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Letter: London Road Is ‘Not Suitable for the Designed Safer Cycle Lanes’

Published on: 1 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 1 Feb, 2023

Image of London Road taken in August 2022. Google Street View.

From Anthony Mallard

In response to Pushing Pedals: London Road Cycle Lanes – We Must Find a Way

While I have some sympathy with the points made by Doug Clare and accept that to encourage individuals to leave their cars at home and travel by alternative means, a number of changes have to be made, not least there has to be reliable and affordable public transport.

In Burpham, bus services have been reduced to a minimum by the recent withdrawal of one bus company’s services. Presently, one can wait a considerable time as an advertised service fails to arrive.

It also has to be accepted that some roads are just not suitable for the designed safer cycle lanes of the type proposed for London Road. Examples elsewhere have had to be removed or significantly modified because of the chaos and additional pollution they caused.

London Road has existed for several hundreds of years. It started as a muddy lane and as the years passed, the only change has been to the surface structure which was strengthened to take motor vehicles.

Its width in many places remains too narrow to safely accommodate the proposed changes and it can’t be widened.

Last week, the Highways team undertook work on the road bridge over the A3 at Clay Lane. Burpham became gridlocked for the duration of these road works as it frequently does during the morning school run and more especially when traffic diverts from the A3.

This, I am confident, would be the daily outcome should the cycle lane scheme be implemented. Over 400 people from all walks of life, attended at very short notice a public meeting. The overwhelming conclusion to which was that the proposed scheme was unacceptable to them.

The largest public meeting in years reflected the level of concern about SCC’s London Road scheme.

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Responses to Letter: London Road Is ‘Not Suitable for the Designed Safer Cycle Lanes’

  1. Victor Howarth Reply

    February 2, 2023 at 9:09 am

    I like many in the Burpham area cannot cycle and at our age it would be difficult to start again. Most of us no longer have cars and rely on friends, family and public transport to get any further than the local shops. Doctors and any hospital that we have to attend are bus and taxi rides away.

    So we have stopped using cars, can’t cycle and are at the mercy of young healthy individuals who can. Who thinks that a road width designed around the width of a cart and horse or a carriage for the wealthy to travel from Portsmouth to London in single file can accommodate additional casual traffic in both directions?

    How about rickshaws capable of taking elderly Burpham residents to doctors and the RSCH? They would have to be covered so as to keep passengers dry when it rains.

    PS You ask for comments, and then want them moderated. That is not free speech but what happens in Communist countries, isn’t it?

    Editor’s response: Please see our policy on comments here. We moderate our comments, despite the extra legal responsibility that gives us, because we wish to differentiate our published comments from those on social media.

    But we never intend to change their meaning just remove vitriol, bad language, namecalling and correct poor English. The Dragon is completely independent. We decide what is published, not government edict. I don’t think that is similar to any autocratic Communist country.

  2. Paul Robinson Reply

    February 4, 2023 at 4:14 pm

    If SCC keeps the vehicle carriageway along the London Road at six meters kerb to kerb width it will be impossible for HGVs to use this arterial route in both directions.

    No vehicle drives hard up against the kerb, but if we say conservatively 25 cm off the kerb the useable width reduces to 5.5 meters.

    Talking to an HGV driver I know he says a typical HGV tractor unit is 2.55 meters wide and the mirrors protrude a further 30 cm per side. That takes the overall width of an HGV to 3.16 meters. So even if the HGV’s were driving hard against the kerb they are still too wide to pass each other on a six-meter carriageway without mounting the kerb that presumably separates them from cyclists. There would also be the risk of the HGV dropping off the kerb into the cycleway.

    • John Lomas Reply

      February 4, 2023 at 7:46 pm

      Even if a LGV (large goods vehicle) was 25cm from the kerb, it’s mirror would still be over the kerb, so any closer and it could well hit a cyclist with its mirror. It is also likely that PSVs (public service vehicles) will fall foul of this width challenge and while LGV mirrors are relatively high off the ground level those on PSVs are not; I have often knocked mirrors off alignment when alighting from a bus.

      • Paul Robinson Reply

        February 5, 2023 at 7:30 pm

        That is why I used the word ‘conservatively’. I was putting forward my argument in a way that would favour SCC and demonstrate that HGV’s still wouldn’t get passed each other.

  3. Andrew Calladine Reply

    February 6, 2023 at 9:39 am

    Victor Howarth is a classic example of the generation who led the way with car dependency and left my generation and future generations with an almighty mess to clear up.

    Climate change, an obesity crisis and now with their final rattle being thrown from the pram, trying to block a scheme that would allow children to cycle safely to school and others to leave their car at home, to go shopping or travel to work.

