A long-term vision to make it safer, easier and more accessible for residents to walk and cycle around Wokingham Borough has been published.
The Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP), which the council’s decision-making executive approved last night (Tuesday, 21 March), identifies which local routes would help more people walk, wheel and cycle more and suggests ways of improving them.
Some money is set aside to start work, but no schemes are set in stone as the plan will always be open to updates and nothing would go ahead without consulting residents.
But by publishing its intentions for the years to come, following several rounds of public consultation, the council will be best placed to secure outside funding for improvements.
Making it easier to make healthy changes
The council is doing all it can to promote more active and sustainable types of travel, which also includes public transport, to improve the environment and people’s health.
Getting more residents walking and cycling will help to address the climate emergency, reduce air pollution and make it easier for people to build exercise into their daily routines.
It will reduce traffic congestion by reducing vehicle journeys, tackling the problem at the source, and help everyone get around more affordably.
However, the council knows it can’t just urge people to walk and cycle more without providing the necessary infrastructure – and the LCWIP is key to this.
Deciding where improvements are most needed
After consulting residents in 2021 on how they get around, the council and its consultant WSP drew up a network of walking and cycling routes and proposed improvements in key locations.
These included safety and accessibility features to also suit those using wheelchairs and other mobility aids, push scooters and, where appropriate, horse riders.
Following further consultation in summer 2022, these ideas were refined based on people’s feedback and arranged in order of priority to help the council move forward.
The LCWIP will form part of the council’s revised Local Transport Plan, a broader strategy document covering all ways of getting around, and will be reviewed every six months to ensure it is effective.
How will this plan make a difference?
Wokingham Borough has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the country, but Department for Transport figures show 58 per cent of all private car journeys are below five miles so there is scope to reduce them.
The LCWIP identifies three types of walking and cycling route (primary, secondary and tertiary) based on usage and proposes changes that might make them more desirable, in partnership with other councils where needed.
These include better lighting, wider footways or cycleways, routes fully separated from the roads, better crossings, dropped kerbs, pedestrianised areas, wider junctions, new bridges, reduced speed limits, tactile pavements and more.
The council will seek opportunities to bring these to life through external funding, either via statutory contributions from developers building new homes or bodies like the Department for Transport and Active Travel England.
A vision to solve several problems at once
The council is pleased to have reached such a crucial milestone in its efforts to change how people get around.
Improving access to walking and cycling will have many benefits on an individual level, for communities and for the world at large, and it thanks everyone who helped by giving feedback.
Whether it’s improving the borough's air quality or just making it easier to enjoy a quick stroll or ride, this plan should make it possible to improve people’s lives in lots of different ways.
Given that transport accounts for about a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions, it’s also a vital step in the authority's efforts to offset the potentially disastrous consequences of the climate emergency.
Part of a bigger drive for sustainable travel
The council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and has pledged to do all it can towards making Wokingham Borough a net-zero carbon borough by the end of this decade.
It recently finished a preliminary consultation on its new Local Transport Plan, which will strongly emphasise sustainable travel, and will consult on this again in more detail.
It promotes the benefits of walking, cycling and public transport through its My Journey Wokingham team and works to ensure new development in the borough supports this.
The council accepts some car journeys will be necessary, so is rolling out electric vehicle chargers and will soon install 38 new ones with the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles’ support.
It is also working to protect bus services by lobbying for continued Government funding and producing a Bus Service Improvement Plan to secure money for better provision locally.
The following areas are proposed for possible improvements in the LCWIP:
Central Wokingham; Easthampstead Road, Finchampstead Road, Barkham Road, Oxford Road, Reading Road and London Road (all in or around Wokingham town); Shinfield; Spencers Wood; Lower Earley Way; Wargrave; A4 Bath Road near Twyford, Charvil and Shepherds Hill; Observer Way, Arborfield; Woodley; Nightingale Road, between Woodley and Earley; Church Road and Woodlands Avenue, near the Reading Borough boundary at Palmer Park; Winnersh; the Wokingham to Bracknell greenway.
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