TWBUG response to the A21 NMU to Tonbridge Station Pedestrian/Cycle Route

Text for question 3a of the consultation response questionnaire about the proposed pedestrian/cycle route from A21 Pembury Road to Tonbridge Station

The Tunbridge Wells Bicycle User Group has studied the plans carefully. We believe that with good links to Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge town centres the A21 NMU could enable large numbers of bicycle journeys per month, many of which might replace car journeys, reducing congestion and pollution. We refer particularly to journeys to school, to work, to local shops and to the station. If done well this route could also enable many Tonbridge residents living in the adjacent area to cycle rather than drive into the town centre, again reducing traffic and pollution whilst increasing public health.

The A21 NMU is a high quality largely segregated cycle way and the links at either end need to be designed to the same high standards or the investment made by Highways England will at best be compromised or at worst wasted.

We do not believe that the proposed plans provide a safe, attractive or sufficiently high quality route to be effective in enabling the journeys mentioned above.

The route has no grade separated crossings. It includes no sections of dedicated cycle path (all shared use with cyclists obliged to slow down and stop at every side turning. It also crosses the A21 South bound exit slip road and Pembury Road with no protection. Frankly it is far below the standard required and that which would be meet the requirements of the London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS) or Highways England IAN195.

In the London Cycling Design Standards section 1.1.5 shows the six design outcomes for a cycle route in that it should be: Safe, Direct, Comfortable, Coherent, Attractive and Adaptable. The proposed designs are none of these things.

Creating a high-quality route will require a full traffic management plan for this section of Tonbridge to enable the closing of roads to through traffic or re-routing motor traffic to improve the quality of life for local residents and creating a subjectively safe cycling and walking environment.

The proposed design is stop/start/non-continuous, dangerous and is in our view not a serious attempt at a quality cycle route.

Here are our specific comments and suggestions:

The A21 exit into Vauxhall Lane – this is a high speed unsighted corner for motorists. Even a toucan crossing puts cyclists in a highly dangerous situation. It is likely lives will be lost here without speed reduction measures or grade separation under this design.

The suggested approach for the roundabout is also unacceptably poor

  1. A21 NMU / Vauxhall Lane / Roundabout / Pembury Road entry / exit section
    1. The design for roundabout looks poor, as it crosses the A21 southbound exit slip road and Pembury Road without protection.
    2. We suggest moving it to the other side of the roundabout, removing the need to cross Vauxhall Lane.  The southbound side is a more natural alignment.
  2. Suggesting a two-way shared path on the Eastern side of Pembury Road creates problems for the entire planned route.  Making the path shared, designs in conflict and is not best practice. Motor lane widths can and should be reduced and car parking removed to create segregated cycle lanes, separate to both motor and pedestrian traffic.
  3. As the cycle path crosses Tudeley Lane it should have full priority over the side road.
  4. Goldsmid Road to Tonbridge Station
    1. The rest of the route along Pembury Road as designed is extremely poor.  If the route is designed well it will carry considerable volumes of pedestrian and cycle traffic at peak times. Our experience of shared use pedestrian/cycle paths locally and in London suggest it will not be enough to enable both sets of users to travel comfortably and safely. Many cyclists will ride on the road and younger or elderly cyclists will not feel comfortable with sharing the footpath, especially in the section where no changes are planned. The cycle route design has completely failed at this point.
    2. A simpler suggestion would instead be routing the path down Goldsmid Road, although it’s slightly longer (6 mins vs 5 mins), because of the other advantages:
      1. Goldsmid Road is already 20mph (the plan is wrong – says 30mph)
      2. It could be closed to through traffic which will make it largely traffic free, making it better for residents and cyclists of all ages and abilities. Alternatively it could be made one-way, with two lanes for bikes.
      3. Goldsmid Road becomes Priory Road seamlessly.  It’s 30mph, but should be changed to 20mph as part of this route upgrade. However Priory Road would still require significant traffic reduction most easily through filtered permeability or a change to one way only.
      4. The Vale Road link could also be closed to through traffic as there are several other options for motor traffic to access this area (unless it is converted to one way to route motor traffic away from the cycle route.
      5. Once you get to Tonbridge High Street, a Toucan crossing should be installed to enable cyclists of all ages and abilities to turn right safely. Segregated cycle lanes should also be provided in and through Tonbridge Town Centre as a further project.
    3. The best way to unlock transport cycling potential for this area of Tonbridge and to connect to Tunbridge Wells would be to created a kerb separated cycle lane on each side of the Pembury road for the full length. This will enable residents to join fully segregated infrastructure to get them to the town centre as well as enabling quick, convenient, continuous and safe travel by bike to Tonbridge Town Centre, which is something the current design fails to achieve.

Representatives of Tunbridge Wells Bicycle User Group would be happy to meet with representatives of the Kent County Council and the organisations involved in designing the cycle route to discuss these points in detail.