A few years ago Sustrans introduced Route 2 of the National Cycle Network. The route west from Chichester has fallen into disrepair and is no longer considered fit for purpose. There are a large number of confident, fit cyclists using the route but they are often ignoring the marked path and cycling on the road, because facilities are seriously inadequate. Children are almost never seen using the route because it is so unsafe. “Utility” cyclists, ordinary commuters, the elderly and the less confident are rare, even though there is considerable wish to switch to cycling.
In March 2014 a project began to promote an improved infrastructure. County and parish councils have received presentations positively and councillors have given support. Andrew Tyrie, MP, has offered his public support and guided the project towards funding. Chichester District Council state that it is high priority and are hoping to obtain match funding. The County Council tell us they are giving the project serious consideration. The Chemroute Action Group is consulting with local residents, via social media and public meetings. Petitions are growing in size.
We are fortunate that the geography is in our favour for this project, in a way rarely encountered in the UK. The land is flat along the route, making cycling easy. Communities are close together, a little too far to walk for most trips, but simple on a bicycle. And apart from Westgate, which needs special consideration, there is the width available.
The proposed new infrastructure will be designed for pedestrians, mobility scooters and motorists, as well as providing a separated, continuous, high quality cycle route. There are no national guidelines for design so authorities generally apply the London Design Standards, written by Transport for London. We will also look to international standards and adapt to the local context.
Until recently, paint has been the method of providing a cycle route. While cheap, it does little to encourage people to leave their car behind and use a bicycle because it is not safe, and is not perceived as safe. In addition, where money needs to be spent at a difficult location, such as a junction, the route gives up entirely. Cyclists are then expected to mix with lorries, tractors, fast cars and buses. This deters most people so instead we have a constant increase in traffic, with the associated noise, pollution etc. The Chemroute proposal is for there to be physical separation and for the cycle path to be smooth. It has to be direct, because people will not divert around a loop; it has to be continuous, with safe methods to cross intersections.
Pedestrians are also very important and Chemroute encourages safe crossings as part of the plan.
The route is proposed to start at the Cross, go along West Street, across a new facility at the roundabout, along Westgate (where new arrangements are required to calm or block motor traffic), past Bishop Luffa and on through Fishbourne. The roundabout at Sherborne Road will need to be changed, probably to a signal controlled junction.
There are two key sources of funding. The Community Infrastructure Levy and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The Whitehouse Farm development is meant to provide a cycle route into the city. So far plans from the developers are completely unsatisfactory. They may even be counter-productive. We need your support, at Chichester City Council, in demanding that the money be spent on proper cycling facilities to join the Centurion Way to Westgate and into West Street. This will then set Chemroute on a positive trajectory. Out from Chichester, the LEP will need to be called upon and here a sound business case must be put forward. This will require authorities to work together. The Chemroute Action Group is prepared to play its part in taking forward the submission.
It has been said that child obesity is the biggest threat to our society. We have an aging population that are not mobile. Asthma and heart conditions are exacerbated by air pollution. It is our duty to find ways to combat these problems, reduce traffic and congestion, and enable everyone who is capable of riding a bicycle or driving a mobility scooter to do so safely. We need the motor car but we do not need it every day.
Currently communities are not cohesive: they are cut by motor traffic so neighbours do not become friends. Care in the community is made much harder when residents cannot get across the road, do a little shop for the housebound or collect a prescription for the ill. It is also surprising how many quite infirm people who cannot walk any distance can actually cycle. They do so slowly (unless on an electric bike), but will not take the risk of cycling in the current street scene.
Chemroute will become a beacon of best practice and when modal shift occurs and we see many cyclists of all ages and abilities cycling to school, to work, out to the villages and harbour, into the city to enjoy the markets and shops, then more of the National Cycle Network will become possible, stretching east, connecting with other routes serving the city. Chichester can become a pleasanter, healthier place to be, its history enjoyed and its businesses allowed to thrive.