Find Out More
Answers to the most-often-asked questions about the Inspiration Study:
Why is it important to improve facilities for walking and cycling?
Transport is the largest contributor to territorial greenhouse gas emissions. It accounts for 27% of the UK's net carbon emissions and more than half of this comes from domestic car journeys. Other toxic chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide or particulates are produced by vehicles, which can contribute to air pollution and ill-health. Vehicle tyre dust also contributes a significant proportion of the primary micro-plastic that enters water courses and ends up polluting our oceans.
Almost 60% of journeys by car are less than 5 miles so could in many cases be walked or cycled.
To make a significant personal contribution to reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality, individuals are encouraged to consider walking, cycling or public transport where feasible. Not all journeys can be made without a car, but there are significant benefits to health by becoming more active. Physical inactivity is linked with obesity and chronic illness, which has a major impact on the quality of life of an individual and huge economic ramifications for society.
Studies show that it is easier for people to make a choice to walk or cycle when the facilities are good. Local residents are unlikely to walk or cycle along the A419 when it is generally perceived as unsafe.
Why do we need a cycling route on the A419?
The A419 Inspiration Study was initiated by a cross parish group of councils and volunteers who wanted to improve conditions for cycling and walking along the A419. Whilst the project began with active transport in mind, an assessment by specialist transport engineers showed that the road does not adequately meet the needs of any of the potential users and should be improved to accommodate future housing developments or the regeneration of ex-industrial sites for business.
Rather than a project to promote solely cycling, this project seeks to improve the A419 for all users. This may involve some changes to the road and compromises to accommodate all road users. The project seeks to prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable and to ensure there is real choice for those who are able to consider alternatives to driving.
Why can’t cyclists use the road carriageway?
A survey showed that many people are too scared to cycle on the A419 because of the poor condition of the road, the high numbers of vehicles and the speed of traffic. The narrow carriageway means that some motorists pass too close to cyclists or overtake when it is dangerous to do so.
Large potholes and flooding make the road treacherous for all users and many parents stated that they would not be happy for their child to cycle along the road. The road is a strategic freight route and has a relatively high volume of lorries. Despite a speed limit of 40mph there are some motorists who travel at up to 70mph. Even during periods of congestion, when vehicle speeds are low, it can still be difficult to accommodate cycling and driving safely. There are also some difficult junctions which place cyclists at risk because of their design.
Why can’t cyclists use the canal towpath?
The canal is a beautiful leisure route for cycling, however it is not a direct or effective route for mass cycling at the levels which would make an impact on carbon emissions.
Many parts of the towpath between Chalford and Brimscombe are impassable during the winter months and periods of flooding. Even on the stretch between Stroud and Brimscombe, which has been significantly improved by an army of volunteers, the canal-side track is very narrow, muddy, uneven in places and next to open water. This makes it inappropriate for road bikes or those using mobility vehicles or adapted bikes.
Conflicts already exist between the variety of people using the route and if there was a significant rise in those cycling and walking which relied on the towpath, this route would become congested and unattractive.
In addition, the canal towpath is identified as a natural wildlife corridor and so benefits from being slightly remote and unlit. This could pose security issues or make some users feel vulnerable and unsafe. To widen the path, remove the obstacles, light it and make it safe for high volumes of different users would change the nature of the area, impact the ecosystems and possibly destroy the character of this industrial heritage area. Its remote location and complex land ownership would also make it expensive to adapt, particularly to the published standards for good quality cycling infrastructure.
What about other vulnerable users?
The project seeks to not only create a segregated cycle facility along the A419, but also to improve pavements and crossing points for other users, making walking particularly, safer and more attractive for everyone.
What about car parking?
Car parking is a contentious issue throughout the Five Valleys, because of the relatively large number of vehicles and lack of space close to housing for residents to use. Car ownership and the size of vehicles continue to rise creating congestion on routes and makes it hard for people to park on narrow streets, which weren't built to accommodate so many vehicles. The project recognises that this is a key issue that must be tackled, however it also identifies that pavement parking and parking on advisory white lines on some stretches of the route already creates safety issues and prevents movement along a foot way by vulnerable users e.g. with pushchairs.
Any solution will need to consider where residents will park so that they can access their properties, particularly when they need to load or unload heavy items and shopping or safely get their children home. Research suggests that more efficient utilisation of the space along the A419 corridor might accommodate some of the vehicles, however it may be that some residents will need to park slightly further away from their houses except when loading and unloading.
How can you improve the route for pedestrians?
The usable pathway along some stretches of the A419 is under 50cm and very close to the carriageway where the top speed of some vehicles has been registered at 70mph. The narrow footpath is very rough, uneven and overgrown in places. There are only two controlled crossing points on the road and few refuges to help pedestrians to cross the road safely.
The project suggests a number of potential solutions which could be used to make the environment feel safer for pedestrians and thereby encourage more people to walk stretches of the route to visit friends, local shops and businesses. These include widening the pavement and introducing more crossing points. It is also potentially possible to control the speed of traffic through design, to create a less traffic dominated environment and a village feel to the settlements along the main road.
Won’t slowing the traffic down create more pollution?
