Cycling and walking is having a ‘moment’ since lockdown with the decrease in traffic as many residents in the Borough, me and my family included, have been cycling and walking more for leisure, and also for transport instead of using the car.
I know that having less traffic, reducing the need for children to walk or cycle next to busy traffic on very narrow pavements or cycle lanes is an important part of that.
In response to the suggestion for more cycle parking in the town to enable social distancing someone told me that ‘Bedford is a cycling town’ which resonated with me and I would extend that further.
My view is that our geography and topography means that we are lucky enough that cycling in particular is a genuinely practical way to get around.
In Great Barford Ward, most of the communities are sufficiently close to each other, and to Bedford, that cycling and walking is practical.
What’s more we already have quite a lot of designated cycle lanes and we are very lucky to have Sustrans Route 51 which connects our beautiful countryside, and many more athletic cyclists than me already spend time around the rolling hills of Ravensden and off up through Thurleigh as part of their cycling routes.
However, when trying to walk or cycle between some communities I have noticed that there are areas of serious inadequacy, this includes needing to cross both slip roads on and off the A421 to travel between the Priory Park and Business Park and Cardington, the very narrow pavement through Willington on the A603 and onto Cople and the need to cycle round blind bends to get between Willington and Great Barford to name but a few I have experienced recently.
Likewise, there is no pavement connecting Ravensden Crossroads to Woodlands Park and onto Mowsbury Park although I know that residents would welcome this for access to the country park and access to the shop.
Famously as a country our roads and pavements aren’t that wide and in the current circumstances we all need more space.
At the moment we are aware that pedestrians need more space on the pavement to practise social distancing. We are also aware that cyclists need more space as well. As someone who also drives a car I am aware that we need to ensure that cars can pass safely too. We are in a position where we have both a challenge of how to balance different transport needs, as well as an opportunity.
With all this in mind I believe we have both a challenge and an opportunity. Given the increased enthusiasm for cycling and walking we have the opportunity to press for more cycle and walking space in general, and we also have the challenge of a particularly pressing need for more at the moment because of the need to keep 2m apart.
This applies equally within the town centre where the High Street pavements are narrow and the barriers which are there for safety do also prevent those on the pavements being able to given each other enough space.
I believe that in order to make the increase in walking and cycling a permanent change, improving fitness and helping cleaner air through fewer car journeys, we need to actively review and manage our pavements, roads and cycle routes to build on the existing infrastructure.
As a driver, I am not anti-car per se, I do think that now is a very important time to take action on the way in which different modes of transport share spaces and also to ensure that we are taking opportunities to join consider how cycling and walking should be make simpler and safer – this includes particular difficult spots due to speeds, road surface conditions and visibility, and the fact that often motorists simply don’t expect pedestrians or cyclists, or in rural areas horse riders to be there (even though it is entirely legitimate) and not knowing how to safely share the space. This review should include in the town centre and connections from and between villages as well.
by Cllr Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant
Great Barford Ward (comprising Cardington, Cople, Great Barford, Ravensden, Renhold -including Cranbourne Gardens, Willington and Woodlands Park -part of Brickhill Parish)
Tel: 07934 853 907