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Northamptonshire County Council consults on multimillion pound cycling strategy

County wants to make cycling default choice for journeys of up to 5 miles as it faces huge population growth

Northamptonshire County Council has drawn up plans to make cycling “the mode for choice” for journeys of up to five miles within the county. The goal is outlined in a Draft Cycling Strategy that is open for consultation until next Friday 19 October. Separate documents also reveal the extent of investment in cycling planned for the county’s main towns.

In Northampton alone, some £2.4 million is earmarked over the next decade for initiatives such as information and signing, which will account for half that budget, with £700,000 going on cycle parking and £500,000 on promotion, travel planning and education.

In addition, the county town’s Travel Plan, open for consultation until 2 November, reveals that an additional £3 million is being set aside for a number of cycling schemes in and around the town centre, with additional money being spent on development-related schemes further out.

Most of those schemes are short-term, due to be completed by 2016, while the largest single project falls into the medium term up to 2021 and will see more than £1 million spent on an off-road cycle and walking route following a disused railway line between Castle Station and Brackmills.

Separate travel plans are also currently open for consultation for Daventry, Towcester and Brackley and can be accessed on the Northamptonshire County Council website.

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman told the Northampton Chronicle and Echo: “There are many benefits of cycling for both individuals and the wider community, in terms of health and well-being, financial savings and the environment. The strategy for Northampton outlines all the potential cycle schemes which could be developed.

“The proposed routes are about connecting the town with cycle routes as it grows so alternative forms of transport are available to allow for an increase in population. It is also about connecting existing cycling infrastructure to create a network which allows people to stick to designated cycle paths.”

The plans are ambitious ones, with levels of cycling in Northampton running at 3 per cent compared to a national average for England of 4 per cent, while the county-wide figure is even lower at 2.3 per cent, and come as the county faces huge population growth in the years ahead, as outlined in the introduction to the Draft Cycling Strategy:

“As a growth area, Northamptonshire is facing unprecedented levels of population growth – as much as 100,000 in the Northamptonshire Arc by 2026 and possibly another half as many more again by 2031. Transport modelling has shown that if left unrestrained, traffic growth will result in higher levels of congestion, making it increasingly difficult and unpredictable to move around Northamptonshire, particularly its town centres.

“Exacerbating this issue is that for a number of people, the automatic choice for undertaking short journeys (less than 5 miles in length) is by car. These trips make up around two-thirds of all trips we make and could be easily made by more sustainable modes such as cycling, walking and public transport. However, much of people’s reluctance to cycle is not due to lack of bike ownership, it is attributable  to a number of perceived barriers; the most significant of which is cycling on roads with other traffic which is perceived as unsafe and unpleasant.

“If this and other barriers can be overcome, cycling offers a transport mode that is inexpensive, environmentally sustainable, brings enormous health benefits reduces traffic congestion and improves accessibility to key services such as education, employment and leisure and recreation, especially for those people without cars.

“A cycling strategy which is designed to encourage cycling for all will play a key role in addressing these and other barriers to cycling and bring about mode change.”

The county council has also summarised its key cycling policies:

Cycling Policy 1
In developing the main route networks the hierarchical approach recommended in the National Cycling Strategy and Cycle Audit and Cycle Review will be used.

Cycling Policy 2
Cycle audits of all relevant transport proposals will be undertaken, in accordance with national guidance, to ensure that opportunities to encourage cycling are considered comprehensively and implemented appropriately.

Cycling Policy 3
Cycle reviews of relevant parts of the transport network will be undertaken, in accordance with national guidance, to identify their cycle friendliness and to identify broad ways that those networks can be improved to encourage cycling. These will form the basis of the Cycling Development Plans to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Cycling Policy 4
Cyclists will be exempt from restrictive Traffic Regulation Orders such as for one way streets unless there is a good reason for including them. Existing orders will be progressively corrected to facilitate cycle access, where appropriate. 

