Many of you will be aware that work has now started on the Hill Close site. Land clearance and basic infrastructure work begun with large mounds of topsoil appearing across the area. Rough hardcore has been laid on an initial section of the access road. Further hedge removal work can also be seen where the site is close to the house on Hill Close.
Ground clearance starts on the Hill Close site. November 2018
Walking is our natural way to get around. We are made for walking and running. Using it to get to school is a step in the right direction to a healthy lifestyle. It’s also pollution free and doesn’t cause congestion. We hear all the time about how overweight1 our children are and how important it is they take more exercise. But do we make it easy for them to walk safely to school? As parents of the current generation of school children you were probably one of 70% who walked to school. Now it is less than 50% of children who enjoy the experience. And that has happened in one generation. Most (43%) children are driven to the school gates. The result is congestion, stress, air pollution and a lost opportunity.
The reality for many parents is that it’s a rush to get to school on time and on to work. The car makes this a lot easier to manage. But with that comes the loss of the opportunity to take some exercise that fits seamlessly into our day. Nonetheless, we need to encourage walking and cycling to school and try to remove barriers that discourage parents and children. So what are the reasons that people give for not walking and cycling around the village?
Safety usually comes top of the list. Young people aged between 11-15 are more likely to be killed or injured on the roads than any other group. In total that has meant that 69 children under 15 years of age were killed in 2016 (the latest year for data). That is about 0.0006%. Of course every death especially at this age is a terrible tragedy. The risk is very small. The data does show that ¾ of the accidentshappen when children are going to and from school. Clearly the longer ‘tail’ after 16:00 hours represent children out and about, probably on their own for much of the time.
Safety is improved in our village if linked pavement routes are available. Roads without pavements deter many walkers. They were fine in a horse and cart age or when motorised traffic was rare and tended to be slower and noisier. Now that traffic is much more intense, faster and inclined to consider other (slower) road users as a hindrance. As a walker, I have also found that traffic is getting quieter and therefore more difficult to anticipate its approach while out of sight. I don’t think or at least hope its not because I’m getting hard of hearing! More electric cars will make this even worse. On narrow roads the little space some drivers give to other road users is anxiety inducing!
So how do children from Upper Bunburyget to school? They could walk down Wyche Road from the Church (having cut through the church yard for safety). Then either continue down Wyche Lane or in dry weather cut across the footpath to join the Lane again by the entrance to Jubilee fields. From here the route is more complex. No pavement continues to the school either down the right-hand or left-hand side of triangle. So, if children make it this far their parents may consider it too risky for them to walk on their own and they may need to be accompanied. And that make’s the decision to drive the kids in the car to school much more likely.
We need to ensure those safe routes to and from school exist and link up so that any child and their parents can walk to school safely. This would mean:
1. Pavements along Wyche Lane – all the way on at least one side of the road.
2. Pavements on both sides of the triangle to minimise the need to keep crossing the road.
3. Pavements on both sides of School Lane to the school.
4. Pavement or protected zone for pedestrians to access the Co-op, butchers, Village Hall and Nags Head at the centre of the village.
This still leaves the walk from Upper Bunbury via the two routes – Wyche Road and Vicarage Lane unresolved. Wyche Road is very narrow. A standard width pavement would make it impassable for most traffic. Alternatives would be to make it ‘Access only’ with a speed restriction perhaps as low as of 10mph.
As for Vicarage Lane the best solution is a footpath just inside the hedge on the field side. This is would be a difficult option to achieve. Short to medium term the only solution is to make it safer with a speed restriction and calming infrastructure.
That brings us to the issue of speed restrictions. I believe, with evidence, that creating a reduced speed zone around the centre of the village would go a long way to making the village more walker and cycling friendly and safer. You will find additional comments on the topic of 20 mph in the other articles listed in this menu so I shall not repeat them here. But it is the combination of linked pavement routes, speed restriction (20 mph zones) and the possible use of protected zones, that will enable more to walk and cycle safely around the village.
1Over 30% of children in the National Y6 classroom are overweight or obese.And it gets worse as the years pass. (Local Government Association analysis of Public Health England May 2018)
Have you been to Tarporley recently? I hadn’t been for a few weeks so it made a pleasant surprise to find a rash of 20 mph signs round the town. The High Street and many of the side roads and residential streets have speed limited to 20 mph.
