What’s this all about?
This post is about something called the “Emergency Active Travel Fund, Tranche 2” (or EATF 2 to its friends) – a government fund for local councils to carry out short-term measures to encourage more people to travel by foot and cycle during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Councils across England were invited to place bids for a share of the money, proposing the schemes they’d carry out. The Department for Transport then divvied up the funds depending on how convincing they thought the bids were.
Hampshire County Council (HCC) is the highway authority for our area, so it (not Winchester City Council) got to put a bid in.
If you’re wondering what happened to Tranche 1, it was a smaller fund that was handed out in the spring and paid for various short-term measures to help with social distancing and encourage cycling and walking… except in Winchester, where we got a few small changes to encourage walking but nothing specifically for cycling. In fact the council went out of its way to ensure that people couldn’t cycle up the closed-off lane of North Walls!
What was in the council’s bid?
You can read the whole bid at: https://documents.hants.gov.uk/transport/transportschemes/EATF-Tranche2-Bid.pdf .
Here we’ll summarise just the proposals that affect Winchester, with Cycle Winchester’s comments. If the council would like to provide us with any more detail, we’ll happily update this post.
All the planned measures are based in and around the city centre. If you’re hoping for a safe cycling route into town from Oliver’s Battery or Weeke, don’t hold your breath. This contrasts with other parts of Hampshire such as Basingstoke or Aldershot, where whole neighbourhoods have been selected for improvement.
Proposed measures to encourage cycling in Winchester
‘Point closures’ at Hyde Street/North Walls junction and in Great Minster Street
You spotted it, these were already put in as part of the ‘Tranche 1’ work months ago, but will presumably become more permanent and (we hope) more cycle-friendly. While both of these are theoretically open to cyclists, they’re both obstacle courses at present.
Contraflow cycle lanes
These are segregated cycle lanes that let cyclists travel in the opposite direction to motor vehicles, with “flexible wands’ dividing the cycle lane from the main carriageway. They’re proposed for:
- North Walls, from Upper Brook St up to Jewry St. It’s progress, but we think this should have started at least as far back as Middle Brook St, so it would link with routes into town and out through the park. Sadly it seems that keeping a handful of parking spaces on North Walls is more important. So long as cycle access is made possible from St Peter’s car park onto North Walls, though, this could still be useful.
- Jewry St, from the North Walls junction as far as Tower St. This should allow you to ride past the Theatre Royal, then turn up into Tower Street between the theatre and the Discovery Centre. It should also let you go straight across from Hyde St into Jewry St if designed properly.
- Upper High Street from Newburgh St to Sussex St – so you can cross the railway bridge at the top of St Paul’s Hill and turn right, down the Upper High St, towards the Westgate. It’s OK, though would be a lot more useful if they’d included a cycle route up from the station to the Upper High Street.
- High St between Tower St and Southgate St, with a cyclists-only phase introduced in the traffic lights at Southgate St. Combined with the Upper High Street lane above, this should give a continuous cycle route from St Paul’s Hill down to Southgate Street. We’re hoping the cyclists-only phase of the lights will let you ride on down into the pedestrian/cycle section of the High Street by Barclays Bank, but it’s not clear.
Cycling to be permitted in some current pedestrianised areas.
‘Cycling will be permitted on some very short sections of the existing pedestrianised area to further improve connectivity.’ It doesn’t say which sections! We see Middle Brook St (past Iceland and the Brooks Centre) as the top priority for this, as it’s a wide street with plenty of space and is the missing link in a cycle route that could stretch from the High Street all the way out through Abbots Barton. We’ve suggested this to the council and its consultants many times. Will they include that? They’re not telling us so far.
Contraflow cycling in quiet streets
These aren’t separate cycle lanes, just signs and road markings to allow cyclists to ride both ways on the street, in:
- St Peter’s St. This provides a parallel alternative to Jewry St to get from North Walls into town, though the St George’s St crossing is a big problem
- Parchment St. This provides a good quiet route, easy cycle access to the Parchment St shops and businesses, and easier access across St George’s St next to the pedestrian crossing into the last bit of Parchment Street leading to the High Street by WH Smith. We’d like to see the pedestrian crossing turned into a ‘toucan’ crossing allowing cyclists as well as pedestrians to get from one section of Parchment St to the other.
New cycle signage on St James’s Terrace
A bit weird, this one. The bid says it will “complement the new puffin crossing being installed…on Romsey Road near to the junction with Clifton Terrace.” That doesn’t make sense, as a puffin crossing is pedestrian-only – it’s not going to help with cycling. We’re hoping this is a typo and the crossing will actually be a ‘toucan’ crossing (shared cycle/pedestrian) or have a parallel cycle crossing. This would provide a crossing from Clifton Terrace onto St James’s Terrace.
The bid also says St James’s Terrace will get cycle signage to make it clear that cyclists can use it. It’s already legal to cycle along St James’s Terrace but some people don’t realise this, so signs might help a little, but what really needs sorting out is the barriers at the other end of St James’s Terrace, which are a major obstacle, especially to cyclists with disabilities.
