Last week we promised you a briefing, to help you respond to the current consultation on these schemes. Here is that briefing. We have also prepared a downloadable completion guide to help with your response. To cut to the chase: we recommend you support the schemes. While we have some reservations about the designs, which we are actively pursuing with Hampshire, the simple fact is that the schemes won’t go ahead unless there is strong support from many people. Please register your support before the consultation closes just before midnight on Sunday 21 March 2021.
[Update: We understand that some residents who are pro-cycling, nevertheless have have strong feelings that Hyde Street should be re-opened to motor traffic. Read our latest article which explains why we think you can still support the Active Travel Schemes, alongside calling for Hyde Street to be re-opened.]
Now to the detail…
Active Travel Fund – Winchester
Behind this unexciting title are proposals for some long overdue and actually useful improvements for Winchester’s cyclists! Potentially this is GOOD NEWS.
As we reported in November, Hampshire County Council has been allocated funds from the government’s Active Travel Fund. This is part of the response to promote walking cycling for journeys and exercise during the Coivd -19 pandemic and during the recovery phase.
Part of this funding has been allocated to walking and cycling improvements for Winchester’s city centre. The proposals are for North Walls, City Centre North-South routes, Upper High Street and High Street, Puffin pedestrian crossing on Romsey Road/Clifton Terrace Junction. Full details are on the HCC website. There is now a period for public feedback with a deadline of 21st March.
Background information and a bit of history
This is a second round of government funded schemes. The first round of pop-up schemes delivered in June 2020 were mainly about helping pedestrians (although cyclists still seemed be blamed erroneously). This round of funding is to maximise the benefits for both pedestrians and people who cycle compared to the June’s pop-up schemes. These are mostly temporary changes that could become permanent – if they are shown to be used and useful. They will be implemented using temporary materials and if the trials work well a permanent design could be developed which would be the subject of consultation at that time.
Although there was broad public support for the three Winchester Movement Strategy priorities expressed during the 2017 and 2018 WMS consultations (and support for road space reallocation too), at the time these were quite abstract concepts that didn’t affect people’s everyday travel – so expressing support didn’t have direct or immediate adverse consequences for people. This is the first set of firm proposals – their success (or not) will doubtless influence future projects.
There is a risk that support for the principle of relocation of road space could quickly erode if people think that the Winchester schemes will result in personal inconvenience and more hassle directly affects them. Therefore there is a need to try to make these schemes as palatable as possible to non-cyclists and reassure them that the proposals won’t make their lives noticeably worse than now – this may mean that what is being proposed doesn’t fully align with the ambitions of what we feel should be provided – however we are sensitive to the need for Hampshire County Council need to take people with them. This is why Cycle Winchester will support these schemes despite some reservations.
Reallocating road space (taking it away from motor vehicular traffic) is not going to be popular with people who usually drive everywhere (who don’t walk or cycle regularly), so the focus for the proposed schemes is on proving the concept that the changes introduced through the 18 month trials will show that road space can be reallocated without resulting in long traffic queues, delays and worsening congestion. Once it has been demonstrated that road space can be reallocated without adverse impacts, this will make it easier to deliver permanent schemes.
The Department for Transport has said that this round of funding is conditional on local authorities being able to demonstrate “broad” support from communities for their implementation. It is vital that we “Active Travellers” make our views known.
We have already seen vocal opposition to the closure of Hyde Street. Those of us with long memories will remember the opposition to closing Kingsgate arch, College Street and Great Minister St (still illegally used as a rat run). People do get used to change and these temporary schemes will show the benefits and highlight possible problems. Without sufficient support these schemes could disappear quicker than you can say “Kensington High Street Cycle Lane!” if the loud voices are the only ones heard.
The ultimate goal is to build a walking and cycling network for Winchester that has a high level of usefulness – not just catering for utility cycling (trips for a purpose) but for recreational / leisure cycling by less confident people of different ages too. These schemes start the process of joining up parts of the cycle network the aim being to ensure that the sum of the total wider network building benefits (for new cross-city cycle journeys) is greater than its individual parts.
Developing and delivering Winchester’s cycling network is going to be an ongoing process and is going to take time – we need to support these opportunities as they arise whilst ensuring they support our long term goal of “making Winchester better by bike”.
Cycle Winchester has already provided detailed comments on the design pointing out scope for improvements and where best practice and standards have not been met. We will be reiterating those comments in our official response to this consultation.
While we don’t like everything about the plans, we think they’re a huge step forward and should be supported. We need you to add your voice. Please look at their plans and fill in the council’s questionnaire.