Cycling Policy 5
Where provided, new cycle lanes should be a minimum of 1.5 metres wide, preferably 2m.

Cycling Policy 6
New shared use tracks will be 3 metres wide, except where constraints on site mean that 3 metres cannot be achieved and the link is deemed of significant strategic importance. 

To assist disable people with mobility scooters and parents with pushchairs, shared use tracks will be designed to be DDA (2005) compliant. 

Cycling Policy 7
Adequate cycle parking will be provided at schools, retail centres, transport interchanges, leisure facilities etc. Design standards will be established and agreed with the district councils to ensure that facilities are secure and convenient.

Cycling Policy 8

Cycle friendly infrastructure will be developed at, and on key routes leading to, transport interchanges and key bus stops.

Cycling Policy 9
New developments will be required to demonstrate or provide connectivity into the existing cycling network and within the development as appropriate.

Cycling Policy 10
Facilities for cyclists will be of an appropriate quality in order to attract and retain users. The design criteria recommended in Cycle Infrastructure Design, or other recognised sources of guidance will be used whenever possible.

Cycling Policy 11
If after considering all options, facilities for cyclists become too compromised because of the constraints of a scheme, and a detriment to cyclist safety would ensue, the option of providing nothing should be considered.

Cycling Policy 12
Bring the standard of the carriageway surface and off-carriageway surfaces up to an appropriate standard to ensure our network is ‘fit for purpose’.

Cycling Policy 13
Travel plans will be used to ensure that an integrated approach is used to promote alternatives to the private car as a means of accessing the workplace, school or public transport interchange.

Cycling Policy 14
Training should be used for both safety and promotional purposes and should be encouraged for both children and adults within the county.

Cycling Policy 15
The need for facilities to encourage children to cycle to school will be considered in every Safer Routes scheme. Cycle facilities provided under the Safer Routes to Schools programme will be integrated into the Cycling Neighbourhood Plans.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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tarquin_foxglove | 11 years ago

Freewheeler (of Waltham Forest fame) has analysed NCC's strategy in far more detail than I managed...

Edgeley | 11 years ago

I used to live in Northampton, and cycle, run and drive in the town and county. Drivers there were noticeably worse than in many other places - for instance, using indicators was very much seen as optional.

There's some great cycling country in Northants, including lots of canal towpaths, and it would be fantastic for the local authority to get more people out of cars and onto saddles.

Treads CC | 11 years ago

I think the article above is exactly what it is... a proposal and that is it.

Treads have had a very long running battle with the council from that we have had this latest email, if anything from the proposal ever gets done it will be a miracle.

I am fully aware of the condition of the highways generally across the county and in deed farther afield and my officers are tasked with carrying out inspections etc in accordance to or policy.

I think it is clear that your aspirations of what condition the highway should be in, differ from what is both practical and realistic especially in the current economic climate. The fact that the Council have had to take some very difficult decisions, such as turning off 50% of our lights, no longer providing school crossing patrol services, reduce subsidies for public transport by 75% etc hopefully puts in into context. In addition our revenue budget has experienced a year on year reduction, not just in real terms but in actual terms and despite this I still believe we offer and deliver a good value for money service.

I accept we would all like the over all condition of the roads and footpaths to be better, myself included, however I also believe we need to be realistic in terms of what can be delivered.

Regards, Dave. (David Farquhar)

RuthF28 | 11 years ago

HA! I'll believe this when I see it and not before. I cycle to Northampton every day to work and every day I feel I am taking my life in my hands; so much so that I wear full hi-vis and when I get into town have back and front flashing lights just so the half-asleep commuters can't say they didn't see me.

