TEMPORARY one way systems along Caversham’s Gosbrook Road and Westfield Road will be removed this week in response to concerns raised by the local community.
Reading Borough Council is moving swiftly to revert to the previous road layout after listening to the views of local residents and businesses in Caversham and seeing first-hand the dangerous behaviour of a minority of motorists ignoring the new one way systems. Work to reverse the temporary scheme is expected to be fully complete by the weekend.
The one-way systems in Caversham are just one part of a wider package of Active Travel schemes introduced in Reading under temporary powers afforded to all Councils by the Government in response to the pandemic. The intention is to make social distancing easier by creating more road space for pedestrians and cyclists, whilst recognising the on-going restrictions on the capacity of local public transport.
Central Government awarded funding to local authorities, including Reading, to implement road schemes in response to Covid 19, which continues to be a threat. Both the funding and road schemes were awarded under temporary powers which did not allow for the usual extensive period of consultation with local residents prior to implementation. The Gosbrook Road and Westfield Road schemes were specifically designed to alleviate pressures on social distancing caused by narrow pavements in the area, which are also on routes to schools.
Delays in the supply chain caused by large numbers of councils attempting to source the same road infrastructure at the same time meant the scheme was significantly delayed. As a result it was implemented more than six weeks later than originally planned. The result of this delay was that traffic levels were much higher than anticipated at the point of introduction which – combined with the constrained road network in Caversham – has led to traffic bottlenecks created in the area. A minority of motorists have been observed flouting the one-way systems whilst driving dangerously.
Ward Councillors have been in the area collecting feedback from local residents and businesses since the scheme’s introduction last week. This has been shared with the Council, leading to the decision to reverse the scheme.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“I would like to apologise to residents and local businesses in Caversham for the obvious disruption and inconvenience caused by the introduction of this temporary scheme. We are now moving swiftly to reverse it due to the widespread lack of support in the local area.
“The scheme was well intentioned to make travelling by bike or walking easier in response to the pandemic, which was important in the narrow pavements and streets of Caversham. We were also very aware the same constrained road layout in the area meant these changes were challenging. It has quickly become apparent there is a lack of local support for the scheme which is why we are moving quickly this week to revert to the previous road layout.
“It is worth noting the Government guidance issued to all Councils under the Active Travel scheme was that changes could be implemented under temporary powers and without prior consultation. This was understandable in the circumstances, but it does emphasise again the importance of local consultation before any major changes are introduced.
“I would like to thank ward Councillors who I know have been out speaking to local residents and businesses about the scheme and feeding back those views to the Council. We have listened to those views and the old layout will be back in place by the end of this week.”
Councillor Page added:
“It is important to note that the Council continues to fully support the principle of Active Travel schemes and the significant benefits they bring to people and communities. The fact that this specific scheme has not worked does not change that position in the slightest.
“There are a number of Active Travel schemes already in place across the Borough, many operating successfully as part of the first phase of work. We will continue to monitor these closely and will consult widely before any are made permanent.
“We also look forward to the result of our ambitious Phase 2 bid to Government which includes key ‘missing link’ cycle lanes fully segregated from general traffic.”
Details of all Reading Borough Council’s Active Travel schemes can be found at www.reading.gov.uk/activetravel