Letter to my Councillors

My Letter to Councillors Fairclough, Walsh and Wild (Note: the first two paragraphs are based on CTC paragraphs with modifications):

Dear Councillor XXXXXX,

I am writing as a resident in your ward who wants our Council to provide safe Space for Cycling.

Better designed streets can create safer, more pleasant neighbourhoods and encourage more cycling, which will improve participants’ health and everyone’s air quality. The Government has called for a ‘cycling revolution’ and more people want to cycle – but too many have concerns about safety – so I want to see our Council provide protected space on our main roads; lower speeds limits and remove through traffic on other roads, so more people can choose to make their local journeys by bicycle.

Greater Manchester is currently investing over £30million in the first phase of the VéloCity program. This initial funding covers 40% of Greater Manchester until 2015 so we also need to ensure the program is expanded to cover all of Greater Manchester and is fully funded until 2025, as pledged in the TfGM bid document. Also, a recent amendment to the Transport Infrastructure Bill will place an obligation on local authorities to make suitable provision for cycling, with funds earmarked for the purpose. We must build on the current momentum and realise the potential that cycling offers our communities, and Bolton needs to be prepared for the funding that will begin to come on stream.

Despite subsidies for motoring both through free parking provision at weekends and by prioritising motor traffic on most of our roads, the town centre still appears to be in a dismal state, with a preponderance of slot machines, pound shops and empty premises. Despite this approach having failed for years, the Council still insists on trying to compete with locations like the Trafford Centre, which it will never do on the basis of car travel. If someone is going to get in the car, they are likely to go further afield.

Walking or cycling into the town is unpleasant, and cycling feels uncomfortable and dangerous. The most recent cycling strategy (Bolton Cycling Strategy and Action Plan, February 2006), which ended in 2012, lists a number of “strategic cycle routes”, which are just roads on which cyclists have to share the space with motor vehicles travelling at speeds up to 40 and even 50 mph. The few grudgingly provided cycle facilities are mostly too poor to bear the name and certainly do not nearly meet the government’s guidelines on cycle infrastructure (document LTN 2/08 Cycle infrastructure design), which are themselves rather poor.

At the same time, we hear that the town has a serious and growing problem with obesity, particularly among its children (See: Bolton’s Healthy Weight Strategy 2012-2017). The “Healthy Weight Strategy” places a significant emphasis on active travel (i.e. walking and cycling) as a means to improve public health and to reduce the load on the local health service among other things. However, the town continues to maintain a roads system that is toxic to both walking and cycling.

Congestion on the roads is also extremely severe, with car journeys of 1 mile up Blackburn Road taking in the region of 20 minutes in the rush hour. However, it is possible to fit 8 bicycles in the road space taken up by one car, making reallocation of road space to this more efficient mode of transport for journeys of 5 miles or less an extremely effective improvement. This is likely to have the effect of improving both air quality and noise, and make walking a much more pleasant experience. It is likely that the footfall in the shops that line most of the routes into the town would increase as a result, with a corresponding increase in prosperity for those local businesses.

Please back the call for safe Space for Cycling by pledging your support at: www.space4cycling.org.uk/councillors

For more info see: www.gmcc.org.uk/space-for-cycling-policy-6-asks or email: contact@gmcc.org.uk

Yours sincerely,
Dr Grahame Cooper

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