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Our response to the Gloucestershire Countywide Cycling Improvement Plan

[Please note this consultation closed on 18 August 2022. Read our response below.]

About the consultation

Gloucestershire County Council are currently consulting on a ‘Gloucestershire Countywide Cycling Improvement Plan‘ for the county, in partnership with Sustrans. After an initial lack of clarity, they have now confirmed that this is focussed on links for the towns and villages of the county, stating that plans already exist for each of the urban centres.

The campaign has not been approached by GCC or Sustrans for our input into this plan. However, Cheltenham & Tewkesbury Cycling Campaign has submitted the following response to the consultation. We would encourage members and those wanting to see improvements to cycling to also engage.

The consultation form is quite complicated, requiring you to comment on desirability of individual routes, or to post comments on a map (please note your name will be displayed if you choose to do this.)

There is also an open comment box.

If you have limited time, and agree with our response, we would encourage you to at least note in this box that you ‘support the published response of the Cheltenham & Tewkesbury Cycling Campaign’.

An excerpt from the Gloucestershire Countywide Cycling Improvement Plan, showing a number of desire lines and routes.
Image taken from the Gloucestershire Countywide Cycling Improvement Plan available via the Gloucestershire County Council website.

Overall, we’ve highlighted our previous concerns that focussing on long distance routes neglects the much larger opportunities presented by enabling shorter trips, and that the plan needs to extend beyond strategic corridors, particularly if it means there will be less investment and focus on addressing barriers to local cycling.

Please add your voice to ensure the right priorities are set for our county.

Our response to the cycling improvement plan

Dear Gloucestershire County Council and Sustrans,

C&TCC response to ‘Countywide Cycling Improvement Plan’

The Cheltenham & Tewkesbury Cycling Campaign has reviewed the consultation documents and maps, and would like to provide the following feedback.

In line with our overall campaign priorities, we stress that a cycling plan that achieves maximum modal shift as quickly as possible needs to take the following into account;

  • Most cycling trips are likely to be in the one to three mile range, a range that is competitive with other modes in terms of journey time, and which most people can be comfortable with.
  • Whilst electric bicycles offer some opportunity to extend this range, the largest immediate impact remains for shorter trips, which can be easily afforded by all.
  • The best return on investment is likely to be where there is a big population and significant trip generators like hospitals, shopping centres, large employers or railway stations.
  • Most trips considering the above are going to be in urban areas, where there are also the highest density of population. We are particularly concerned that failure to prioritise these high-density areas will mean that precious strategic focus and investment is diverted, potentially into costly schemes on constricted highways. For all other modes, the county makes a point of prioritising the highest return on investment. We believe the same principle should be applied to its cycling network development.
  • In the hierarchy of provision, reducing speed and traffic volume come above physical cycle infrastructure. It should always be remembered that removing key barriers to cycling, like challenging junctions, makes whole areas more permeable to cycling.
  • Most trips will not perfectly coincide with a defined route, as a cycle trip is truly door to door, from anywhere to everywhere. Whilst there is clearly a need for some strategic corridor routes, like the Honeybourne Line or A435 Bishops Cleeve to Cheltenham Racecourse link, measures to help cycling are needed beyond these key routes to reach into local streets where people live, work and play.
  • Whilst the consultation focuses on rural connections, it misses that ultimately, many of these trips will be into urban cores. The council has stated on social media that it already has a comprehensive LCWIP for Cheltenham, so these do not need to be considered. We do not agree. The LCWIP for Cheltenham currently only includes one route (the ‘spine route’), meaning there is no connectivity awaiting those arriving from the many other points of the compass into Cheltenham, and indeed the other urban centres. If the last mile is missing, or cyclists are expected to deviate significantly from the direct line, these routes will be futile.
  • Improving urban cycling benefits rural communities by reducing urban congestion, which in turn increases the reliability and desirability of rural public transport, a much bigger opportunity for stimulating rural modal shift. The subsequent relief of private motor traffic in rural areas that this creates also enables more comfortable cycling across all rural roads in the county.
  • Finally, there is no consideration in the plan of rural multi-mode journeys, for example supporting people to cycle to, and secure their cycle at, fast bus connections for longer journeys.

The Cheltenham & Tewkesbury Cycling Campaign is the largest cycle campaign group in Gloucestershire, representing a diverse range of all types of cycle user, and including experts by profession and experience. We believe that everyone should be able to cycle from their front door to wherever they want to go.

We are disappointed that neither Sustrans nor GCC has engaged with the campaign ahead of this stage, particularly given the duty it has to engage with local community groups, and hope that moving forwards there will be opportunities provided to demonstrate collaboration and to develop a cycling network that can most effectively deliver the ambitions of Gloucestershire County Council.

Yours sincerely,

Andre Curtis, Chair C&TCC