Category Archives: Governance

From “No you can’t” to “Yes we can”: time for a positive approach to cycling in Faversham

Faversham Town Council needs to be careful not to be sending mixed messages about cycling. It’s clear from Faversham Future Forum comments that new development in the town needs to support cycling. If this is the case then, to be effective, cycling needs to be supported throughout the whole town. And this includes, in my opinion, the town centre itself.

So I think it’s counter-productive to promote a ban on town-centre cycling.

Cycling in pedestrianised areas
There’s no reason a pedestrian area has to ban cycling. This blogpost is worth a read:
https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/cycling-in-pedestrianised-areas/

It describes the range of measures to be found in pedestrianised areas throughout the UK and offers guidance on how to promote safe cycling in them.

Here are four short extracts:

“The standout message, therefore, is that cycling behaviour naturally adapts itself to pedestrian environments…The evidence shows that we can trust people to make the right decisions.”

“The rationale for these bans – or the refusal to lift them – is usually a single incident (or even just an anecdote) about a near miss, or a collision, involving a pedestrian and a someone cycling. This is a poor basis for making policy, and, if applied to the road network as a whole, would lead to the wholesale closure of roads to motor vehicles.”

“East Street, in Horsham, is now closed to motor vehicles between 10:30am and 4:30pm each day, but with cycling still permitted. For these six hours, it’s a pedestrianised area, with cycling in it. After two years, there hasn’t been a single incident involving cycling, or complaint (as far as I am aware). There have been only two (slight) pedestrian injuries, both involving motor vehicles, outside of the ‘pedestrianised’ hours. It works well.”

“However the background assumption in the UK seems to be that cycling is ‘a problem’, that needs to be clamped down on, and eradicated in pedestrian areas, even where there is scope for its introduction.”

Cycling in Faversham
I took a look again at the reporting of the Local Engagement Forum in 2015 when cycling in the town centre was discussed. There is a large number of comments beneath the article that are worth a browse because they speak about a wide range of relevant experiences. A warning, though, some are rude about councillors, sorry:
http://road.cc/content/news/164361-faversham-councillors-keen-rid-town-centre-arrogant-and-fast-cyclists

Of course anti-social cycling should be tackled. But that is no reason to put a blanket ban around all cyclists. In the same way the odd misbehaved person on a bench is no reason to ban sitting in the town centre.

A thought: by banning cyclists from riding or pushing their bikes across the town centre the Town Council, Swale Borough Council and Kent County Council are forcing cyclists to ride on the B2040 inner ring road, with its hostile traffic and substandard cycle infrastructure. It’s hardly surprising there are so few cyclists in Faversham when these are the conditions that cyclists face.

A vision for the future of Faversham town centre
If we follow what the research shows, rather than what anecdotes assume, then a vision for the town centre should promote both cycling and sitting – as well as a new, time-limited parking regime that encourages vehicle use whenever the town centre gates are open.

We have to stop saying no and start saying yes.

A new Traffic Order for the town centre
This vision can be achieved through a rewriting of the Traffic Order for the town centre. Since a new Traffic Order would need to be written to paint double yellow lines around the Guildhall (the previous one expired last year, two years after it came into force) the opportunity could be taken to follow a different and far-sighted approach.

Does Faversham’s Town Council have the vision to seize this opportunity? Or will it continue to say “No (parking), no (cycling), no (sitting)”?

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Faversham Town Council votes for Yellow Lines around the Guildhall

It isn’t always that expert advice aligns with public opinion. So, when it does, how should a town council respond? 

With former presidents of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Town Planning Institute against the painting of yellow lines around Faversham’s historic Guildhall, as well as knighted architects and the chairman of the Academy of Urbanism, you might take notice of the issue. 

When 85% of people voting in a public poll also oppose the idea you would do well to sit up and pay attention. 

But what did Faversham Town Council do this evening?
Quite the opposite. It voted to ignore both the experts and the public. It voted to deface a cherished building by painting yellow lines around it; yellow lines that will continue to allow people to park in front of the building; that will leave us all staggered at the gall of our elected representatives.

For yellow lines 6
Abstain 4
Against 2 (Belsom, Hook)

Now is the time for a 20mph speed limit in Faversham

http://www.courier.co.uk/faversham-campaign-for-20mph-speed-limit-seeks-60k-council-funding/story-29573216-detail/story.html#GIISZ2M52UgmGS1A.01

Kent County Council typically over-designs and over-costs transport projects. In contrast, a 20mph speed limit can be implemented at a fraction of the price of conventional, car-centric solutions such as the hugely costly and unnecessary A2/Ashford Road roundabout.

