Letters, February 6, 2014

Behind Redbourn Road campaign

SIR – I just want to add a message of support for the Respect on Redbourn Road campaign to raise awareness of the need for drivers and cyclists to give more respect to each other. I work in Dunstable so have cycled along that stretch of road dozens of times. It is wide which helps, but speed limits are 50 and then 60 mph before reducing to 40 and 30 on the immediate approach to Redbourn. A moment’s distraction can be fatal. Most drivers do give a wide berth, but as a driver I am conscious of the fact when you are in a hurry, a cyclist can become a source of annoyance, rather than someone else just using the road and with just as much right to do so. But this cuts both ways: cyclists could show more consideration also. I am sure we have all seen many cyclists – at this time of year – wearing dark clothing, with no hi viz and showing just one feeble light, or no light. Aside from the road users, a major source of danger is the infrastructure: there is a path running the length of the Redbourn Road between St Albans and Redbourn. But coming out from St Albans, once past the Pre, it deteriorates to a narrow rough track, and then half way along the road it annoyingly swaps sides. And it is intersected by the side roads which enter the Redbourn Road, which appear to have priority. So to use that would require a mountain bike and in any event would make the journey slower. There is a new cycle path between Luton and Dunstable, metalled and wide enough for two bikes to pass – constructed along the route of the new bus link there. If there is county money available, [or Sustrans money] such paths linking towns in this county would have a hugely beneficial impact on so many people’s lives. This ties in with another article in the Herts Ad about releasing county money for improving safety at junctions: the junction onto the Redbourn Road from St Albans – at the foot of Verulam Road, requires you to go into the right hand lane in order to go ahead into the Redbourn Road. And it is approached by a wide stretch of road. I am an experienced and confident cyclist, but this is a scary manoeuver in even the best conditions with cars travelling fast on your inside as you approach the junction. Cycling is fun, and good for us, it cuts down our emissions, saves money and keeps us fit. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could join in, and not just a few hardy or foolhardy souls who brave the traffic every day? The adjustments needed are really not major feats of engineering. The tragic death of Mark Greenwood cannot be undone, but with the impetus of the Herts Ad’s Respect on Redbourn Road campaign, lets hope some good may come from the dialogue it has created.

TIM ROBINSON Elm Drive, St Albans

SIR – As a cyclist and motorist living in Redbourn I am naturally interested to learn more of your campaign. A large number of cyclists come out via Redbourn into the Chilterns. My personal view is that if there is one place locally where we really do need a separate cycling path/track it is on the A5183 between St Albans to Redbourn and arguably beyond to Markyate and Dunstable. The current riposte is that they have introduced a 50mph limit in the “chicane” section past Shafford Mill and the Pre hotel, that the sight lines are “good” and there’s a path along the side (where you need to cross over at the Punch Bowl pub on the one hand, but it is rough, pitted and less than 2ft wide in places on the other). Respect cuts both ways of course, but most of us are also motorists and know what an important and busy road this one is for people having to get to and from work each day. All the more reason for a dedicated cycle path to avoid any more fatal accidents. Make sure we cyclists use it though!

MIKE WILLARD Rickyard Meadow, Redbourn

SIR – I read with no small degree of sadness that the Redbourn Road has finally claimed the life of a cyclist. The road’s straight nature and the open countryside surrounding it have long seen it being used for speed far in excess of that which its poor surface and undulating surface should allow. This has long made the road well known as a danger spot for local cyclists and my own close calls whilst riding along it meant that we actually decided as a family not to move to Redbourn last year specifically because my commute would have taken me down this road daily. With the Nickey Line passing through Redbourn and the Alban Way now reaching through Verulam Park surely now is the time for the council to sit down with interested groups and find a safe way to join the two, turning this two-wheeled running of the bulls into a cross-Hertfordshire traffic free route to be proud of. My thoughts are with Mr Greenwood’s family and I sincerely hope that progress will be made before this road claims another life, which it sadly will unless a safe, practical alternative is found.

CHRIS BRATTLE Green Lane, Redbourn

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SIR – I also feel very strongly about safety on our roads. Yesterday two cyclicts were cycling abreast of each other along Redbourn Road when a third decided to pass them. Without looking or signalling he pulled out into my path, I had allowed sufficient room for the two but not a third in the middle of the road, consequently I had to take evasive action to avoid him. Speed is definately an issue on this road, drivers overtake along the chevrons like bats out of hell and God help anyone who is in their way! Drivers and cyclists need also to be vigilant to avoid the numerous potholes on our roads, I think it’s disgusting the condition of our roads especially as they had the money to put them right. So yes I am for any improvement in road safety.