Overall, the council claims that these measures will provide a total of 0.6 miles of new “cycle corridors” in Winchester.
General measures county-wide
The following are schemes to be applied across the county; the proposal doesn’t say which will apply in Winchester.
A ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhood Kit’ to be provided
This will be a kit of traffic control measures to be put in for trial periods where local communities have requested it. That might include signs, bollards, planters, guidance and more.
What’s a Low Traffic Neighbourhood, you ask? Well…
‘“Low traffic neighbourhoods” are groups of residential streets, bordered by main or distributor roads (the places where buses, lorries, non-local traffic should be), where motor vehicle through traffic is discouraged or removed. The main principle is that every resident can drive onto their street, have access for deliveries and refuse collections but it will be harder or impossible to drive straight through from one main road to the next.’
Could your neighbourhood benefit from this? We don’t know how the lucky neighbourhoods will be selected, but start talking to your local councillors now. You can read more about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods here.
Cycle parking grant for Hampshire businesses
This is money to pay for constructing bike racks and shelters. Businesses will have to sign up for the Cycle to Work scheme (a tax relief scheme that lets employees obtain bicycles at reduced cost) in order to qualify.
Measures for schools
… such as new and upgraded cycle racks and scooter storage, and flashing 20mph signs where traffic speed is an issue. Which schools? Again we don’t know. If you’re a parent or a teacher or a school governor in Winchester, please ask about this and let us know what response you get.
Evaluation of the schemes
HCC’s bid includes a budget for assessments and public consultation to see what effect these changes have and to decide whether to make them permanent.
When will this all happen?
HCC says all contracts will be awarded by 31st March 2021, with work completed by 31st December 2021 (apart from a couple of complex schemes elsewhere in the county).
How did HCC decide what to bid for?
It’s not clear how the council arrived at their list of measures. There was a consultation some time ago where people were invited to vote for which measures should be the top priorities. Our thanks to the many Cycle Winchester supporters who took part in this, pushing some of our suggested improvements to the top of the popularity list. A few of the top-scoring items in that poll made it onto this bid, but some of the most popular ones didn’t – for example, the idea to reduce traffic on the City Bridge to one lane, traffic-light controlled, allowing space for cycling and walking and a safe connection into the Weirs riverside path. We were told it would be in the EATF Tranche 2 bid… but it’s not here.
And did HCC get the money it asked for?
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced the outcome of the EATF Tranche 2 bids last week
HCC bid for £3.28 million from DfT to cover the whole county, and was awarded 95% of what it asked for.
That’s not bad, but compare it to similar-sized counties like Surrey (£6.4m), Kent (£6.1m) Essex (£7.4m) – all of which also got 95% of the amounts they bid for – and it looks as if Hampshire isn’t being anywhere near as ambitious as it could be when it comes to active travel.
Closer to home, neighbouring authority Southampton City Council bid for £1.2m – a lot considering its size. It got (wait for it) 125% of that. That’s right, the bid was so impressive that the DfT has allocated extra money for them to do what they’ve promised. Why the difference? We don’t know, but we can make a guess. Southampton City Council has a plan for cycling and walking routes. It might not be perfect but it’s ambitious, it’s integrated, it shows how everything will connect up, and it’s already under way. They were able to show how the work funded by their bid would link in with what they’d already done and what they were planning for the longer. HCC isn’t there yet, and certainly not in Winchester.
So is this good news?
It’s a start. Many of the proposed measures for Winchester will be useful and could fit into a future network of cycle routes, so we’re keen to see them advanced. HCC has promised that it will do these things so Cycle Winchester will be holding them to account – and providing constructive suggestions!
We’ll also be pressing them to make sure that any cycle facility put in as part of this project is up to a usable standard – something HCC doesn’t always manage. (As we write, there’s a short cycle lane being built near Kings School that’s well below government standards.) The Department for Transport recently released a new set of standards for cycle facilities. HCC’s bid only says that it will “seek to” apply these standards when it does this work. We don’t think that’s good enough. There’s no excuse for substandard, difficult-to-use, unsafe cycle facilities.
Meanwhile we continue to press for an overall plan for a cycle route network that these measures and others can fit into. The county council has a consultancy working on something called the “Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan” (LCWIP) which is meant to deliver this, but so far they’ve cut it down to just three isolated routes, ignoring most of Winchester and the surrounding settlements. We’ve seen no evidence of a long-term strategy or a vision.
What can I do?
We need to keep the pressure on the council to keep to its word, and to ensure that Winchester doesn’t get forgotten in the county-wide schemes.
- If you think some of these measures will be useful, please contact your local county and city councillors and tell them you support them.
- If you’re involved with a local community group and like the sound of the “Low traffic neighbourhood” trials, raise that with your local councillors too.
- If you’re connected with a local school, ask about the measures for schools mentioned above.
- If you run a local business, ask about the cycle storage subsidies for businesses – raise it with the chamber of commerce and Winchester BID if you can.
- And as ever, if you want to help our campaign to make Winchester a more cycling-friendly city – get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.