Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum
Working to improve cycling conditions and encourage people to cycle for transport and as part of a healthy lifestyle
Working to improve cycling conditions and encourage people to cycle for transport and as part of a healthy lifestyle
The Department for Transport consultation on the proposed changes concluded with proposed changes seeking to improve safety for more vulnerable users: pedestrians, particularly children, older adults and disabled people, horse riders…and cyclists.
Key changes in the new Highway Code courtesy of Cycling UK include:
Safety is a constant thread throughout the work of the forum. The safety of cyclists is an obvious priority and we therefore contribute and support initiatives like the update to the highway code. This will place responsibility on those that can do most harm on the roads, to take most care.
We also see the perception of safety issues being one of the major impediments to more people using cycling as a means of transport. We therefore campaign for safety to be considered on all road projects and new developments, for example the gyratory in Maidstone. We also understand that pedestrians are sometimes startled / scared by cyclists in shared spaces. Our main policy response is to campaign for cycle routes segregated from pedestrian traffic because this gives the cyclist convenience and the pedestrian safety. However this does not detract from our responsibility to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (not a quote from the Highway code, comes from the other bible).
The forum along with parish councils, MBC, KCC and other local groups strongly opposed approval of this development, but unfortunately, despite the clear common sense arguments against approval on heritage and highways grounds the government inspector gave full approval. Although the congestion damage cannot be mitigated by active travel, the forum was able to argue for the incorporation of a series of changes to the plan to improve walking and cycling. These included 3m cycle routes segregated from pedestrian routes, the incorporation of a ramp to The Beams allowing disabled, cycling and pushchair access, an improved crossing on Willington Street to Mote Park and money to be spent on the old Spot Lane part of the National Cycle Route 177.
This is a vision from KCC to have zero fatalities and serious injuries on Kent roads by 2050 so no problem with the forum 100% supporting this objective. However there is lots of detail around how this is done. We have written a comprehensive input for the consultation which can be seen on our Website and Facebook page. Everybody can have their input via the KCC website until 15th March.
The forum’s message - another nice plan, but we need the active travel infrastructure and road safety initiatives to be delivered in practice.
Please contribute to the consultation KCC Vision Zero.
Look at MCCF's Response
All new residential developments in Kent now have a design speed of 20mph but there is still discussion on whether these roads should also have an enforced speed limit of 20mph. Trials are underway in Faversham and Tonbridge. This is an active debate at the moment so well worth everybody writing to KCC and MBC councillors with views and supporting 20mph.
The new pop up cycle lanes implemented by KCC during the pandemic were welcomed in principle by a surveyed 80% of the population.
The feedback from these schemes will be incorporated into future plans.
The forum and Kent cycle groups are supporting KCC in delivering the next round of schemes and have already contributed to early consultation. Unfortunately there was no money allocated to schemes in Maidstone but the forum maintains a list of target cycle route improvements and works with KCC to introduce these into plans.
If you are interested in improving cycling provision in Maidstone please get involved.
The Forum has two objectives:
1 Encourage infrastructure for cycling specifically but Active Travel in general
2 Encourage more people to use their bikes for transport
We see the first as an enabler for the second which we would like to spend more time on.
Kent County Council has welcomed news that government is investing £70 million to help restart local economies and make roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
KCC has been allocated just over £8 million by the Department for Transport (DfT) to invest in walking and cycling and to embed new behaviours whilst promoting the positive effects of safe and sustainable active travel.
The first round of funding, however, will be £1.6 million with the remainder subject to agreement if spent within eight weeks.
In addition to this, plans are being worked on to introduce further 20mph zones, including trials in Faversham and Tonbridge.
Since lockdown on March 23, Kent Highways has recorded a 300% increase in the number of people cycling and a recent survey of people across the county found 63% supported the idea of more cycle lanes.
Michael Payne meeting with Chris Heaton-Harris, the Cycling Minister, earlier this year.
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Michael Payne said: “I very much welcome this funding and we can now get started on planning some short, medium, and longer-term schemes for those walking and cycling.
“I hope this will encourage more people to walk and cycle as the health benefits speak for themselves. This investment will allow our active travel options to be enhanced and improved so that these journeys remain safe and sustainable.
“We will be looking into the possibility of reallocating road space for walking and cycling, encouraging people to take part in active travel, for instance going to school, and reducing speed limits where appropriate.
“I very much hope that the number of people cycling and walking increases as there are a wealth of benefits to our communities if people are more active – lower traffic levels, reduced congestion, less road noise and improved air quality.
“But to make these changes long lasting we need to work together, and this can only be achieved with local support.”
