9 September 2013

Cycling: Is a change underway?

Small but important changes are taking place in Whitchurch

A bicycle bell rang out from a child's bike outside the Town Hall as Whitchurch Town Councillors met for their monthly meeting; and a cycling issue was on the Agenda.
A coincidence?
Maybe, but cycling and sustainable transport is climbing fast up the public order paper as roads become more clogged and frustrations with motoring rise.

The Get Britain Cycling
Report.
Get Britain Cycling
The same evening the Get Britain Cycling Report was being debated in Westminster with its recommendations being accepted unanimously by the 100 MPs in the House of Commons. They included Whitchurch's own, the bicycling baronet and Chief Whip Sir George Young. Meanwhile 5000 people on bikes of all types expressed their passion on the roads outside Parliament asking for 'Space For Cycling'. Yes cycling is in the news.

But back here in Whitchurch it was a lot quieter. Being a small country town of not many more than 4000 people there is a different ambience, a different pace, but many of the issues are the same including safety on the roads.

Town Council support welcomed
While the parliamentary debate was still taking place, the Whitchurch Councillors made their small, but nevertheless important decision. They undertook to provide some limited funding to "encourage and promote sustainable travel within the town to reduce use of motor transport for short journeys".

Are changes underway?
This is not a normal function of a rural Town Council, which is more concerned with allotment competitions, painting the local swings and the timekeeping of the Town Hall clock.
Town, Borough and National
representatives took to two wheels.
But last year local elected representatives took to two wheels themselves as they toured the streets looking at conditions those who cycle face.
They supported the The Times Cities for Cycling manifesto and voted to support a 20mph pilot scheme, while this year the Mayor 'unveiled' the new cycle rack.
So small, but important things are happening. Is this all indicating the start of a wider attitude change towards the overwhelming effects of the car-culture? Is it the beginning of a greater consideration towards the more vulnerable road users and the creation of a more pleasant place to live?

Whitchurch is a wonderful
centre for cycling.
Cycling increasing but fear remains
Throughout the UK more people are pulling their bikes out of sheds. More are riding to workplaces and to the shops, while increasing numbers are enjoying the river valleys and downlands on two wheels. But not all is the happy ring of that child's bicycle bell.
Many still fear traffic.
For many there is still a fear of traffic and a lack of confidence in taking a bicycle onto today's roads. Few bikes in the local school racks more than hints at a parental fear too, and regular complaints about the large lorries, speeding drivers and pavement parking fill social media sites.

Where next?
With Whitchurch being just one-mile across what would encourage more use of the bicycle?
What would make a cycle journey more attractive than using the car?
What would entice someone to try the efficient, healthy, low cost and fun way to travel?

When we have the answers to these then perhaps we can look at providing some solutions.
'Space For Cycling' may be one of them.

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