Cyclists can pedal down pedestrianised streets
Two pedestrianised streets in Congleton town centre will be opened to cyclists from next week as part of a drive to improve active travel.
From next Saturday (12th September) a temporary order will be put in place by Cheshire East Council to allow cycling on Bridge Street and Little Street.
The authority said the measures were being introduced to improve access for cyclists, as they currently have to dismount in this area and it will “provide an east to west link which is currently severed for cyclists and will help to improve access and connectivity to the town centre”.
Signs will show that the streets are pedestrian and cyclist zones.
The scheme is one of nine being implemented across the borough in an effort to “reserve capacity on public transport for those who really need it” and “reduce congestion”.
The nine initial schemes come at a cost of £155,000 out of a £619,000 pot of Government funding - the remainder is expected to be spent on further projects in the coming weeks, informed by discussions with town and parish councils.
As part of the new measures on Bridge Street and Little Street, Cheshire East Council has invited residents to have their say.
Conservative town councillor Amanda Martin is one of those against the proposal. She said that she has conducted her own online poll.
“The results of my online poll were that 80% of people were against cyclists going through the pedestrian precinct. I agree with the public,” she said. “Pedestrian means pedestrian.
“It is fine when people cycle around town, but when they are on the pedestrian precinct it means that people who are just wandering around will have to watch out for speeding cyclists. It's not safe.”
Coun Martin added: “It's all very well on the Biddulph Valley Way, but the pedestrian precinct was created for pedestrians.
“With social distancing, cafes need more space for tables and more space is then needed for people on the street, so there isn't room for cyclists as well.
“We do have cyclists that speed. It's not even really about accidents happening, it's about the anxiety it causes pedestrians of an accident potentially happening.
“I object to the attempt to get everyone on bikes because not everyone wants to. Pedestrians and cyclists don't mix.”
Coun Suzie Akers Smith, a former Conservative representative who stood as an Independent at last year's local elections, has been championing the Government's drive, with emergency funding, to make roads safe for cyclists and pedestrians in the covid-19 era.
She said: “My whole being is about getting more people walking and cycling. The covid-19 pandemic has forced the Government to take walking and cycling seriously.
“The Government believes that there will be a significant increase in vehicle traffic as kids go back to school. That's one of the reasons that Cheshire East Council has been given this money to enable people to cycle safely.
“Part of my role as the cycling and walking champion is to enable kids to get across Congleton safely. It's about educating people to share with care - for pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings and for cyclists to cycle safely.”
Coun Akers Smith argued that there was no evidence to suggest that the proposal for shared use on Bridge Street was dangerous.
She said: “It is just hearsay that cycling on Bridge Street is dangerous to pedestrians, there is no evidence to back that up.
“The point of this proposal is to create safety and I don't think there has ever been an accident between a cyclist and a pedestrian on Bridge Street, but cyclists get into accidents with cars on roads like Mountbatten Way all the time.
“The alternative route to going down Bridge Street is along Mountbatten Way, which is unacceptable.”
Coun Martin said the solution to this was for cyclists to simply dismount while on Bridge Street and walk the distance to High Street or Mill Street. She argued: “They just have to get off their bikes and walk the little stretch. When I used to cycle, quite often I would get off and walk. It's not hard. It makes me cross that people aren't thinking about how pedestrians feel.”
Coun Akers Smith disagreed. She said: “A lot of people cycle because they can't afford a car. But dismounting is the equivalent of travelling at 3mph in a car. You wouldn't ask a car to drive at 3mph, so why should cyclists have to dismount?
“If it was a busy day on Bridge Street with lots of pedestrians, cyclists would dismount anyway. They know how to look after themselves and others.”