Our Chairman of the Dartford and Gravesham CPRE Protect Kent committee, Alex Hills, is a passionate cyclist and transport campaigner! Here is his committee’s take on the various cycling gaps we currently have in Dartford and Gravesham and throughout Kent:
There has been much talk of the need for more journeys to be done by bike rather than by car. The government is investing £94 million in improving cycling facilities in the UK. Organisations like SPOKES and the CTC have been calling on Kent County Council (KCC) to do more for cyclists but KCC are pleading poverty as a reason for doing nothing. In these financially difficult times it becomes even more important that money is targeted properly and this is why CPRE Protect Kent has called on KCC to ensure that unsafe sections of roads that represent major barriers to cycling are made safe for cyclists.
Cycling is much more than great exercise; it can also be a substitute for many common journeys which may otherwise be done by car. Commuting from work is a great way to reduce stress and get fitter. Increasing the number of journeys done by cyclist would reduce pollution and the gridlock on many of Kent’s roads. There are other significant benefits to encouraging more people to ‘get on their bike’ such as improving people’s health. Cycling should be viewed as part of an integrated transport policy not just a leisure or sports activity. CPRE Protect Kent believes improving cycle safety represents great value for money when the diverse variety of benefits are taken into account. Within the Dartford and Gravesham area, there are many different examples of where cycling infrastructure could be improved. Two prime examples of roads which are not safe for cyclists are the northern end of Valley Drive and the A227 between Istead Rise and Meopham. Both of these roads, deter people for accessing routes that are safe for cyclists. Work to strengthen the cycling infrastructure, on short sections of roads like these could enable cyclists to really make the very best use of existing safe cycle routes.
Linking rural communities together with footpaths and cycle ways have many advantages for the whole community. The lack of such a safe link between Istead Rise and Meopham is much more than just a local annoyance, it is a major weakness in the transport and leisure infrastructure of the area. Gravesham has many good safe cycling routes but if more people are to use their bikes as a mode of transport, road safety must be improved at key locations. Where possible this should be done by separating cyclists and motorised road users. This makes life easier for motorised road users who do not want to be delayed by cyclists and safer for cyclists who do not want the danger of motorists being close to them.
Small steps such as having routes that avoid speed bumps which are very hazardous to cyclists and road markings that enable cyclists to stop ahead of motorised road users at traffic lights can make a big difference to safety. Putting cycle lanes on round-a-bouts is a bigger challenge but one that needs to be embraced. We want to see KCC embracing non-motorised users as the sustainable future, and would ask them to commit to ensuring that cyclists take priority in their transport planning. Future Olympians need to be inspired and they also need safe routes to put the many miles on the road that will make them into champions.