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Opinion: What Has Happened to Guildford’s New Cycle Routes Plans?

Published on: 7 Dec, 2016
Updated on: 7 Dec, 2016
John Pletts

John Pletts

By John Pletts

Green Party candidate in the 2015 general election


The South East of England is over-populated and suffering stress, particularly in its transport system. We have over-crowded trains, unreliable buses (presumably adversely affected by traffic congestion) and the possibility of gridlock on Guildford’s roads at any time of the day.

When this issue was raised during the 2015 general election I do not recall any of the mainstream parties coming up with solutions beyond the standard calls for encouraging cycling and walking.

Traffic builds along Ladymead on the approach to the Stoke interchange.

Ladymead gridlock

The Green Party wants to see what is called a ‘modal shift’ take place, that is moving the bulk of people transport from cars to buses, bicycles and walking, within towns and cities.

We believe that carbon taxes or, preferably, carbon rationing will help to drive this change, but also that much better provision will have to be made for cyclists and walkers to move around towns. Nationally we see real progress being made with the provision of ‘super highways’ for cyclists in London, but in the smaller towns progress if any, is painfully slow.

Opinion Logo 1

Greens want to see reductions in the use of private cars; this is really the are where reductions in traffic are possible. There is much less scope for reducing lorry and van traffic. If we are serious about decongesting our towns we have to look primarily at the private car.

What are the Benefits of Modal Shift?

Firstly, in the long run people’s health will improve. It is a long term gain but we need to think ahead. Secondly, cycling particularly helps mental wellbeing. On bikes we are all at the same level, enthusiastic about what we are doing. Thirdly, we will lower the level of air pollution, becoming more and more a critical issue. Fourthly, the town’s streets will be pleasanter, and lastly, the proposed change will reduce the carbon footprint of Guildford and help in the fight against climate change.

So, what’s not to like?

There are plenty of people who want to fight climate change but do not want their lives to be affected. Nationally the present government seems unwilling to take certain effective measures for fear that some people might be alienated.

What’s happening now ?

Green Pletts Cycling Opinion

With some work, most routes can be made cycle-friendly

Not very much. The latest plans for Guildford by Allies and Morrison Architects envisage a radical reduction in vehicular traffic within the town but do not say how this might be achieved.

Surrey County Council, who are responsible for traffic circulation, are currently opposing plans for a new dedicated cycle route between the town centre and the train station. I am glad to say that our MP, Anne Milton, herself a cyclist, is supporting the scheme.

A recently arrived cyclist said to me recently: “Guildford is not a cycle-friendly town”. We have to change that by the provision of much better cycle storage within the town and much better cycle routes right into the town centre. As can be seen in the example in the photos, with some work most routes can be made cycle-friendly.

We must not be afraid to take space at key crunch points from roads as we favour reducing vehicular traffic.Where there are junctions we favour crossings that give priority to cyclists, as shown in the photo of Cambridge below.

Green Pletts Cycling Opinion

Cycle priority crossing in Cambridge

The Future

Unfavourable comparisons are frequently made between our provision in England for cycling and that in Holland, Germany and Denmark, almost anywhere on the continent, actually. Good cycling provision didn’t just happen, it took work over many years.

Copenhagen, for example, now has more bicycles than cars. The city council has invested lots of money in cycle paths, bridges and bike safety measures. It’s really paid off. 56% of people who live in Copenhagen now cycle to work while only 14% drive in.

We believe that with vision and determination we can save our very attractive town from choking to death, but we have to act now.

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Responses to Opinion: What Has Happened to Guildford’s New Cycle Routes Plans?

  1. Herbie Blackburn Reply

    December 7, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Great article which should be followed up the council.

    Continual road building is not the answer and with 45% of car journeys under two miles, many of those (not all) could be done by bike.

    More people would cycle if there was proper safe provision – the 54% increase in cycling along the pretty short (11 miles) amount of new Cycle Super Highways in London shows this.

  2. Dave Middleton Reply

    December 7, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    A commendable philosophy and I’m sure that a number of people who live and work locally could be encouraged to cycle to work if better provision for cyclists was provided.

    However, this must not be at the expense of other road users and pedestrians in terms of reduced road or footway width, or loss of priority on the roads, which leads to delays and even more congestion and pollution. True cycle safety can only be achieved by full separation of cycle and motorised traffic. Let’s not forget that the roads were originally made for and populated by the forerunner of the car, the horse and carriage, not the bicycle.

    There is also the fact that a cycle is often not the most suitable means of transport, be it when doing the weekly shop, or travelling to work in your best suit for an important meeting on a rainy day.

    I note that all the happy smiling cyclists portrayed in the opinion piece, are cycling on the flat. There is no getting away from the fact that Guildford is a town built in a gap around the site of an old river ford, surrounded by hills on all sides and however much you enjoy cycling, it’s no fun for the average rider, slogging up a steep hill on a bike!

    Finally, why is it that every group with an axe to grind, seems to want to add to the tax burden of our already overtaxed populace? I could say that cyclists themselves should fund these improvements via a cycle road tax and registration scheme, but seeing as most cyclists apparently can’t afford lights or a bell for their bikes, I’d guess that would be a non-starter.

  3. Valerie Thompson Reply

    December 8, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Comparing cycle-track provision in Copenhagen or anywhere in Holland, with what is possible in Guildford is nonsense.

    Many continental towns were re-developed after the war with wide boulevards, offering plenty of space for bikes. To reduce traffic lanes to a single carriageway will add hugely to the already appalling congestion in Guildford.

    Then there is the question of the hills, mentioned in the letter, and the fact that apart from the students there is a large, aged population, unable to take to a bike, who come into Guildford from the surrounding villages.

    The Park and Ride scheme is excellent, but would be severely compromised if the buses just sat in traffic-jams most of the day.

    Anyway, it is not just people coming to Guildford to shop, who need free-flowing traffic, but also commuters and travellers attempting to cross Guildford in either a North/South or East /West direction to get somewhere else.

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