route from the south of the town for people working in Houndmills and the hospital.  Chapel Hill  was on my direct cycle route to work when I worked at Lansing Bagnalls/Linde and also at the hospital.

 

Bus travel is severely restricted, it is essential that people have the choice to safely use the bicycle or walk as an alternative.  If they opt for the car this will lead to pollution levels and congestion even higher than before the covid-19 restrictions.


At present both tunnels are closed to through traffic in both directions.  There are a lot of complaints about possible rat running, but none about possible increases in cycling.   A compromise might be to close Chapel Hill at the top by the church to downhill traffic and close the Vine road tunnel at the bottom to uphill traffic.  This would permit a through motor route for local residents and commuters, although it would be nice to think they might be switch to cycling with the safer conditions.  The one way system would still  reduce the quantity of traffic through the tunnels and possibly between the tunnels and the Anvil/Alencon Link roundabout.   However, the present traffic managment scheme needs to be retained until the full effects have been assessed, otherwise we are in danger of merely predicting the possible effects which reflect our personal biases.  This is after all only a pilot scheme, we need to give it a chance to see how well it works

 

The Chapel Hill traffic management scheme complies fully with central government guidelines for covid infrastructure and increasing freedom of movement for people walking and cycling or unable to use public transport.  Hampshire County Council needs to be congratulated on gaining the full funding allowance  for imaginative and innovative measures to promote social distancing, reduce motor traffic and encourage active travel (see small print below).  Less pollution will mean reduced susceptibility to lung disease and covid-19 infection. 

These measures had to be introduced at short notice, with a rapid  selection of suitable schemes which therefore precluded the normal consultation period.  However  the sustrans map is being used to gather opinions of the implementation.  

 

Background Notes on rules for covid-19 transport changes

 

DfT has now published the actual allocations for Tranche 1 of the Emergency Active Travel Fund (i.e. what local authorities have actually been granted for short-term spending within weeks on ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes, pavement widenings, road closures etc to be implemented within weeks, using temporary infrastructure. See

www.gov.uk/government/publications/emergency-active-travel-fund-local-transport-authority-allocations/emergency-active-travel-fund-total-indicative-allocations

 

These figures are given alongside the indicative allocations for Tranche 2, which is to be spent over the rest of the current financial year (i.e. by next April) on more permanent measures.

 

the site listing allocations it’s at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/emergency-active-travel-fund-local-transport-authority-allocations/emergency-active-travel-fund-total-indicative-allocations

While Hampshire got 100% of its indicative allocation for phase 1, DfT doubled the allocation for some transport authorities if they really liked the bid, and reduced the allocation for bids it did not like. Some of Hampshire’s neighbours bettered their indicative amount:

 

Department for Transport stated

“All proposals were assessed against key criteria, with authorities receiving either 100%, 75%, 50% or 25% of their allocations based on the extent to which they aligned with the criteria.

“In some cases, authorities have been given more than their indicative allocations where their proposals were particularly strong.

“Where authorities have received less than their indicative allocations, this is due to their proposals being less aligned with the objectives of the fund than those of other authorities.

“We have to convey from ministers that they would like to see proposals of an even higher level of ambition for tranche two.” , details of all the schemes proposed across Hampshire can be found at:

https://www.hants.gov.uk/transport/transportschemes/hantscovidtravel.

 

 

Key principles for covid 19 transport infrastructure from HCC include:

  •  HCC aims to support a green, clean and healthy recovery - this isn’t about ‘returning’ to where we were but, rather, to where we aspire to be 

  •  Underpinning a green recovery are concepts of ‘living local’ and, as a consequence, needing to travel less 

  •  Support will be focussed on areas where there is both the greatest demand and the greatest need - and it will be targeted at genuine problems.   

  • Generally, measures will target areas of highest population density, areas with high levels of deprivation and/or areas suffering from existing poor air quality. 

  •  Schemes will need to be adaptable and capable of revision to adjust to changing circumstances – the Council will also take the opportunity to test new concepts and to innovate and learn from its experiences and the experiences of others. 

  • The initial focus is on low cost temporary schemes – however, HCC will keep their operation under review and may wish to convert successful schemes to permanent status – potentially with associated revisions to infrastructure  

  • Schemes should support wider objectives including improved air quality, carbon reduction and sustainability, including ensuring that there is not a significant long-term maintenance burden 

  • We will work closely with local stakeholders to ensure that measures are being properly co-ordinated, to maximise the benefits for all 

  • Schemes – particularly those retained beyond the trial stage - should be as attractive as possible in design and should contribute to developing attractive places.  In many cases will need to take account of other high street improvement schemes and other investment. 

Potential measures include:

  • pop-up schemes appropriate for each area for cycling and walking reallocation

  • parking charges/restrict parking in busy centres

  • changes to interchanges

  • Implement temporary bus stops– additional stops to spread users out

  • Enabling safe access to retail based on hierarchy: disabled users, people walking, people cycling, public transport (including park and ride), private car.

  • Bring forward selected Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) areas on a trial basis

  • Travel planning with workplaces and schools

  • School Street trials

  • Increase cycle parking in urban centres and workplaces

  • High streets – changes to how space is used e.g. for restaurants and cafes

  • Cutting back overgrown vegetation and discouraging pavement parking – and messaging on these topics

  •  Cycle training/refresher programme

  • Blue badge parking spaces maintained, or reallocated very close by

  •  Highways demand management required

  • Trials of demand responsive transport and new model of community transport to resolve isolation in rural areas

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