Tarporley goes for 20 MPH
We have known for some time that Chester & Cheshire West has adopted the ’20‘s Plenty for us ';; policy. MMany residential streets around Chester have the 20 mph signs up already. Now it seems they are extending the scheme to other towns around their area. This is great news and helps to strengthen the pressure on Cheshire East to adopt this policy.
It was good to see that a number of the candidates in the recent election were also prepared to come out in support of the campaign. It was also raised as an issue at the last Parish Council meeting. A member of the public asked if this policy would help the village rebalance the needs of pedestrians and cyclists relative to those in vehicles..
This phrase ‘Active transport’ has recently made its appearance in certain government publication. It boils down to reference to walking and cycling, avoiding lifts where possible and replacing ‘sit-down’ transport by using our bodies to get about. These should be the normal way of getting about for our everyday needs. How do we make that a reality for everybody?
Firstly, we need a change of attitude. We need to agree that in Bunbury we would prefer people to cycle and walk rather than take the motor vehicle.
This simply recognises that allowing an ever increasing number of motor vehicles to be used for personal transport is having and will increasingly have an impact on the health and well-being of residents.
In a recent government publication ‘Cyclingand Walking Investment Strategy (2017). What this document seeks is
1. Walkable communities
Walking is the bedrock of every trip we make. We walk to the car, bus, bike, etc. At the end of that stage we again get out of the car and bus and off the train and bike.
The statistics (2002-2016) on walking show a strong decline in the numbers, with a (-13%) distance walked, a (-10%) time spent walking and (-6%) in the number of walks. To put that in perspective, In 1974 70% of children walked to school, today under half (48%) usually do.
Studies show more people bike and walk in communities where improvements have been made, such as adding safer pavements, pedestrian crossings, and protected bike lanes. In addition, when people move to neighbourhoods that are designed to promote physical activity and active transportation, they tend to spend less time in their cars and more time walking. Making walking easier can also help communities by improving safety, increasing interaction between residents, improving local economies, and reducing air pollution.
So what makes a community walkable?
A calm centre with valued shops and services mostly within 5 minutes walk.
A clustering of mix housing so people can get to centre easily and quickly
Public spaces where people can gather, pass the time of day, and play.
Pavements, footpaths that allow and encourage residents of all ages ad abilities to be out and about
Key streets are speed controlled
Zones where walkers, cyclists and drivers mix need to ‘highlighted’;. Evidence suggests that in such zones drivers are careful and courteous.
A connected network of walking routes that encourage and support this activity.
How does Bunbury measure up?
Bunbury is a dispersed village that grew out of three ‘hamlets’ so a network of links is all the more important. No paved footway links Upper and lower Bunbury. There is the footpath the Square, Wyche Road across to the Wyche Lane opposite the Jubilee Field entrance. Part of the path is across the field cropped by the local farmer. It is muddy at time and dug up at others. A real path along one side of Vicarage Lane would be better.
No pavement links the centre of the village to any other. It is, intentionally or not, a shared use zone of cars, lorries, HGV (local building deliveries), cyclists and of course the pedestrian.
Walking to school from Bunbury Lane, Upper Bunbury, Lower Bunbury (via Wyche Lane) must be done on the road. Where pavements exist they are intermittent, requiring frequent road crossing as well as periods of road walking. The route to school can also suffer from occasional blockages. This was the state of School Lane in January this year. It is on the school side of the School Lane. Although there is no proper path it is the side manyuse as a (muddy) footpath runs along the this section of the road. After heavy rain this side is blocked.
One puddle but two road crossings when walking to school
Before getting to the puddle the children and other walkers will have had to negotiate the section past Bunbury Cottage. With cars parked along the hedge side next to Brantwood Cottage traffic is pushed over to the ‘walkers’ side’ of the road. A regulation pavement could fit down this route but it might mean the end of parking on the opposite side.
Action point: How can we make it safer to walk to the village shops? Why is it not possible to have pavement access right to the centre of the village and to the school from the three main directions. ?
2. Cycle friendly streets:
It is said that in the UK it is only the “fit, the brave and the desperate” who dare to cycle. While in the rest of Europe 20%+ journeys are made by bike is not uncommon. Despite the recent surge in cycling as a sport the UK has a very low level of cycling as a means of transport to work, the shops, or other utility uses. Why?
