At our 2021 AGM, the committee proposed three themes to our activities for the forthcoming year; community, opportunity and scrutiny.
We aimed to grow the breadth and reach of our campaign, develop our wish list and attempt to engage with highways on key interventions, and to ensure we engaged on major highways changes whilst delivering transparency on council decision making in regard to active travel.
In pursuit of these aims, the committee and interested members have met monthly throughout the year, and have undertaken a range of activities in support of cycling across North Gloucestershire. We believe we have successfully raised the prominence of the campaign, increasing awareness and knowledge of what enables more cycling, and securing some positive minor changes to some infrastructure and policy.
However, as we approach the AGM, we continue to experience only minimal engagement from Gloucestershire County Council, being approached only when schemes are nearing construction, and with no regular council forum for discussion of enablers across the wider network, essential if we are to see major shifts away from private motor vehicle journeys.
We also see ongoing prioritisation of increasing motor vehicle road capacity and speeds, and failing public transport services.
Our activities highlights are shown below.
As a reminder, we are a totally volunteer-led campaign, with all committee members giving their time freely. By becoming a member for only £5/year, you increase our impact by supporting our website, newsletter and awareness raising activities across Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and north Gloucestershire.
We remain committed to being as representative as possible of the diverse range of current and potential cycle users in the county, and by joining, you help broaden our insight and strengthen our voice.
Website and Newsletter
We have extended our new website, publishing monthly summaries of campaign meetings, as well as in-depth articles on key issues. We are achieving good search rankings, with 300-400 active users in any given 30-day period, and 6500 discrete user visits over the last 12 months.
Our busiest day was for ‘Why a marathon cycle route won’t deliver a Greener Gloucestershire’, with 800 visits on day of publication, an article that continues to be shared regularly. We’ve added new cycle design resources, and an interactive map to find county councillors responsible for each section of the Gloucestershire highway network.
We also launched our free email newsletter in autumn 2022, which not only helps us communicate with members, widens our reach even further. We will promote this through 2022/23 as we become more familiar with the platform.
Cheltenham Borough Council Climate Change SPD
One of the campaign’s most significant contributions was to Cheltenham’s new Climate Change supplementary planning document (SPD). We provided a response, and were delighted to see that the final version accepted the inclusion of specific cycle infrastructure and parking standards, and that the review checklist was updated to recognise the range of abilities and ages of people who cycle.
This gives a strong platform to reference against for future planning proposals within Cheltenham and we were pleased to see the council being receptive to our input and expertise.
Countywide Cycling Improvement Plan
We responded to the Gloucestershire Countywide Cycling Improvement consultation, which curiously proposed to create a pan-county network of cycling lanes.
We challenged that there was still much to address within the urban areas before extensive, and expensive, longer distance schemes should be contemplated. In line with our previous concerns shared about the B4063, we also reiterated that cycling networks were not built only through signature schemes, but through a rich mix of local measures and changes to highway behaviours so that all communities can have access to cycling. We have yet to see the outcome of this consultation.
Road Safety Strategy
We also responded to the county’s road safety strategy, the county’s response to an increasing number of killed and seriously injured collisions on Gloucestershire’s roads.
The county intends to adopt a ‘Vision Zero’ approach. We focussed on the cycle element of the strategy, challenging that whilst the vision may be zero, the proposals and the current approach to highways management were insufficient to achieve it and could make matters worse.
We did not support attempts to introduce specific measures on encouraging cycle users to wear PPE (personal protective equipment, eg hi-vis), and stressed that responsibility within the model lay in safe system design.
We have yet to see the outcome of this consultation.
M5 Junction 10
We submitted a detailed response to the first stage consultation on the proposed all ways movement junction for M5 Junction 10 northwest of Cheltenham.
We raised what was to become a common concern throughout the year of the impact of expanding road space and increasing speeds, as well as specific commentary on the proposed adjacent cycle facilities. We secured a meeting with the designers of the scheme to help further expand our feedback.
The final indicative design has now been published, and we have been pleased to note some improvements, particularly the move away from a high speed roundabout connecting to the new link road, but there are several major issues which we will continue to engage with and address as the scheme moves forward.
Gloucester South West Bypass (GSWB) Llanthony Road
One of our highest impact articles in the last year was our investigation of funding allocations for the Llanthony Road expansion scheme west of Gloucester, which also achieved press coverage.
Whilst outside our immediate area, the strategic focus and cost implications of large highway schemes remain relevant to the campaign’s objectives, and we helped demonstrate the majority of funding on the scheme was going on motor vehicle capacity expansion.
The county continues to state that this is required to allow future low traffic measures to be implemented in the city centre, but we have yet to see these brought forwards.
Cheltenham Spa Station
Behind the scenes, the campaign has been engaging intensively with GWR and Network Rail to try and address the severance that the new station forecourt works created.
We have had some promising meetings, with a compromise solution requiring only one car parking space to be removed, and which would deliver a continuous route, being accepted in principle between the campaign and other parties.
However, failure to secure a contractor meant there has been ongoing slippage, and we have not been updated on any likely timescale for delivery of the works at this stage. We were more successful in getting a small number of extended Sheffield type stands installed for family and cargo bikes.