ROGER BURDOCK Stephens Way, Redbourn No sign of action in Station Approach

SIR – It is close to two years now since I first entered into correspondence with First Capital Connect management about the condition of Station Approach and the volume of taxis in this road. On a recent Sunday morning, I used the station at about 9.30am and believe, from my observations, that Station Approach is even filthier now than it was two years ago. I have never, ever, seen such a disgusting station approach road anywhere in the UK and, in its current state, it looks more like a fourth world country than it does Hertfordshire. On the right hand side, the white building, Station House, is simply surrounded by garbage and debris – food wrappings, bottles, tin cans, tissues, newspapers and other assorted rubbish and junk. On the left hand side, the spaces between the small retail units (Godfreys office, taxi office, dry cleaners and coffee shop) is just as per Station House, with the addition of broken supermarket trolleys and broken steel table and chairs identical to those in use outside the coffee shop. I was not surprised to see a large rat foraging in the collective filth. It is all truly unbelievable! I went there again today to check my facts before writing to you and spoke to two individuals, one from the taxi office and one from Godfreys. The individual from the taxi office agreed that the area beside his office was indeed “disgusting” and confirmed to me that the area was used by taxi drivers as a toilet. The individual from Godfreys confirmed that he saw rats daily outside his office. I find all of this truly beyond belief in Harpenden in 2014 and I am writing to you as discussions with FCC have yielded commitments, but nothing else. Who is responsible for this? What are we, the town residents, supposed to do?

VICTOR LOWRY Amenbury Lane, Harpenden

Jersey Farm hits back over 653

SIR – In a recent Your Views you included Mr K Surbaws’ so-called solution to the degradation of passenger service levels experienced since the introduction of the Uno 653 bus service (in place of two previous routes). Uno has asserted, on a number of occasions, that the 653 route results in improvements, though it has to my knowledge never produced any evidence to back this up. Mr Surbaws suggests that the problems with the 653 would be solved or ameliorated by simply removing all of the Jersey Farm area from the bus route. It is possible that Uno itself might be attracted to this idea, but where would that leave the rather large number of people who live in Jersey Farm? I am not a Jersey Farm resident, by the way, but as a fairly keen walker am very aware that most of the area is a substantial distance away from any other bus services. It is about time that Uno took note of the numerous complaints about this new route and carried out a proper public consultation on the service. There has been plenty of evidence that degrading a bus service leads to fewer regular passengers using it, so leading to the conclusion that the service wasn’t needed anyway. It would be a shame if Uno were to follow this unappealing and unhelpful route. Over to you Uno.

MIKE GEORGE Beechwood Avenue, St Albans

SIR – I refer to the letter from Ken Surbaws (Herts Ad, January 23) claiming to be a regular user of route 653, St Albans to Welwyn Garden City via Jersey Farm estate and suggests Uno could economise by re-routing along Sandpit Lane to avoid Jersey Farm. There are several routes that he could catch running directly between the city centre and Hatfield along Hatfield Road including Green Line 724 that stops near the end of his road. The 653 is an indirect route deliberately so to serve Marshalswick and Jersey Farm. It appears he wants to deny Marshalswick and Jersey Farm residents their bus route in the interests of efficiency. He should not write to his local newspaper without first checking the facts.

ROBERT PADGET Pirton Close, Jersey Farm

SIR – Living on the opposite side of St Albans, perhaps Mr Surbaws is not aware that the S3 bus which served Jersey Farm was incorporated into the 653 route (presumably to save money). We need local public transport as much as any other area of St Albans and contribute towards its provision via council tax. I believe delays are caused by congestion in St Albans city centre and along the extended route through Hatfield and into Welwyn Garden City, whereas the previous service was on a much shorter loop to the city centre and back. If speed of travel is the issue for Mr Surbaws, there are more direct routes from the city centre via Hatfield Road. I’m all for less cars on the road and reducing carbon emissions, but we need a reliable public transport service in order to do so.

