Covid-busting pavement widening in Bedford makes it “more hazardous for cyclists” – claim

A claim that pavement widening work in Bedford town centre has made it “more hazardous” for cyclists sparked a robust response.

By David Tooley, local democracy reporter
Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 3:19 pm

Cycling campaigner Peter Blakeman told a meeting this week that wider pavements and loading bays to make room for social distancing measures in High Street mean riskier travel on two wheels.

“It has made it more hazardous rather than safer for travelling,” said Mr Blakeman in a statement read out by the mayor.

“Motorists are raring to get ahead rather than staying behind a cyclist. And traffic is now coming back after the lockdown is eased,” added Mr Blakeman, of the Cycling Campaign for North Beds.

High Street in Bedford before the widening project

Cllr Charles Royden (Lib Dem, Brickhill) is Bedford Borough Council’s portfolio holder for environment, highways and transport.

He told the climate change committee on Monday: “It’s really important to point out that you can only have a single lane down the High Street with wider pavements if you, unfortunately, don’t have a cycle lane.

“If we were to put a cycle lane in as well you’d have an even narrower pavement than we have.”

Cllr Royden said social distancing means wider pavements and it is “necessary to keep loading bays.”

“We don’t want to kill businesses off. Some of those businesses depend on the High Street for delivery of goods.”

Cllr Royden also rejected a claim that the council had received more than £660,000 to promote walking and cycling.

“It barely scraped over £30,000 when it materialised,” he said. “It was less than people had been led to believe.

“”It’s unhelpful when these sorts of figures are announced because they raise peoples’e expectations about what might be delivered. ”

Cllr Royden also outlined some of the schemes they were planning to fund, including £110,000 on an average speed camera system to enforce a 20mph speed limit in High Street.

The pavement widening itself costs £87,000, he said at the meeting that was broadcast on YouTube.

Other projects in the offing are 20mph limits along Embankment, cycle lanes in Bromham Road, Greyfriars, and River Street, as well a removing speed humps at Bedford railway station to make access easier for cyclists.