Written by: Ian Saunders, PCF Chair
It’s been a busy few months for us on the committee as a number of large scale projects start to turn corners and lurch into the view of deadlines during the autumn.
Quite a lot of time was taken to respond to the planning application for the Southsea Sea Defence works. We have responded to previous consultations but this time there were actual designs with technical drawings to which we could respond. Lots of them…
Although we recognise the need to improve our sea defences we are disappointed that the designers have not committed to a genuinely safe cycle route along the seafront.
Portsmouth City Council’s Seafront Masterplan (a separate planning document) envisages a continuous cycle route from Gosport ferry to Hayling ferry. The coastal defences do not cover this length in full, but where they do, we expect them to provide a route fit for purpose.
The plans show some very modest improvements on what we have today, but some of the planned sections make cycling more hazardous, or less enjoyable, with little separation between bikes and cars. The designers have also failed to do anything about the existing problem faced by cyclists of having to switch sides at several points along the seafront.
Our thanks go to Roger Inkpen for compiling all the comments into a cohesive document which has been cited by others responding to the application as well, which you can read hereherehere
At the same time as this seafront defences application went live, we were asked by the Council to be a part of the consultation for a new safety scheme along Goldsmith Avenue as part of a wider east / west active travel corridor. The aim of the Goldsmith Avenue scheme is to add protection to the existing cycle lanes in the form of cycle lane defenders and wands between Fratton Way roundabout and Fratton Bridge roundabout. One of the two Francis Avenue junctions would be closed to motor vehicles, and an informal pedestrian crossing added to aid movement between Lidl and the bus stop on the opposite side of the road.
This road has a poor road safety record, and is perceived as a barrier to east-west cycling in the south of the city for commuters, school children and others. The on road painted cycle lane is constantly parked over by local businesses, forcing people riding further into the carriageway and into the path of a high flow of motorised traffic.
We were pleased to see proposals that physically segregate cyclists from motor vehicles in some areas, but we do appreciate that this route is constrained for space due to the railway line and private properties on each side. We see the proposals as an opportunity to improve on the current layout, but remain concerned that there is not enough sufficient width through the entire length of the scheme to maintain separation from traffic throughout. The proposal to include defenders and wands however means that a precedent could be set, as could lead to installation at other sites in the city.
Committee member Mike Dobson has been our representative on the PCC Air Quality Steering Group; set up to investigate and assess how the city might be able to meet air quality targets ahead of a clean air zone being imposed by Government combined government departments DEFRA and the DfT – known as the Joint Air Quality Unit, or JAQU.
The Council has chosen a band B charging zone which includes buses, taxis and trucks but not light goods vehicles and private cars.
Since launching our ‘A City To Share’ strategy in 2014, we have made it clear that to reduce congestion and improve air quality, cycling, walking and public transport improvements are required to offer residents, workers and visitors to the city a true alternative to travel. If we could reduce the number of internal car journeys on Portsea Island itself, that would go a long way to improving the situation for everyone. But we need the correct infrastructure and investment to make these alternative options attractive enough for people to switch modes.
Part of that infrastructure would be a network of safe, consistent and connected cycle lanes. The next two projects aim to develop and quantify exactly that:
The Local Cycle and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) – LCWIPs, which came in under the Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), are defined as a “new, strategic approach to identifying cycling and walking improvements required at the local level”. Planning policies, it says, should “provide for high quality walking and cycling networks and supporting facilities such as cycle parking.”
PCC are currently developing their LCWIP and we have been involved in assessing the 10 route audits across the city as defined by their consultants WSP. Whilst the audits are in themselves a useful tool for the state of the current network, we feel as if too many of the suggested improvements focus on bringing up to standard what is already there rather than being more ambitious and showcasing what may be possible if there was some fundamental re-designing of road space in favour of cycling (and walking).
We’d like to see more suggestions of roads being closed to through-traffic to make it easier and quicker to cycle, rather than drive around the city; re-imagining cycle lanes as purpose built tracks by removing a second lane of traffic at junctions, and seeing a widespread roll-out of cycle specific phasing of controlled traffic signals to enable cycles to get away from a stop line in advance of the quicker, more powerful motor vehicles. If there is no stick for drivers to stop driving, why would they go for the carrot?
Those of you that attended our 2018 Annual General Meeting will have contributed to the start of our Pompey Tube Map of cycle routes. You can see it hereherehere.
This mapping exercise was an opportunity to see where members wanted to cycle, which routes they took, and to rank the general standard of the route. Interestingly the tube map did look very similar to the refined data of the LCWIP routes identified by other more scientific means collating data such as leisure, shopping, work and education centres compared to population neighbourhood centres.
We are currently breathing life into the Tube map and turning it into a ‘Big Map” using GIS mapping technology. We will then then overlay other data such as the LCWIP identified routes, the position of cycle counters in the city, as well as the existing infrastructure and PCC ‘Quieter Route’ network. Our thanks go to committee members Jon Riding and Tim Pickering for doing the number crunching on this project.
As well as these major projects, we continue with the day-to-day of cycle campaigning – identifying and reporting issues, watching out for forthcoming road maintenance projects and planning applications, and networking with councillors and officers alike to continue to push the message about needing safer cycle routes, better secure bicycle parking and continuing to raise awareness of our presence and what we do with the public and non-members.
We could do more, but we need help. Having lost around four members of the committee over the last 18 months, we are starting to hit the limit of what can be achieved from those still able to contribute some time to the cause.
We are particularly looking for local area champions who can be a point of contact for the committee who can advise or keep an eye on issues and projects around them. The Hilsea / Copnor / Fratton areas are of great interest to us as we do not currently have committee members living in those areas.
Other roles we are looking to fill are events organiser, website copywriter and communications Officer as all these have been restricted by the other work we have been under taking over the last few months. Even if you can give a few hours of your spare time every month, it can make a difference.
So now you’ve seen what we’ve been up to – if you’re interested in helping us out to create ‘A City to Share’, get in touch at [email protected]