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‘Improve Wokingham’s cycling routes now’, campaigners plea

wokingham cycling safety
Nicky Chodorowska

CAMPAIGNERS have urged Wokingham Borough Council to “put cyclists first” following a series of accidents.

Wokingham Active Travel Community Hub (WATCH) has accused the council of inaction when it comes to cycle safety, after highlighting three injuries on Reading Road and reporting a potential hazard on London Road.

Now, it has teamed up with cyclists and Sarah Kerr, ward councillor for Evendons, who has also been fighting for action on Evendons Lane.

Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways, said the council is working to improve cycling across the borough with a series of new initiatives.

‘How somebody hasn’t died is a miracle’

Nicky Chodorowska, who broke her arm in 2017, said cycle safety is “pretty poor” in Wokingham.

She was injured while travelling down Reading Road and blames the layout of the road’s cycle path for the accident.

“I was riding from Wokingham where the path takes you on and off the pavement all the way,” she explained. “At one point there were lots of people on the pavement, some with pushchairs, so I couldn’t come off.

“I thought I’d ride to the next kerb to come off the road but my back wheel got caught on it, slid and I fell off. It took nearly two years for my arm to work properly again.”

Ewan Barbour, who also broke two bones in his hand in an accident earlier this summer, said he was lucky to get help from a passer-by.

“I was on Evendons Lane and my tyre fell into a groove, throwing me off into oncoming traffic,” he said. “This lady, Sarah, came along and put me and my bike in her car before driving me to get help.

“While some of the new roads in the borough are great, some are absolutely shocking for cyclists.”

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‘Existing roads are the council’s last thought’

The two cyclists are now calling for more to be done to make cycling safer in the borough.

“You have to constantly cross roads, some have shocking visibility and it’s quite scary,” Ms Chodorowska said. “The long lengths are good but when you have to cross or stop, it’s not a pleasant cycle.

“The potholes are also horrific and how somebody hasn’t died is a miracle.”

This has been echoed by Mr Barbour, who said the potholes risk damaging bikes as well as cyclists.

“With the amount being in spent in Wokingham, it seems that the surface of the current roads is the council’s last thought,” he said.

Ms Chodorowska added: “People want to use cycling as a mode of transport, but it seems to me that the council will only respond to motorists.”

‘Second-class citizens’

Cllr Kerr, who has been campaigning for safer cycling for more than two years, said she feels cyclists are now being treated as “second class citizens”.

In early 2019, she reported the ridge on Evendons Lane which caused Mr Barbour to crash and said the council concluded six months later that it was not a safety risk.

“Last week, I found out Mr Barbour had fallen down and ended up with injuries,” Cllr Kerr said. “The council has now gone out and put a temporary filling on the road, but I’m really angry because they said it wasn’t dangerous.”

According to Adrian Betteridge, from WATCH, three accidents on Reading Road have now been caused by the dropped kerbs, too.

He said despite the council taking “interim measures” to improve road safety, including the work on Evendons Lane, it’s not enough.

“We welcome the efforts the Council is making to encourage walking and cycling and the intentions for better facilities, but these are in the future and we need to make the current infrastructure safe now,” he said.

“People who cycle are on average significantly more healthy, but we need to keep it that way by addressing hazards to cycling with the same priority as we do hazards for other road users.

“These unfortunate events seem to show a highways department that is incapable or unwilling to view the roads from a cyclist’s perspective.”

This has been echoed by Cllr Kerr, who accused the council of waiting for accidents to happen.

“It’s quite clear that cyclists are a long way down the pecking order when it comes to Wokingham borough,” she added. “[The council] looks through the lens of a car driver when making decisions and it’s at the expense of other people.

“If they want to reduce car journeys by 40% by 2030, they need to prioritise the safety of these cycle routes.”

‘We know there are gaps’

Cllr Jorgensen said Wokingham Borough Council is currently creating a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) to focus its future investments in active travel.

“We continue to work to improve walking and cycling in the borough in a number of different ways,” she said.

This includes the council’s My Journey Wokingham programme which supports sustainable transport through events, activities and training courses, and the Greenways programme which links traffic-free routes in Shinfield, Arborfield and Wokingham.

“We believe cycling is a fun, free and fast way to travel from A to B,” Cllr Jorgensen added. “The cycle network in the borough consists of a mix of off- and on-road routes, quiet links and unsurfaced links offering a network of ways to cycle to and from residential areas and destinations.

“We know there are gaps and improvements that need to be made, [and] the LCWIP will identify these and provide us a plant to address them.

“[We keep] in regular contact [with cycling groups] to resolve safety issues which we are made aware of and as someone who cycles in the borough regularly, I always keep an eye out for issues and report any that I see.”

Cllr Jorgensen has now called upon residents to “commit” to sustainable travel to reduce car journeys over the next eight years.

“Through new and existing infrastructure schemes, incentives to encourage active travel and public transport use, and various behaviour change campaigns to support the switch from car travel to active and sustainable travel modes we can achieve that goal together,” the councillor said.

Anyone who spots a potential safety hazard can report it here: www.wokingham.gov.uk/roadworks-and-outdoor-maintenance/report-a-problem-with-roads-and-streets

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