Pupils at five secondary schools in Tunbridge Wells in Kent are set to benefit from a new traffic-free cycling route alongside the A26 that will provide a link between them after the project secured £150,000 in funding from Kent County Council.
Conservative councillor Tracy Moore has been campaigning for the route since she was elected two years ago, and according to Kent News she hopes that other, similar routes will follow in the town.
The local politician has been supported in her efforts by the five schools concerned, St Gregory’s Catholic Comprehensive, Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar, Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar, Bennett Memorial School and The Skinners’ School, and it is hoped that the new cycle path will prompt more parents to let their children cycle to school.
"The idea was to take a strip of playing fields at the boundary and create a traffic free cycle lane connecting the north to the south," Mrs Moore told the newspaper.
"It cuts out one of the more dangerous stretches for cyclists who at the moment basically share the lane with HGVs and lorries,” she explained.
Mrs Moore continued: "The current lane is better than nothing, but allowing children to cycle to school would mean travelling along a very busy A-road."
It is hoped that work on the cycle path can be completed during the summer in time for the new school year in September, and that it will encourage the proportion of schoolchildren cycling to their place of study in the town from the current level of 1.5% to 10%, with safety concerns the most commonly cited barrier.
One benefit of the scheme from the schools’ perspective is that because sixth-form students at the comprehensives share classes with those at the grammar schools, it will enable them to get to and from the respective sites quickly and safely.
A prime motivation behind the campaign was Mrs Moore’s desire to improve young people’s health and fitness through encouraging them to get active, although she believes that adults will also be able to enjoy them too, saying: “"I hope people use bikes to get to the train station, into town for the shops."
She added that she plans to use the route herself, commenting: “"I have to admit I’m not the most confident cyclist, but if I felt safer I would use my bike more to get from A to B. If we can get this connected network I would definitely prefer to take the bike to the car.
"My hope is that my children will use it to get into town, I was thinking of them when this idea was first raised by a constituent," she added.
As to future plans, Mrs Moore says: "If we can demonstrate the campus link is successful and have hard data to prove it, I hope to get more funding to do more of these schemes. It is a short stretch, but it cuts out the most dangerous bit."
While cyclists will no doubt welcome news of the new link, Mrs Moore also claims that motorists will embrace it too, saying that it will help traffic on the A26 move more freely, although she puts it in rather bizarre terms.
"If you look at traffic modelling, if you just remove the froth off the top” – that ‘froth’ being cyclists, presumably – “things might still move slowly, but it will still keep moving and you will not have the gridlocked, standstill that sometimes comes about," she explained.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.