Rushmere Road residents reject results of survey that decided 'hard to comprehend' cycle lane works

An argument over a segregated cycle lane on Rushmere Road has been ongoing for more than six months.An argument over a segregated cycle lane on Rushmere Road has been ongoing for more than six months.
An argument over a segregated cycle lane on Rushmere Road has been ongoing for more than six months.
The argument about a segregated cycle lane in Northampton has been ongoing for more than six months

A residents association has rejected a county council survey that has steered how an unpopular cycle lane plan will be installed in Northampton.

A consultation was held last year over how to advance a set of orange traffic wands placed on Rushmere Road by the county council to create a segregated cycle lane.

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Homeowners voiced their unhappiness in the survey - with 61 our of 167 replies saying the scheme should be scrapped and the money spent elsewhere.

Now, however, work to replace the wands with more permanent flat-lying 'orcas' is set to begin on Monday (February 22) - which residents say has not received enough support to go ahead.

The results of the consultation were published in December 2020.The county council plans to replace the orange wands on Rushmere Road with black-and-white 'orcas' that lie flat with the road and are spaced out by 25m, with two wands at the start and end of the proposed lane.

However, out of the four ideas put to residents in the consultation, this idea was largely picked because it got the most votes from respondents if they "had to choose" on a plan.

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In fact, out of 167 replies, only 39 votes were for one of the four options. 107 were for "other", of which 61 were to remove the wands altogether.

When respondents were asked to give their second preference on the basis they "had to choose" one of the options, the most votes - 35 - went with the spaced out 'orca' plan.

This plan is set to be installed staring February 22.

Further, the current wands and their replacement were heavily criticised in the consultation by councillors, residents and cycling groups for being two narrow for Government guidelines or to accommodate disabled cyclists, and should be between 1.5m and 2m wide.

The consultation also included a poll of 38 cyclists about if the wands should be retained. 32 said no.

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Including the initial installation of the orange wands, the projected cost of the scheme is expected to reach £50,000.

The report reads: "A number of respondents, particularly from those living on Rushmere Road outlined that their first preference was an alternative option.

"Doing nothing is not an option if there is to be a step-change.

"The consultation responses on the various options have demonstrated that the light segregation cycle lane trial on Rushmere Road is and remains an emotive subject, with a range of opposing opinions expressed. It is also clear that there is no single option with overwhelming support.

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"On balance, it is therefore recommended that Option D (black wands and orcas) is implemented for a 12-month trial period."

The Rushmere Road residents association wrote in a statement: "We are hugely concerned about the escalating costs of this cycle lane and would like to continue to put pressure on the council to spend this money elsewhere.

"We need to make as much noise as possible in the lead up to the new installation as spending this much money on a temporary cycle lane is hard to comprehend."

Jason Smithers, Cabinet Member for Highways and Place for Northamptonshire County Council said: “We want to thank our residents for their continued feedback – it forms an essential part of our approach to the implementation of these schemes. We understand there are concerns amongst some residents about the decision to implement black wands and orcas at Rushmere Road, following our recent public consultation.

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“We want to reassure residents that both the Government’s Gear Change strategy and the draft Local Walking & Cycling Infrastructure Plan for Northampton advocate the importance of improved facilities if levels of active travel and cycling are to be increased. Segregation is an important factor in this because it provides physical protection, particularly on busy roads. Doing nothing is not an option if there is to be a step-change in cycle use across the county.

“On balance, and based on overall feedback from our consultation, we decided that Option D should be implemented for a 12-month trial period as the best means of moving forward.

“We have carefully considered the views of local residents and the need to provide protection for cyclists in designing the new scheme. The route will be monitored over a 12-month period to help gauge its success. This will include assessing its popularity and safety for cyclists and other users.”

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