LINDA BOLDING Lincolns Close, St Albans

Free parking keeps town thriving

SIR – Fancying a bit of a change from my St Albans routine, I took a drive up the road to Harpenden this morning, where I was struck by two interesting differences. Firstly, free on-street parking for an hour is widely available, which, curiously enough, was just about right for me to transact my business conveniently and even engage in a little window browsing along the charming array of local shops – some perhaps a little twee for my taste, but there’s something for everyone. Secondly, I looked in vain for that reassuring sight of multiple failed, boarded-up retail premises which makes me feel so at home in St Albans these days, surely such an improvement on the thriving town centre of 20 years ago when, I seem to recall, we also had free short-term parking. So come on Harpenden – don’t be such spoilsports! Ditch this regressive and selfish parking scheme immediately so that your local businesses go to the wall too!

DAVID SOLOMON Walton Street, St Albans

S106 money can be spent elsewhere

SIR – In response to your story about the S106 money from the Napsbury development going to Sandringham School, I would like to share some facts. S106 money can and often is used to help different areas of the district. Most of this money is earmarked for certain things, for example secondary education, so cannot be used for anything else. In the last few years London Colney’s local secondary school, Francis Bacon, received £6 million funding from the county council’s public purse to re-open as the Samuel Ryder Academy. Some of this money was S106 contributions from other areas. Why would Cllr Gordon or the London Colney Parish Council, therefore, expect the county council to give any more public money to Samuel Ryder when there are children in Wheathampstead going without any choice of school places? I did not notice any furious reaction from the ‘independent’ chair of our parish council, Malcom McMillan, or from our Labour county councillor Dreda Gordon, when £6 million was put into our local secondary school. Nor did they complain when more public money was poured into London Colney for the new Cotlandswick leisure centre. As for Dreda’s comments about our lack of “outstanding” schools to choose from, I and many parents are extremely proud to send our children to Samuel Ryder Academy as we know it is, and will continue to be, a great school. On top of this we are to receive a new free school in Harperbury Lane this year. I don’t know about “municipal mugging” but I believe that Malcom and Dreda are trying to take the residents of London Colney for mugs by twisting the facts and blatantly electioneering.

CLLR SIMON CALDER London Colney Ward Norris Close, London Colney

Shouted at by cyclists

SIR – Is the Alban Way for just cyclists or walkers as well? Twice this week while walking children from Morrisons car park to St Stephens School I have been shouted at by old farts on bikes! One didn’t even sound his bell he just shouted when upon us, the second shouted at the children to stay to one side. Surely there would be a white line down the middle for cyclists one side and walkers the other if this is the case? We are always aware of cyclists as are the children but surely sounding a bell when nearing would help instead of shouting out the way! They hardly cycle single file. Also can someone tell the council to tidy the rubbish near the Morrisons park as the crows are like rats everywhere and tear the bins spreading rubbish everywhere?

JOANNA TATLOCK Harlesden Road, St Albans

Freedom to choose what to eat

SIR – I have just read the article in the Herts Advertiser of January 30 when that self-appointed arbiter of good taste Ms Katherine Rudd seemingly embarks on a crusade to get foie gras banned from all local restaurants. However, I find her argument entirely self defeating when she states that when she finds an establishment serving this dish it would not be attended by her good self. That is entirely the point and her choice. We all have a choice in the things we do and I for one do not need her views to influence my preferences and am surprised that local restaurants are even prepared to listen to her. Surely the requirements of their paying customers come first when choosing what they eat. Many will feel, like me, that they have no wish to be dictated to by her. I don’t suppose this zealot will go away and perhaps she could turn her attention next to battery hens, farmed salmon and the methods of slaughtering halal meat and the leather shoes she wears or anything else that she deems to be unacceptable to her point of view. Her reply will be of course interesting.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans

What about Green Belt hotel plan?

SIR – So Cllr Brazier argues that the district council had “good reasons to refuse [the conversion of Chester Nursery, Smallford into a housing development], including that it is in the Green Belt and an over-development of the area” (Nursery Housing Scheme is ‘filling in the Green Belt’, Herts Ad, January 16). It’s a shame he didn’t come to the same view concerning the Hilton Hotel application in south St Albans in 2012, considering that site was also in the Green Belt and the whole area is also under extreme pressure from developers to fill in every green space. As chairman of the planning referrals committee at the time, he had significant influence over that decision being granted and it seems odd that he should now be the Green Belt guardian? One might suggest that St Stephen Ward is not in his back yard.

CLLR STEVE BOWES-PHIPPS Park Street Ward Centaurus Square, Frogmore