    Most car journey’s in Guildford are three miles or less. If SCC have got any brains at all they will get on with this scheme and put children and public health first for a change.

    • Paul Robinson Reply

      February 6, 2023 at 3:45 pm

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

      Who knew that when Victor allegedly “led the way with car dependancy” it would develop the way it has? Climate change was unheard of the 1960s. There was no obesity crisis because the majority had manual active jobs and weren’t spending their working day sat in front of a PC and eating foods high in sugar and salt.

      Not even the government and the good Dr Beeching could see what was coming otherwise they wouldn’t have closed all the branch lines that served the towns and allowed housing developments to be built on the former track beds preventing the existing lines being reinstated.

      The Guildford – Horsham line is a local example. The line was closed just before the large Cranleigh housing development was started in the 1960s. At least the French had the good sense to prohibit building on former railway land.

    • John Perkins Reply

      February 6, 2023 at 3:59 pm

      There seems to be an assumption shared by many of the younger generation that everything wrong is the fault of ‘boomers’ and nothing that’s good need be considered (being a wealthy country didn’t just happen by magic).

      They might look foolish if at some time in their lives it turns out that climate change is not man-made or they themselves become obese and unable to exercise. Nor is traffic the only threat to children cycling alone.

      Victor Howarth makes the point that not everyone, especially older people, can use cars let alone bicycles. Three miles is a long way to go if you have bad knees or it’s raining.

      • Mark Stamp Reply

        February 8, 2023 at 12:22 pm

        The evidence overwhelmingly shows that climate change is man-made, you just need to look at the rate of change of temperatures in the last 100 years compared to the entire history of the earth.

        We could be a wealthy country and still have invested in our climate. Look at our twin town of Freiburg which employs 70 climate officers compared to Guilford’s one.

        • Mark Percival Reply

          February 8, 2023 at 10:09 pm

          Well said Mr Stamp, we can’t have these right wong denial views given the oxygen of publicity without knocking down their view.

          I was surprised the editor published Mr Perkins’s comments.

          Does The Dragon News deny climate change?

          Editor’s response: No but we don’t deny free speech either.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      February 7, 2023 at 10:18 am

      Mr Calladine has a valid point.

      1) he diminishes by making an ad hominem attack on Mr Howarth, who does not deserve to be condemned just because he belongs to a certain generation;
      2) it is entirely possible (indeed probable) that both points are valid ie that there needs to be better provision for cycling and that the current proposals are not fit for purpose.

      This is all about practical solutions not inter-generational strife.

  4. Howard Smith Reply

    February 6, 2023 at 10:36 pm

    Andrew Calladine is absolutely right here. Nearly all the children at George Abbot school live within a mile or so and could easily cycle if safe to do so.

    This would not only great for them, their parents and the environment but for car drivers too, I mean those that absolutely have no alternative than to use their cars.

    Sometimes the short-sightedness is breathtaking.

    Howard Smith is the vice-chair of Guildford Labour.

    • S Callanan Reply

      February 7, 2023 at 3:15 pm

      Children cycling to George Abbot School don’t have to use the London Road, do they?

      As far as I can tell from Google Maps there are a number of routes cyclists can take from the area a mile or so around the George Abbot.

      Of course that’s not as virtue-signalling as digging up the London Road and inconveniencing huge numbers of people, but there we are.

      • Mark Percival Reply

        February 8, 2023 at 7:29 am

        Drivers don’t have to use cars on London Road, do they?

        As far as I can tell from Google Maps there are a number of roads cars can take from the area a mile or so around London Road

        Of course that’s not as virtue-signalling as congestion, queuing cars delaying emergency vehicles, air pollution, freeing up limited road space for those who need to travel. All the while inconveniencing huge numbers of people, but there we are.

      • Howard Smith Reply

        February 8, 2023 at 10:08 am

        S Callanan, makes a very interesting point. Do cars have to use the London Road because there are other routes they could also take? Perhaps that would resolve the issue.

        It seems it needs to be said, no one is stopping Victor Howarth using his car, he will just have a slightly longer journey for a short period of time.

        I think the problem here really is that a minority of drivers will not tolerate any short-term inconvenience and refuse to concede the very real long-term benefits – to themselves as well as to everyone else.

        Howard Smith is the vice-chair of Guildford Labour

    • Robert Keiller Reply

      February 7, 2023 at 11:58 pm

      I’m not sure how well-informed Howard Smith is about travel patterns to George Abbott. Both my daughters attend(ed) the school. Indeed nearly all their friends do live within a mile or so of the school – and that’s why they all walk to school. And they prefer walking to cycling because that is more sociable, even though for the vast majority there are already safe routes avoiding London Road.

