St Albans cycling cash a ‘drop in the ocean’

Mike Hartley with children Jacob 10 and Jessica 9 at Verulamiam Park

Mike Hartley with children Jacob 10 and Jessica 9 at Verulamiam Park - Credit: Archant

OVER £200,000 allocated from the public purse to make St Albans’ cycling routes safer is just a “drop in the ocean” a local campaigner has warned.

Transport Minister Norman Baker recently announced that £40 million – a combination of a £20 million Government grant and £20 million local authority match-funding – would be spent on improving dangerous routes and junctions across England.

Several sites in St Albans are among 78 locations to benefit from the schemes due to be completed within the next 12 months.

A break-down of the £210,000 earmarked for local projects shows that Herts county council is contributing £30,000 while the Government is paying the remaining £180,000.

Schemes include the £120,000 conversion of an existing footpath adjacent to the A414/A405 between Napsbury Lane and Tippendell Lane to a shared cycleway.

At the St Peter’s Street junction with Hatfield Road, £60,000 will be spent reducing the circulatory space on the roundabout to reduce traffic speeds and improve motorists’ visibility.

A further £30,000 will go towards installing cycle safety mirrors at traffic signals which are designed to give drivers of large vehicles better visibility of cyclists at junctions.

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But St Albans Cycle Campaign (STACC) committee member and blogger Mike Hartley said: “It’s great to see some money spent on cycling but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what’s required.

“They are underspending at a time when cycling is booming. And a lot more people want to ride, so let’s see some commitment.

“Across the country on average two per cent of journeys are made by bike. In St Albans we are looking at between two and five per cent.”

Mike, 45, of Marshalswick, said that surveys had shown that for those who did not ride, greater provision of cycle lanes and improved safety on roads would encourage them to use a bike.

He applauded the schemes being funded in St Albans, describing the St Peter’s Street junction with Hatfield Road as an “accident black spot” where seven cyclists had suffered injuries between 2005 and 2011.

A focus of STACC is to campaign for the improvement or provision of additional cycling linkages between the likes of St Albans Station, Verulamium Park and the Alban Way with the city centre.

Mike explained: “No-one is more than three maybe four miles from the city so it’s easily bikeable, but when you look at safe cycle routes what we have is bitsy, it’s not joined up enough.

“What we have doesn’t really work very well to provide a safe feeling for people. For example from Marshalswick there are junctions on the way into the city that are a nightmare for the uninitiated.”

Mike said that while STACC would also like to see the city centre’s 20mph speed limit zone extended, the 400-member strong organisation was definitely “not anti-car”.

St Albans district council’s portfolio holder for community engagement Cllr Beric Read welcomed the funding of local schemes, saying they would complement work carried out by the council including a cycling path at Verulamium Park.

n A study using revolutionary eye-tracking technology commissioned by Direct Line Car Insurance showed that drivers failed to notice one in five cyclists on the road despite them being in clear view of their vehicle. Also, 24 per cent of cyclists were “invisible” to drivers who used a sat nav, compared to 19 per cent for those who do not.