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By Flora Windebank
More pavements in Guildford are to be made available to cyclists as well as pedestrians. The change will be made as part of the Travel SMART programme of improvements to walking and cycling routes in and across Guildford.
Plans for 14 new shared pedestrian/cycle paths have been proposed for the Guildford area. They are to be built over three years. Local councillors and transport groups have vowed to try and do the best they can to improve provision for Guildford’s cyclists.
Parts of the planned paths will be similar to a new one already completed in March opposite the Spectrum. The path has been resurfaced and widened, so both cyclists and pedestrians can travel safely. Other routes will use cycle lanes on road & also use a radically upgraded part of the Wey towpath (between Ladymead & Woking Road)
Keith Chesterton, chairman of the Guildford Cycle Forum, explained that Guildford had received £9 million from their local sustainable transport fund, but that only £1.5 million, to be spent over a three year period, was specifically for cycling and walking facilities.
“To be honest, if we had a bigger budget, our top priority would be creating more space on the roads & getting a new cycle bridge by the Wooden Bridge. Then cyclists cycling to work would be able to have quicker journeys whereas on paths shared with pedestrians, cyclists need to go go more slowly for everyone’s safety” he explained. “However our budget can only stretch to the combined pathways & cycle lanes.
We still hope they will make a considerable difference, as many of the paths we wish to change are too narrow for both cyclists and pedestrians to travel safely together at the moment. We can’t work miracles but we really want to do all we can for cyclists.”
The paths will link many key areas in Guildford such as the University of Surrey, the railway station and the town centre. Most town cyclists are in agreement that links to these essential areas would be of great help to cyclists, who struggle at the moment to get through areas of the town.
Terry Duckmanton, CTC Right to Ride Representative for Guildford highlighted the problems of being a cyclist in urban areas: “Guildford is no worse than most urban areas in Britain. Road planning is aimed mostly at shifting large numbers of motorised vehicles from one side of the town to the other with scant regard for its effect on pedestrians and cyclists. There is ample provision for cycle parking, particularly at Guildford station and this will certainly encourage people to cycle into the town as part of a longer commute or for a select few, for shopping.
“The town is cut in two by the combination of the A25 and the A3. The effect on the population in the northern part of town is quite marked. Crossing this barrier by foot or bike requires resolve, bravery and a belief that one is capable of making the journey without being squashed. There are few places where it can be achieved. The wooden bridge crossing is popular as it avoids crossing the traffic itself, but the rider is still left with a daunting ride along the A25 in order to get to town.”
Despite the obvious need for help, some councillors are wary that putting in new paths will not solve the many problems cyclists face in the town.
Cllr Caroline Reeves said: “We are frequently asked about the legality of cyclists using the pavements in the town. The police can issue fines to anyone cycling on a pavement and so it is essential that any cycle paths are clearly marked to indicate they are cycling legally and to alert pedestrians to the presence of cyclists.”
The problem of different rules for different areas occurs across Guildford. In the Ladymead area alone, on the same stretch of road, there are segregated paths for cyclists and pedestrians at some points; at others shared paths; and at some cyclists have to get off the pavement altogether and are directed onto the road.
One local resident thought the shared paths were unwise, and that the segregated line down the middle was essential. Commenting on the new path in Ladymead, he said: “Because it has been resurfaced it is a lot smoother now and so more cyclists will use it.
“You need the line, or pedestrians joining halfway down the path won’t realise cyclists are allowed on it and might get hurt. I suppose walkers could move into the park (Stoke Park), but why should they? In these situations pedestrians always sink to the bottom of the food chain.”
There is a while to go before Guildford’s pedestrians and cyclists can travel around the town on contiguous pedestrian/cycle ways, but the pledge to put in new routes is seen as a commitment from authorities to deal with the difficulty of being a cyclist in the Guildford area. (Full details of all the proposed routes can be seen here.)
What do you think? Are more shared pavements a good way to help encourage more to use bikes, rather than cars, to move around Guildford and ease congestion? Or will it discourage and frighten pedestrians? Have your say. Please use the leave a reply feature below to make your comment.