Whitchurch, situated on the River Test, surrounded by beautiful Hampshire countryside, and having a number of cafés, shops and pubs is well-situated to be a honeypot for cycling.
It is also just off the National Cycle Network with Route NCN246 passing through the Bourne valley at St Mary Bourne and is also a popular staging point for many organised cycle rides. Indeed every weekend and most days Whitchurch attracts visiting cyclists who are enjoying the town’s facilities. These visitors bring trade and a vibrancy to the town and indeed add colour and life to the streets – which it must be admitted can look rather unkempt and drab.
Kudos Coffee, in the centre, is exceptionally popular and attracts many to the town with cycles regularly seen propped up outside. Cycles also get parked outside the Co-op and Town Hall where there is seating (although at present that is temporarily unavailable due to building work).
The Silk Mill is also a very popular stop with its lovely tearoom and lawn, and cyclists are made to feel very welcome. Both these locations are included on independent national cycling sites where cyclists recommend cafés and refreshment stops.
Meanwhile a number of businesses have recognised the benefits of encouraging cyclists with both the White Hart Hotel and the Denning’s of Whitchurch ‘bistro’ providing their own cycle parking.
But is Whitchurch a ‘Cycle Friendly’ town? It’s a question raising its head in some quarters. The local Town Council recently removed cycle parking in the centre with one reason being that it prevented pavement parking by motor vehicles. Others claimed town centre cycle parking was not used despite evidence to the contrary, and a recent survey of over 100 cyclists showed that town centre parking was required by the majority of respondees. Regrettably one trader has also sadly posted anti-cycling messages on social media but fingers won’t be pointed here! Some of these attitudes would have no place in the more progressive and environmentally aware localities on the continent.
There have also been a few road-rage incidents, but anecdotally no more than elsewhere and almost certainly caused by driver frustration. But its not just cyclists who may cause some of the less considerate drivers anguish but also the preponderance of HGVs and the large vehicles that can congest the narrow streets. Maybe its just some patience that is required and some greater understanding and mutual respect between all who use the town, whether on foot, bicycle, car, or lorry.
So is Whitchurch cycle friendly? What do you think? How many out of 10 should it score?
“A new trial scheme will test how a healthier and safer environment for young people walking and cycling to school could be achieved. It will create low traffic areas at the start and end of the school day…”
Hampshire County Council is running a trial at three schools where streets close to schools will be closed to non-essential traffic at drop-off and pick-up times.
Could the roads near the Primary School in Whitchurch benefit from such a scheme?
HCC say: The closures will be managed by trained stewards in high-visibility vests between 08.15 – 09.00 hours and 14:30 -15.30 hours approximately. “
“Certain exemptions apply, including anyone cycling, residents, emergency services, school transport, blue badge holders, deliveries, businesses within affected area of the street and carers of residents on the street. Any parking restrictions will operate as normal. Unless exempt, parents will not be permitted to drive into the closure zone to drop off or pick up their children. “
School traffic around the two Whitchurch schools is known to be notorious for speeding traffic, blockage of drives, parking on and driving along the pavements and drivers leaving engines idling.
If the trials in Farnham, Gosport and Holbury in the New Forest are successful it is hoped to roll out schemes throughout the County.
As part of a Highway Code review in perhaps one of the most long-awaited developments, a new hierarchy of priority has been announced by the Department for Transport. Could this benefit some of the traffic problems in Whitchurch?
The hierarchy places pedestrians at the top and the heaviest and potentially most lethal road users at the bottom. To see such a principle introduced could see major benefits for those who travel around Whitchurch which suffers from narrow pavements, poor crossings, speeding traffic, HGVs and a lack of cycle facilities.
With reference to cycling, a DfT statement said “car drivers will be responsible for ensuring cyclists are safe, while cyclists will be responsible for looking out for pedestrians ”, adding that the hierarchy “does not remove the need for all road users to behave responsibly.”
Naomi House/Jacksplace, hospices for children and young adults and just down the road from Whitchurch, is one of the most worthy charities in the area. And you can support them this August with a challenge. Why not give it a go?
Cycle 105 miles your way – over a day, a weekend, a week or across the whole month of August. Start at any time – its your choice..
This is a challenge for cyclists everywhere; rides of all types will count towards your total!
You can take on the challenge alone, with your family & friends or colleagues, the choice is yours! Track and share your progress using a fitness app to keep an eye on your mileage or just log it yourself.
Take part in Pedal 4 Play and make your miles count!
Is this one of the worst fails for a barrier on a cycle path?
It has already been noted that the barriers installed on the Mill Springs shared Cycle/Pedestrian path cannot be used by a number of users, yet they still remain.
The chicane restrictions are an accessibility nightmare for cycles using a trailer or a family tagalong. They could also restrict work bikes, tandems, hand cycles and tricycles, and that’s before the needs of mobility scooters are considered. Double buggies are also likely to be hindered. The question is being asked – was an Equalities Impact Assessment undertaken? Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council as the planning authority should be able to provide that.
But another problem is occurring especially at the western end near the sports changing rooms. The installation is also restricting access to maintenance vehicles for the three sports pitches. While there are two bollards that can be unlocked to allow access, maintenance vehicles are then confronted with the staggered barriers across the path. These vehicles are taking to the surrounding grassed areas, completely destroying it and creating a stony bare unsightly eyesore – and when it rains stones and mud get washed down into the road below causing additional hazards.
