Cheltenham 'inconvenient' for cyclists and 'needs to go Dutch'
KEEN cyclist Aled Thomas looks at the obstacle course awaiting those on two wheels in Cheltenham – and how it can be improved.
GOING Dutch is a phrase many towns and cities in Britain are adopting.
After the numbers of cyclists in the Netherlands dropped between the 1950s and 1970s and the number of children killed on the roads raised, efforts were made to encourage people back onto bicycles.
Today in Amsterdam and The Hague, nearly 70 per cent of all journeys are made by bike.
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In British towns, that figure is below five per cent.
Now figures like Boris Johnson have pledged millions to increase the number of people commuting and shopping by two wheels.
But data collected by the Cheltenham cycle campaign at their twice-yearly counts suggest that while the town's cyclists kept up the habit as it declined nationally, the town has seen not much of an upturn in rider numbers during what has been described as a boom for British cycling.
What can be done to encourage more people to get on their bikes?
One obstacle, almost literally, is the road layout of the town centre. The inner and outer ring roads are one-way systems designed to ease the flow of motorised traffic.
But for people on bikes they can be very inconvenient.
A cyclist who arrives into town from the direction of Prestbury and arrives at the corner of Winchcombe Street and Albion Street is quite likely wanting to get to the High Street.
To get there he or she must turn right and make a journey 20 times as long, crossing lanes and then merging with traffic from the left at four places, before finally arriving on the High Street, 100 yards away from where the one-way system began.
There are several other places where systems designed to ease motorised traffic flow, allowing cars to move faster than in a traditional two-way street, force a rider do this.
Or they ride on the pavement, or the wrong way down a one-way street.
Which is dangerous, against the law and annoying for other road users.
The Cheltenham Cycle campaign said: "One-way regulations are only ever a response to the problems associated with accommodating large volumes of motor traffic. However, cyclist are disadvantaged more by one –way schemes than motorists."
Other obstacles are the lack of cycle paths, badly-designed paths.
Anne McNeill, 47, who lives in Charlton Kings said: "I'm happy enough to ride into Cheltenham because there's a good path through the park, but I don't like the busier roads like London Road or Lansdown Road.
"I have used the cycle lane along there but I didn't like it because of all the cars coming out of drives. So if I'm going that way I tend to drive."
It's an issue Cheltenham Borough Council is looking at.
Its transport plan proposes turning many of the two-lane one-way streets back into roads running in both directions, which will slow cars a little and allow cycling in both ways.
A spokesman said: "We are looking at a range of options and schemes under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund that will help us encourage people in Cheltenham to use more environmentally friendly transport methods."