Are people really cycling, walking and using sustainable transport in Welwyn Hatfield?
- Credit: Archant
As anger at one cycle path between Hunters Bridge and Bridge Road in WGC grows, the WHT investigated whether people are really cycling and walking in our towns.
Data over the past few years reveals most Welwyn Hatfield people walk or cycle once per week, with fewer people cycling three or five times per week.
In recent years, the number of people walking or cycling once a month has risen, while the number of people cycling more often has dropped.
But a new report from the Transport Planning Society (TPS), conducted by the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, reveals that coronavirus has significantly changed travel patterns throughout the UK.
In the State of the Nation transport report researchers explain: “Huge immediate changes in travel have come with the onset of COVID-19, with people working from home, a collapse in public transport use and a substantial increase in cycling and walking.”
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Though one of the biggest barriers to sustainable transport has been the public’s concern over “too much traffic going too fast”, preventing cycling and walking and a lack of cheap public transport.
As Adam Edwards, chair of Welhat Cycling, told the WHT: “People will only use cycle paths if they perceive it to be safe. Some will get off and push but many will cycle on the pavement.
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“We’re told cyclists shouldn’t cycle on country lanes, busy roads, paths and there should be no lanes. Then where should people cycle? It’s right to protect us from dangerous drivers.”
There has been a long standing concern over Welwyn Hatfield’s incomplete cycling paths, which have not been joined up in the south of Hatfield and go through dangerous roundabouts if you cycle from the station to the Uni of Herts and back, or to the business park and the town centre.
Similarly, there are few cycle paths straight to schools and this lowers the starting age of cycling, although £13 million was granted by the government to help more children cycle.
Welhat Cycling is working on changing this and has set out a new vision proposing upgrading the footpath to shared use for the Bessemer Road to Welwyn via A1(M) junction route going to Monks Walk School, creating an off-road shared pavement linking the town centre to the New QE2 Hospital, a Bessemer Road Cycleway via Digswell Road, and a WGC to Lemsford route which would go to Stanborough School
They also propose to replace the A1000 Mill Green Lane by extending the cycle route south along the east side of the A1000 and building a crossing at the traffic lights at the junction with the A414 slip road, as well as diverting traffic via Queensway and French Horn Lane so Link Drive can be easily used to go to Onslow St Audrey’s School.
Some of these ideas have been incorporated in HCC’s sustainable transport plan – but without a timetable for delivering them Mr Edwards is not confident this will happen quick enough.
The State of Transport report added that pre-COVID-19 “car travel remains dominant but walking accounts for a large proportion of trips and a big proportion of local travel, and rail has a sizeable share of longer distance travel”, however the report also said that young people in particular are driving less and learning to drive later.
The report also argues the increase in car ownership is to blame for more road deaths, congestion, obesity and pollution.
Between 1994 and 2010, of the 27,820 killed and seriously injured by vehicles, 38 per cent were vehicle occupants, 22 per cent were pedestrians, 14 per cent cyclists and 21 per cent motorcyclists – with child pedestrians making up 5 per cent of the total. No other form of transportation has such high deaths.
They recommend the government consider prioritising walking and cycling when allocating land use for transport to promote wider social benefits and looking at regional and rural needs and challenges, and look at the transport system as a whole.
The report acknowledges “more radical intervention” is coming in the form of the active travel strategy for cycling and walking, but points out that local authorities like Hertfordshire still do not have much funding to hand.
But most of all it argues that transport spending and taxation need to focus on “decarbonisation, with all agencies and operators given clear remits and incentives to contribute to this overarching goal”.