Mr Payne added: “I want to develop ideas and improvements that not only give some quick wins, but to also learn and experiment so that we can lock-in the longer-term benefits from a programme of improvements across the county.
“I appreciate there will be lots of groups that will want to be involved. But right now we are assessing the opportunities this funding brings so that we can invest in the right places at the right time, whilst also responding to the key worker and urgent needs that we face in the current pandemic to quickly provide safe walking and cycling infrastructure.
“Welcome though this funding is we all need to realise that it will not be possible to accommodate every idea immediately. That is why some of the schemes that are chosen are likely to be experimental in the first instance.”
KCC anticipates more people will be travelling to work and to school by bike or on foot.
Working with colleagues in the local districts and boroughs, KCC is arranging to implement temporary signs that reinforce the social distancing message.
As part of the DfT Access Fund programme, KCC has worked alongside Cycle Community CIC based in Ashford supplying 50 refurbished bikes to key NHS staff.
The bikes have been supplied with safety equipment including helmets, locks, lights and hi-vis vests.
KCC will be looking to:
The top risks that COVID is putting on road safety are:
When passing a person cycling, give plenty of room – a minimum of 1.5m – and don’t pass too quickly. It can be frightening to a rider if they are passed at high speed.
Fewer people have been on our roads since lockdown began and traffic levels have been at about 60% of what they normally would be. However, with government encouraging schools to go back, traffic levels will increase.
What’s more, children will now be walking or cycling to school alongside other parents driving their children, and general traffic will be thrown into the mix – drivers need to slow down, be patient and stay alert to other road users.
Some drivers will be re-adjusting to driving, having not driven for a long time, or the skills involved may be rusty when it comes to pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers on our roads.
We want everyone to share our roads safely because one mistake or a moment’s inattention can have tragic consequences, and human error is a factor in 95% of crashes.
Measures to encourage residents safely get on their bikes are being welcomed by Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum.
The Government has given Kent County Council £8m to spend on quick to deliver new cycle and walking schemes across the County.
In Maidstone Town Centre, two schemes are proposed, a pedestrianisation of Earl Street between Pudding Lane and Week Street and to implement two pop up cycle lanes along each side of King Street. The King Street scheme will link a cycle route from the town centre to Maidstone East Station and the Medway Towpath in one direction and Mote Park and routes to Downswood and Bearsted in the other direction.
Both schemes are due to be operational from mid-September 2020.
Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum is supportive of both schemes and is willing to work with both Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council to ensure that the schemes are of the highest order and are exemplars of best practice and show the way forward in promoting cycling and walking.
We have also been informed by sources in both Kent County Council and Maidstone Borough Council, that as part of Phase 2 there is a plan to install a cycle path along the A20 from Lenham to Maidstone (Willington Street) which via Mote Park will link to the new King Street Cycle Lanes.
Paul Harper, Chair of Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum said “we welcome these proposals, we expect Kent County Council will design and deliver them to the best exemplar standards of best practice. However next week our schools go back, and typically 60/70% of secondary school pupils travel by bus, however the indications are that only 5/10% will go by bus and around 90% will be driven increasing car journeys across Maidstone Borough by up to 20/30,000 car journeys twice a day. Urgent attention in needed to provide
support for pupils to walk and cycle to school and college. In the longer term Maidstone Borough needs a comprehensive investment in walking routes and also a cycling infrastructure where people can cycle on dedicated cycle paths around and across town.”
Duncan Edwards, Vice Chair of Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum said “the early part of lockdown in April 2020 showed the desire and willingness of people of all generations and backgrounds to get on their bicycles, it demonstrated that when you can cycle away from busy and congested roads, people will cycle. There was an acknowledged 300% increase in cycling across Maidstone and Kent. Now the traffic is back the bikes are going back into storage. We need to get a decent infrastructure as in other towns in the UK and also Denmark and the Netherlands, to get people on their bikes for the long term.”
Paul Harper said “during lockdown when people took to their bikes and walking leather air quality across our town was the best it’s been for decades, you could feel the freshness, we need to get that back and reduce our dependency on the car again.
Duncan Edwards said “As part of our plan we call on Kent County Council to repair the Medway Towpath/Cycle Route at Aylesford, which has been closed since the February 2020 River Medway Floods., also we are continuing to campaign to improve the heavily polluted Medway Bridges Gyratory and to enable safe cycling and we and Sustrans have submitted plans to KCC for urgent funding.
