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Pedestrian footfall also nearly doubled during first fortnight of five-month trial

A trial ban on cars, vans and lorries in several streets in the centre of Cheltenham resulted in a three-fold increase in the number of cyclist recorded passing one location in the Gloucestershire town, according to the local council.

Early results show a 206 per cent increase in the number of cyclists passing through the Boots Corner fountain area.

There was also an 84 per cent rise in pedestrian footfall and an 85 per cent reduction in the number of motor vehicles, says Cheltenham Borough Council.

The increases in numbers of people on foot or bike was said to be consistent across all days and all times sampled, and were calculated based on data collected before the trial began.

James Cleeton, Sustrans England Director South, welcomed the news, saying:  ‘’The initial findings from the trial are extremely encouraging and demonstrate the positive impact reducing vehicles from the centre can have.

“An 84% increase in pedestrian movement can only have a positive impact on the local economy, air quality and create a vibrant place to spend time and travel through.

“We will be watching with interest to see the impact the trial has on the immediate and surrounding areas of the town.’’

The council said that a 38 per cent drop in the number of bicycles parked at Boots Corner was recorded during the two weeks, in line with expectations because railings there were removed for the trial, but with new bike stands now in place it expects bike parking to show an increase when data is next collected.

The trial forms Phase 4 of the Cheltenham Transport Plan, run in partnership with Gloucestershire County Council, the local highways authority for the area. The first three phases have been completed, with monitoring showing that they are working well.

Under Phase 4, general traffic is banned from the section of Clarence Street through ‘Boots Corner’, North Street, Clarence Parade and Pittville Street to Imperial Circus. Buses, taxis and cycles, as well as emergency service vehicles, are permitted while loading and unloading is only allowed between 6pm and 10am.

The trial began on 28 June and continue through November, after which it will be reviewed with a decision taken on whether to make some or all of the changes permanent.

Cheltenham Borough Council says that the aims are:

reconnecting the High Street and humanising Boots Corner so that it becomes a space for people rather than simply a functional space we move through

creating an inclusive environment that focusses on public transport access, walking and cycling

creating good quality public realm that enables people to increase their everyday physical activity

improving air quality.

Councillor Andrew McKinlay, cabinet member for development and safety said:  ‘’Overall, the data so far suggests that the trial road closure has not have a negative impact on visitors to the high street, actually the reverse. 

“We can see that people travel into town far more by public transport, bike or on foot.  These are the people who are spending money in our shops, enjoying our cafes, bars and restaurants and our wider cultural offer.”

Sam Jones, senior campaigns officer at the charity Cycling UK, told road.cc: “Boots Corner is yet another example that shows the positive impact on the local economy reducing motor traffic flow and making our town centres places where people want to spend time.

“It’s no surprise to Cycling UK that when local authorities increase and improve cycling and walking in our towns and cities, the high street benefits. Studies have repeatedly shown that while cyclists may spend less than car-borne shoppers per trip, their total expenditure is on average greater because they tend to visit the shops more often.

“To a certain degree the Government has realised this, and is currently assisting authorities across England to put together plans to improve cycling and walking.

“However, these plans will go nowhere unless there’s funding attached to make them a reality – which currently there is not.

“Ahead of the Spending Review due in January, Cycling UK is appealing to everyone who wants to see their town centres improve to write to their local authority and MP, asking them to make the case for funding for cycling and walking to the Department for Transport and ultimately the Treasury.”

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.