State of the Network 2019: Borough/District Council Election Edition

So you should have your polling cards for the vote for your borough council (or district council if outside West Norfolk) elections. Please, I'm asking you to consider cycling when deciding who to vote for.

Borough/district councils aren't responsible for the headline-grabbing things of building or maintaining major cycle routes or roads, but they are responsible for lots of the things that are also necessary, including cycle parking, development planning (both new and regeneration and so on), tourism, air quality, street cleaning (removing litter, broken glass and flytips), parks and open spaces.

Let's look at the current state of play around King's Lynn, based on the schematic map. In this graphic, dark green is OK and light green needs maintenance (mostly bump removal - difficult for the borough to do), but amber needs remedial measures and red needs building at all - which could arguably often be funded or part-funded under the borough's control by development, tourism or parks budgets, or as part of the air quality plan.

State of the Cycle Network 2019

Not a good look, is it? There's a core of mostly-dark green based around National Route 1, but even that route peters out to country lanes shared with 60mph motoring as you get further away from the town centre. There are some other recent routes which are mostly still in good order despite no recent maintenance, but some have been interrupted by new developments or ill-considered obstacles. Then there are some cycle routes built over 15 years ago, which are long overdue proper resurfacing instead of scrape-and-tar (or its evil cousin scrape-tar-and-chip). Finally, the whole thing is peppered with missing links and unnecessary errors to fix, such as the Scania Way play-chicken track or the Docks and Tennyson crossings.

Since the last borough elections in 2015, I don't think this has changed much other than the network slowly deteriorating from green to lime through lack of maintenance. The cycling campaign has spent a lot of time since then fighting rearguard actions to try to retain chunks of Route 1 which have been under threat, both in the north of the town and in the south. On the positive side, plans have been set in motion which should turn a little bit of the amber on the map to dark green west of Lynnsport, but it really is only a little and chances of doing more seem to have been missed.

Other than things linked to the housing developments around Lynnsport, what has the borough council done for cycling since the last election? There have been a few attempts at promotional events and all thanks to the people working on those, but they've been stuck out at Lynnsport instead of in the town centre (where similar car events are held).

Also, promotion seems to have limited effect without the infrastructure there for people to cycle on, some of which has to be insisted upon through the borough's planning permission process and, for the most part, it just doesn't seem to be happening. This may be why we were the worst-performing district in Norfolk in the most recent statistics, with cycling levels actually falling slightly:

% of population cycling 2017
Change in % of population cycling 2017 vs 2010-2015

Not captured by the above maps, the cycle parking situation has got slightly worse since the 2014 improvements, with the Tuesday Market Place racks being removed, while finishing the bus station area refurbishment remains an ongoing farce: the unusable double-decker racks were removed instead of fixed, but now we're downgraded to just one small toast rack indoors, bolted to a floor that's not even level, so you can't put your bike on its kick stand while locked there.

To their credit, the borough-controlled section of Route 1 through the Walks has been kept in good nick and the cafe is still open in summer holidays and weekends, which is handy.

But what else has the borough council done to help cycling (and thereby improve health, cut pollution, improve the local economy and so on) 2015-2019? I'm struggling to think of it. Please leave me a comment or let me know on facebook and I'll add it here.

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