Guernsey Press

New road users’ group 'not the usual car versus bike’

A NEW group has been formed to improve safety on the island’s roads, promote better travel infrastructure and reduce gridlock.

Jennifer Merrett, centre, is the chairwoman of the new Guernsey Road Users Network which has representatives from the motor trade and bus company as well as cycling and pedestrian groups. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30296164)

The Guernsey Road Users Network is made up of lots of different groups including Living Streets, the Guernsey Bicycle Group, the Guernsey Motor Trades Association and CT Plus.

The group stresses that it is not anti-car, it is not trying to prise drivers from their cars, but it does want people to have a choice of viable transport options.

Jennifer Merrett is the chairwoman of the organisation and describes herself as a pedestrian, a cyclist, a bus user and a motorist.

When she cycles she says she is a ‘utilitarian’ cyclist because she does it for practical purposes and gives herself an excellent door-to-door service.

Key to the new group, she said, was that it was pragmatic and realistic.

‘Firstly there needs to be real choices, so having a bus service that people can rely on and is regular enough to serve needs.

‘Some areas of the island have that bus service, other areas don’t and we need to appreciate that.

‘Have we got the infrastructure in place to ensure that cycling is possible throughout the whole island? Arguably not.

‘We’re all pedestrians at some point, so it’s appreciating that and respecting other people’s choices and also just realising that some road users are more vulnerable than others and showing them the respect, so pass wide and pass slow.

‘And it works the other way as well – cyclists should wear a reflective jacket and make sure they have lights.’

Instead of the usual approach of pitting cyclists against motorists, the members of the Guernsey Road Users Network are working towards common aims.

The Guernsey Motor Trades Association and pedestrian and cycling groups could be perceived as unusual bedfellows, but Robert Cornelius, president of the GMTA, said it was happy to be teaming up.

‘Probably a few years ago this may not have come together, but we’re all suffering with the same issues and it’s not for one form of transportation to be outlawed compared to another, it’s about us all working together to make the roads safer.

‘There are a lot of safety issues that need to be highlighted from all forms of commuting.’

During the lockdowns there was a noticeable gear shift, with more cyclists on the road, perhaps attracted by the reduction in cars.

Tom Le Pelley, chairman of Living Streets, believes separating active travel from vehicle travel is an idea worth pursuing.

‘I drew a map of all the little lanes that are running roughly parallel to main roads which we’d like cyclists to use because it’s in the countryside, it’s healthy, it’s safe.

‘Let all the trucks, buses and cars have the main roads, let them chunter up and down, but out there in the quiet country lanes, you might have to deviate slightly, but it’s a more pleasant environment.

‘If we can sell that to the cyclists, the motorists will be happier that there’s no bikes to slow them down to 12mph all the way along Forest Road or Fort Road or wherever.

‘So persuasion is a good way to go, and with all of us saying the same sort of things, that will benefit the whole island.’