A recent survey of more than one hundred people who cycle regularly in Shrewsbury received hundreds of comments about the state of cycling facilities in the town. Volunteer group Sustainable Transport Shropshire conducted the survey over several weeks on line and by attaching flyers to parked bikes. Their report was published a fortnight after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provided a quality standard to local authorities on prioritising travel routes for pedestrians, cyclists and people who use public transport.
In the Shrewsbury survey just 9% of respondents said they were ‘very satisfied’ with current provision. On-road lanes for cycling were disliked as narrow, incomplete, dangerously close to parked and moving cars, and for often being obstructed. Cycleways where users are protected by ‘hard’ segregation were favoured instead. A shortage of cycle parking was also widely mentioned.
Pedestrians will be pleased to learn that shared use footways are also disliked by people who ride bikes; many survey respondents mentioned the undesired conflict and unsuitability of shared use footways.
Peter Gilbert, chair of Sustainable Transport Shropshire, said, ‘It’s brilliant that we got detailed feedback from the personal experiences of expert users of the current network. Of course our ambition is for many more people, people who currently drive especially, to begin cycling and walking or using public transport to get to work, to school or to shops, so we will need to find ways to hear from this larger group of citizens.
‘Shrewsbury does have a problem with space constraints, intermittent traffic congestion and bad air. Health experts say that lack of physical activity is directly linked to several diseases which is why NICE and others describe walking and cycling on ordinary everyday journeys as the easiest and best way to get regular exercise.’
Could cycling and walking become ‘the natural choices for shorter journeys’ as government has said? Minister of Transport Jesse Norman recently wrote to councils asking them to increase their budgeted infrastructure spend on these to at least 15%, while in Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, aided by cycling champion Chris Boardman, have spearheaded an ambitious programme to retrofit the city to make it suitable for cycling and walking.
‘If Shrewsbury and other Shropshire towns are to reap the wide benefits of quiet, active travel we first need to make it attractive,’ Peter added. ‘Shropshire Council is developing Local Transport Plan 4 and we are convinced that now is the time to properly integrate this.
Sustainable Transport Shropshire was formed in June 2016 from people who use all types of transport in Shropshire. We aim to help inform public discourse and decision making to promote a liveable, connected, healthy and successful county. We acknowledge the realities and believe that sustainable travel is key to accommodating current and future growth in population and journeys while ensuring the continued success of our businesses, towns and villages. In this situation we can have our cake and eat it. The cake of easy, free-flowing motor traffic through the eating of healthy active travel and great public transport.