Government boost for Cycling and Walking falls at the Medway Towpath - PRESS RELEASE - Letter to the Editor
During lockdown the number of cyclists and walkers in Maidstone as in the rest of the UK went up incredibly. It demonstrated that families and cyclists of all generations and confidence will take to their bicycles if safe road conditions are available.
As the Chair of the Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum and a Fant Councillor, I welcome the Governments support for getting in safe infrastructure for cycling in a number of exemplar schemes across the Country. In Maidstone we are promised cycle lanes along King Street for mid-September 2020 and even a segregated cycle lane from Willington Street to Lenham alongside the A20 during the winter of 2020/21.
All positive and hopefully the start of addressing an integrated package of cycling and walking measures across Maidstone Town and Borough. Unfortunately however all is not rosy the Medway Towpath/ Cycleway was damaged in the February 2020 floods near Aylesford where it was partially undermined. It has since been closed off and now the closure stretch has been extended back along the timber walkway.
Everyone expected that it would be repaired as an urgent priority, alongside all the extra road works undertaken in lockdown, but NO the current site notice states that repair works will not be completed until Summer 2021 a year away. That will be a closure of a 1 ½ years. This is utterly disgraceful and a public scandal.
Since this route opened from Barming Bridge to Aylesford Bridge in 2015, it has become extremely popular with cyclists and pedestrians of all ages and levels of fitness and is now a major cycling route for people to get to the town centre and the Aylesford industrial estates.
It would easily have been possibly over the spring to put in some temporary timber decking to bridge the damaged area, which would have allowed walkers and cyclists to use the route while longer term repairs were done, but no close it off, forget it and hope it goes away seems to be the approach.
The Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum (MCCF) has raised this issue with the County Council, but to no avail, they clearly do not seem to be interested in prioritising walking and cycling in Kent, despite being happy to take Government money. If this had been the A20 or any main road into or out of Maidstone or the M20, it would have been repaired within hours or days. Because it is used by cyclist and pedestrians it is the bottom of the pile. At a time when KCC is looking to pedestrianise Earl Street and put in cycle lanes on King Street, its lack of support to maintain the best used and valued piece of cycling infrastructure in the Maidstone/ Aylesford area is incredulous.
The towpath is much loved by residents of Barming, East Farleigh, Maidstone and Aylesford, we deserve better and I and the Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum will make sure that this issue is taken seriously on behalf of all those who use and love the towpath.
If KCC is serious, like the Government is about active travel and encouraging cycling, repairing the Medway Towpath should be its top not bottom priority. Concerned cyclists can contact us at maidstonecycling.uk.
Chair of Maidstone Cycle Campaign Forum
The River Medway Towpath which runs between Aylesford and Barming (total length: 10.5km) has been closed near Aylesford since 15th June due to landslip. MCCF have raised this with KCC and to date there is no positive start date for the work required. The current 'closure' expires on the 12th December and KCC are looking for another 6 month extension. Their update on the 30th October is that site investigations are nearly complete and that the path will remain closed until Spring 2021 at the earliest.
New Roads Should Prioritise People on Bikes and on Foot over Cars
The Health Watchdog's statement as reported in Cyclist Magazine ( www.cyclist.co.uk ) :
Made to Move Report to MPs
Chris Boardman's presentation to MPs as reported by British Cycling ( www.britishcycling.org.uk ) :
Explore Kent Cycle Maps
MCCF have made a proposal to meet the current challenges of the Gyratory. See our Campaigns page for details.
SUSTRANS were commissioned by Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council to assess the current provision for walking and cycling in the town centre and along main Walking/Cycling corridors – Sutton Road and Hermitage Lane. The scope also included proposals for linking the corridors i.e. High Street - Maidstone West, East and Barracks – Medway Towpath. The report went to the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee on Tuesday 12th June - Agenda Item 17. Download the Assessment below.
Maidstone Borough Council are now commissioning a further assessment adding to the scope of the original.
To find out more click here Campaigns or on the tab at the top of this page.
More Great Information
SUSTRANS - Cycling
Visits their website for a range of information on cycling.
Look at Exemplars section for examples of great cycling provision. including:
Nijmegen: The City that tamed cars so that people can walk and bike where they please.
The 5 Year Plan is the flagship strategy for Kent County Council. It unites the Council with clear outcomes and objectives. It has been brought together by working with and listening to our residents, young people, local businesses, the voluntary and community sector and staff. We’ve reflected what we heard during our engagement process in this draft consultation document. KCC are keen to hear from you as we further develop this draft during formal consultation.
The Consultation ran from 6th January to 17th February 2020. Read our response
For more information please visit the KCC website www.kent.gov.uk/5year
The result promised for March is still awaited.
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