There has been much vociferous discussion in the press about the proposed cycle way along the western end of Weyhill Road. As I was with Borough colleagues, when they visited Beech Hurst to see the scheme explained in detail by Council officers, I thought it might be helpful to add some additional details.
A letter dated 24th January was sent to 110 residents describing the scheme and asking for responses and comments back to the Council by the 17th February. The residents of Weyhill Road were contacted, as were some from Cheavley Close, Meadow Way and Portway Close. Businesses along the route were also written to.
As well as a cycleway, the proposals included upgrading the existing zebra crossing at the Meadow Way shops to a Puffin Crossing (signal controlled). In addition, a pedestrian refuge island is proposed opposite the Tesco store near The Drove junction. The access arrangements to Tesco’s from Weyhill Road would be altered to accommodate this. Carriageway alignment will be altered slightly at the Meadow Way shops to accommodate the 3m wide footway and street furniture, including bus shelters, will be relocated to accommodate the wider path.
Of the 110 properties written to, 13 residents responded to that letter. Of those 13, 4 were opposed to the scheme, 3 supported it, 3 were indifferent but wanted changes made and were happy once they were, and 3 simply wanted more information. All the residents who responded have been contacted and some have been met on-site to discuss their specific issues and concerns.
These types of schemes are always carefully drawn-up and thoughtful analysis is given to the potential problems that can, and do, occur. However, the purpose of asking residents views is to give them an opportunity to comment. In this case, 12% of those contacted chose to reply.
Residents raised a number of important points and these concerned the possible conflict both between pedestrians and cyclists, as well as between cyclists and cars, when entering or exiting driveways. Some were concerned about the loss of the verge and vegetation and potential congestion at the proposed traffic island at The Drove. In addition, others raised the issue of cost as well as wondering if the scheme was in fact justified.
These points were addressed by Council officers, who confirmed that the cycleway is in response to an existing issue of cyclists using the footpath. By providing a suitable width for shared use, this conflict will be reduced. Unfortunately it is not possible to remove the risk, which is common to all shared use routes in towns; however Weyhill Road has good visibility for cyclists and motorists.
It is of course true that some grass verges (between 70cm and 1m or 27” – 39”) will be converted into a tarmac surface. However, for most of the length a 1.5m (5’) verge will remain; however, over a length of 70m (76yds) between the Chestnut Pub and the junction with Upper Drove the verge will be lost up to the property boundaries. Incidentally, the total length of the new cycleway is 700m (just under half a mile). Four trees will be removed between The Drove and Portway Close on the south side; these can be replanted in other areas along the route.
Regarding the traffic and the new island at The Drove, all the existing vehicle movements will remain substantially unaffected. Additionally the relocation of the Tesco store access to the west side of their plot should deter cars from exiting from this ‘in-only’ access. New hatching for the island will provide an informal right hand turn lane for The Drove.
In addition, officers have met with residents whose driveways are adjacent to the island; their access will be widened to allow easier turning around the island. They have said that they are happy with the scheme now these changes are to be incorporated.
Understandable concerns about the costs can be addressed by confirming that the funding is sourced from contributions from the Airfield development and the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF).
The Department for Transport’s (DfT) Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) challenges local authorities to develop packages of measures that support economic growth and reduce carbon emissions in their communities, as well as delivering cleaner environments, improved safety and increased levels of physical activity. The Weyhill Road cycle way clearly fits these criteria very well.
No Test Valley funds will be used, and the funds are tied to highway improvement for this area. A large proportion of the costs are for the resurfacing work to the existing footway and carriageway areas affected. These are maintenance costs that HCC would pay for and that can be included in this externally funded scheme. The works to upgrade the crossing from a zebra to a puffin crossing are a welcome safety improvement included in the scheme, but not directly related to the cycleway.
Regarding the justification for such a scheme, the response from residents was mixed. Some can’t see the justification at all, while others stated it has been a long time coming. It is important to note that complaints regarding cyclists using the footway date back to 2011 when the street audit was carried out. The police had to be called in to deal with enforcement last year. The route is also a key to a proposed link from Weyhill/The Airfield cycleways and the town centre, via the train station. These are included in the town access plan and cycleway strategy.
As was explained by the Borough councillors for Millway ward in their letter published in the Andover Advertiser on 4th April, it is Hampshire County Council who are ultimately responsible for this scheme. To this effect, HCC are currently summarising the feedback received from residents. They will then be taking the scheme to a project appraisal in June. The scheme will only progress to tender if approval is given at that point.