This page serves to answer most of the questions we have been asked about our campaign.
Q. Why is a cycle / footpath needed on the Wenden Road?
Wenden Road has significant potential as a cycling and walking route. It is an obvious route, linking Saffron Walden with Audley End station, and linking villages such as Wendens Ambo with Saffron Walden. Our initial petition was signed by more than 3,000 people, and the feedback to our exhibition in October 2012 showed that there is huge latent demand for a safe cycling and walking route.
However, at present conditions for cyclists and walkers are unattractive and potentially unsafe. There is pavement only for part of the route (at either end), while cyclists must share the roadway – at places narrow and winding – with motor vehicles. Time and again we have been told that people would like to walk or cycle along the route but regard it as too dangerous.
Q. Don’t large numbers of people cycle to Audley End already each day?
We estimate that perhaps 50 people cycle down the Wenden Road to Audley End each day and the number is slowly growing as the popularity of cycling continues to increase. However, the feedback we have received shows that there is considerable latent demand – people who would cycle or walk down the route were a safe and attractive route to be available.
Q. Aren’t the safety problems largely imaginary? When was the last time there was an accident on the Road involving a cyclist?
A number of incidents have been recorded on the Wenden Road. There were 9 separate accidents between August 2005 and August 2009, two involving cyclists and one involving a pedestrian. However, we believe that many more incidents go unreported.
We have repeatedly been told that it is the perception of a lack of safety which discourages many more people from taking up active travel modes.
Q. Isn’t a time of public spending cuts exactly the wrong policy backdrop to pursue this route?
Absolutely not the case. This is about investing for the future to deliver health, safety and environmental benefits. Now is the time to press ahead. Government figures show that increased cycling and walking should save money once health and other benefits are taken into account.
Transport policy (at national, County and District level) is more supportive than ever before of the kind of cycle / pedestrian route we are seeking.
• At national level: The Local Sustainable Transport White Paper (Jan 2011) and Road Safety Strategy (May 2011) both give strong policy support to interventions at a local level which support more sustainable travel, promote cycling and walking (active travel), and reduce fear of and incidence of accidents. In April 2013, the Parliamentary All Party Committee published a report “Get Britain Cycling”, which calls on the Government to make streets safer and more inviting for cyclists.
• At County level: The Essex Transport Strategy (2011) talks specifically about the health benefits of active travel (e.g. reduced obesity), and the need for safe, attractive facilities. It also specifically identifies the need to improve walking and cycling facilities in West Essex, including Saffron Walden.
• At District level: the Uttlesford Futures Sustainable Community Strategy to 2018 (published 2008) identifies a number of priorities including: ’improving cycling and walking facilities’, ‘reducing car travel by promoting realistic alternatives’, and ‘improving road safety’.
Q. If the policy context is so supportive, why is the dedicated route not being built now anyway?
Historically there has been a lack of support for the cycle path at district and county council levels, and the vast majority of Essex County Council’s transport budget is spent on highways rather than cycling and walking. Inevitably, in the current economic climate, we are competing for limited funds, and the policy commitments to encouraging walking and cycling are not being supported by major investment.
We are encouraged by the fact Essex County Council has commissioned work on a Design Study, to look at the feasibility of different options.
Q. Hasn’t this proposal been examined and rejected many times? Why do you think this time will be any different?
It is certainly true to say that the need for a safe pedestrian/cycle route along Wenden Road has been recognised for more than 20 years, and that various design proposals have been suggested in the past. We believe that they have not succeeded in the past because the public have not been sufficiently involved or demonstrated their support for a path.
Three things are different now:
1. The national, County and District policy framework is more supportive than ever.
2. The level of public demand for a path is much broader and more visible than ever before
3. The benefits of walking and cycling are increasingly recognised, and there has been a huge growth in cycling.
There is an opportunity here that we need to grasp.
Q. Wasn’t a Design Study done before?
In 2001, the Consultants May Gurney were commissioned to present pedestrian/cycle options for Wenden Road. Their recommendations are documented in the Mouchel Parkman Feasibility Study to ECC of June 2005. Their favoured recommendation was one way operation of traffic out of Saffron Walden and a cycleway occupying the existing carriageway between the B1383 and Saffron Walden. This encountered strong opposition from Wendens Ambo Parish Council who wanted to retain two way operations along Wenden Road and a separate pedestrian/cycleway to be constructed.
Q. What are the possible options for a safer, more attractive route for cyclists?
There are many options. Working in conjunction with Essex County Council, we narrowed the options to the 4 options which were presented at the October 2012 exhibition.
Q. What is your preferred option?
At present Option 3 (making the road one-way and using the other lane for cycling and walking, with a physical barrier between the two lanes) is our preferred option, for the following reasons:
• We have been told that Options 1 and 2 (building a separate path alongside the road) are too expensive, and very unlikely to be funded;
• Option 3 was by far the most popular option in the October 2012 consultation;
• Option 4 (closing Wenden Road to motor traffic save for access) was generally very unpopular.
Q. Would the costs outweigh the benefits?
We believe that the benefits would significantly outweigh the costs. There would be significant benefits in terms of health, safety, quality of journey experience and environment. We also consider there could be economic benefits in terms of the path drawing people into the town. Cycling schemes elsewhere have shown consistently strong benefit to cost ratios.
AccessWalden are developing a detailed benefits analysis for the proposed cycle and walking route to Audley End, but evaluation of the Department for Transport Cycling Demonstration Towns initiative showed that the value of the health benefits alone was three times greater than scheme costs.
Q. You have claimed widespread support from local people – where is your evidence for that?
We believe there is strong local support for our aim of a safe pedestrian/cycle route between Saffron Walden and Audley End station. In just three days in early 2012 well over 3,000 residents in and around Saffron Walden signed our paper petition for this route. More than 1,700 people attended our public exhibition in October 2012, the vast majority of them local residents, and a very high percentage said that they wanted the route and would use it regularly
Q. Are your supporters just the usual suspects?
Quite the opposite. We have received several hundred supportive comments from a diverse range of local people –not only cyclists and walkers, but motorists, commuters, families with school-aged children and others.
There is an active cycling community locally and across the district, a vibrant walking and running scene, and thriving local businesses that service them – a popular cycle shop in Saffron Walden and another in Newport, and two walking / outdoor pursuits outlets in the town.