Active Travel and Modal Shift - get people walking and cycling
One alternative to reduce the levels of traffic, specifically on Cross Street but across Sudbury, would be to invest in cycling and walking infrastructure to entice higher levels of cycling and walking: to work, to School and Shopping.
Currently levels of cycling in Sudbury are minimal, approximately 2%. You have to omit the leisure cyclists as we are more concerned with those who use a bicycle as their primary means of travelling short journeys. Short journeys are those less than 5km (just over 3 miles). The traffic study data we have seen for Sudbury states that 55% of car journeys are less than 5km, so there is plenty of scope to entice these people out of their cars and onto their bikes.
The problem is and has been that the only work done on this by the local authority responsible (Suffolk County Council) is low quality or faulty shared paths and lots of talk. Neither are proven to actually persuade people to leave their cars at home.
What does work is segregated cycle paths, separated from Traffic. Now most of Sudbury's streets are too narrow or further narrowed by on street parking, so the sort of approach taken in London by the roll out of the high quality Super Highways is not an approach that will work here. Neither is a painted cycle lane on any roads in Sudbury, that just encourages close passes from drivers and does nothing to prevent parking in such lanes.
However, Sudbury and the surrounding area is blessed with a nucleus of off road routes that could be expanded and improved to provide high quality off road cycle paths linking Great Cornard to Sudbury to Long Melford and with branches to Middleton and Bulmer as well as Chaucer Estate.
Put simply you start by putting a surface on Valley walk, (Tarmacadum) with sections that are segregated where it is wide (Kingfisher to Ballingdon) and shared use elsewhere the section beyond Ballingdon. The path ideally needs to be 3 metres wide and needs an accompanying code of conduct to prevent replacing car/bicycle conflict with bicycle/pedestrian conflict.
The section between Sudbury Kingfisher to Rodbridge Corner is 4km long so 12,000m2 of tarmac would be required. Usefully the substrate already exists so there is less work required to complete this.
If the long-winded story of a bridge at Bakers Mill allows a complete path through to Melford from Sudbury to Cornard then this, converted to Shared path where necessary and side by side with a segregated path would provide a route for cyclist to reach Cornard from anywhere in South Sudbury and Long Melford.
There are many other routes that can be created and improved to build a network of cycle paths and footpaths to provide a safe viable alternative to the car for commuting, taking the kids to school or shopping.
The Economics of this are quite amazing.
Every study so far has shown that for every £1 spent on cycling infrastructure the return on investment is £7 or more.
- People cycling to work are fitter and take less time off work increasing productivity.
- This improved fitness saves the NHS money through less GP and Hospital visits.
- Cycling and Walking people improve retail footfall, neither has to spend time looking for a car parking space before walking into a shop. Often they cannot do their weekly shop at once which means two options to impulse buy.
- Every person who switches mode of transport (so called Modal Shift) is one less car on the road and one less parking space.
- If Businesses have to offer less parking they can convert spare parking spaces to cycle racks and save Business Rates.
- Making Sudbury a more attractive place to cycle and especially to Long Melford will attract more cycle tourists to and through Sudbury and increase Tourist income. Most travel light so would need hotel rooms and B & B's
- Cyclists and Walkers talk to each other this improves social cohesion and a sense of community.
- Leisure cyclists can use the routes all year round.
So far this has concentrated on cycling. But currently 25% of commuting trips are walked. (the majority of the rest are by car alas). Investment is also required to ensure all roadside footpaths exist where they need to, between all residential areas and work locations. Whilst Sudbury has such routes other places such as Long Melford do not.
A good example is the lack of a footpath from Bull Lane in Long Melford to Bull lane and Acton Place Industrial Estates.
But in Sudbury some roads have no footpath, some footpaths are unmaintained and need an all weather surface. There should be no good reason why, anyone working a mile from their workspace or school cannot walk there safely.
Space for Cycling
The first stage is to plan these changes.
The second stage is to Build them
The third stage is to invest a percentage of the Highways budget to maintain these cycle routes and carry out other work to increase cycling.
Local Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy
The government issued it's draft plan for dealing with Air Pollution (as witnessed in Cross Street) earlier this year. It referenced the LCWIS as a method to reduce traffic. So these plans should not be new to Suffolk County Council. But despite Suffolk welcoming the Women's Tour and Tour of Britain Cycle races in 2016 and 2017 they have yet to publish any work on LCWIS.
When Parliament passed the law in 2015, it envisaged a £10 per head investment in cycling and walking. So far the government as offered 67p per head in 2020, in other words they don't care about the will or Parliament.
Parallel to this campaign the Stour Valley Cycling Campaign will launch to map out and put detail and encourage debate on how this can be achieved.