Safe Routes to School – An update on The Knowle Society’s understanding and views

Discussion continues in the local press and is the subject of much local conversation. This update expresses the view held by The Knowle Society on the proposals as laid out in the public exhibition in Knowle Library – it is of course subject to the actual official plans and survey to be presented by the Council following the public consultation.

The proposals to alter Station Road, St Lawrence Close and Knowle Park are causing much debate at present and a review of the proposals follows.

At present the School has an excellent safety record and the scheme is not being proposed in order to reduce accidents, rather it is to encourage more students to cycle to school. However 80% plus already walk to School and it is generally agreed that any child who decides to cycle, will be from the group who at present walk.

In brief the proposals are:

Station Road – Road humps at existing school crossing and Lodge road, in addition a cycle/pedestrian crossing point across the end of St Lawrence Close.

The footpath on Station Road, from the school crossing to St Lawrence Close and down one side of St Lawrence Close, to be widened and open to both pedestrians and cyclists at the same time.

Although the alterations are aimed at school children, in order to allow mixed pedestrians/cyclists on the same footpath, it would also be open to anyone else to cycle on the footpath.

A 20-mph speed limit to be in operation from 8.00am-9.00am and 3.00pm-4.00pm along part of Station Road.

Knowle Park – The proposal is that path widening is also carried out in Knowle Park with the same allowance for pedestrians and cyclists mixing at all times. One of the primary concerns of The Knowle Society is the impact on elderly people who use the park from the adjacent nursing home and the many other parents and young children who use it for recreation and a route to the primary school.

Because only children who travel to school via St Lawrence Close would benefit from the scheme, it is not possible to judge just how many would take part. Other areas such as Dorridge and Bentley Heath etc. would not be covered.

Finally the finance to carry out the work is in the region of 200,000 pounds and will be met by the Government and Sustrans, a cycling charity.

Competition Winners!

The Knowle Society was delighted to be named the winner of a competition run by Sunrise Senior Living to find names for its two new buildings on the Warwick Road.

Members of the Knowle Society’s Local History Centre used their knowledge of the history of Knowle to propose two names which apparently stood out as clear winners. Janet Erzen (chairman of the history committeee of the Society) and Elizabeth Stanley (a long-standing member of committee) had suggested the two names of ‘Queen Eleanor House’ and ‘Lady Byron House’.

At a large evening reception at Sunrise Senior Living on 24th March 2009, Janet and Elizabeth were delighted to win their prize of a case of wine (no promises to share it with the Society’s 3000+ members!) – they had to sing for their supper though and gave a brief history of the names and the reason for their inspired choices to the assembled guests.

The Knowle Society has been pleased over its 47 years to provide names for several local developments and new roads. The Local History Centre also aims to help enquirers with information on family names and local family history and receives a steady stream of enquiries on Saturday mornings at Knowle Library. It is also pleased to receive occasional offers of local artefacts and photographs that enhance its Local History Collection.

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 online discussion forum launched

We are very pleased to announce the launch of a new online forum for members to discuss issues of relevance to the ‘village’ of Knowle and The Knowle Society. This facility was originally requested by a member at the Society’s 2006 AGM.

Best Practice award for The Knowle Society

Runners up for SUSTAiN competition to find the Best Practice organisation in the voluntary sector in Solihull Borough.

The Society entered a ‘Best Practice’ competition run by SUSTAiN, the new name backing Solihull’s voluntary sector. We were fortunate to achieve a position in the final three entrants, and after being interviewed by an independent judge, Mr Lawrie Rumens, a decision was made that we finished a close second to the winners. An award of 200 pounds has been made which is to be spent in connection with the Dr Bower memorial garden project, which is hopefully to be the site at the top of Station Road created by demolishing the old toilet block and having a more open garden around a new style bus stop. The development will be a ‘community effort’ and the existing Steering Group also incorporates Knowle & Dorridge Rotary Club, Knowle Traders and Solihull Council on whose land the existing building is sited. All this detail is subject to acceptance by the residents and the Council.