The challenges of new urban infrastructure

During lockdown the UK saw a renaissance in the popularity of cycling, largely as a result of less motor traffic on our streets.

Following this, the government made funding pots avaliable for councils across the country to trial temporary road space re-allocation schemes, aimed at encouraging a continuation of ‘active travel’ (ie walking and cycling) over private car usage.

Swindon was successful in their first bid for a small amount of funding from the ‘Emergency Active Travel Fund’. The council used this opportunity to trial cycle provision in a couple of locations in the town centre, which is notoriously difficult and unattractive for people to travel through by bike.

Whilst you can use Swindon’s ‘Flyer’ cycle paths to reach the centre from the south, east and west of town, crossing the centre by bike is hindered by a busy one-way system and a pedestrianised shopping zone.

Station Road and Commercial Road were chosen as areas for new trial cycle paths. Both locations demonstrate poor allocation of space (ie two one-way carriageways devoted to vehicles). The plan was to allocate one of these carriageways to cycles, segregated from motor traffic.

These areas are part of a wider plan for improving the attractiveness and accessibility of the town centre by active modes. Those plans built upon the Swindon Cycle Framework (2016) and the SBC-funded Swindon Town Centre Cycling Report(2017) which set out the masterplan for cycling in the town.

Future developments such as Kimmerfields, the Bus Boulevard, and the Heritage Action Zone are set to help bring aspirations to reality. Wherever possible Swindon Cycle Campaign (SCC) work with the council to encourage them to build infrastructure of a high quality and fit for purpose (unlike previous examples of attempts to implement cycle infrastructure, such as on Crombey Street and King William Street).

We believe that you shouldn’t need to be brave to travel by bike. You shouldn’t feel that the pavement is the only option for getting from A to B because your terrified for your life on busy roads.

The Commercial Road and Station Road trials have caused quite a stir, unfortunately due to time restraints SCC were unable to be involved in the council’s implementation of the projects. And while I have not had the chance to trial them myself, I haven’t heard much positive feedback. But this example demonstrates the challenges posed by the re-allocation of space, and the importance of consultation with local people and traders. Although this may not have been the most successful trial, it is vital that lessons are learned, and that we work together to make better streets which serve people, not just vehicles.  

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