Councillor calls for more conscious travelling to help improve air quality

PUBLISHED: 08:41 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:48 15 January 2020

Trilby Roberts. Picture: Dr. Rick Wylie.

Trilby Roberts. Picture: Dr. Rick Wylie.


Cycling and air quality improvements are at the heart of a new campaign from the Saffron Walden Town Council.

Despite the Saffron Walden Grand Prix taking place last year, Uttlesford has one of the lowest percentage of people cycling to work. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTODespite the Saffron Walden Grand Prix taking place last year, Uttlesford has one of the lowest percentage of people cycling to work. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Green Saffron Walden Town Councillor Trilby Roberts wants to raise awareness about the "really poor" local air quality:

"In Saffron Walden we already have air quality problems. Poor air quality is a major cause of illness and accountable for some 40,000 UK deaths per year."

She added that she fears the impact that more housing developments and expected vehicle increases will have on the issue of air quality: "As any new development opens, there will be another thousand or more people coming into the town.

"Ideally, we would get people to cycle on short journeys, like when they go shopping."

Cllr Roberts and the Saffron Walden Town Council submitted a number of suggested schemes for the area to Essex County Council in November 2019. The first scheme involves requiring new permission for cyclists to contraflow vehicles on a number of town centre streets. Another scheme requires new permissions for cyclists to use routes currently not allowed, namely Repell Ditches to Saxon Way and the London Road to Gibson Gardens cut-through. The last scheme proposed would require main roads, mainly B roads, have new, formally-marked cycle paths.

Despite the steps taken to propose these schemes, she thinks improvements are welcome because of common local deterrents, such as road parking, "atrocious" road surfaces and "drivers' ignorance".

The parking issue, she said, means "some roads turned into virtual single lane routes".

On the other two problems, Cllr Roberts said: "When you talk to people, the road surfaces are abysmal.

"You have to educate the drivers. People are generally ignorant. I've had motorists shout at me because I swerved around a pothole but they are meant to stay back. They should comply with the Highway Code. Drivers should stay back and let you go around a pothole, but they overtake at junctions and bends."

In the light of this issue, Cllr Trilby is urging local residents to take notice of two major campaigns dedicated to "close passes", which can be found online from Cycling UK and West Midlands Police.

According to the Uttlesford District Cycling Action Plan 2018 published by Essex Highways, Uttlesford is one of the districts in Essex with the lowest percentages of people cycling full journeys to work (3%).

Regarding the schemes proposed by the town council, an Essex Highways spokesperson said: "Essex Highways is committed to doing as much as possible to fulfil the County Council's cycling strategy, with more and improved cycling facilities as budgets, safety and practicality allow.

"Some of the schemes proposed here have been previously validated by the Uttlesford Local Highway Panel and found not to meet appropriate safety requirements.

"Other proposals may well be practical and would benefit from detailed safety evaluation, planning and submitting for budgetary priority.

"Perhaps the best way to take these forward is through the Essex County Councillor for the area who can consult with Uttlesford District Council, cycling strategy managers, and safety engineers through the Local Highway Panel to see which schemes are viable and may be prioritised to seek funding."

If you want to express your views on air quality and cycling facilities, please contact Essex County Council through Conservative Cllr John Moran and the Essex Highways.

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