Solihull Council’s consultation on Safe Routes To School proposals

Following strong concerns from The Knowle Society and the wider community, the Council is holding a public consultation in Knowle Library from 6th to 23rd May 2009 [NOW EXTENDED TO 29TH) on the proposed plans for special cycle provisions around Arden School and in Knowle (Jobs Close) Park. This will include a questionnaire and two personal attendances by council officials.

During these dates there will be an exhibition of the proposals and on the following dates there will also be attendance by council officers: Thursday 14th May, 2pm to 7pm and Saturday 16th May 10am to 4pm. The Council says “The results of this consultation will be used to help make a decision on whether to proceed with the scheme. Funding is available for some of the works on Station Road, but funding to complete the cycling elements, including proposed routes through the park is subject to an application for funds from Sustrans (the cycle charity). If the scheme is approved and funding secured, we will aim to carry out the works this summer.”

Safe Routes to School – controversial proposals for Station Road and Jobs Close (Knowle) Park

SMBC proposals to re-engineer a zone of Station Road and St. Lawrence Close opposite Arden School and certain paths within the Park have met with considerable opposition. The Knowle Society lays out its initial response to proposals which are deemed inappropriate, ineffective and potentially counter-productive in meeting a worthy objective. [Scheme now postponed pending further consultation.]

The Society last month became aware of plans prepared by the Council under the aegis of the Government’s Safer Cycle Routes initiative. The plans were apparently prepared some time last July but in spite of a declared commitment to consult stakeholders, this does not seem to have happened.

The plans in question have been the subject of considerable discussion as they affect both Knowle Park, St. Lawrence Close and Station Road. The object is to provide a safe cycle route to Arden School from several parts of the village and the Government’s strategy is to encourage cycling as part of the anti-obesity drive.

The Society is, it goes without saying, fully in favour of well thought through plans which would have the effect required. Sadly, however, having subjected these plans to very careful scrutiny, the Trustee Directors have come to the conclusion that the plans in question fail to meet the minimum requirements for acceptability. Among other factors, the following seem to be unacceptable:

a) The proposal to widen the footpath in Station Road, thereby narrowing the road. Station Road is already very narrow and the proposal would in our view increase the danger for cyclists at all times of the day and night. The previous restriction of Station Road between Lodge Road and the High Street has not been an unqualified success and cycling there has become more, not less hazardous.

b) The proposal to impose a 20 m.p.h. speed limit at all times through the day. If this were restricted to the above ‘rush hours’ then in our view motorists would be much more likely to obey the restriction and the hoped-for benefits would be achieved.

c) The part of the plan that will affect St. Lawrence Close. In our view this is totally impractical and will lead to total ‘clogging’ of the close and consequent increased danger to cyclists.

d) The future proposals for the park. There are several objections to this aspect and the Society is joined by the Friends of Knowle Park in opposition. The plans would, in our joint view, increase danger for users of the park in several places where visibility is obstructed for minimum possible benefit to any cyclists.

e) The system of chicanes and ‘speed bumps’ which in our view will hinder and possibility endanger cyclists particularly in view of the narrowing of Station Road.

Comments by members who have studied the plans will naturally be welcomed but in view of the difficulties referred to above, time is very short. In the interim, we are presenting a detailed objection to the proposals, while welcoming the principle.

Update 8 Jan 2009: The decision on the scheme has been postponed until the next financial year, pending further ‘stakeholder’ consultation. The Knowle Society intends to play a full and constructive part in that consultation.

New bus routes and timetable for Knowle

From Sunday 25th January 2009 replacement bus routes (S2 & S3) are being introduced through Knowle. The Knowle Society has summarised the most popular journeys between Knowle and Solihull and provided these in a simple document which you can download here. Service along Purnells Way (the old 151) has been withdrawn but service between Knowle and Dorridge along Station Road has returned, with an hourly prime time weekday service only (S2). Broadly, daytime bus frequency has reduced from between 4-6 per hour to 3 per hour.

Buses

On Yer Bike!

 

Cycle routes are being proposed for Jobs Close (Knowle Park). All the paths except the newest one would be widened and split by white-lining into separate pedestrian and cycle paths. This is part of “Safer Routes to School – Arden School. A Government initiative”. The first stage is the approach to the School along St Lawrence Close and Station Road.

Subject to a (possible) forthcoming public consultation, two cycleways will be marked out across the Park, also known as Jobs Close Park, as a part of the “Safer Routes to School” initiative.

There is a national drive to get people out of cars and onto bikes, both to cut carbon emissions and to increase cycling as a healthy activity. So, over recent years, cycleways have been introduced into a number of Parks in the borough, providing improved access for those passing through on their journeys to work and school and to provide a safe place to ride for Park users at leisure.

Detailed proposals for this approach to be extended to Knowle were approved by Solihull’s Cabinet Member for Quality of Life and Neighbourhoods in September. These would permit cycling on each of hard landscaped paths through the park except the ‘new’ one, which follows Purnells Brook between the lower entrances.

The proposal calls for the widening of the two paths from the Landor Road entrance to the St Lawrence Close entrance and along the top of the Park by the allotments and tennis courts, to safely accommodate use by both cyclists and pedestrians.