Nuneaton is one of the towns that has been selected to receive money from the government’s Towns Fund, under the Towns Investment Plan, to develop regeneration proposals. The Borough Council has been calling for comments from residents on five key areas where the fund can be put to use:
- Local transport
- Digital connectivity
- Urban regeneration
- Arts, culture and heritage
In response to this very generic call for comments (it’s not a survey; just email in with thoughts), I submitted a response that fits in with local transport and urban regeneration about the importance for putting walking and cycling at the heart of everything the Council does.
The email I submitted via the My Town Nuneaton website can be seen below.
What I hope is clear from my submission is that I think walking and cycling pay a key part in the development and prosperity of the town which is not benefited by an over-reliance upon motor traffic. Whether it be the town centre or other local destinations like the industrial estates, providing good connectivity for walking and cycling access is beneficial in reducing the dependence on motor vehicles and hence reducing congestion and pollution, whilst also improving the town’s health. However, at present such connections are either poor, limited, or non-existent.
I’d encourage anyone else interested in better active travel links in the town to make their own similar response. Submissions are accepted until (and including) 28 August 2020.
In response to your call for feedback on the My Town Nuneaton project, my submission is as follows:
LOCAL TRANSPORT / URBAN REGENERATION
It is important that Nuneaton (both as a Borough Council and through the County Council) puts walking and cycling at the heart of everything it does (although particularly relevant under the above headings). The town is fairly small geographically with a north-south cross town journey being in the region of around four miles – a journey that can be completed in about half-an-hour for most people.
The infrastructure for cycling in the town is poor and a focus needs to be made on bringing up the quality of existing and new routes to the highest standards to enable more to cycle regardless of age or ability. There are some off-road routes but the suitability of these depends on individual locality. It is not possible to say, regardless of where one lives, works or goes to school, that there are safe, accessible, and direct routes. Existing routes may also be narrower than standards require, invite conflict with pedestrians as shared space, and be less direct or obstructed than taking the road.
As a few further examples (though not exhaustive):
– Looking at the ring road, shared space there is insufficient where it is intended to be used as a two-way route shared with pedestrians. This needs to be moved to a proper 2m segregated lane in each direction, moved into the carriageway and under the control of the same pedestrian crossing points as motor vehicles to remove conflicts with pedestrians at these points. The current ‘circuit’ around the ring-road is also unclear and requires an excessive number of side road crossings where on road cycling is quicker and easier. For any cycle infrastructure, it should be given the same priority over side roads as the main carriageway.
– Weddington Road is a busy road with heavy goods traffic and its painted ‘infrastructure’ with numerous ‘pinch points’ is wholly insufficient. That road along with the Leicester Road bridge is the main way to access the town centre from the Weddington area of Nuneaton, yet this is not safe for all cyclists and many times people can be seen cycling on the pavement as the safer alternative. It is important to provide proper Dutch-grade segregated cycle infrastructure along this corridor to better enable local residents to travel to the town centre by cycle instead of the car.
– Higham Lane is also a key road connecting housing estates to the town centre (and a direct link to/from Leicestershire via Higham-on-the-Hill) yet no infrastructure is provided. Even light segregation along this road would improve the safety (both real and perceived) for local people accessing Nuneaton by cycle.
– There is plenty of space around Eastboro Way to provide segregated cycle infrastructure, yet there is nothing at present to connect to local businesses in the industrial areas with residential estates to the north and south along this key direct route. The road is wide and encourages high speeds mixed with heavy goods vehicles and will not be considered suitable for many cyclists except for the most confident. Facilities targeted at children (i.e., soft play) can be found here but local children and their parents cannot easily access them without using the car, despite the journey potentially being under a few miles for the nearby housing areas.
Routes into the town must be direct, safe for all ages from young children to the elderly, and accessible to all forms of cycle (using the Cycle Design Vehicle dimensions given in LTN 1/20). This means understanding and accepting obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that all provided routes are accessible without discrimination and therefore do not feature obstructions such as chicane barriers, K-Frames, excessive and closely spaced bollards, closed gates etc. Better maintenance of existing routes is also required, with regular review and resurfacing work being undertaken in a timely manner when necessary, and regular sweeping occuring during the autumn and winter months when tree debris can litter a surface potentially making it slippery, dirty, and presenting a puncture and fall risk.
The design guidance given in LTN 1/20 for both on-road (WCC) and off-road (NBBC) routes must be adopted to ensure that routes are high quality, cohesive and joined-up between the two authorities.
Improving walking and cycling is vital to reduce the impact of motor traffic on the town which has been heavy certainly pre-lockdown, and is increasing again now as restrictions have eased. The ongoing viability of the town centre relies on people being able to access the area easily which will not be the case with congested roads and limited safe ways in by foot and cycle. The town cannot continue to rely on people driving in, certainly from the local area. It is unsustainable in terms of road capacity leading to congestion, and pollution both from exhaust and particulate matter from brake, tyre, and road wear. Most of these elements will not be solved with the push to switch to electric vehicles and therefore access beyond the car is essential.
The town centre must better cater for cycles by permitting considerate shared use through the pedestrianised zone, and by providing ‘Sheffield stand’ cycle racks at strategic locations within the centre (not just at the entrance points) to allow people to cycle door to door – a key advantage over the car which must be parked in a car-park away from the ultimate destination. Improving access in this way will encourage more frequent short visits due to the increased convenience.
NBBC and WCC must look to how cycling and walking infrastructure works elsewhere (see most of the Netherlands; Copenhagen; limited UK examples). Cycle infrastructure must not be considered the sole domain of the larger cities where efforts are being made to improve matters in the likes of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester etc. It is just as important to the economic health of the town and the physical health of its residents and visitors that smaller locations like Nuneaton (and Bedworth too, which is currently particularly hostile to cycling and must not be forgotten) have the routes required which means people can make the choice to leave the car at home. Currently, that choice is difficult for many people given their destinations – either driving is too convenient, or walking/cycling takes too long due to indirect routes, or it feels/is unsafe and unpleasant when taking the more direct on-road choice.