TWBUG response to the proposed A26 cycle route

Tunbridge Wells Bicycle User Group campaigns for high quality cycling infrastructure on behalf of the 60% of the population[1] who want to use their bicycle for short journeys but who will not share the road with heavy, fast-moving vehicles.  Our research shows that traffic congestion cannot be solved by road-building or widening and we need to offer alternative means of transport to improve conditions for all road users.

We note the stated aim of the improvements to the cycle route along the A26:

‘…encourage more cycling along the route which would contribute toward congestion relief, improvements in air quality and health’

We agree this aim and welcome KCC’s decision to invest time and money in improving cycling provision.  Increased use of the bicycle is space-efficient and can dramatically increase road capacity, reduce pollution and improve health, as shown in Waltham Forest[2].

We support the proposal as a step in the right direction for cycling in Tunbridge Wells…

We welcome a number of specific aspects in the consultation:

  • Raised tables on side junctions and attempt to make cycle route continuous by, for example removing parking spaces and upgrading advisory lanes to mandatory.
  • Reference to increasing cycling as a mode of transport.
  • 20mph in Southborough High Street.
  • Co-operation between three councils.

…on the basis that further improvements will be made once funds become available in order to make the route usable by all from 8 to 80…

Our suggestions are additional to those proposed in the plans and aim to make the route attractive to those who presently do NOT cycle.  Once implemented, our suggestions will:

  • Make the route safe for the large number of people that want to use their bikes for everyday use, not least the thousands of children that attend one of the many secondary and primary schools along the route;
  • Satisfy the top priority of local Joint Transportation Board for new road schemes – ‘road danger reduction’; and
  • Fulfil the aim of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s cycling strategy 2015

‘To make cycling a normal part of everyday life in the borough, by creating a safe and welcoming environment for cyclists of all ages and abilities’.

 …by making the following changes.

Experience and evidence from London, Cambridge, Leicester, Brighton and elsewhere in the UK shows that potential cyclists need physical segregation from motor traffic to make them feel safe enough to use the route. Best practice[3] states that for speed of 40mph or above and at vehicle flows of 5,000 or more per day, cycle tracks[4] are needed. This is particularly important on a major arterial route like the A26, given the large number of school children that could potentially switch their journeys to cycling if the route is safe enough.

Proposal 1: Employ full segregation with a separate kerb-protected track at road level by raising it to pavement level or by using ‘kerb upstands’ between road, cycle track and pavement[5].

Evidence shows that a route needs to be continuous for it to be used extensively.  Parts of the route are acknowledged as less than ideal, particularly between Southborough Common and the A21.

Proposal 2: If it proves too difficult and costly in the short term to build the whole of the route from Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge, the route should be designed to the highest standards [6]throughout and then built in sections as and when resources allow.

In practice, this means we (a) accept the current proposal – but ask for the speed limit to be lowered to 30 mph speed to protect cyclists – for the route north of Southborough Common as an interim measure and (b) implement the highest standard for the funds available on the section from Grosvenor Road roundabout to Speldhurst Road, where the road is widest and should attract the highest numbers of people cycling.

The greatest danger to pedestrians and cyclists and, therefore, the biggest barrier to people cycling, is at side junctions where motor traffic is turning.   We are pleased to see that a number of junctions have raised tables to slow traffic and to indicate priority for pedestrians and cyclists.  We note that the entrances to some junctions are being ‘tightened’ to reduce danger to pedestrians and cyclists.

Proposal 3: include raised tables and tighter entrances at most, if not all, side junctions.

The 20 mph zone being implemented to the east of St John’s road will improve life for residents and increase safety in those residential streets. In many towns and cities, such ‘filtered permeability’ zones are reinforced by allowing pedestrians and cyclists free movement, but preventing motor vehicle from using the streets as rat-runs by closing specific streets to through traffic.

Proposal 4: Take the joint opportunities of 20mph in St John’s and an improved cycle route to restrict vehicle access to a number of side roads along St John’s Road.

[1] National Travel Surveys, local area walking and cycling statistics



[4] Cycle Track: a track separate from the main carriageway for use by cyclists. Cycle tracks may be newly constructed or created through conversion of a footway (using powers under the Highways Act 1980 [4]) or footpath (using the Cycle Tracks Act [5]). Definition from Highways England Interim Advice Note 195/16