Kent cycling campaigners call for action after death and serious injury of almost 40 cyclists in past six years
- Credit: Archant
Potholes, narrow paths and cycle lanes which come to an abrupt end. These are problems which blight cyclists in Gravesham and Dartford every day.
But statistics reveal they are far from mild annoyances. Thirty-six cyclists were killed or seriously injured in the two boroughs from 2005-2011, leading to a call from campaigners to drastically improve the cycling network.
Alex Hills, chairman of the Dartford and Gravesham district committee of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), regularly travels three miles to work by bicycle, so he knows the problems that face riders.
He said: “The lack of a safe link between Istead Rise and Meopham is much more than just a local annoyance – it is a major weakness in the transport and leisure infrastructure of the area.
“Gravesham has many good, safe cycling routes, but if more people are to use their bikes as a mode of transport, road safety must be improved at key locations.”
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Alex named the northern end of Valley Drive, Gravesend, and the A227 between Istead Rise and Meopham as problem areas.
Valley Drive is both narrow and riddled with potholes, while a seemingly good cycle path simply stops on a rural stretch of the A227.
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He believes that by neglecting these roads, cyclists as a whole are suffering.
“Both of these roads deter people from accessing routes that are safe for cyclists.
“Work to strengthen the cycling infrastructure on short sections of road like these could enable cyclists to make the very best use of existing safe cycle routes.”
Alex sees cycling as much more than exercise. Riding a bike can be a substitute for many journeys usually made by car, and cycling home from work can help to reduce stress.
Cycle safety organisations have accused Kent County Council of “pleading poverty” as a reason for inaction, despite investment from the government.
CPRE believes that, in these financially difficult times, it becomes more necessary to spend money properly and is calling on the council to improve the safety of roads.
In 2010, Kent County Council axed several cycling initiatives for a combined saving of more than £250,000 due to budget cuts.
The council has said it is aware of the problem on the A227 but that funding remains an issue.
It is said a new cycle path between Istead Rise and Meopham would cost an estimated £500,000 and suitable funding has yet to be found.
A study undertaken three years ago showed that extensive areas of private land would have to be acquired to provide a sufficiently wide cycling path on the road.
David Brazier, Kent County Council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, is also a “champion for cycling” for the county.
He listed Gravesend’s Cyclopark, which opened in 2012, free guided bike rides – Sky Rides – throughout the summer, and the introduction of Brompton bikes at railway stations as schemes Kent could be proud of.
He added: “We have been working hard to develop new and improved cycle routes with our partners in the district councils, with Sustrans and local cycling groups.
“I am a great advocate of cycling and am very proud of all the cycling initiatives that Kent County Council has been involved in.”
Mr Brazier agreed that there was scope for creating a cycle path alongside the northern half of Valley Drive. The idea “has merit” and will be included in a Gravesham cycling plan.
n What are your experiences of cycling in north Kent? Have you noticed any particularly good or bad routes. Email email@example.com