Mass cycle ride for new bike path on A26

SAFE SPACE: How the proposed cycle path might look

CYCLISTS from across the town will be coming together this week for a mass ‘ride along’ to campaign for a new cycle path connecting Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge on the A26.

Tunbridge Wells Bicycle Users Group (TWBUG) will be organising a ‘critical mass ride’ in which two groups will cycle en masse along the busy main road on Friday June 9 at 6.30pm.

Half of the group will start at Five Ways, Tunbridge Wells and the other from Tonbridge railway station. The two groups will converge on Southborough Common to meet fellow cyclists and supporters.

On their website, TWBUG said the mass cycle ride aims to “show the community what the future of safer, healthier, cheaper and more planet-friendly travel could be here on our doorstep in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge”.

Paul Mason, an organiser from TWBUG told the Times: “We have specifically proposed this stretch of the A26 because it serves so many people, including an estimated 18,000 school pupils and commuters coming to the town.

“I think there is this perception of the entitled middle-class white male, aggressive cyclist in lycra, which has given cyclists a bit of an unpleasant public image.

“We want to show that it is ordinary people who want this cycle lane so they can travel to the shops, school, work or to see friends but feel like they can’t because of the traffic.

“It is a demonstration to show citizens a better way to organise transport and to persuade those in power to change the way they think about active travel.”

There are also environmental concerns, with transport being the largest CO2-emitting sector in the UK, accounting for 34 per cent of CO2 emissions last year.

Mr Mason continued: “Our campaign is supporting the official government policies set out by the DfT, and Britain’s target to hit net zero by 2030 by improving transport options for residents and getting more people out of their cars.”

Walking and cycling champion, Cllr Peter Lidstone (Lib Dem), who will also be joining the ride on Friday, he told the Times: “Critical mass is essentially a movement for movement where residents come together to call for change.

“By seeing the mass support, we hope it might change the idea that it is just a few niche-thinking individuals, to a collective of residents demanding something be done.”

“We have been campaigning for the route for years as we think it has the most potential to move people from cars to bikes.

“However, getting KCC councillors’ support has been difficult and we have struggled to make progress on this.”

Cllr Lidstone continued: “A survey by the Department for Transport (DfT) looking at attitudes to walking and cycling found that 65 per cent of people think roads are too dangerous to cycle on.

“We believe that this section of highway is suitable for a cycle lane and is similar to other successful schemes like in Waltham Forest, where a cycle lane was built by experts who have also designed this route for the A26.”

The proposed cycle path looks to widen the pavements and narrow the roads. The group anticipates that this will raise concerns from motorists, but says the plans will eventually help ease congestion.

Cllr Lidstone explained: “People are always going to be concerned about the effects it might have on traffic, but the road is already a single lane anyway so even though we are narrowing it, we are not removing any lanes.

“If just 10 per cent of drivers moved from the car to a bike, that is 10 per cent fewer vehicles on the road which would improve congestion.

“The designs plan to use the shared pavement and widen it to create the cycle lane, and I know there has been some resistance from residents who don’t want to drive over a cycle lane to get to their driveways.

“I think with the right conversations we can definitely come to a solution.”

Financial support from the Government’s Active Travel England Fund is currently being used to create plans for a cycle lane from the town centre to Rusthall.

Further rides by TWBUG are being organised in July, August and September.

KCC has been approached for comment.

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