Battle lines drawn in Welwyn Garden City as drivers and cyclists disagree on new temporary lane

Temporary cycle lanes on Bridge Road, Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Leighton Colegrave

Temporary cycle lanes on Bridge Road, Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Leighton Colegrave - Credit: Archant

A new temporary cycle lane in Welwyn Garden City has caused argument between bike and car users, who have different points of view on sustainable travel.

Hertfordshire County Council has been installing temporary cycle lanes on Hunters Bridge and Bridge Road since July 17, after it received funding from the transport secretary Grant Shapps – the MP for Welwyn Hatfield.

While the move has been well received by members of the WGC Greenpeace Group such as Elliot Topham, it has annoyed some motorists in the area.

Elliot said: “We are in need of a green recovery since the pandemic. Cities around the world are beginning to further pedestrianise by creating more cycle lanes and restricting traffic flow.

“Since COVID-19 local and national governments have felt the need to increase walk spaces, which is what makes the governments decision to invest £27 million on building new roads a rather outdated decision.

“Adding more cycle paths will allow for more cyclists to explore our lovely town centre while WGC also plays its part in reducing emissions.

“The centre of town has an abundance of bicycle parking rails, however lacks any clear and safe routes for cyclists.

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“Further extending walkways and increasing cycle paths would allow for a safer town centre in more ways than just avoiding COVID-19.

“It would mean breathing in less emissions from the traffic that can often become very congested outside the shops and restaurants.

“That’s why I, alongside the Greenpeace Welwyn Garden City Group, are calling on our local council to continue their work on bicycle accessibility by lobbying government for further funding. We are also calling on the chancellor to invest in clean, green transport schemes.

“This is a great way to combat climate change, keep residents healthy and rebuild our community after COVID-19”.

Another local resident agreed with car users, saying: “Oh joy more traffic jams, all that needs doing is remove the lights and put in a roundabout, even though at the last trial was poorly done it got rid of all the queue in all directions.”

But for others like Leighton Colegrave, a car user and ex-cyclist, these “extremely wide cycle lanes in both directions” will slow traffic down – which could be good idea.

“Reducing the traffic light lanes from three to two is only going to slow traffic flow unnecessarily.

“It’s already bad enough by having lights instead of a decent roundabout there,” he said.

There has also been suggestions from a Welwyn Garden City resident that the existing lanes are fine but just need “cutting back bushes and improved markings”.

She has emailed Mr Shapps, whose office told her they will be looking into the Hunters Bridge cycle lane.

These new cycle lanes in Welwyn Garden City follow a move to install barriers and a one-way system – which could soon be scrapped – in Welwyn and Knebworth, to enable social-distancing. The barriers have received wide opposition from local residents and its MP Mr Shapps.

But these were also provided under the same fund by the Welwyn Hatfield MP called the Emergency Active Travel Fund, a £250m fund to restart and reprioritise local transport.

In other transport news, the A1(M) smart motorways conversion – which is part of HCC’s travel plan and has already started – was also criticised in an email to Welwyn residents by Mr Shapps, who suggested it might not go ahead unless key criteria is met.

But the creation of a continuous three-lane motorway between Junction 3 (Hatfield) and Junction 9 (Letchworth) has already begun with more works in Hatfield scheduled for August.

The Welwyn Hatfield Times asked Mr Shapps on Tuesday this week how he thinks this travel fund should be used and why he has written to HCC when his department provided funding for the work, however we have not yet received a response.

We also asked if he was in favour of other measures to increase cycling in Welwyn Hatfield such as the Bridge Road modifications in Welwyn Garden City, and when a decision on the smart motorway would be made.

The full list of A1(M) upgrades is available on Highways England’s website here and you can give feedback on WGC’s cycle lane here:

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