      In so far as there are pupils living slightly further from the school, most live in Guildford south of the railway, so the natural route to school goes via the railway underpass and not along London Road.

      Whatever other merits this plan may have, cycling to George Abbott is not one of them.

      • Howard Smith Reply

        February 8, 2023 at 1:44 pm

        Robert Keiller asks about my experience of cycling to George Abbot School. It is as a pupil there when I used to cycle every day. It was safer then as there was much less traffic.

        I hope my children also go there but I wouldn’t want them to cycle on the London Road, which would certainly be the most direct route from our home.

        I’m glad Mr Keiller’s children enjoy the walk but others that may prefer to cycle. Is he saying that everyone should not have the choice or opportunity to travel safely by bike? What does he have against pupils cycling to the school other than the five-month inconvenience to drivers?

        Howard Smith is the vice-chair of Guildford Labour

        • Robert Keiller Reply

          February 9, 2023 at 10:05 am

          What I object to is a plan put in place with minimal consultation and poor justification.

          If London Road would be the most direct route for Mr Howard’s children (based on his published election address I think it actually depends on which school entrance they would use – but perhaps he has since moved) then they are in a very small minority and it is misleading to present this scheme as a general benefit for the school.

          It seems most odd that other, far less controversial, improvements to the cycling network are not implemented first, eg reduced speed limits on residential roads.

          For what it is worth, both my daughters enjoy cycling and ride regularly in and around Guildford (one was the South East region under 16 cycling road race champion), but neither ever wished to cycle to school.

  5. John Lomas Reply

    February 7, 2023 at 2:02 pm

    What is the source of the: “most car journeys in Guildford are less than 3 miles” statistic?

    Does it include traffic census results where they ask where you have come from (last stop), where are you going (next stop), and totally ignore the fact that that may only be one part of a much longer journey?

    I have had experience of that method of questioning drivers because I was in the middle of a 128-mile journey but had an intermediate stop to drop something off and was then headed for a service area for a meal and comfort stop, and they didn’t want to know about the whole journey, just the leg I was on at the time.

  6. Mark Bray-Parry Reply

    February 7, 2023 at 7:12 pm

    It is fine for those that need to use cars to use cars. However, if active travel and public transport was utilised by those who can, we wouldn’t be worrying about the traffic that the London Road cycle lane would create.

    Habits take a lot of effort to change and almost never happen without incentive. Time that government (both local and national) stepped in with schemes that back up active travel, including free public transport passes for children/ accompanying adults and car restriction zones around schools.

    If they do so, not only will schools benefit from cleaner air and healthier children, but all of Guildford will benefit from less cars on the road, including car users!

  7. J Dickinson Reply

    February 8, 2023 at 8:17 am

    Correspondents can opt to ignore national policies and the research behind them, but our councils have more backbone. They must deliver an environment that underpins the UK’s policy to ensure 50 per cent of the journeys made along this and other urban roads are made on foot or by bike.

    The UK’s chief planner took the trouble to write the section on urban planning in the chief medical officer’s annual report on pollution. It makes sobering reading. Perhaps more people should do so:

  8. Anthony Mallard Reply

    February 8, 2023 at 8:46 am

    Mark Bray-Parry is clearly and properly interested in the improvement of the heavily polluted atmosphere in Guildford. His remarks are pertinent but his argument relies too much on the ifs and buts, examples being “If active travel….” “Time that government stepped in.” etc.

    In a utopian world this would be, as the Americans’ say, “just dandy”. Sadly, the reality is that the government (both local and national) doesn’t have the resources to undertake such a comprehensive scheme, including free public transport, car restriction zones, etc such as he suggests.

    In the real world the proposed scheme, which appears superficially to reduce pollution and improve the safety of cyclists, will, by increasing standing traffic, actually make the former situation worse.

  9. Valerie Thompson Reply

    February 8, 2023 at 5:49 pm

    How can 50 per cent of journeys be made on foot or by bike? It supposes that I and everyone else is prepared to park miles away from their nearest towns and walk to do their shopping and then carry it back to their car, or to accompany young children to school.

    There is no thought in these absurd policies for those who are old, disabled, or travelling from distant rural hamlets, those with medical appointments or those with babies. Walking and cycling are for the young and active and are often undertaken not to get somewhere but for amusement and exercise or to walk the dog.

    Those people who think there are alternative routes to London Road should think about people who leave the A3 to get into Guildford, or go to Sainsbury’s or Aldi. Where are they meant to go? So would these people have to leave the A3 at Ripley, go through Clandon and use the A246. That would be be ridiculous!

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