Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Exchange with North Somerset Council's Highways Dept

Image: Google maps

Here's an exchange I've just had with North Somerset Council's Highways Dept relating to the plans to widen the stretch of pavement along West Town Road shown above (on the left of the picture). As you will see, there are no plans to make this a shared-use path, and it remains to be seen whether any steps will be taken to reduce the danger to cyclists as a result of the narrowing of the roadway. As usual, cyclists are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to allocating carriageway space. If you want to change this in Backwell, please sign up to the campaign!

My email of 21.1.13 to the Parish Council (which they suggested I readdress to North Somerset's Highways Dept):

Hi, I understand that there are plans to widen a section of pavement in West Town next to the crossing at the Rising Sun pub.

I would be grateful if you could let me have details of what is proposed, or contact details for the person who could provide such details.

My interest is as a member of Backwell Sustainable Travel Action Group (“BSTAG”), formed in November 2012 to promote active travel within the village. The Group’s key objective is to see the development of a network of safe, shared-use paths for utility cyclists and pedestrians (including those with mobility problems) within Backwell. Among the routes being considered is a safe shared-use path along the A370 in West Town, as identified by a number of residents in the 2009 village questionnaire (link to summary of findings below):

On behalf of the Group I would like to understand whether the plans for the pavement widening envisage shared-use by pedestrians and cyclists, or use by pedestrians only. If the latter, are the current plans capable of being adapted to provide for shared-use? The Group would be extremely concerned if the effect of widening the pavement is either (a) to lose the opportunity of incorporating a shared-use path along this stretch of the main road in the future (b) a narrowing of the carriageway such that cyclists (including children) are made even more vulnerable than at present.

I look forward to hearing from you

Yours sincerely

Peter Rogers

NSC Highways' reply of 23.1.13:

Dear Mr Rogers,
Thank you for your email. I was asked by Councillor Karen Barclay last year to look at the feasibility of widening approximately a 20 metre section of footway just to the north  east of the Rising Sun pub. At this location the footway was only 700mm at it's widest. Following the initial investigation it became obvious that the only way a widening could be carried out would be to narrow the road width at this section.
Some measurements were carried out, and it was realised that it would be feasible to widen the footway by 1 metre and still maintain a road width of 6.5 metres. Therefore a proposal was passed back to Cllr Barclay informing her of what would be feasible. Unfortunately North Somerset Council does not have sufficient funding to implement this scheme and therefore Cllr Barclay managed to gain funding from other sources.
Therefore we have a scheme in next years works programme for the widening of this section of footway. There was never any intention for this section of footway to be a shared use cycle/footway, We would need a minimum of 3 metres for a shared use and we simple do not have enough space to install such a facility, another consideration is that such a facility would not lead anywhere, we do not have cycle facilities through Backwell along this road and there is not enough space within the extent of the Public Highway to accommodate such a facility.
I understand that Kevin Speakman has been involved in the investigation of new cycleways with Backwell but unfortunately some of the proposals has been met with resistance locally. Having spoken to Kevin he has informed me that he will be getting in touch with you in the near future regarding cycleways and other issues within Backwell.
David Bailey
Senior Engineer
Highways and Transportation
North Somerset Council
Tel: 01934 426279
Fax: 01934 436884
Post: Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UJ

My response of 23.1.13:
Dear Mr Bailey
Thanks very much for your very speedy reply, and for the information about the current plans which I will share with the group.
Although this is disappointing news, it is not entirely unexpected. I would hope that, given this further narrowing of the road, some consideration could be given to road markings and/or signage so that cyclists are not further endangered. This is a stretch of road frequently used by cyclists, including children, to get to Chelvey Road, there being no alternative safe route. In the meantime I would hope that a forgiving attitude will be taken to pavement cycling at peak times along this stretch.
I have since heard from Kevin and hope to liaise with him going forward to address the need for this & other safe routes within the village.
Kind regards
Peter Rogers

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