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 may change).
The Silk Mill is also a very popular stop with its lovely tearoom and lawn, and cyclists are made to feel very welcome. Lovely cakes always go down well!
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 racks.
There are also plans to improve cycle access to the Primary School and also to create a dedicated cycle/pedestrian route to make access to and from the countryside easier and safer. These are positive steps and should be applauded.
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 clear 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 sadly posted anti-cycling messages on social media but fingers won’t be pointed here!
Meanwhile new barriers installed on a newly created shared use path are failing to meet today’s guidelines on accessibility for the disabled and other mobility restricted users. Will they be replaced? They haven’t yet.
Some of these attitudes would have no place in more enlightened and environmentally aware localities on the continent, and increasingly in the UK, where the added economic value and the well-being and health benefits that those who cycle bring is recognised.
See: CYCLING BRINGS TRADE
There have also been a few road-rage incidents, but probably no more than elsewhere and often caused by driver frustration, although Hampshire is one of the worse counties in the country for cycle safety. But its not just cyclists who may cause some of the less considerate drivers anguish but also the preponderance of HGVs and other large vehicles that can congest the narrow streets, an issue that concerns many.
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 – or are there deeper issues at play?
So is Whitchurch cycle friendly? What do you think?
How many out of 10 should it score?
Please leave us your comments.