I've cycled an End to End and also a side to side and have never fell so threatened on the roads as in the centre of Northampton. The cycle lane going into the town centre is barely bigger than the double yellows, full of potholes and generally driven in by cars anyway. Junctions are a nightmare. The traffic lights barely give cyclists more than a second or two extra to get out of the way. As for the cyclepath up the A43, don't get me started. It goes up one side, then crosses to the other and then - just as the A43 really gets narrow and dangerous - it gives out completely!!! Well why wouldn't it? Added to that, it's usually covered in debris including litter, pine cones, broken glass, dirty nappies, broken up with weeds and so overgrown that barely one bike can get through let alone two (sometimes I take secateurs with me to work and give the trees a trim on the way). It's a joke. Well it would be if it was funny. Then you've got the appalling state of the actual roads which are so potholed it's not funny. There's one main road which desperately needs resurfacing and has done for years and all they've done is send a workman out to put a shovelfull of tar on it and jump on it a bit. So put your money where your mouth is, NCC, there's more people cycle than I do and we're waiting. And I WILL NOT be forced into my car because of some ****witted drivers on my daily commute.

Rant complete.

Treads CC replied to RuthF28 | 11 years ago

Hi RuthF28

I've had a long running Treads CC Vs Northants Council for around 7 years now.
if you email info [at] with your email address I'll happily keep you up to date with what we are doing and the people we are talking to. I read in the Northamptonshire Arc brochure about how much they are going to spend on the roads, but unfortunately even the head of Transport has no answer as to what is actually going to be done.

You are not on your own.
Keep riding


Lee (treads cc)

tarquin_foxglove | 11 years ago

Northampton has population of 200k.

Lets pretend that all their spending on promotion etc isn't money down the drain so they are spending £5.4m over 10 years, so approx £2.70 per person per year. Which is about twice the rate that my local council are proposing.

In the same time frame NCC are spending £68.48m on bypasses & dualling the A43, so approx £34 per person per year. It doesn't say how much they will be spending on promoting these improvements to drivers though.

The Dutch spend approx 25 euros per person per year on actual cycling infrastructure.

[I acknowledge they are back of a fag packet calcs, but I've just got in from the pub & it's the best I can do]

robbieC | 11 years ago

its a start. I now live in Kent and find myself shaking me head a bit when I go back to Northants. There is a bit of provision, some good ideas but...

The Corby bypass would have been an excellent opportunity to put cycle tracks on bridleways and old mineral railways in this area, the route 53 from Peterborough fizzles out at Glaphorn (why?)

it has so much to offer - especially north of Kettering!

Treads CC | 11 years ago

Cycling Policy 12
Bring the standard of the carriageway surface and off-carriageway surfaces up to an appropriate standard to ensure our network is ‘fit for purpose’.

well after 7 years of complaining about the state of the Northamptonshire roads there is a line in the plan and a quote for my next email to the council  19

ragtag | 11 years ago

Glad to see my home country where I grew up is doing something. In many Northants town, like elsewhere, they went with the one way system, also known as Boy Racer Speedway. It's not so much as perceived as dangerous, it often actually is.

Back in the 80-90's I can only recall one bit of cycle lane in Wellingborough, where I used to cycle to work.

Hope cyclists and cycling businesses in the county can make sure the council don't forget about this.

Simon_MacMichael | 11 years ago

Not sure where you're getting that from. Go to the Northamptonshire Town Travel Plan linked above, page 69 clearly shows a number of off-carriageway projects proposed to be completed by 2016 for instance. Looks like the money is budgeted, though in some cases it's likely funding (in part) still needs to be secured.

If there's a vagueness over dates, that's only because NCC splits them into short (to 2016) and medium (2021) terms. The disused railway line falls into the latter - could be scheduled to have been completed (and paid for) by 2017, could be 2021. Within that arc though.

jackh | 11 years ago

My reading from the article is that not a penny will be spent on dedicated (seperated from the main carriageway) cycling infrastructure until 2021?

G-bitch | 11 years ago

Nothing out of the norm here: big ideas/plans + no sign of a appropriate budget to implement = usual half arsed compromise

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