It is important that there are as many responses as possible as there will be many who will oppose any changes that they perceive will make it harder for the private car to move around the centre of Winchester – despite the reality that fewer cars will actually be to their benefit.
So what are the proposals and what do we think of them?
North Walls cycle lane (Section 1)
The proposals are for a provision of a two-way segregated cycle lane along North Walls from Hyde Street to Middle Brook Street. Of all the proposals this is the one that is most likely to meet vocal opposition from other road users as it takes away “their” road space.
We would support a two-way lane if it can wide enough both ways to be safe – however we aren’t convinced this is achievable given the space available. It may be that a single, wide, uphill lane will be a more realistic option and will still deliver most of the benefits. We will be writing to the County Council with our detailed concerns about the current proposal in the hope that a good design can be realised.
So we support the principle of a cycle lane in North Walls and hope that the final design will be of adequate quality to be useful. It is a useful first step in the longer term ambition of a having a route for the entire length of North Walls and hence avoiding the traffic in St-Georges and Jewry Streets.
It is important that the cycle lane is well used as the lack of use will no doubt be cited as a reason to remove it by objectors.
As we understand it, the closure of Hyde Street is required so that there is no traffic exiting Hyde Street and turning left into what will be one-lane only for motor traffic; also to allow enough space for a safe shared path for cyclists and pedestrians at the top of North Walls. Although the closure reduces traffic from Hyde Street, there is likely to be an increase from City Road.
City Centre North-South Routes (Section 2)
Contraflow on Parchment Street, St Peter’s Street – these small changes have been on our wish list for years as it provides a North – South route avoiding most of the one way system. They will also reduce the distance travelled on North Walls for some cyclists. Great news and they should be given our full support. These will be signage only given the small number of motor vehicles but there is likely to be a protected entry into Parchment Street and St Peter Street to prevent conflict with motorists coming the other way.
Permitting two-way cycling along Middle Brook Street from the High Street to Friarsgate is crucial as it will, for the first time, create a continuous route from the City Centre to River Park, Abbots Barton, Hyde, Kings Barton (soon) and Kings Worthy. This will be shared with pedestrians and should be designed for slow-speed cycling. It’s also an important step towards a north-south route right through the centre.
Hyde Street: We support this closure on the understanding that it is required to enable North Walls to be reduced to one lane for motor vehicles, and for a safe shared path to be provided at the top of North Walls.
St Peter’s Street to St Thomas Street link via High Street: This route would allow cyclists to avoid using the lights at Southgate Street. It is therefore worth supporting. When the High Street gets busy (remember those days..) it will be advisable to take care crossing it. This scheme is not covered in the information pack.
Upper High Street (Section 3)
This proposal includes a number of sections of contraflow in Upper High Street, and cycling down hill on the top section of the High Street.
The most useful part of these changes is to permit contraflow cycling between The Westgate and Staple Gardens. The change would give access to Southgate Street via Trafalgar Street. This option should be signposted in order to encourage use.
This scheme would be more useful if the contraflow went all the way to the Southgate Street traffic lights (another 50m). How are cyclists from the station and Romsey Road expected to get to the city centre without this link?
We support this as far as it goes – but it could, one day, go a little bit further!
Romsey Road crossing at Clifton Terrace (Section 4)
The proposal is for a pedestrian only crossing on Romsey Road. It is disappointing that it is not a Toucan Crossing (both pedestrians and cyclists) to connect to the cycle path along St James Terrace providing a safer crossing. Without this it is not beneficial to cyclists and will encourage cyclists to use the footway and cross at the Puffin crossing.
However this should be supported as it is of benefit to pedestrians.
After many years of inaction this is a welcome set of proposals that could become a reality with local support and use. They are not perfect, experimental, and potentially only temporary, but a first step to delivering on Winchester’s Movement Strategy promises.
These improvements should help both those trying to get into the city centre as well as those travelling through the centre. They should encourage more of Winchester’s residents, particularly those a little outside the city centre, into the city as it is gets easier and more pleasant to do so with the economic benefits that would follow. Winchester residents don’t use their city enough because of access issues. “Popping” into Winchester is almost unimaginable by car!
Other road users will get the indirect benefits of fewer cars making short journeys.
What we would like you to do is…
Please take a look at the proposals and provide your feedback on the HCC website. Our downloadable completion guide might help with your response. Spread the word too – especially to those who might be persuaded to cycle more frequently! Making your views known to Friends, Family and local Councillors would be appreciated too.
Deadline for feedback is 21st March.