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October 2021 C&TCC Committee Meeting

Committee members met via Zoom for the regular monthly meeting to review major developments impacting cycling in Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Bishops Cleeve, including around Leckhampton School, and the Cleeve cycleway.

Bishops Cleeve to Cheltenham Cycleway

The campaign’s investigation and press release on the Cleeve Cycleway fund being raided for the A435 capacity improvement works generated significant local interest, and highlighted the political importance of delivering this route, although we were disappointed that only the Conservative group response received news coverage, without representation of counterpoint views.

We received over 900 views of our statement on the website, showing the importance of the campaign’s investigation.

A stock response had been received by many who contacted their elected representative, which sought to provide assurance that the capacity improvement works were essential for cycleway delivery, although the detail of this remains very opaque. It is clear that the funding model for the route has been changed, with the council saying it has applied for Department for Transport funding and that costs have increased.

Current facilities at the Southam Lane approach which proponents of the capacity scheme say will be improved by the works.

Liberal Democrat and Green Party county councillors called in the decision for scrutiny, led by Bishop’s Cleeve councillor Alex Hegenbarth, and committee members were encouraged to see such positive interest being applied to the needs of cycle users. After a long debate (including some unusual statements by councillors who appeared to have been brought in to ‘make up numbers’ and were unfamiliar with the scheme), the vote as to whether the decision merited review went largely along party lines, and no further action was taking.

It was also noted that the call in clarified that scrutinising the decision had not jeopardised funding, despite comments made by some elected representatives in statements and responses to members of the public.

The campaign is now awaiting more detailed information on the capacity improvements to see if the statements made by the council on the importance of them to deliver safer cycling and the benefits to cyclists of the junction improvements can be confirmed. Yet again, members noted that increasing vehicle capacity seems to be pursued ahead of providing genuine alternatives in how people travel.

Kidnappers Lane/A46 Leckhampton School

Following a Freedom of Information request by a committee member, Gloucestershire County Council finally published the detailed scheme plans on how children and young people will be provided for if they choose to cycle to the new Leckhampton School (secondary).

As feared, these are deficient in almost all elements; there is narrow space shared with pedestrians throughout the scheme, dangerous junctions, additional conflict around bus stops, and no attempts to lower vehicle speeds. There are multiple deviations from LTN 1/20 standards, especially in areas of high pedestrian usage.

Proposed 3 metre shared space arrangements that are inadequate for traffic flows at this location
An excerpt from the plans, showing the complex, narrow shared space arrangements adjacent to street furniture, a fast road, and areas with heavy pedestrian traffic that pupils at Leckhampton School will be expected to use.

The committee considered how to respond and decided that the problems were so widespread, that a detailed technical response was pointless, and that an overarching comment that the scheme failed to meet any modern standard would be appropriate.

Committee members also noted that the headteacher of the new Leckhampton School appeared to be a strong advocate for the changes, and it was agreed that a committee member would attempt to contact them to see if they were interested in discussing our concerns of how the scheme will prove dangerous for future pupils, and limit their active travel. Similar attempts have already been made to engage with the local councillor, but the scheme continues to proceed unamended.

Cheltenham Spa station and Honeybourne Line

There has been no further communication from GWR on the Honeybourne Line ramp to A40 proposals, including no response on our specific concerns on turning circle radius and safe access at the top of the ramp. National media coverage of violence against lone women has highlighted again the importance of designing schemes that are secure by design, with good sighting distances and ability to maintain speed on isolated sections, and the campaign is anxious that opportunities for this will be missed at the design stage.

The campaign is still seeking changes to restore cycle access to the forecourt, better protection along the extension to the ramp, and provision of secure cycle parking for those with non-standard cycles. A committee member has surveyed the platform, and there is clearly still sufficient space to reinstate the racks that GWR are currently holding in storage.

B4063 Cheltenham to Gloucester Scheme

The council has now secured funding for this scheme, and is beginning delivery. After very low quality initial proposals, the council was required to update the design with help from national consultants, and the final plans look improved, although the opportunity cost of spending so much money on one long distance connection for a limited number of local communities (as opposed to schemes to support local travel to schools etc) remains high.

Extract from GCC plans showing a stepped back priority crossing of Hayden Lane.

Knights Brown who have previously delivered the A40 Arle Court scheme have been appointed as the contractor. This raises some concerns for the campaign, as installation of signage on the Arle Court section has taken no account for cycle safety and there appears to be a significant risk that elements of good design will be spoilt by poor delivery.

The key concern though is that the design will only meet standards and provide improved safety if the speed limit is lowered from 50mph to 30mph. Whilst the council may currently state an intent to lower the speed, it could easily u-turn at a later date and say that this cannot be achieved after the cycleway is already built, leaving cyclists dangerously close to heavy goods traffic. This seems increasingly likely because the plans do not include measures to promote speed control through design, raising the likelihood that police and other statutory consultees will object to a lowering of the speed limit.

West Cheltenham Cycleway

Committee members had met with contractors and GCC representatives in what felt like a positive and useful meeting. Whilst many constraints are already set in stone, the campaign made a number of minor suggestions that could improve the route, and highlighted a couple of major safety concerns, particularly the risk of collision between cycle users and vehicles turning right off the A40 into Tennyson Road. The campaign continues to monitor delivery, as this has potential to be the first high-quality segregated route in Cheltenham, and will hopefully show ‘what good looks like’ to local leaders and residents in other areas.

A section of the new A40 cycleway under construction near St Marks.

2021/22 Strategy

Committee members looked at the proposed strategy for the campaign in the next year. This will be shared at the AGM, but represents an exciting extension of activities, engaging many more local residents in cycling. Watch this space!

Other issues

  • AGM – date has been confirmed and details to be circulated shortly.
  • Finance and membership to be formally reviewed at next meeting, but there had been a significant jump in memberships following the coverage of the Bishops Cleeve cycleway.
  • Gloucestershire County Council previously held a regular cycle liaison group, connecting local citizens interested in cycling with councillors and officers. These meetings were stopped many months ago, but the campaign has secured assurance that these will be starting again at ‘some point in the autumn’.