Delivering active travel at walking pace

A week or so after we wrote to Staffordshire County Council asking how they would immediately enable active travel (see our letter at the bottom of the page), they have announced a 10 year infrastructure plan for cycling and walking which you can read here. This 10 year plan does not address the directive from the Government to urgently tackle social distancing guidance and public transport restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The plan, outlining an investment in excess of £30M over a ten year period to 2031, is focused on main towns and cities and aims to build on recent investment that amounted to £100,000 a year in the Lichfield District. It does not give any focus to Burntwood or to the corridors between towns and cities. While we would not object to investment in cycling and walking infrastructure, we feel the events of the last two months must seriously question the ambition, speed and scope of the proposed investment. This already written report, that SCC requested that Sustrans officers complete the detail of, now looks pretty feeble in comparison to some of the radical and fast paced responses enabling active travel elsewhere in the country.

Other areas are fundamentally aiming to shift the balance of travel away from vehicles to enabling active travel. The report released by Staffordshire County Council seeks ways to mitigate the fact that cyclists are perceived as inferior road users compared to other more dominant forms of travel, often using the ‘quietways’ model (which notoriously fails unless councils are bold).

With a slight feeling of deja vu, we are reminded of our response to a similarly underwhelming Lichfield Draft City Centre Master Plan that you can read here. In that, we briefly touched on an environmental crisis and a health crisis that we felt needed a more daring and radical response. In light of the current Pandemic, we now see radical solutions being adopted as mainstream views in cities and towns across the country.

People are out there riding now, in great numbers and with increasing confidence, enjoying the recent freedom to travel by bike in good weather and on quiet roads. We are playing our part supplying at least twice as many more bikes in the last six weeks than at any other equivalent period in our six year existence. We continue to provide free long term loan bikes to people and we have responded in an urgent way to do this.

Cycling is more than merely tolerated at the moment, its accepted and in your face. So, now more than ever, we need to grasp this opportunity with ambition. Let’s not wait up to 10 years. Let’s do it this summer. Let’s go the Loudway, not the Quietway.

One of our suggestions

People who want to travel to centres and places of employment or for pleasure, want to store their bikes in a secure, preferably dry, and very convenient location. Existing cycle parking facilities are either full at many times of the day or almost permanently empty, based on their proximity to where people want to be. In the case of Lichfield City Centre, we would ideally like to see secure, dry storage available for shoppers and city workers to leave their bike with the confidence that they will able to return to it for their journey home. 

The area marked on the map above is the one-way route through the centre of the City and is also where many people would want to park their bikes. On Tamworth Street, Conduit Street, Market Street, Breadmarket Street, and Bore Street there could be imaginative use of spaces that could be home to multiple clusters of on street cycle stands accommodating 10 or 12 bikes per space, protected with planters or street furniture.

The City Centre multi-storey car parks could give over space to secure and dry storage, provided the area was covered by security cameras. That would make the extra walk, to shop or work, worth it knowing that bikes would be dry and secure.

We have other ideas and are happy to discuss and share them. This discussion needs to involve the custodians of our public space and include the City and District as well as the County council.

Lichfield Re:Cycle – May 2020

Our letter to local authorities 11/5/20: