Sheppey Light Railway Greenway

Media

August Volunteering Days

Before...

...and after.

SLR Greenway Committee

kentonline.co.uk/sheerness/news/former-vicar-to-chair-bold-project-for-former-light-railway-280628/

Article from the Winter 2022 Edition of The Colonel reproduced by permission of

https://colonelstephenssociety.co.uk/

A transcription of Adrian Oliver's address to "Whole System Approach to obesity on Sheppey" 

I want to talk about active travel this afternoon because a lot of people immediately think of bikes when they think of active travel and it is so much more than bikes. It is focused on bikes a lot at the moment because of the new strategy issued by the government in 2020 called Gear Change, committed to spending £2 billion on improving infrastructure for cycling and along with that came a new guide for councils transport authorities to actually put in the infrastructure and that was called LTN 120. It talked about the fact that cycling is a means of transport, it's not just something that we just do for leisure but a means of transports and a lot of the infrastructure that's now going in, is about separating cyclists from pedestrians, making everybody a bit safer, keeping cyclists away from cars is important & keeping cyclists away from pedestrians. It is about safety and security and providing infrastructure that helps people get from A to B as quickly and as easily as possible.

A lot of the investment has been into cycling so far, and Active Travels focus has previously been on cycling, but we're now moving towards looking more at walking, because some of the targets have got to be achieved by the government by 2030 such as half of all short journeys should be either by walking, wheeling and/or cycling. Cycling alone, can't pick up that volume that quickly, whereas walking can, and a lot of the focus now is very much on improving our pavements and removing the clutter and making it a lot easier for everybody to walk and wheel and any source of mobility aid, whether it's a wheelchair or a mobility scooter, It is about making sure that people can feel safe and secure.

One of the projects we've been working on in Faversham is a good example of that, and that is where we're putting a cross Faversham walk and wheel route, and that includes a lot of junction work, so making sure that people can cross the junctions safely and one of the things that came out the change last year, is that the Highway Code states pedestrians now have priorities on side roads over traffic turning into the side road so, if you're walking across a side road, the traffic has to stop including the cyclist, or a vehicle. So a lot of the work that we have been doing in Faversham on junctions, is to reinforce that, so we're putting in raised crossings, so instead of pedestrians and people with using wheelchairs dropping down into the road and then stepping back up again, we are looking at putting the continuous crossing on the same level from one pavement to the other.

That is the most important elements of the work that we are doing, not just in Faversham, but across the county and across the country. In addition, we are looking at putting a lot more lighting to help people who want to be walking in darker times of the day to make them feel a bit more secure, and we need more lighting, that's an key element of the project that we're hoping to undertake shortly in Faversham, and that's a good example of how we're trying to improve security, accessibility to existing walking infrastructure. Many of the payments, I'm sure you will experience around the county are not up to scratch, there is a lots of pavements that aren't wide enough that have lots of debris, like telephone junction boxes/poles going on our payments, they take up space and we're littering our pavements with that sort of infrastructure and simple things like advertising displays actually on the pavement in our high streets, making it difficult to people to use.


So the majority of it is walking and it is all connected, because we are trying to move people away from relying on their cars and walk wheel or cycle and to be able to connect to those places that they need to go for those longer journeys, getting to the bus stop or station, if we can increase the catchment areas of stations by simply improving the cycling access to a station then we can increase the number of people using the trains. The Dutch have a phrase for it, Trained cyclists and I think we should be trying to aim for the exactly the same thing.
So, whilst a lot of the focus is on cycling, a lot of it has to be on walking because to achieve our targets, we need to get more people walking those short journeys. All of this is important because active travel is not a luxury, it's a relatively cheap intervention to alleviate some of the most pressing issues facing, our society today; climate crisis, air pollution, noise pollution, cost of living crisis, congestion. Active Travel are co benefits of improving the amount of people who can undertake those short journeys under their own steam and most importantly trying to restore the balance on our streets; away from cars and back to people because that creates nicer places and liveable neighbourhoods. It creates streets where we can play, meet and chat and it creates places where we feel safe and we feel comfortable. This is why walking, wheeling and cycling, active travel is so important, it's about making sure that we can make healthier places, and can counter all those ills that we've managed to create during the last year 100 years and make places that are better.

