ACTIVE travel plans in Caversham have been slammed by residents and cycling campaigners, who say the proposal will turn a residential street into a “racetrack” and are a repeat “if not worse” than a plan rejected 25 years ago.

Reading Cycle Campaign has set up a petition calling for the proposal on Gosbrook Road and Westfield Road – which is supposed to help with social distancing – to be axed, saying it will not benefit cyclists.

The plans to make both roads one-way and open up space on Gosbrook Road for walking and cycling have been delayed twice and are now set to be introduced sometime before the end of August.

The changes to the two roads are as follows:

Gosbrook Road

  • One-way restriction westbound and 20mph limit on the section of Gosbrook Road between Westfield Road and Archway Road junctions
  • Northern (currently eastbound) lane of Gosbrook Road will be segregated, shared use, two-way footway for pedestrians and cyclists

Westfield Road

  • One-way southbound
  • 20pmh speed limit
  • No-right-turn restriction suspended

Traffic that would usually go eastbound on Gosbrook Road will now have to go up Prospect Street and then go down Westfield Road and back onto Gosbrook Road.

John Lee, from the Reading Cycle Campaign, said the one-way streets will increase traffic flow on Prospect Street by 50 per cent and make cars go faster down Westfield Road, turning into a “racetrack”.

Campaigners and local residents have accused the council of trying to re-introduce the one-way system trial that dozens of residents campaigned against 25 years ago “on the quiet on the back of cycling schemes.

Reading Chronicle:

Sara Fullbrook, who lives on Westfield Road, said the proposal will increase car journeys and be a “environmental disaster” as well as “adversely affecting both Caversham residents and tens of thousands of commuters”.

She said the scheme is “very similar to, if not worse than a scheme tried with disastrous results 25 years ago”.

The council trialled one-way systems on Westfield Road, Gosbrook Road and Prospect Street in March 1995 with neighbours protesting the move and the council eventually scrapping it.

Reading Chronicle:

Mr Lee said: “We all agree the footpaths on Gosbrook Road are too narrow but a one-way system always increased speed. A 20pmh limit sign will only work if there are speed bumps.”

He said he thinks the one-way restrictions are an “abuse” of the government funding, as they will not help cyclists.

However, he said there would be some benefit in the part of the plan that will allow cyclists to travel east on Gosbrook Road, who will share the eastbound lane with pedestrians.

Responding to the concerns, councillor Tony Page, lead member for Environment, Planning and Transport, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the extra space on Gosbrook Road “can be used by pedestrians to maintain social distancing, which could otherwise be difficult with the narrow footways in this section”.

He said the one-way restrictions and reduced speed limits “may also provide perceived safety benefits for those wishing to cross the roads that the scheme affects”.

Additionally, the temporary removal of the northbound flow of traffic on Westfield Road will speed up traffic signals, according to Cllr Page, easing traffic at the busy junction.

Ms Fullbrook said buses and HGVs going down Westfield Road will turn a residential street into a main road and increase air pollution and Cllr Page confirmed bus routes will be altered while the scheme is in place.

What are the other active travel schemes and when will they be complete?

Three schemes have been completed so far, after the council got £221,000 of funding to enable social distancing and encourage active travel:

  • Sidmouth Street
  • Reading Bridge
  • Southampton Street, Silver Street & Mount Pleasant

Schemes at Whitley Street, Oxford Road and the Gosbrook Road/Westfield Road plan will follow by the end of August, according to the latest timetable.

The last of the schemes under this first tranche of government funding - Redlands Road and Christchurch Road – will follow shortly after.

All tranche one schemes have the potential to become permanent, but Cllr Page said the council will not permanently introduce the schemes without proper public consultation.

The second round of funding, for permanent schemes, is now open for councils to apply for.