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.