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Good time to break ‘circle of doom’ – cycling group

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A LACK of adequate pedestrian and cycle paths near schools might deter parents from encouraging their children to take an active route to school and resort to vehicles, the Guernsey Bicycle Group has said.

Sam Field, chairman of the Guernsey Bicycle Group. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin)

As the schools gear up to have pupils back, students are being encouraged to walk, scoot, skate or cycle, particularly as the number of pupils who can be carried on school buses is being reduced to comply with social distancing.

GBG chairman Sam Field said it was great that young people were being encouraged to walk or cycle to school and hoped the message would be picked up, especially in the fine summer weather.

However, the group is concerned that parents will view the traffic on the roads and the lack of dedicated cycle and pedestrian pathways as a threat to their safety and resort to personal vehicles.

‘Of course, this just means more traffic on the roads, and so it becomes a never-ending circle of more traffic, more fear for safety, so more driving – it’s like a circle of doom,’ he said.

Calling on the States to provide safe, dedicated cycle and pedestrian infrastructure, Mr Field believed if more people felt there was a safe space for them to be active on the way to school, more would choose to do so.

‘Schools tend to know what their catchment areas are, and careful route planning and strategic redesigning of roads in those areas could provide safe, dedicated cycle and pedestrian corridors, as well as vehicle routes to enable morning and afternoon commuting.’

While being equipped with all means of protective and reflecting gear is often encouraged, the GBG believes the dire need for it just goes to show that cycle and pedestrian travel is fundamentally not safe.

‘Guernsey is fortunate that cycle and pedestrian incidents involving vehicles are rare, especially involving school children, but this knowledge doesn’t remove the feeling of danger and vulnerability on the roads.’

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He encouraged parents to email all deputies, at deputies2016@gov.gg, and share their road safety concerns.

Pat Wisher of Living Streets, an organisation that campaigns for making Guernsey’s public spaces safer for those on foot, said many islanders have rediscovered the joys of exercise during lockdown.

‘The reason it has been so enjoyable is because for the first time pedestrians and cyclists have been given some space on our roads owing to the lack of cars.

‘The norm has been the car is king and any other road user is a nuisance, particularly a cyclist, and is squeezed out.’

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Therefore more people opt for a car journey as it is deemed safer.

She said the best way of making active routes to school safer is to reduce the number of cars, particularly around the school gates.

‘The one-way system around the Baubigny Schools is an excellent example of how you can re-engineer the roads to make it safer for vulnerable road users – the speed reduction to 20mph is also important.’

There are examples in the UK where roads are closed around schools during the morning and afternoon.

Encouraging walking and cycling ‘buses’ every day is another option.

Mrs Wisher continued: ‘It also took courage to develop our Baubigny Schools pathway 10 years ago.

‘It is virtually traffic-free and we are really hoping that, since bus seats will be limited, that pupils in the Bouet area will use our pathway instead of catching the bus.’

Zoe Fitch

By Zoe Fitch
News reporter

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