Has anyone used the new Shared Cycle/Pedestrian path at Mill Springs in Whitchurch?
‘Chicane’ barriers have been erected at each end that are making it difficult for a number of users. (click on pics to enlarge)
Staggered ‘chicane’ railings have been placed on the David Wilson Homes development that are causing access issues making the route less convenient and appealing to those it is supposed to cater for.
These are especially awkward for those with pushchairs, prams, wheelchairs or using mobility scooters, as well as for larger cycles such as tandems, tricycles, cargo bikes or those with the popular family trailers and tagalongs. For some the barriers make it impassable. While there has not been a legal case they may also be breaking the requirements of the 2010 Equality Act.
The picture at the Micheldever Road end shows that some people are avoiding the barriers by going around them. That of course is not possible for some with mobility scooters or with less manoeuverable cycles. There has even been an attempt to block this desire line, with installation of a ‘bollard bodge’.
Meanwhile at the other end of the path, by the new changing rooms, there are also barriers and bollards, again with similar access issues. Here there are two removable bollards which are fine for controlling access by motor vehicles, but then another ‘chicane’ barrier. Why was this placed here? It would be useful to hear the thinking!
Such chicane barriers are being removed in parts of the country – yet here in Whitchurch they are installed. Whitchurch should, and can, do better.
Whitchurch Town Council has launched a survey to find out where cycle parking could be provided in the town. If you visit Whitchurch, even if only occasionally, you can help.
Do you visit the cafés, shops, parks, businesses, local services? Where would help you?
Early in 2020 the Town Council had installed parking racks in the centre to help prevent leaning on windows and to provide facilities for cyclists wanting to call into the cafés and shops. A number of local businesses along with some residents lobbied the Council and the decision was overturned and the racks removed. Where do these cycle parking racks now go? There are 8 available.
It is noticeable that cycling has massively increased and with the easing in lockdown and the better weather it is likely to grow further.
Cycles are already starting to be leant against walls and windows in the centre as cyclists like to park close to where they are visiting. Cyclists bring trade, as well as easing road space, reducing NHS costs and helping Climate Change aims so we should be encouraging it even more.
Hampshire County Council is currently stopping cyclists from using the Household Waste and Recycling Centres that they operate around the County.
At a time when Recycling and Climate Change are to the forefront of environmental issues, it just does not make sense.
Hampshire have failed to give any credible reasons for their discriminatory practice. One recent email claims that it is a ban presently in place because of social distancing issues, yet they have failed to explain why they believe drivers can social distance, but not those arriving by cycle.
The ban on dropping off unwanted items and waste for recycling …
… is anti-cycling and anti-active travel.
… is discriminatory against the 50% of the population who don’t own a car and against people who can’t fit a time slot.
… is against the declared HWRC policy to boost recycling and reduce fly-tipping.
… is against the declared HCC climate change policies.
… is financially unfair to those who do not drive and who are still paying Council Tax for this service, yet cannot use the facility.
But there is a glimmer of hope. Hampshire County Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Roy Humby, has said there will be a “full and proper trial … as soon as we are able to do so.”
That sounds suspiciously like kicking the issue into the long grass. It doesn’t need a trial, just some simple common sense.
Could Whitchurch have an inclusive cycling facility akin to the Wheels for Wellbeing charity scheme, now we have a potential location at Mill Springs?
These centres are popping up across the country to help those of all ages and abilities who wish to cycle safely, as well as help the less able enjoy exercise, the outdoors and meeting others.
Inclusivity, well-being, independence… As well as general support for anyone who wishes to cycle they provide a range of cycles of various types to help both those less able and those who are maybe returning to cycling and to help maintain independence, join in a social activity, improve health, address inequalities and have fun – and with the added benefit that all helps our climate change needs too.
Support for training Such a centre could provide a location for road safety training for young people, for learning to ride sessions and for confidence building to use our roads.
In addition there may be the opportunity to couple it with a small maintenance/training facility to help people fix their own bikes and learn simple bike care, or for young people to learn about cycle mechanics and repairs for future employment skills.
Mill Springs could be a suitable site with access to the new cycle path, close proximity to open areas for learning/confidence building and even easy access to the Skatepark/BMX track.
Could this be for Whitchurch? Its just an idea at the moment, but one that could grow, Being central also to Basingstoke, Newbury, Andover and Winchester, it might even attract others to our town. Anyone up for it as a local project?
Take care when entering Whitchurch from the south. There is a deep pothole at the town signpost/entry on Winchester Road that could cause injury or worse. It could easily kill a cyclist and cause serious damage to motor vehicles.
It can catch unawares as it is at the far edge of the rough surface where the painted speed limit roundels are already being warn away. And it is increasing in size.
How long will it take for Hampshire County Council to fix this one? It has been reported – reference 21547407 which can be used if contacting Hampshire. Every day that passes puts lives at risk.
Whitchurch could be due to lose its public loos, along with other locations in north Hampshire as the cuts are made to services.
Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council who run the facility is hoping to transfer the responsibility to Whitchurch Town Council but if that isn’t agreed then they will be closed. The same applies to St Mary Bourne, Kingsclere and Tadley.
Many cyclists, and other visitors as well as residents, find the public toilets essential. They come to Whitchurch, enjoy the cafés, buy refreshments and often will need the loo. Cycling events that attract hundreds of participants such as the Audax rides or local Sportives and Charity rides pass through the town too, using it as a refreshment stop.
It’s not just for cyclists comfort though, as cycling is one of the most valuable activities a town can attract, with cyclists spending more than other visitors, bringing trade to local businesses.
Covid has also made public conveniences even more important with the need for regular hand washing and cleanliness and they are of utmost importance to families with young children, the disabled and elderly.
To close this essential service will make the town less attractive to visit. Closing them is short-sighted.
New housing estates can often result in hazards for road users especially during construction, but also sometimes later too.
Here is a gentle warning if cycling in the new Whitchurch Mill Springs development. As part of the delineation of road surfaces granite sets have been placed between bricked paving areas and black asphalt surfaces, mostly near junctions. Some quite large gaps have been left between these setts creating channels that are in line with where bicycle wheels would travel.
Normally these would be filled but some remain unfinished even though the roads are open for use. Anything below a 32mm tyre is very likely to result in a loss of control. Indeed thinner tyres as on many sports bikes may cause a crash that could potentially be serious.
This is a warning if out on two wheels. It is accepted the works may not all be finished, but if in the area, take great care.
Parking for drivers to access shops and business has always been an ‘issue’ in Whitchurch. Recent proposals to introduce charging at the car parks have become a hot potato as it is claimed it would affect trade for local businesses.
This raises an interesting question over the removal of the new cycle parking from the town centre, led mainly by a small number of businesses. So what exactly is best for trade?
The Department for Transport has published a research document on this subject – the ‘Value of Cycling’ in conjunction with Birmingham University. Key Headline findings include a section on ‘Local Economic Benefits’.
This section includes:
Cyclists visit local shops more regularly, spending more than users of most other modes of transport;
Per square metre, cycle parking delivers 5 times higher retail spend than the same area of car parking;
A compact town optimised for walking and cycling can have a “retail density” (spend per square metre) 2.5 times higher than a typical urban centre.
Whitchurch needs to embrace this concept to increase its prosperity.
Importantly the Department for Transport document also includes the following:
“…reports show adding facilities such as bicycle racks and bicycle lanes can actually increase economic activity, and also help create a buffer from moving traffic that aids both pedestrian and bicyclist activity.”
Can a lively vibrancy and economic buzz in Whitchurch town centre be created? When the ‘new’ racks are hopefully relocated will this concept be embraced?