As many of you know, Hyde Street is currently closed to motor traffic at the south end, where it meets North Walls. There is a campaign on at the moment to get it reopened. This was done as part of “Tranche 1” of the emergency active travel measures, so that one lane of North Walls could be safely coned off for use by pedestrians. Our understanding from the county council is that was a safety issue, as you couldn’t have two sets of traffic (out of Jewry St and Hyde St) fighting to get into one lane as soon as they got onto North Walls.
There are pros and cons to this closure, and it certainly wasn’t top of our priority list for cycling. It has improved the safety of Hyde Street itself, made it more attractive as a pedestrian route to the upper end of town, stopped it being one of Winchester’s worst rush hour rat-runs, and appears to have improved the traffic flow on Jewry Street – but it has probably added to the traffic queues on Worthy Lane and at the bottom of Andover Road by the station, and caused inconvenience and delays for Hyde residents wanting to drive round town..
However, the highway engineers tell us that the continued closure of Hyde Street is vital to this new “Tranche 2” plan, which will create a cycle lane in North Walls and make the pavements wider for pedestrians. No Hyde Street closure, no cycle route and no wider pavement.
We think that on balance the long-term benefit to Winchester outweighs the drawbacks of the Hyde Street closure – but we also think it’s fair to challenge the council’s assumption that you can’t have one without the other.
If you’d like to see better cycling facilities in Winchester but want Hyde St reopened, please support the proposals for North Walls in the consultation – but add a comment in the comments box asking the council to reconsider its plans to see if this can be done without closing off Hyde Street.
The proposed cycle lane on North Walls, incomplete though it may be, would be a major breakthrough in Winchester – the first time something has been done to positively encourage people to walk and cycle into the city centre rather than jumping in their cars every time. If that opportunity is lost because of a campaign to reopen Hyde Street to motor traffic, it would be a real shame and would set Winchester back by years.
There is a bigger question here. Rather than arguing about whether all the extra cars should be driving down Hyde Street or Worthy Lane, we should be asking why all those cars are there. We should be pressing the council to find ways of reducing the total amount of traffic driving right into the town centre every day. That’s the only way we’ll get a long-term improvement for the quality of life of everyone in Winchester. That’s what Cycle Winchester will be doing, and we hope you will too. Ask your local councillor about that. If there are council elections in your area in May, ask your local candidates.