A happy new year to our members and subscribers. So what will 2017 bring the cyclists of Portsmouth?
As a result of winning some Government funding, the new Quiet Routes that PCC have been working on since last summer should soon be released. PCC hope that by identifying 20mph roads, a network of routes can be created that are quieter and safer for those less confident cyclists to travel around the city. This is a welcome initiative assuming that the routes are advertised and easy to follow once on your bike.
In conjunction with this work, an audit of all the cycling infrastructure routes and facilities has been undertaken by PCC, identifying the existing lanes, paths and parking that exist in the city. This information – together with the quiet routes initiative – will form the basis for a new Cycling map for Portsmouth. We will be studying this in great detail to identify the gaps in provision and work to improve areas that we believe do not serve cyclists to the extent that they should.
To that end, three of our committee members are attending the Cycling UK workshop day in London in late January to learn more about the computerized cycling tools that were demonstrated to us by Roger Geffen at our open meeting in November. Our intention is to ask our paid-up members at our AGM in March to then identify areas in Portsmouth that can be targeted for future development.
However, most of the traffic congestion is down to the sheer numbers of vehicles on the road. To make a real improvement in congestion, pollution and journey times for everyone, the city needs to get people out of their cars, and reduce the barriers that stop people using a bike to travel around.
We need to identify and push to develop the routes that commuters might like to use. Ideally, these should be fast, consistent, road-quality cycle lanes that are segregated from both road traffic and pedestrians with priority boxes at junctions and specific phasing on the traffic light system to aid safe resumption of one’s journey. The new lane is Goldsmiths Avenue appears to already have made a difference to traffic flows in the area for both vehicles and bikes. There’s no reason why having set a precedent there that other roads that have double yellow lining should not also be similarly marked with cycle lanes.
Copnor Road has space at the northern end to install segregated cycle lanes similar to those created recently in Brighton. With some extra shared path they could link up to the pedestrian bridge across the A27 into the Highbury estate and onto Cosham, encouraging those to the north of the city to cycle to work in the way that the Southampton Road and Langstone Harbour paths do from the west and east.
The perception of cycling in Portsmouth is that it is dangerous, and the official figures only back this up this impression. For the fourth year in the last five, Portsmouth ranks as the most dangerous city in the UK for cycling casualties. Ours is twice the rate of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which has a similar population density to Portsmouth. Islington has a population density three times that of Portsmouth, and yet the cycle casualty rate is slightly lower.
The improvements in London with the installation of cycle lanes and mini-Holland schemes, the latest of which recently opened just the other end of the A3 in Portsmouth Road, Kingston-Upon Thames, proves that if the infrastructure is invested in, it is used and improves participation. A year on from its opening, and Waltham Forest’s much opposed mini-Holland scheme has seen traffic levels in 12 key roads in the “village” area of Walthamstow fall by 56 per cent, or 10,000 fewer vehicles a day. The most vocal business owner opponent of the scheme, has now opened up a coffee shop in his building.
These improvements are within the scope of Portsmouth City Council. However, as the cycling community, we need to build the pressure to improve things in our favour. Imagine Mini-Holland schemes during business hours around Cosham High Street, Albert Road or Palmerston Road – the latterly is effectively already installed – making the areas more pleasant to negotiate whether on foot, public transport or bike.
The re-development of the island’s flood defences over the next decade gives us the opportunity to create a true coastline leisure cycle trail to allow exploration of areas visitors may never discover.
Work on the western side next to Hilsea Lake from the Mounbatten Centre to Portsbridge Roundabout will start this spring, necessitating the closure of the much-used shared coastal path. Work is due to take three years, and there are plans to install a temporary cycle lane along Northern Parade. We are asking the council whether they are aware just how well used that path is. Not everyone will be confident enough to rode on a busy road, and so this appears to be an ideal opportunity to trial a segregated route on what is one of the wider roads on the island. And if it proves to be popular, why should it not remain installed after the work adding to the cycle infrastructure in the city?
With no local elections in the city due in 2017, the pull of the ballot box to appeal to voters has disappeared and some experimental schemes could be trialed, monitored and evaluated to see whether they work. Who knows, perhaps they may even lead to a reduction in the casualty figures?
But we can only do so much as a committee of volunteers. As much as we lobby, badger, cajole and complain at councilors and officers, we need help to keep the issues at the forefront of their minds in every transport and planning decision they take.
And it is with the creation of that bigger voice where you, the regular cyclist comes in. We need your support. We’d like you engaged in the process.
Bring to the attention of the council officers poor road surfaces or junctions that endanger cyclists. Enlist the support and lobby your ward councilors directly to improve our facilities and infrastructure.
In the event of an accident, ensure it is reported to the police, as official casualty figures are an important way to maintain the pressure on the local politicians to develop space for cycling.
Encourage the next generation getting on their bikes wanting to emulate Mark Cavendish or Lizzie Armitstead to use the roads safely and confidently, to be seen, and to respect other road users and pedestrians.
And please consider supporting or becoming a member of Portsmouth Cycle Forum.
I look forward to seeing you at one, or more, of our 2017 events or out on the road enjoying the freedom cycling can give you.
Tailwinds to all….
Acting Chair, PCF