We also watch another AGM pass by with no works commencing on the ramp connection from the station car park up to the A40 via Shelburne Road. The campaign has been invited to view some plans, and has provided feedback in relation to turning circles and accessibility, but we have not been made aware of any contractor being appointed for the works.
This is likely to be an area of campaign focus in the coming year.
WCTIS and A40 Rumble Strip petition
The West Cheltenham Transport Improvement Scheme (WCTIS) has finally been completed.
We have achieved some minor improvements, such as rectifying incorrect signage and getting some obstructive poles removed, but sadly some of the barriers to mass cycling, such as points of conflict or constrained space remain. We also highlighted why the trapezoidal dividers would be inappropriate across the narrow railway bridge section, and successfully sought for cycle access to the Campden Road A40 crossing to be restored.
We were disappointed to see rumble strips installed along one of the more segregated sections, on the grounds of tree root protection preventing a continuous cycle marked surface. We launched a short petition not only to highlight the issue here, but also to ensure similar approaches are not taken in other areas of Gloucestershire, including areas that remain in desperate need of improvement such as Princess Elizabeth Way and Lansdown Road in Cheltenham.
B4063 Gloucester to Cheltenham Cycleway
Despite our overall concerns, we have continued to attempt to work with Gloucestershire County Council to ensure the G2C Gloucester to Cheltenham cycleway delivers best possible value, and to try and de-risk proposals as far as possible.
This has included some written comments on scheme proposals, but without an engagement forum where critical discussion is encouraged, we have not been able to meet with GCC representatives within this year so we are only seeing schemes late at public consultation.
Our year concluded with submitting a detailed technical review of proposals through Longlevens, one of the more constrained sections, including what we believe to be a more accessible solution.
National Highways M5 Bridge Closure complaint
We took a complaint to National Highways on the complete, prolonged closure of Brookfield Lane overbridge across the M5, which severed active travel links into Churchdown.
This was unsuccessful, and as the year concludes, we are disappointed to see National Highways now progressing a plan to close Bamfurlong Lane across the M5 near the airport, which will create similar significant severance.
We will be raising another complaint, asking that pedestrian and cycle continuity is protected.
Cheltenham Town Centre Parking
Despite the challenges, cycling levels continue to remain positive in Cheltenham as the acute phase of COVID-19 has passed.
This is creating problems with cycle parking, and we have engaged with Cheltenham Borough Council townscape team to suggest new locations, and to ensure that access to existing cycle parking is not restricted when markets or special events occur in the town centre.
2022 eventually saw the repair works we successfully campaigned for in 2019 being undertaken along the Honeybourne Line, where roots have created uneven sections.
The overall impression is sadly that they were not worth the wait though, with the hand-laid resurfacing continuing to create an uneven surface, and with short ramps at each end. Whilst some remediation has been undertaken, there remain several uncomfortable sections and the route is likely to require significant works at some point in the near future.
Bishops Cleeve to Cheltenham Cycle route
Gloucestershire County Council has been successful in a bid to the Department for Transport to deliver a long-requested connection between Bishop’s Cleeve and the racecourse roundabout.
We have not yet had any engagement on this from Sustrans or Gloucestershire County Council, but will endeavour to provide constructive input in the coming year.
We’ve heard from members about their concerns on whether incidents involving cycle users are appropriately handled, and whether there is sufficient preventative action, particularly around video submissions.
A freedom of information request made on behalf of the campaign showed that there is currently no systematic recording of action taken following video evidence submission, and no way to report on rates of action taken.
A committee member met with the lead police officer, and we have received assurance that a new system is being implemented within the coming year. We hope to provide a conduit to engaging with cycle users as the constabulary’s plans progress.
Gloucestershire County Council and Cheltenham Borough Council budgets
The committee has reviewed and updated the wish list through the year, and this is now available as an interactive map on the website. Images have also been updated for each issue to show the current highway network at that location.
However, reflecting the challenge of getting cycling considered outside of high-cost county schemes, we have been unable to resolve any of the strategic issues across the towns.
We have made early comment on the changes being made around M5 Junction 9 and Ashchurch station, and have been approached to become a future stakeholder in the garden town planning process.
The committee has struggled through the year to provide good representation to Tewkesbury without a dedicated committee member from this area, but we hope that we will be able to address this in the coming year.
We remain grateful for the ongoing support and engagement from members, and the part you each play in helping create the positive cycling culture we all enjoy across north Gloucestershire. If you aren’t already a member, please consider joining. For £5 a year, you’ll help us extend our reach and speak on behalf of an even wider group of cycle users.
Membership now stands at the highest level it has been in several years, and our newsletter and social reach extends even further. We have appreciated the input you have offered to our consultations and engagements through the year, and hope that as we restart face-to-face gatherings and events in the coming year, there will be more opportunities for us to meet together.
If you haven’t already done so, we now have campaign stickers available on the website that you can put on your bike, kit or stuff to help promote the campaign wherever you travel.
We also have a good stock of our cycling maps, and having lost a couple of distribution sites in the last year, would be grateful to hear from any members who have locations or opportunities where they could circulate them.
Finally, just a big thank you to all of you who cycle, and want to cycle, in north Gloucestershire, whether in Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, Bishop’s Cleeve or the surrounding areas.
Every time you ride, you’re helping make our neighbourhoods healthier, happier and better places, and we’re looking forward to another year of campaigning to deliver the change that’s needed for more people to be able to join us.