The Guardian asked people what stops them cycling. The top ten reasons were:
Bad driving – cars dominate the road. Drivers are seen as ‘passing too close, shouting abuse at cyclists when they move to the centre of the road, and generally driving too fast.
Dangerouslydesigned roads – a road network that has for decades designed out cycling.
Perception of danger– fear of having an accident keeps many people out of the saddle. It’s safer than playing tennis but that’s not how people see it.
Lack of facilities– no showers at work or places to securely park bikes at work, the shops and at home.
They have had an accident – obvious reluctance to return.
State of the roads– potholes, potholes, rough repairs and dangerous road edges on country roads.
Not being in Germany or Netherlands – some have seen how they do it better abroad!
Rain and hills– well the weather is rarely extreme but the rain and the lack of flat lands can put some off riding! But is this very different from Germany or Northern France?
By 2025 the Government want to double the numbers cycling (Cyclingand Walking Investment Strategy (2017)). Bunbury already has lots of people cycling through the village. Tilley’s coffee shop is a very popular stop for many cyclists out from Crewe or Chester. The real question for Bunbury is how many of our residents use the bike for recreation or transport? Certainly, you will find a number of recreational cyclists around the village often in informal groups and if you are quick you may catch sight of a few visiting the shops of a morning. on their bikes. Of course this is all incidental to the fact that there are no facilities specific to the needs of cyclists. Car parking spaces are provided outside the Co-op but nothing for the cyclist to chain his or her bike to let alone a cycle park. We (yes, I admit I am one!) make do.
Like many other friends of Bunbury, I like to use the local shops. Coming from Wakes Meadow this involves a short journey, crossing roads about 4 times. To be fair on some occasions I don’t cross the road by the Chapel where the pavement runs out, but continue on the same side walking on the road. The truth is, nobody can get to the shops without walking on the road.
The same is true for children attending the primary school in School Lane. If you start from Upper or Lower Bunbury then to get to the school you have to walk on roads. OK, I hear you say that’s not a problem in a rural village like Bunbury. These days Bunbury is a pretty busy village especially in the morning and at the end of school. We want children to be able to walk to and from school safely with or without a guiding hand. Most walkers and cyclist would also like to get around safely and quietly. For along time is has been the norm to put the interests of pedestrians well down the pecking order when it comes to spending tax payer money. However, this does have consequences.
Today we have a health crisis stemming (in part) from lack of activity with 1 in 3 children in year 6 suffering from overweight or obesity and about 40% of adults failing to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. The air we breathe has also become a source of anxiety as we learn that it is full of pollutants that can shorten our lives. We need to make it safe and easy for people get out and enjoy walking and cycling around Bunbury.
How can we improve matters?
The government, in its recent publications ‘Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy’ say:
We want to build on these successes and make walking and cycling the natural choices for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey.
And this they state will:
….for society as a whole, it means lower congestion, better air quality, and vibrant, attractive places and communities.
Sounds great but how do we help the process along?
One way would be to make the walking and cycling environment friendlier and safer. Putting the pedestrian in pole position and making vehicles passing through the village slow down and give priority to those not in cars. Yes, I can hear the car fans rising in mass to objection. Many drivers do take great care and are considerate. What I’m arguing for is that within the narrow limits of the residential area of the village it is time to give the walker and cyclists a bit more consideration. Onesuggestionmeans introducing a lower speed limit. Bare in mind that where those pavements don’t exist vehicles can drive up to 30 mph.
The 20’s Plenty Campaign
The ’20 is plenty for us’ is a campaign to encourage the wider adoption of zones where all traffic is limited to a maximum of 20 mph. Chester and Cheshire West have adopted the scheme and will be rolling it out over the next year. The Wirral and Lancashire are also committed LA’s in the Northwest.
A new National Speed limit
The 30 mph speed limit was introduced in 1934 on the back of what we would call today ‘gut feeling’;. The evidence did not exist. Nearly 130,000 people were casualties on our roads in 2016. Of those, the biggest group (over 105,000) were on 30 mph roads (DfT – Reported road casualties 2016). Going to 20 mph makes collisions more survivable (dependent on age) with about a 20% reduction of casualties.
Lower car speeds also encourage more people to walk and ride as much of the fear of fast traffic has gone. The health advantages are well documented but a commitment to promote more healthy ‘every day’ activity is not apparent. We need a culture more in keeping with the times and is prepared to put the priority on walking and cycling rather than driving everywhere.