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Opinion: Our Views on Proposed Changes Should Count

Published on: 3 Dec, 2022
Updated on: 6 Dec, 2022

By Martin Giles

One thing voters rarely forgive in their political leaders is arrogance.

There is a difference between fighting for proposals against political opposition and railroading initiatives that are widely unpopular with the public affected.

Wise politicians understand that but more and more we see examples, at all levels, of inflated self-belief, imperiousness and high-handedness.

Some politicians seem to believe that their undoubted ambition and drive gives them wisdom and good judgment. Perhaps they believe that the votes of people who barely know them actually improves their IQ. Sadly, the evidence, lying all around us at the moment, shows this is not the case.

This conclusion was on display again this week with the surprising announcement of planned roadworks on London Road in Burpham.

Despite claims that consultation was conducted, it seemed to come out of the blue to local residents who are, understandably, outraged that a main road is to be partially closed for five months (it was originally to be seven). Major disruption is anticipated.

The work is to support the widely agreed and laudable aim of improving conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. With traffic congestion and pollution levels as they are this is something we should all support, but why this stretch of road and why should the work take so long?

And how was the local community consulted, what notice was taken of their concerns? The fact that the county councillors who represent the two SCC divisions affected did not know until very late in the day gives a major clue.

I happen to be a cyclist who has cycled all the major roads in and out of Guildford. None are great for cycling but the London Road is not the worst by a long way. It is straight and flat and wider than some.

A far bigger and off-putting problem is the lack of cycle through-routes in the town. When I commuted, and cycled the single mile from St Catherine’s, along Portsmouth Road to the railway station, I had the choice of taking on the gyratory or cycling on pavements. It is similar for cyclists heading for the station from most directions and similar for cyclists who simply want to go to the shops.

Who is deciding how to improve cycle routes? Are they cyclists? Are any councillors in Guildford cyclists? If there are, they are very few and don’t appear to be putting their experience to good use.

Unconnected stretches of cycle lanes, especially if they offer no real separation from motor vehicles, which are frequently parked in them without apparent sanction, are not the answer.

Some changes, and real improvement, could be made at little expense, for instance making suitable one-way streets two-way for bikes (as, for example, Bury Fields already is).

We need a far more urgent, imaginative and inclusive response to creating a usable and encouraging cycle infrastructure. As I have suggested before, why not hire a Dutch expert to advise us. The Dutch have proven expertise.

But what we need more than anything, across the board, not just on this issue, is real consultation and real engagement with local people. Real listening.

It should not be too much to ask: after all, we are the ones who will live with the results of the decisions being made.

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test 2 Responses to Opinion: Our Views on Proposed Changes Should Count

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    December 3, 2022 at 6:54 pm

    It gets worse: page 20 of the design standard, written by no other than Surrey County Council requires “bus routes to be 6.7m wide”. The proposed work restricts road width to six metres. Perhaps it should be explained publically, why the council can ignore its own road width standards document and the bridges and roads design document, written by the world-renowned Road Research Laboratory, to inflict such restrictions on the people of Burpham and our transient traffic.

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    December 3, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    Portsmouth Road is unfortunately too narrow from St Catherine’s to the start of Park Street. There is no room to include a cycle lane but a broken white line could be used on some of the stretches to delineate a cycle lane. Recent changes in the Highway Code should make it a little safer for cyclists.

    The footway in the opposite direction is also not wide enough to include a cycle lane but could be designated as shared use on most of its length. A cycle route via Lawn Road, Bury Fields and Bury Street [but only one way] exists but there is no safe access to the railway station.

    If the gyratory is removed in the way I have suggested, there should be scope for creating cycle lanes into the town centre and the railway station from most directions if not all. I believe GBC is interested in some of my ideas, so let’s wait and see how things develop. My ideas are described here and that for the riverside regeneration here.

    I have yet to upload my ideas on alterations that I believe are necessary for movements on Leapale Road, North Street, Chertsey Street and Onslow Street when redesigning the bus station in its current location. There would be scope for creating more cycle lanes. However St Edwards are discussing with SCC some ideas but they would probably not open up any scope for the inclusion of cycle lanes.

    Editor’s response: Yes, I did not mean to suggest that white-line cycle lanes were appropriate for Portsmouth Road. More imagination and radical thinking is required. Of course, the closure of Tumbling Bay Weir Bridge has closed a useful off-road route into the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists.

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