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Bishop’s Stortford North: In the vanguard of a transport revolution?





In its November 23 last year, the Indie carried an article questioning whether East Herts Council was enforcing planning requirements on the huge Bishop’s Stortford North (BSN) development. Graham Oxborrow, of Cycle Stortford, visited the estate to assess whether one part of the work – planned 'active travel infrastructure' – had been installed in a way that will encourage the new residents to get on their bikes...

Bishop’s Stortford is now a medium-sized town, and levels of congestion and pollution on its ageing road infrastructure are increasing as the town’s population increases.

Traffic modelling associated with the Old River Lane development shows that by 2026 most central road junctions will be operating at or beyond capacity. We are already experiencing the consequences of this: gridlock and air pollution for all.

A section of one of the Bishop's Stortford North greenways awaiting its surface layer
A section of one of the Bishop's Stortford North greenways awaiting its surface layer

The view of community group Cycle Stortford is that cycling offers a sustainable way out of this for the town, but only if infrastructure is provided to make cycling safe and secure for all.

There have been years of dithering between Hertfordshire County Council and East Herts Council in terms of building the cycle route across The Meads, between Rye Street and the railway line, as even the first part of a planned cycle network for Stortford.

The new housing developments around the town therefore represent the first opportunities to provide high-quality active travel facilities for the residents of the town.

Any children cycling to Avanti Brook Primary School will need to use this footpath and cross a busy road.
Any children cycling to Avanti Brook Primary School will need to use this footpath and cross a busy road.

So how is BSN shaping up? There are some encouraging signs. A network of ‘greenways’ – cycle paths and footpaths segregated from roads – is planned across the development. Some sections have been completed or are under construction.

Cycle Stortford’s view is that these routes should ideally offer separate cycle paths and footpaths, but these greenways will offer routes around BSN where both cyclists and pedestrians are kept away from cars and buses.

However, some of the greenways installed end in odd places. One, pictured above, could have continued to provide a safe route for children to cycle to the Avanti Brook Primary School currently under construction, but instead requires cyclists to cross a road and a car park and to cycle along a narrow footpath to reach the school.

Elsewhere, a shared cycle/footpath has been built alongside the main route into BSN from the Hadham Road roundabout. Again, the Cycle Stortford visit showed positives and negatives. The path is an excellent surface but does not separate cyclists and pedestrians.

The only warning to motorists turning at road junctions on Stortford Nort and crossing shared cycle/footpaths is bicycle symbols painted on the road
The only warning to motorists turning at road junctions on Stortford Nort and crossing shared cycle/footpaths is bicycle symbols painted on the road

More worryingly, at road junctions the only warning to motorists turning into or leaving residential areas and crossing the cycle/footpaths are painted bicycle symbols on the road.

The new Highway Code emphasises that motorists must, when turning off a main road, give way to cyclists and pedestrians on paths crossing the junction. Ideally ‘Copenhagen’ raised junctions should have been installed to emphasise to motorists that cyclists and pedestrians have the right of way.

Cycle Stortford’s observations on these shortcomings have been forwarded to councillors and officers at the county and district councils in the hope that they can be rectified as more active travel facilities are installed across the rest of the site.

But Cycle Stortford has bigger ambitions. We want to see these new cycle routes in BSN linked via the planned Rye Street crossing to a new cycle path across The Meads to Grange Paddocks and into the town centre. Residents of BSN can then safely get on their bike to commute to work, to shop or for leisure cycling.

We also want the greenways to link with the underpass beneath the A120 to allow traffic-free access to Rosey Lea tea rooms at Wickham Hall and the lanes beyond Stortford. This is why we are pushing hard for Herts County Council and East Herts Council to pull their fingers out and to get these routes built.

There are grand plans for cycling and active travel in Stortford, but little so far to show for them. The cycle paths in BSN installed so far might not be perfect, but they could just be the vanguard for a travel revolution in our town.

* Cycle Stortford is a community group established to promote cycling and the provision of cycling facilities within and around Bishop’s Stortford. Contact the group on cyclestortford@gmail.com and follow them @CycleStortford on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. New members will be very welcome.



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