School Cycling Route Plans in Jeopardy

Campaigners fear their hopes for a designated cycleway from Ruddington to Rushcliffe School may have been dashed by the failure of the County Council to secure over £300,000 of cash earmarked for such schemes.

Pedals Nottingham Cycle Campaign says it’s dismayed that Nottinghamshire County Council achieved just 46% of its potential funding from The Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund – designed to improve cycling and pedestrian provision for residents to have a safe alternative to public transport in light of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. The authority won just £263,250 out of the potential £573,000 available.

Local campaigners suspect that Nottinghamshire’s bid wasn’t good enough to be given the money, but claim the contents have been kept secret so they’ve not been able to read it. Matt Turner of Pedals says: “Across the county over a fifth of residents do not have access to a car or van, and with public transport capacity reduced, safe walking and cycling routes are essential to keeping the county moving.”

Pedals’ proposal for local school children was supported by Rushcliffe Borough Council Labour Group early last month when it prepared a template for the County Council’s cycling suggestion form on how to improve provision for Rushcliffe School pupils from Ruddington. This involved using a Bovis Homes map of its Sharphill Wood development (above) showing a safe cycling route through the new housing estate to the school. This would be accessed from Ruddington via the bridlepath off Loughborough Road through to Wayte Court – with the suggested route continuing underneath the A52 using the existing pedestrian underpass to get into the new estate.

However, the group concedes this idea will need further work after an email from Paul Hillier, the Principal Officer on the council’s LTP and Travel Planning, explained the underpass (circled on the maps and pictured below) is not high enough for mounted cyclists. As a result, Highways England has previously refused to consider opening it up for cycle use.

The A52 underpass adjacent to Wayte Court.  {PHOTO: David Thompson}

Instead, there is a suggestion of incorporating it into the new shared use footway alongside the A606 that is currently under construction as part of the Sharphill development. However, that would still require the construction of a section of shared use footway alongside the A52 as well as signalised cycle (toucan) crossing over the A52 and, ideally, a similar facility over the A60 somewhere near Ashworth Avenue – along with a section of path widening on the eastern side of the A60 to connect that crossing to the old Loughborough Road, neither of which would be cheap. (Mr Hillier has indicated this possible route as a red line on the top map.) He says officers are exploring funding opportunities for this, in the event that Highways England is able to provide a suitable crossing facility over the A52.

Keen cyclist Cath Rodkoff, who helps to run Ruddington Community Choir, says it’s vital the County doesn’t also miss out on even more money in Phase 2 of the funding later this year: “While we can’t change what has already happened, it’s important that Nottinghamshire County Council learns from the failure. With almost £2.3 million available for Phase 2, a similar result would mean County residents and businesses losing out on over £1.3 million in total.”

Cllr Walker

Ruddington Borough Councillor, Cllr Jennifer Walker, shares Kath’s concerns: “We have seen our citizens being let down by the County – coming bottom of the league!” she says. “Nottinghamshire trailed in 75th place out of all 78 local authorities in England, winning just £263,250 out of a potential £573,000 of funding for emergency measures to help more people walk and cycle. The lack of ambition shown at County is tragic for all who live in our Borough and is coupled with a historic low provision.”

Cllr Reg Adair, Conservative Nottinghamshire County Councillor for Leake and Ruddington, responds: “The comments made by the local Labour Party are completely untrue. Nottinghamshire County Council supports the Government’s emergency measures to encourage walking and cycling as we recover from the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the opportunity is better suited to cities and large towns, instead of the market towns here in Nottinghamshire. There will be a further funding round, which the County Council will consider at the appropriate committee.”

Cllr Adair

Cllr Adair continues: “There is already dedicated cycling and walking space from Ruddington to all nearby schools – including Rushcliffe School, which is easily and safely accessed via Wilford Road, Landmere Lane, Loughborough Road and Boundary Road, which includes a cycle track. As the A52 is a major highway, the County Council is only able to advise Highways England on how to improve it. However, we have actively consulted with them on accessibility options for walkers and cyclists, which is a key part of their plans for the development of the Wheatcroft/Nottingham Knight Roundabout.” He adds: This has been explained to local councillors several times, but it is clear that some of them would rather play political games than listen to the facts.”

However, Cllr Walker says that she and the Rushcliffe Labour Group are merely amplifying a request made from Pedals, after its decades of campaigning on this issue: “Also from the people of Ruddington, who now have to rethink their mode of travel for their children to reflect a global pandemic. I would like to say that riding up Wilford Road in winter is hardly a safe option!”

We can reveal that a meeting about this issue has been called because Rushcliffe Labour County Councillor, Cllr Liz Plant, demanded it. Meantime, Cllr Walker is presenting a motion at tonight’s Virtual Meeting of Rushcliffe Borough Council (Thursday 16th July at 7.00pm) calling on members to actively support alternative forms of transport into Nottingham, in particular cycling. The Labour Group will ask that a detailed piece of work is undertaken by the Scrutiny panel and reported back to Cabinet on improvements that could be made to the cycling network in Rushcliffe using the newly available funds from central government. This meeting will be ‘live streamed’ via YouTube for the public to listen and view via this link:

Conservative Nottinghamshire County Councillor for Leake and Ruddington, Cllr Andrew Brown, comments: “With cycling becoming more popular, more emphasis should be placed on road safety training for cyclists of all ages. As a driving instructor I witness on a daily basis cyclists breaking highway code regulations and putting themselves and other road users at risk.”

Rushcliffe School says it takes bike safety very seriously: “We are very proud of the fact that we have an increasing number of students that are choosing to cycle to school and we continue to encourage cycling as a way of developing a positive lifestyle choice for the students whilst helping to instil a safety message. We try our best to teach an element of safe cycling at school.”

You can read the school’s full ‘Parent Message on Bike Safety>>HERE<<.

Ruddington cycling instructor Julian Bentley has also started a petition to Nottinghamshire County Council to bring back the “Rural Rides” for cyclists of all ages which the authority axed as part of its 2010 cuts. You can find that petition >>HERE<<.

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