MP pleased at progress to help people get in the saddle - The Leamington Observer

MP pleased at progress to help people get in the saddle

Leamington Editorial 28th Mar, 2023   0

LAST week I was able to view progress on the new Kenilworth Secondary School building and it will be an impressive building, offering excellent facilities for learning to generations of students to come. Those involved in the project have been working tremendously hard to get the new school ready to welcome pupils in the Autumn and I thank them all. We hope that many of those pupils will cycle to their new school and the development plans seek to make the immediate environment of the school safe for cycling, but of course some students (and staff) will be cycling through other parts of town and indeed further afield.

For their benefit and for the benefit of others who want to cycle in our area, we need to improve cycling infrastructure, and we are. The ‘K2L’ project will make it easier and safer to cycle between Kenilworth and Leamington. New stretches of cycleway like the Lias Line are providing attractive alternative commuter and leisure routes. It is important though that we do not just have several individual pieces of the puzzle, but rather a coherent and connected cycle network as the completed jigsaw. That is why I have been meeting local Councils, Sustrans and others to ensure we deliver maximum collective benefit from the individual projects being planned and built. HS2 is also a factor here and HS2 Ltd have been attending these meetings. It is possible that, among all the disruption it brings, HS2 could also deliver some tangible benefits to our active travel infrastructure in the longer term, including by use of some of what are now haul roads for the project, as well as in the shorter term by delivering some cycleways as the railway is built.

Of course, National Government has a part to play too and you may have heard about a reduction in planned active travel funding. Although understandable in the context of pressures on all Government spending at the moment, this is still disappointing. I have written to Ministers to point out that, both because of the impact of HS2 on this area and the potential for HS2 to contribute to active travel infrastructure, the case for central money that enables us to complete networks here remains strong. It is however important to understand that this is a reduction of a proposed increase, so there will still be more money available than there is now, and it will come on top of what has already been spent. £850 million has been invested in active travel nationwide since 2020/21, with at least another £100 million of capital funding to come, which will mean some £3 billion will be spent over this Parliament.

In any event, we can and should make improvements locally. They will not all have universal support. I know that some are concerned about cycling in Kenilworth’s Abbey Fields for example, and it will clearly be important to ensure that cyclists and others can share what may be narrow spaces safely, but the reality of Kenilworth’s geography means that excluding Abbey Fields from cycle route networks makes those networks less useable, and less safe, for cyclists of all ages.

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