Let them ride to school!

This is part of an occasional series on this blog, where we talk about particular cycling pinch points that we’d like to see addressed, in order to create safe routes through Reading that can be used by vulnerable cyclists.

Today I’m going to talk about a pinch point that doesn’t even exist yet! (Don’t ever say Kidical Mass Reading aren’t forward thinking). RBC are building a new secondary school next door to Rivermeads Leisure Centre. A lot of the catchment area for this school will be in Caversham, and it’s my belief that not enough is being done to create a safe cycling route from North of the river to the school which is suitable for heavy usage at school drop off and pick up times.

Reading the planning document for the school I found that the only adjustments for bike infrastructure were on Richfield Avenue itself. At the Caversham end this risks being another Sidmouth Street, without a good route onto the new path.

Any child cycling from Caversham will have to cross the river. This means, in reality, either over A) the cycle bridge or B) the shared use cycle path on Caversham bridge.

If they come over the cycle bridge, they are going to have to navigate the gates designed to stop motorcycles on the South bank path, which are also pretty inconvenient for bikes. So (unless these are removed) I think most of them will actually come across the shared use path on Caversham bridge (and anyway some will be coming from a direction where the cycle bridge is very out of their way).

The path on Caversham Bridge comes out at the roundabout by the Crowne Plaza, on the wrong side of the road for Richfield Avenue. This roundabout is awful to cross, even as an adult on a tank-bike. The traffic is never clear to enter the roundabout where the cycle path comes out, you take your life in your hands every time. Reading Council’s own cycle map of Reading warns against using this roundabout.

Therefore, if the kids have any sense, they won’t be going along Richfield Avenue, using the new paths built with the funding, they’ll cut straight down to the river (currently involving a blind corner, several tight turns, and a narrow path immediately adjacent to the water which is heavily used by pedestrians).

This isn’t good enough. Here’s what I think could be done better:

One option would be to improve the lines of sight and path width for the underpass and immediate surrounds. Ideally in this case you also want proper bike access to the school from the river path, and bike storage located conveniently for coming from that direction.

Another option would be to add short sections of shared use paths on either side of the road by the Moderation to connect the bridge to the proposed new bike lane on Richfield Avenue by the petrol station.

In addition, if you approach Caversham bridge from the Northwest (either on bike or on foot) you have to navigate the horrible junction by the Griffin. In an ideal world this needs a pedestrian crossing and bike lanes/bike boxes at the front on the approach.

So the actions I would like to see are

At least one of:

  • Reworking of the bridge underpass by Crowne Plaza to make it safe for higher volumes of cyclists and pedestrians, with access to the school from the river.
  • Addition of short sections of shared use paths on both sides of the road near the Moderation to allow cyclists to access the new paths on Richfield Avenue.

And also:

  • Improvement of pedestrian/bike infrastructure at the junction by the Griffin
  • Removal of motorcycle gates on Thames path between the cycle bridge and Caversham Bridge

Many secondary school children are mature enough to cycle to school independently. We are failing if the lack of safe infrastructure is the thing that stands in the way of them developing environmentally friendly and healthy habits.