Seven roads will be temporarily transformed to enable social distancing for those cycling and walking during the coronavirus crisis.

The schemes, which will re-allocate roads for active travel such as cycle lanes, were approved last night and will be constructed immediately and some should be in place by the end of June.

A series of further schemes which are dependent on government funding were also approved at Reading Borough Council's (RBC) Policy Committee meeting yesterday (May 18).

Only the two Conservative councillors objected to the proposals.

READ MORE: Cycle lanes on London Road and in town centre – more road plans revealed

 The seven schemes, which are temporary but could become permanent if popular, are:

  • Gosbrook Road and Westfield Road: Due to narrowness of pavements, make Gosbrook Road (Westfield Road to Prospect Street) and Westfield Road (southbound) from Henley Road junction to Gosbrook Street one way, to increase capacity for walking and cycling. Target of June 22.
  • Sidmouth Street: One way (northbound) for all traffic and introduce a new contra-flow cycle lane in the current southbound lane to increase space for pedestrians and cycle lanes. Target of June 29.
  • Reading Bridge: Remove inbound lane and existing hatching to create both northbound and southbound cycle lanes. Target for introduction in coming weeks.
  • Oxford Road: New cycle and bus lanes
  • Whitley Street Local Centre: Remove one traffic lane outbound and reallocate it to cyclists, alongside other improvements for pedestrians.
  • Southampton Street/Silver Street: Introduce cycle lanes through removal of existing road hatching
  • Redlands Road: Introduce southbound cycle lane (uphill) and cycle priority measures at Christchurch Green junction.

The schemes were developed after government guidance released on May 9 said local authorities should swiftly make significant changes to their roads to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Environment, Planning and Transport, said the seven initial schemes are being funded from the council’s limited resources, which have been further depleted by the Covid-19 crisis.

He said unless the government makes additional funding available, the progress of further schemes will be severely hindered.

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Conservative councillors Jeanette Skeats and David Stevens voted against the plans due to concerns over proposals north of the river, such as Gosbrook Road and Reading Bridge.

Cllr Stevens, who cycles himself, said: “In terms of the principles, we fully support it but the problem comes with the specifics, particularly the streets north of the river.

“There really is a lot of resistance in Thames, Peppard and Mapledurham. Residents are very strongly opposed to this because there is very limited space.

“The prospect of people trying to get back to work in the next couple of weeks and discovering they are having to go round one way systems or that they have little access to bridges – they are very troubled by that.

“There is also a tremendous apprehension that what starts off temporary could become permanent.”

Cllr Brock called the position of the Tory councillors “a bit disappointing” and said it is time to  “make a statement that we serious about people in Reading being able to take advantage of active travel opportunities”.

He added that the council would consider making some of the schemes permanent if they prove to be successful but not without proper consultation.

Green councillor Rob White backed the plan but said “there is a long way to go for a joined up cycle network” and called for school streets, segregated cycle lanes and more 20mph zones.

Councillor Ricky Duveen echoed calls for more 20mph zones, calling for the whole of Reading to be 20mph, but the Lib Dem councillor and Cllr Page agreed it would require the council getting enforcement powers.

The committee also approved plans for further medium and long-term walking and cycling schemes.

You can find out more about these proposals here.

But these schemes are dependent on how much funding the council gets from the government’s new £250 million Active Travel Fund.

Meanwhile, the committee also approved revised road repair plans last night.