Call for improvements to make Hatfield cycle paths safer to use
PUBLISHED: 16:30 06 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:23 07 September 2020
Cycle paths in Hatfield are more prevalent than in Welwyn Garden City but key routes either do not join up or do not have proper paths in place, Welhat Cycling has said.
For example, if you travel from Hatfield town centre to the station – a route along French Horn Lane to Wellfield Road onto Birchwood – there are signs that indicate cyclists should dismount.
If cyclists are not told to dismount the other option they are left with is to cycle on roundabouts – where motorists regularly exceed the speed limit.
Adam Edwards, chair of Welhat Cycling, explains: “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.”
And Adam points out that the mixed use pedestrian/ cycle path from the station to the centre is not used as often by walkers as there is more of a direct route through Cranborne Road.
Though he advocates that joining up more paths here would also allow cycling to Onlsow St Audrey’s Secondary School and onto Hatfield Garden Village, Hatfield Business Park and Birchwood.
However, once a cyclist hits the roundabout towards Wellfield Road – as the WHT witnessed – there are few options to cross the roundabout aside from dismounting off the cycle/ pedestrian path as cyclists are urged by the signs.
Either they need to use the underground system, which is easier to access through the stairs, or get off and push.
Adam adds: “If you are disabled in a tricycle or you’re a parent, how do you get off safely and push?
“The Red Lion junction in Welwyn Garden City is too difficult, in particular, to do this safely. For most it is easier to pedal and move on.”
Welhat Cycling advocates a continuous off-road route across the north east end of Hatfield town centre with a temporary crossing of Queensway by the Number 1 Hatfield Town Centre regeneration site, which would allow the town centre to be easily crossed along the former road alignment.
Adam said: “My youngest was knocked off her bicycle on Queensway Drive so I have strong personal reason to change this.”
He also thinks a cycle route direct from Hilltop – the site of the new High View regeneration development – to the Galleria will further connect existing routes to the Business Park and University of Hertfordshire.
This would also mean linking Woods Avenue cycle path to encourage cycling to schools along that road when schools reopen.
But some, such as Suzanne Chapman from Digswell, have objected to cyclists taking over the pavements, which is illegal when it is not set aside for their use.
Suzanne told the WHT: “I am deaf and wear hearing aids in both ears.
“Although I’m also disabled I have, with the support of my husband, been taking daily walks for our health and wellbeing,
“I have walking poles which have proved to be a fantastic help to me too.
“I cannot hear cyclists coming from behind and the speed some, but not all, ride in what is usually a pedestrian walkway is frightening to me personally.”
Adam responded to these concerns by pointing out that while this is illegal behaviour, the “sad reality” is that pedestrians are killed overwhelmingly by drivers but people are rarely hurt by cyclists.
“I sympathise but the answer does not lie with banning cyclists from doing things but expanding routes.”
He also pointed out that cyclists are being injured and killed on the roads by drivers, who frequently exceed the speed limit.
“As a driver has told me ‘I have the right to drive really close to cyclists to frighten them and show they shouldn’t be there’, but then they fall off their bike – which he thinks is their fault.
“This is what is called victim blaming like when a woman is wolf whistled by a man. She’s not to blame for her clothing but the man whistling.
“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.”
Adam has also applauded “the fantastic idea” by Herts County Council to have 20mph limits in residential and town centres.
“If a cyclist is hit at 40, they die, if at 30, they are seriously injured and 20 there is a far better survival.”
Hertfordshire County Council has clarified that most of French Horn Lane and Wellfield Road is wide enough for duel use by cyclists and pedestrians.
A spokesman added: “There is a small section at the roundabout where French Horn Lane meets Wellfield Road that is not currently covered by a cycle lane and requires riders to either cycle on the road or walk through the town centre or underpass. “This land is the responsibility of WHBC and we remain open to finding a solution for cyclists.
“There is signage and painted floor markings to show where the cycle path ends and joins back onto the roadway.”
Hatfield mayor Cllr Margaret Eames-Petersen, who is also a Labour county councillor, explained that it is highways responsibility and its not Hatfield town or Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council land.
“HCC have three different funds for cycle paths and Hatfield deserves this money to invest in sustainable travel.”
Adam Edwards has previously run to become a Liberal Democrat borough councillor in the 2019 Local Election.
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