The aim of any design would be to move vehicles at a consistent speed through the valley corridor and thereby reduce congestion and the surges of traffic which are more likely to increase the level of pollution. There isn't conclusive evidence to suggest slowing speeds increases air pollution in an area if more consistent speeds are maintained.
It is also more likely that people will choose environmentally friendly modes of transport if speeds are lower and facilities are better.
Isn’t it too narrow to put a cycle route in?
There are some stretches of the route that are very narrow and it would be difficult to introduce two-way vehicle traffic, ample pavement and a segregated cycle path. In these areas there are a number of potential solutions, including: better use of the land in the valley, traffic control or ambitious engineering schemes. No design has been finalised, but solutions do exist.
How much will this cost?
It is difficult to predict how much money this project could cost because a finalised route and design is a long way from being confirmed. Estimates suggest it could cost between £10-25m, but this does not include the removal of any pollutants from verges or land acquisition costs. These figures have been estimated using Department for Transport guideline figures for the creation of similar infrastructure.
Whilst this figure may seem high, good transport links are imperative for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods and are therefore essential to build a strong economy in the district. In comparison to other road building projects which do not offer the same benefits to the local community or build in sustainable transport solutions, this project represents relatively good value for money. The controversial Missing Link Project on the A417, for example, is approximately the same distance, but will cost in the region of £500m.
There have been some cost benefit analyses which show that £1 invested in cycling infrastructure can yield a return of £9-14.¹ This is attributed to savings in:
- healthcare costs for a fitter population
- dealing with air pollution
- costs associated with congestion and delays.
What about the villages on the hillsides?
The A419 is a strategic route along the valley bottom, used by thousands of people daily to access jobs, services, education and leisure facilities. Two important issues have been raised concerning neighbouring villages near the route.
Firstly there is concern that changing the road in the valley will have a negative effect on other routes, such as the road across the commons or some of the quiet lanes which might be used as rat runs to escape new traffic controls. Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons are Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are maintained by the grazing of livestock. Traffic volumes and high levels of speeding are of great concern to local residents. There is a worry that instead of choosing the strategic A419 route through the valley, drivers will opt to cross the commons, assuming it may be quicker. This situation is already a problem as the poor conditions on the A419 frequently cause delays and data collection shows that at certain points on the Commons, traffic flows are higher than the A419 itself. It is proposed that any scheme give adequate consideration to minimise further disruption on the Commons, to protect the livestock and the unique habitats.
There is a concern that the links to the A419 from villages such as Bisley or Bussage are not adequate to ensure maximum value for the project. The roads are often steep e.g. Brimscombe Hill, lack pavements e.g. Old Neighbourhood or are narrow e.g. Toadsmoor. Several of the junctions at access points with the A419 are difficult and dangerous for traffic and vulnerable road users. There are opportunities to improve these link roads and to provide facilities in market towns, villages and access points across the district e.g. cycle parking so people have a choice to use various modes of transport to complete their journeys. The focus of this project initially is to upgrade the A419, however the parish Cycling Group and individual councils are also keen to improve routes across the wider district.
Why are you stopping at Chalford?
The project focuses on the route between Chalford and Stroud because Chalford is the last major settlement in the District on the A419. The project acknowledges the potential to extend the route to Cirencester, however research suggests that a half hour cycle of approximately 4 miles is a more attractive proposition for novice riders. The distance between Chalford and Stroud is about 4 miles and has a number of settlements along the route, so it is an appropriate route to consider. Furthermore, there are already some options for cyclists to take quiet lanes between Chalford and Cirencester and avoid long stretches of motor vehicles on the A419.
Will this create congestion elsewhere?
There is a possibility that changes to the road network will affect other areas and cause drivers to select other routes which they perceive to be quicker, particularly if traffic controls and speed restrictions are introduced. For this reason, it is important to recognise that this project is at the very early stages. Research has established that the route is sub-standard and could benefit from improvement, but the exact nature of that improvement and the finalised designs still need to be explored thoroughly to minimise disruption and to create a situation which works for everyone.
What are the benefits of this project for me and my family?
The Inspiration Study makes many suggestions of what it is possible to achieve through a number of measures. Broadly speaking improvements to the route could:
- Reduce carbon emissions
- Improve air quality
- Improve safety and perceptions of safety
- Promote healthy life-styles
- Reduce congestion and the car dominated nature of the area
- Improve the environment along the road making it a more attractive place to live and work.
- Attract new business to the area
How can I help?
- Get in touch to register support for this scheme
- Start promoting the Cycle to Work Scheme
- Introduce incentives to employees who walk or cycle to work
- Install bike parking or facilities like showers, to encourage people to cycle
- Offer space to the local community to park their vehicles in company car parks overnight or at the weekends
- Donate money to the project
- Donate space to the project
- Start cycling and walking if you feel safe to, to demonstrate demand for the facilities
- Contact Highways to let them know about issues such as potholes or narrow pavements
- Work with your local Climate Action Group to promote sustainable transport strategies
- Funding is available for community-based projects to install facilities e.g. cycle parking
- Or contact your parish councillors to see what can be done locally to link your village to the A419 more effectively
¹ Davis, Dr Adrian for the Department of Health/Government Office for the South West. Value for Money: An Economic Assessment of Investment in Walking and Cycling. 2010. APHO Public Health Guide.