The area is currently under the management of Mill Springs developer David Wilson Homes, but will soon pass into the ownership and responsibility of the Whitchurch Town Council. Let us hope that before the site is handed into public ownership this issue is resolved or future costs may rest on local residents. It has also been suggested that should anyone fall trying to negotiate the barriers it could also lead to potential injury claims.
The solution would seem to be a very simple one; remove the superfluous staggered barriers both here and at the other end; retain lockable bollards to retain access for service vehicles; make access to all legitimate users possible; comply with requirements of the 2010 Equality Act, and remove the need for maintenance vehicles to churn up the grass. Sorted. Except it isn’t, at least not yet.
NATIONALLY Its not just local routes that suffer such poor designs but also the Sustrans led National Cycle Network. Listen to hand cyclist Ellis Palmer, then look at the barriers in Whitchurch at Micheldever Road end of the Mill Springs path (pic below): Link to Video: BARRIERS ON NATIONAL ROUTES(Sustrans / Ellis Palmer)
New cycle parking has been installed at the White Hart in the centre of Whitchurch.
Cycling levels have increased considerably recently, with Whitchurch becoming a popular destination. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, gentle lanes and river valleys and with a selection of shops and cafés, it has hit the cyclists radar as can be seen by the numbers who visit. Research has shown that investment in cycling facilities can increase revenue considerably resulting in forward looking businesses supporting the activity. See: CYCLING CAN INCREASE TRADE
Owned by family brewers Arkell’s, the White Hart provides excellent food, drinks, and accommodation, with a very friendly welcome and is highly recommended. Dedicated cycle parking is low in the town after the Town Council removed parking provision from the centre although it is looking to relocate it elsewhere. That exercise is believed to be ongoing.
An important requirement by those who cycle is that parking should be very close to and convenient to where they are visiting. The White Hart achieves this with the parking incorporated into its new outdoor area. A visit to the White Hart should not be missed.
There has been a good result to the lobbying for allowing cyclists to use the Hampshire Waste Recycling Centres from which they were previously excluded. As from Monday 19th July those on cycles can make a booking like anyone in another vehicle.
Hampshire County Council say: “Cyclists wishing to visit the recycling centre from 19 July 2021 can do so through the booking system, by selecting a convenient time slot in the same way as a vehicle user. When booking please enter “BIKE” in the registration field.“
Pedestrian and Mobility scooter access is still restricted. However trials are commencing at three centres to determine whether it may be possible. Details are here: PEDESTRIAN/MOBILITY SCOOTER ACCESS TRIAL
Hampshire County Council has launched a new grant scheme, to encourage organisations and businesses, to promote cycling as an alternative and environmentally friendly way to get to work.
THIS COULD BE GOOD FOR WHITCHURCH
The Workplace Cycle Parking Grant and E-Bike (Electric Bike) Loan scheme enables organisations and businesses to apply for a grant to install safe and sheltered workplace parking or an E-Bike loan that employees can make use of.
The deadline for applications is 13th August 2021 and organisations can apply online.
£150,000 has been allocated for the grant scheme which has come from the Department for Transport’s £3.28 million Active Travel Fund.
Organisations that will be able apply for a Workplace Cycle Grant or E-bike loan are:
• Individual organisations; • Groups of two or more organisations e.g., a retail park; • NHS and other health care providers; • Schools, colleges, and other educational providers; • Charities and community interest companies; • Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises; and • Limited companies.
Opportunity to visit Historic Hampshire Churches throughout the area.
On Ride & Stride day whether you are on your own or with a group, or with your family and friends this is a wonderful opportunity to explore unique and unusual historic churches.
At the present time both All Hallows and the Baptist Church are listed as two of the participants in Whitchurch. Many in the local villages and countryside are also taking part and the event is based on visiting as many as you wish.
You will see beautiful countryside while being able to get some exercise travelling between the churches whether you are on foot or on a bike at the same time as raising money for church restorations.
Ride and Stride happens only once a year on the second Saturday in September. This year it will be on 11th September 2021.
It gives you the opportunity to go inside as many churches as possible, chat with church representatives and learn more about the history and heritage of each individual church.
The sponsorship money you raise will be used for repairs and restoration to the churches and chapels of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for you and the next generation to enjoy. Here is the Cycling Page: RIDE & STRIDE CYCLING
Micheldever Road and its junction with Winchester Road is a notorious junction in Whitchurch, being an access point for both the local Primary and Secondary Schools. It is subject to heavy use by traffic and suffers from road break up, potholes and pavement driving.
Complaints over the road markings have in part been listened to by Hampshire County Council. Exiting Micheldever Road has been hazardous as the Give Way markings had all but been worn away, and with the cracks in the road it had become difficult to see where to pull up to give way. With difficult sightlines especially for those turning right, there had been some near misses.
The lines have now been replaced although the poor broken surface remains which is a particular hazard for those cycling. It would have been good too, if Hampshire County Council had repainted the 20mph roundels at the same time. Maybe they ran out of paint.
And a pothole: Now all it needs is for Hampshire to sort out the recurring nearby pot hole and the blocked drain that is becoming a part of Whitchurch history. This has been ‘fixed’ so many times over the years that it is becoming part of Whitchurch’s folklore. Expect grass and weeds to emerge soon as happens most years. Some say it should be ‘Listed’.