Fringe Box



Pushing Pedals: Walnut Tree Close Cycle Lane Made Permanent, Most of Guildford Yet To Go

Published on: 22 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 28 Jun, 2023

This is the regular column on local cycling by the Guildford Bicycle User Group (G-BUG). Its vision is to make cycling in Guildford safer, more convenient and fun. Members share a passion for making the borough more accessible through increased cycling.

By Cameron Allan

Success: The Walnut Tree Close cycle facilities and one-way trial has been made permanent!

Think of your favourite outdoor public space, perhaps sitting on the grass on the Mount, or quietly reading on a bench beside the river. It’s probably not at the side of a road, with noisy cars speeding past.

The one-way system and the cycle lane on Walnut Tree Close have been made permanent. Photo by Cameron Allan.

As it currently stands, it is these hostile roads that connect our special places. But what if we could transform the roads that connect these places into a special place in of themselves?

Our towns shouldn’t be just about the destination, but a little bit more about the journey to them.

I am absolutely not suggesting we replace the A3 with a canal, removing what is effectively a motorway would be extreme, but not completely unheard of (Google Seol or Utrecht motorway removal project – it’s truly incredible).

Nor am I saying we need to ban cars (it’s tricky to move a fridge on a bike). We do need cars for many of our journeys.

G-BUG member Cameron Allan said the car should be “treated as an equal, not a monarch”.

But what I am saying is that our roads should safely cater for all the people who use them regardless of how they travel and ideally be a little bit more enjoyable for everyone, while encouraging sustainable travel.

Surrey County Council recently trialed, and as of March 2023, made permanent some adjustments on Walnut Tree Close to make it a more enjoyable environment. Previously the road tried to cater for everybody and did not do it well.

Residents parking along the narrow road made it slow for two-way traffic. Pedestrians had few crossing points and there were no cycle amenities whatsoever. Traffic backed up to enter the town centre gyratory system making the road a pollution hotspot and unhealthy for residents.

Surrey County Council decided to make the road one way. This has reduced the car volume on the road making it faster for car drivers in the remaining direction. Pedestrians can much more easily cross the road and a fully segregated cycle lane uses the newly freed space.

The residents can now enjoy a more pollution-free environment.

There is no denying that the one-way closure has inconvenienced many car drivers, but in return the remaining users, be that drivers in the other direction, cyclists, pedestrians, and local residents now have a much better experience.

Since the 1960s the general consensus has been that we must design our urban spaces to cater for the car. Now with the greater knowledge of the negative effects of our car obsession from obesity to air pollution and the environment, modern towns are re-inventing themselves as places where the car is treated as an equal not a monarch.

The changes on Walnut Tree Close are testimony to this attitude. It will cause inconvenience to some, especially as a coherent cycling network is not yet built, and as a result people will still feel the need to drive, but we have to start somewhere.

In the future, we will have a road network that caters for everyone regardless of how they chose to travel, and everyone should arrive at their destination a little bit happier.

But as with our special places, the journey to this version of Guildford will be difficult and will fuel debates and discussion. However, this is something we have to accept if Guildford is going to continue to evolve as a modern happy, healthy town.

If you would like to see Guildford become a cycle-friendly town then join G-Bug, the Guildford cycle campaign group and join our mailing list.

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