Faversham has a clear “urban footprint” with a small number of ways in and out – and therefore a small number of places that need gateway signage. The Town Council has already identified the need to upgrade the gateway signage to update and improve the existing signs. It has already identified funding to do so. Adding a 20mph roundel to the gateway signage should now be part of the sign designer’s brief. By combining budgets in this way, more can be done with available resources.

Faversham needs more joined up thinking as well as a more joined up network of routes that are safe and convenient for walking and cycling. Now is the time for action.

Future generations will judge us on what we do next.

Free from Europe, the UK can chart its own course? Er, not really. 

Much has been made about the overly administrative nature of the EU. But If regulation is the price to pay for 70 years of peace and trust in the kindness of strangers then isn’t it better to be “bound” in red tape than wrapped in battlefield dressings? Isn’t it a price worth paying?

Supporters of Brexit suggest the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will help create a “free market”. But since the UK has now decided that some people will no longer be able to freely access trade and employment opportunities in the UK market, the UK won’t be a free market for them. Indeed it has never been a free market for anyone – including the British – and it never can be free either. The UK has always had, and always will have, regulations. Markets have rules. Free markets only exist when anarchy prevails. We call that situation a “free-for-all” and it’s usually an ugly sight.

What is much more likely is that the next two years or so will be filled with uncertainty as new rules are proposed, negotiated and eventually agreed. Having an overall smaller economy – and smaller still should Scotland leave – the UK will be the smaller trade party, and is unlikely to get any better trade relations with the EU than it currently has.

But what about the UK’s balance of trade with Europe? We might assume that the future will be based on the past but if Nissan moves from north east England to south west Italy then everything will be different. In other words, the rules will change and the future will instead be crafted in the shifting grounds disturbed by the UK’s exit. Perhaps not as ugly as anarchy but unedifying all the same.

And what of the idea that the UK might renew its links with the Commonwealth? “Renew” perhaps but again we shouldn’t expect the future to be anything like the past. Just ask a New Zealander if they remember their abandonment by the UK in the 1970s? Welcomed back with open arms? I doubt it. Made to work harder than ever because the UK’s need is now greater? More likely.

So if any of this is good for UK business and good for UK society then please show me how. I just don’t see it.

The way forward for the A2: consult the real experts

Tackling congestion with measures focused only on permitting more traffic is not going to address long term traffic growth in Faversham. What is needed instead is a radical change in movement with a focus on walking and cycling.

I understand I wasn’t the only one at KCC’s consultation event on Friday objecting to the roundabout.

Would members of the Town Council agree with many of us that the way forward is not a roundabout but a design that encourages more walking and cycling?

And rather than spend half a million scarce pounds on the roundabout, wouldn’t members also agree that it is better to invest a small faction of that in holding a series of events with local experts? Not only the professionals and academics like myself who work in this area and are appalled at the crude proposals put forward by KCC but the real professionals:

the residents of The Mall and the schoolchildren of the Abbey School, Ethelbert Road School and elsewhere, who have to run between fast moving traffic every day – the very people who are not served by the roundabout but who are deeply concerned to see Faversham change for the better?

Off your backsides, everyone! There’s work to be done. 

Yesterday evening Faversham Town Council threw down the gauntlet/avoided its responsibilities (take your pick) to the people of Faversham: “Tell us where you want us to put benches.”

Cllr Wilcox claimed the “problem” (there’s always a “problem”) is that whenever a bench is proposed, the shop it’s outside of complains about the anti-social impact it will have.

Cllr Simmons cleverly suggested the solution might be to propose 6 benches, thereby spreading the pain. Not a bad idea – but how about 60? Or 160?

Cllr Martin offered an imaginative proposal to avoid painting Yellow Lines around the Guildhall: encircle it with benches instead! I think this is an idea worthy of further investigation.

Perhaps only one or two judiciously placed benches could solve the “problem” of people parking on the west side of the Guildhall. These might be heavy, moveable benches that can be wheeled away on market days and in an emergency. Other towns do this so why can’t Faversham?

I went out this morning and found the Town Council’s gauntlet outside the Guildhall. I picked it up and am keeping it in a safe place. Let me know if you’d like to try it on.

Why wait to listen to the public voice?

A protracted discussion took place at this evening’s Town Council Meeting about whether, as proposed by Cllr Ogden-Starkel, the Council should create an online questionnaire to engage with the public.

Cllr Cosgrove suggested returning to the subject next year and spending the time between now and then in setting up “processes”.

What many Councillors don’t seem to appreciate is that discussion forums – like this one – are already in place.

The Town Council is behind the curve.

In the end it was agreed to create a Steering Group. I hope, as does Cllr Campbell, who has made a number of excellent interventions this evening, that they get on and do something soon.