Tuesday 15 January 2013

Cyder with Rosie - June 2014

When I were now’t but a lad, in my vacations from Uni I had various holiday jobs around Gosport and Fareham.  Do they still have holiday jobs by the way, or is that another thing the baby-boom generation kept for themselves, along with free higher education, easy credit, affordable homes and final salary pensions?  Anyway this was in the mid ‘70s, the days of flared trousers and wide lapels and impossibly large shirt collars, hyper-inflation and the three-day week. 

One of those jobs was at Tom Parker Dairies, a milk pasteurising and bottling plant on the southern edge of Fareham.  I used to commute to work on my Falcon “Eddy Merckx” racing bike, all ten gears of it, the three miles between home and plant.  Despite all that has changed since then, one thing hasn’t materially changed at all.  The road I travelled is substantially the same now as it was then, apart of course from the traffic.  Back then there was far, far less traffic.  Back then it felt much safer, even though at that time the off-road cycle/foot path which runs alongside for part of the way had not been laid, so you had to use the road.  Sure, without the congestion the cars were going faster but there was never any difficulty for them to pass wide on the other side of the road without worrying about oncoming traffic.  And perhaps this is just nostalgia, but drivers seemed more courteous then, and less hustling – perhaps because they weren’t so wound up by the traffic.

The map below shows the route I took, along Broom Way in Lee-on-Solent and Newgate Lane in Fareham Borough.

View Tom Parker in a larger map

I wouldn’t make this journey today.

In an earlier post I described the network of shared-use cycle paths which encircle the Cherque Farm Estate.  I referred to how they connect to facilities alongside the principal routes out of area to the north and to the south-east, and wondered how useful these actually are.

Well, they do actually serve a purpose for routes to school, but I’ll come back to that another time.  For now I’m looking at the  principal commuter route out of this area for working people.  In another earlier post, I referred to the issues around Gosport’s status as a “dormitory town”, and the severe traffic congestion generated by half of all residents having to squeeze through a constricted road network to jobs outside the borough.  Newgate Lane is part of that network.  The Mott report for HampshireCounty Council (page 2-15) shows the marked tidal flow of traffic on Newgate Lane as borough residents drive north to work in the morning, and back south home again in the evening.

Basically, the road carries 50% more traffic “with the tide” (north in the morning, south in the evening) than against it – 1,200ph against 800ph.

The first half of the route, to the Peel Common junction with the B3334, is now well served by a shared use path.  Admittedly shared with pedestrians, this path is not simply a footpath which has been redeployed.  It was purpose-built to be a shared path on a route which attracts few pedestrians, simply because it does not connect two places which are close enough together to be considered a viable walk in the modern world.  The path is about 2.5m wide and well separated from the road.  It has few junctions with side roads so the question of priority  doesn’t have much impact.

Here for example is one which needn’t trouble you.

Then it ends at the start of Newgate Lane.  Here, there is no cycle path, shared or otherwise.  The road is fairly narrow and heavily congested throughout the day but not, for the most part, so congested that the traffic can’t shuffle along at 20-30mph in this 40mph zone.  There is simply not enough lane width for a motorist to overtake a cyclist safely against oncoming traffic, which leads to a lot of motorists' frustration with the small handful of cyclists brave enough to ride along here and risk the extremely close passes which are a daily inevitability.  Not surprisingly, pavement cycling, highly unsatisfactory to the rider, is rife.

But, never fear!  Just about the only road construction project on Hampshire County Council’s current plans is the Newgate Lane Widening scheme.  This project envisages laying a 3m wide cycle path, shared use and separated from the road, alongside the road marked with a blue line on the map below.  (The northern section, along the red line, already has one).  It would complete a continuous, mediocre (and here I use the term as a compliment - this is the UK, after all) cycle link from an important suburb to the principal local town and onward transport links.

View Newgate Lane in a larger map

This project will cost the princely sum of £8.5m.  What” I hear you ask “eight and a half bars for a mile and a bit of cycle path?”

Well, no, it also involves "improvements" to two junctions and “dualling” of about 300 metres of road between them (red line on the map above) and along the blue line a fairly modest widening, to 6m, and some straightening.  Lord knows why they need to widen it, or straighten it – the speed limit won’t increase from 40mph and in view of the adjacent houses should be lower.   The short dual carriageway is causing some hollow laughter among locals who confidently anticipate that there will be some pricks who will try to get up excessive speed on it, and the real congestion problem in this area, which is the confluence of this road with the A32 just north of the boundary of this map, just before the unalterable bottleneck of the Quay Street junction, is in no way being solved by this “improvement”. 

Of course in the usual way of such road-building proposals, the argument is advanced that the project will "ease congestion", but as ever it ignores the impact of induced demand.  It is argued that improvements are needed to facilitate access to the proposed Enterprise Zone at the old HMS Daedalus airfield site in Lee-on-Solent, but it ignores the fact that peak flows southbound  (towards Daedalus) in the mornings and northbound in the evenings are a full third lower than their contraflows.  There is then the small matter of 475 new houses, a whopping 275 more than the maximum planned by the borough council for the area, to be built on parts of the Daedalus site - the housebuilders just can't resist it, and the planners just can't resist them, there is too much profit in it.  And finally, on that Cherque farm estate that I described in an earlier post, there is a roundabout with one blank exit, facing into a substantial expanse of virgin land, at least as big as Cherque farm itself.  Now, what plans do you suppose they have for that?

I have had a go at the local (Conservative, natch) MP - not about the environmental factors as this is not Combe Haven, hardly any countryside is involved, and induced demand or no,  it is hard to see that much extra traffic could be generated in view of the surrounding challenges.  No, it is the waste of money - by a county council which, for example, told my 85 year old mother, with dementia and Parkinsons' and a very dodgy knee, that she was "not a priority" for a visit from their overworked and underfunded Occupational Therapy group and should call them back if she hadn't heard from them in 8 weeks!

But hey, we get a  cycle lane where none existed before, and you can be sure that there would never have been the political will to do the cycle lane alone, so I guess we should be grateful for small mercies?


Thanks to @cyclestrian for linking to the latest proposals being put out to consultation.  An animation of the northern end of Newgate Lane can be found here, and print information on the southern end improvements can be found here at sections 6 and 13.

The northern end will get the mooted parallel shared use foot and cycle path – a mediocre solution but this is not a major pedestrian route so conflicts should be limited.  The southern end is being resolved with an entirely new stretch of “bypass” across low-grade farm land which should, hopefully, leave the old road as no more than residential access and as a cycling and walking route which is at least as direct as the proposed new road.  What I suppose remains to be said on this is that I do hope they engineer the old road to prevent or discourage through traffic.  If the new road is wider, straighter and free of side roads, drives etc it seems unlikely that anyone would choose to drive through the old road but no doubt there will be occasions, perhaps collisions or breakdowns, which will cause tailbacks and prompt a few arses to rat-run the old road.

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