TF: I have a question, how can we as a forum and those who work and live within the community, help make this achievable?

AO: If everybody could start to think about how to move about, think about those journeys and think about whether they could be walked or cycled and share that thought process with everybody else. Places locally can't take any more traffic and yet there is more building of houses, so we have to make this change, if everybody can think about that and think about how that influences their work in their communities.

From a health perspective we need to do a lot more Health practitioners saying to people you should walk/cycle. If you want to learn to cycle we have this great Bikeability scheme that's run by KCC, it doesn't cost a fortune to get a lesson and if everybody took a lesson, that would be brilliant because actually that whole process of taking a Bikeability class improves your confidence immensely and it awakens all sorts of things in your head about how you manage the traffic and the world around you when you're on a bike to make it safer.

JC: Are there any plans to do anything about the pavements in Sheppey? Because I teach a lot of Nordic walking, but a lot of people struggle with the pavements because they're in such poor condition.

AO: When I know about them, I can report them or add them to a project, but I need to be aware first, the easy way to do that is on a website called. www.widenmypath.com/swale if you go to that, you get a map and if you zoom in on the map and can get the location of your problem or issue. Click on it. Tell us what it is, and it goes on our very long list. Unfortunately, the money isn't there at the moment to do lots of things, but we will add things to lists and hopefully get them on people's radar, whether that's highways or right of way or someone completely different, we will get them get all these issues on people's lists to be fixed or improved, it could be that a pavement is just too narrow, a pavement should be at least 1.8 meters wide and that's without any lamp posts or anything else.

We have new guidelines coming out, later this year that should help us to reinforce good infrastructure for walking as well as for cycling.

CL: I don't want to be pessimistic but in relation to the bus services and interconnectedness with walking and cycling I think is our and big issue where people just aren't using the buses anymore and I think a big shift needs to happen in the future to sort that out and I know that relies on a lot of funding and behaviour change in people.

AO: I'd urge everybody if they're anywhere near a bus service to give the bus a go, there's the two pounds maximum charge for single fares at the moment that is working in bringing people back to the buses, this has just been extended from March until the end of June, which is great.

Bus services in Kent or outside any metropolitan area in the country really, feel like they're in a death spiral, the model just doesn't work outside metropolitan areas for a competitive environment and we need to urge government and future governments to have a proper look at bus services so we can actually help. We have got great East - West Services on the trains but we haven't got great north-south services from that main line through Swale, into the rest of it, and buses could play a brilliant role if we could get buses and trains of work together, which they can now. Until very recently, 2020 in fact, buses were deemed as competition for trains, so they weren't allowed to collaborate, that has now changed and can now collaborate and work together.

LB: Potholes and pavements can be reported to KCC, on their website and report a problem, I would recommend taking a photograph and name of the road or the exact location/postcode for it.

AO: One more thing; as well as some reporting stuff to highways, you can also report faults to KCC public rights of way and that's again a map-based system, you simply drill down on the map and report your problem.

AOJO: My comment is really on creating awareness in the Community, how can we make sure that people actually incorporate active travel to their social lives because it's easier when it's part of your life than creating extra time to do it and the way to do it is, you mentioned about practitioners telling people about it, but I'm just thinking the people that we see individually are actually more than the people that health practitioners see in the community, our family members, if we take time to encourage them and we do it collectively I think it would go a long way in promoting it taking every opportunity and using the whole system to look beyond just practitioners telling people is about active travel, I think the improvement in legislation and governments having interest in it make it easier for people to be able to practice it and develop the culture.

AO: It is all about behaviour change, which is what this project is about and a lot of that is word of mouth and leading by example. Events are really important, so many events start with to drive here to park, etcetera, why don't we start with to walk or to cycle here and if you're running something in Kent, link into the Kent Connected app, which is brilliant. It will give details, not just how to get there by walking or cycling, but by train and bus. So, you know, there's the Kent Connect app is brilliant and that's one of the things that we are trying our best to raise awareness of, if everybody on this meeting started talking about it and started doing it, it would make a big difference.