Cycling plans criticised

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Saturday, September 25th, 2021 7:05am

By Christian Barnett - Local Democracy Reporter

The council said it is still not prepared to give up road space to cyclists as its active travel plans came under fire for not being ambitious enough.

Worcestershire County Council has revealed its walking and cycling proposals for the next two years including new links between Worcester and Rushwick and Kempsey, Diglis and the Ketch.

But some councillors have been critical of the work for not going far enough and for relying too much on canal towpaths as cycling routes.

Tory cabinet members said they would not be entertaining policies that were “aggressively negative” to drivers and the council would be supporting all forms of transport “at the expense of none.”

Green councillor Matthew Jenkins said there were a “few good things” in the council’s walking and cycling plans but there was still “nowhere near enough.”

He said the only way to change attitudes towards walking and cycling would be to detriment car drivers in some way and give them a “real” alternative and the only way to tackle congestion on the roads – especially in Worcester – was to reduce the number of people driving.

He said: “The fundamental issue is the ‘all forms of transport to the detriment to none’ would be fine if we hadn’t had about 60 years of the car being king.

“The key is to move away from the idea that we cannot, at any point, detriment a car user,” he added.

“Occasionally, in places like Worcester where there isn’t more physical space, you’re going to have to find ways to reduce car use. It’s not an attack on cars, it’s just that will be the best and probably only way to tackle congestion.”

Cllr Lynn Denham was disappointed by the lack of plans for Worcester and using the city’s canal towpaths as cycling routes was “far from ideal.”

Cllr Alan Amos, cabinet member for highways, said he wanted to reduce car usage more than anybody, but the county council was not “anti-car” and would not “demonise” drivers.

He said the council would be supporting all forms of transport “at the expense of none” and he believed in giving people a choice which transport was best for them.

Council would be increasing road capacity to meet demand but would also be encouraging people to get out of their cars and use other forms of transport

He said the council would tackle congestion by improving the quality of the county’s roads and getting people out of cars by “encouragement and persuasion not diktat and coercion” rather than closing roads “willy-nilly” and taking away people’s parking.

“People do depend on cars,” he said. “Our policy is to make people less dependent on them but do it in a way that brings people along with us.

“We don’t want endless conflicts over the next five or ten years.”

The council’s proposals include new routes between St John’s in Worcester and Rushwick, new routes between the Diglis bridge and the Ketch on the edge of the city and others between Worcester and Kempsey as well as plans which would see existing routes resurfaced and widened between Diglis and Sixways.

Cllr Marc Bayliss said he did not want policies that were “detrimental or aggressively negative” to drivers.

“The canal towpath may have its limitations, and there may be some obstacles that may need to be overcome to make it an effective cycle path, but I have spoken to many cyclists who have said they are, even as they are today, perfectly possible to ride up and down safely.

“You just need to be road or cycle aware, you need to be path aware, you need to look out for pedestrians. That needs to continue. We are not going to throw other people off the road just to help one group.

“It’s preposterous that some people think this is the right way forward.”

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