Wednesday, 30 September 2020

One-way system scrapped after complaints about danger

One-way system scrapped after complaints about danger

A TRIAL one-way road system in Caversham is to be scrapped less than two weeks after it was introduced.

Residents and businesses had slammed the scheme, saying it caused traffic chaos and was dangerous.

The changes in Gosbrook Road and Westfield Road were introduced by Reading Borough Council to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But on Wednesday the council announced that it would be removing the one-way system this week in response to criticism and apologised.

Residents had said the roads became heavily congested and that some cyclists and motorcyclists had mounted pavements and driven the wrong way.

They feared the problem would get even worse with the return of schools this week.

A Facebook group was set up calling for the scheme to be abolished and gathered 700 members in the first two days.

The council said it was responding to “concerns” raised by the community after seeing first-hand the “dangerous” behaviour of a minority of motorists.

Work to reverse the temporary scheme is expected to be completed by the end of the week.

The scheme was 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, while recognising the on-going restrictions on the capacity of public transport.

The Government awarded funding to councils, including Reading, to implement road schemes.

Both the funding and road schemes were awarded under temporary powers which did not allow for the usual “extensive” period of consultation with residents prior to implementation.

The Gosbrook Road and Westfield Road scheme was specifically designed to alleviate pressures on social distancing caused by narrow pavements in the area, which are also on routes to schools.

Delays caused by a large number of councils attempting to source the same road infrastructure at the same time meant the scheme was delayed by more than six weeks.

The council said this resulted in much higher traffic levels than anticipated at the point the scheme was introduced. This then created traffic bottlenecks throughout Caversham.

Ward councillors has been passing feedback from residents and businesses to the council, leading to the decision to reverse the scheme.

Councillor Tony Page, the council’s lead member for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: “I would like to apologise to residents and 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 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.

“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.”

The one-way system meant that:

• Gosbrook Road was open only to traffic travelling west between the Archway Road junction and Westfield Road and there was a 20mph speed limit.

• The lane previously used by eastbound traffic was for pedestrians and cyclists only.

• Westfield Road was one-way southbound with a 20mph speed limit and traffic-calming measures in places to narrow it. At the bottom end vehicles could turn left or right on to Gosbrook Road.

Residents said the effect was that anyone travelling from Caversham Bridge to Lower Caversham had to follow the one-way system and that Westfield Road was so busy it is dangerous.

Sara Fullbrook, who lives in Westfield Road, said it caused traffic jams as there wasn’t the road space. Traffic had been queued up her road, up Gosbrook Road and up Peppard Road.

“This doesn’t help the cars, it doesn’t help the pedestrians and it doesn’t help the cyclists,” she said.

Mrs Fullbrook, who is disabled and an asthmatic, was also worried about schoolchildren who used the area.

She said that on one day last week a lorry mounted the pavement as the driver turned right from Westfield Road into Gosbrook Road.

She said: “Apparently there have been bicycles and motorcycles on the pavements. A bus went the wrong way up Gosbrook Road and I’ve seen cars going up Westfield Road the wrong way.

“The big problem is the premise in the first place. This was to make it better for cyclists and pedestrians but cyclists would go along the riverside shared path or just go round the back roads. Pedestrians would go via South Street and then continue along South View Avenue.”

Mrs Fullbrook said the scheme would cause problems for parents dropping children at Thameside Primary School in Harley Road as they would need to rejoin Gosbrook Road from Wolsey Road.

There were also businesses in Wolsey Road that had heavy goods vehicles coming and going and it was the only delivery route to the Iceland store in Church Street.

Mrs Fullbrook believed the scheme was a misuse of the Government’s emergency funding provided to councils.

She added: “There’s no extra space for pedestrians on Prospect Street or Westfield Road. Prospect Street has got 50 per cent more traffic on it and Westfield used to be a road where only really vans and cars would drive.

“Now we have got all the heavy goods vehicles that need to get to the businesses in Wolsey Road and St Martin’s Precinct so they come down our road.

“I can see an accident happening any day now — we have had several near-misses already.”

Charlie Holloway, who started the Facebook group, said the scheme had caused long queues along Gosbrook Road as far back as Reading Bridge during rush hour.

On one occasion, a lorry became stuck trying to turn from Gosbrook Brook into Wolsey Road because there wasn’t enough room.

She said: “By blocking one side of Gosbrook Road they have made it even more narrow. A friend of mine said he waited half an hour to get out of Waitrose.

“Whoever designed this has clearly never been to Caversham or lived anywhere near or even visited it. A year seven geography class could have designed a better plan than this.”

Businesses were also affected.

Ashly Catlin, managing director of water jet manufacturer Robojet in Gosbrook Road, said his vehicles had always had to stop outside the premises and then cross over into the other carriageway in order to reverse in.

There would have been “significant difficulties” getting customers and delivery vehicles in and out.

He said he was glad that common sense had
prevailed.

Mr Catlin said: “The distress and expense that the installation of this system has caused has been unfortunate for both the businesses and residents of Caversham and a lesson should be learned by the council.

“This process has created a great deal of distrust between the community, the businesses and the council.

“It has been a regrettable experience and has caused a lot of unhappiness and it has also been, presumably, a considerable waste of money.”

A petition against the scheme was started by the Reading Cycle Campaign and gathered about 1,000 signatures.

Reading Buses’ pink 25 service travelling towards the town was using Westfield Road but will now return to Prospect Street.

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