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A horror show for cyclists Dear Sir – I have just read the article re- garding Maidstone being named the most dangerous place in Kent for cycling. I am a regular cyclist and I also own a

50cc moped, and I felt compelled to write to you and give you a first hand account of how bad travelling around Maidstone on two wheels actually is. I must point out that I amalso a car driver and have been for 23 years. I either cycle or ride my moped to work

every day, and the selfishness and care- lessness of Maidstone drivers is shocking. Much more needs to be done to educate road users about reckless driving and dis- regard for cyclists. The Think Bike signs in Maidstone are mainly on the backs of buses and not anywhere in the vicinity of traffic island or bike paths. The campaign is weak and doesn’t work. Spot Lane, Bearsted – The absolute worst place I experience every day is Spot Lane with the give way islands. It would seem that car and van drivers abide by the give way signs ONLY with regard to other cars. Every day I experience a situation that forces me to break, swerve to avoid being hit and on more than one occasion I have been forced onto the footpath to avoid going through someone’s windscreen. To make matters worse, the verbal abuse

You can write to us at: Downs Mail, 2 Forge House, Bearsted Green Business Park, Bearsted, Maidstone, ME14 4DT or e-mail:

from drivers is staggering, especially as it’s the perpetrator who is in the wrong 100% of the time. Obviously, the drivers are far too impor-

tant to wait the three seconds itwould take to let a cyclist or motorcyclist through when it’s their right of way and therefore take the attitude that a car will easily win the battle against a cyclist. It’s probably an obvious assumption to

say that school runs are particularly treach- erous. Only on Monday Iwitnessed amum actually speed up to “beat me” through the island, even though it wasmy right ofway. In the process she nearly hit a mother with two children who was crossing the road. Then she actually gave me the finger and slammed her horn at the woman crossing. Three seconds was all she would have needed to wait for me to pass her.

Ashford Road – The bright pink cycle path along Ashford Road opposite Turkey Mill has bike icons and blue signs depicting walkers on one side and cyclists on the other, but it isn’t enough for some people. To cycle along this supposed bike path is an absolute nightmare, for fear of running into a pedestrian who is ignoring the obvi- ous.

This forces cyclists into the road, where

it really is a game of chance. Cars deliber- ately drive close to you or swerve in front

entertainers. It is easy to say there are other theatres in Kent – and London is only an hour away. But that puts up the cost of a good evening out. Let’s get others coming to Maidstone to boost our economy. Lena Simmons – by email.

Resignation was a shame Dear Sir – I was sorry to read your report that Cllr FranWilson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, was planning to give up her group leadership and re- sign early as a councillor. She is well respected and has used her energies

and arguments to improve the lot of local residents. Whilst as a Conservative, I don’t always agree with her views, they are always closely argued and hon- estly expressed. Since the Lib Dems selected their prospective parliamentary candidate, Jasper Gerard, serious splits have opened within their party. Gerard’s di- visive manner and interference have upset the more politically mature members, who are con- cerned to promote the best interests of the borough. This seems set to continue. FranWilson has now been given a vote of confi-

dence by her group and her experience would have been missed by her party and the council. Cllr Brian Moss, cabinetmember for corporate services, Maidstone Council

Homeless offered shelter Dear Editor – Your readers will understand how painful it is for me to read in the October edition of Downs Mail about “the desperate plight of people in Maidstone forced to sleep rough in freezing con- ditions”. This is not true – everyone has been offered shel-

ter in cold weather and Maidstone Christian Care has managed the process with Porchlight. This is only possible as a result of the generosity

of the people of Maidstone, their churches and schools. If there are clients out there, they must be di-

rected to the day centre. No one has been forced to stay out. The day centre will continue to ensure the home-

less and vulnerable are being cared for all year round and respond to their needs. We support the winter shelter pilot and are pas- sionate about ensuring the day and night shelter provides a seamless provision for the homeless and

of you for their own amusement because, as I have had drivers shout out to me on many occasions, “there’s a bike path there, use it!”. And finally the... One-way system in town – The signs in the road depicting what lanes lead where are obviously deciphered by drivers as “use whatever lane you like, it’s a race, have fun!”

ConsideringMaidstone town is normally

at crawling pace anyway, the sight of a cy- clist or moped rider who has the audacity to be in front of them is too much for some drivers to bear. I can almost hear them say: “Ohmy days, that cyclist is going the same speed as me in this traffic jam. I must over- take them at all costs because they may delay me when the roads become clearer just up ahead!” Around Maidstone, whether I am on my

bike or moped, I have had drivers overtake me just to do a left turn 20 yards in front, had people race past me and swerve across me just to get in front of me at a red traffic light and had cars overtake me even though it’s a 30mph zone and they risk a head-on accident. Perhaps I should strap a camera to my

bike helmet and send you the footage... it’s an absolute horror show. Matthew Fillery, Grove Green

needy in our county town. Through the year, the day centre provides break-

fast, a shower, a chance to wash and dry clothes, a hot dinner, and support to review benefits, em- ployment, housing or debt. We also provide an address for homeless people

so they can access these services, including bidding for accommodation, as failure to do this can mean their benefits being taken away. Clients always leave with a pack-up, and we have the benefit of our Food for Thought daily service. Longer term, we are looking to acquire accom- modation so that permanent emergency shelter is available to serve the homeless and vulnerable peo- ple throughout the year. I recognise the huge effort made by partners to en-

sure we respond to need.We are blessed to have so many caring people in Maidstone. Thank you. Mike FitzGerald, chairman, Homeless Care The Day Centre Charity.

Mall victim of council plan Dear Sir – The front cover of your October issue says that the £8 million plan proposed for the Mall development will probably be scrapped. They (the council) blame the Next Home devel- opment at Eclipse Park. But I thought the council approved that plan? I despair! I enjoy your paper though, and find it very in- formative. Thank you.

Barbara Gilbert, Poplar Grove, Maidstone

Editor’s note: Our story stated that The Mall shop- ping centre was opposed to the Next store, not Maidstone Council

Road opportunity missed Dear Sir – Recently, Linton crossroads was subject to some disruption whileworkwas undertaken, re- sulting in ameagre improvement, in the opinion of many. With a littlemore forethought, they should have widened the exit of Heath Road (from Coxheath) at the traffic lights to allow two vehicles of moderate or larger size to pass each other. Now, as before, if a larger vehicle is waiting to

turn right onto the A229 Linton Hill, it blocks traf- fic turning left towards Maidstone or those going straight on to Boughton Monchelsea. Mick Sloman,Wilberforce Road

Ads to fund hospital’s

rebranding ADVERTISERS are helping to fund the cost of rebranding Maidstone Hospital. The Maidstone and Tunbridge

Wells NHS Trust is looking to promote its new logo – MTW – and is selling advertising space to companies on the trust web- site.

The trust hopes the money- spinning scheme will generate at least £5,000, whichwill cover the costs of a poster campaign promoting the logo at bus shel- ters across the town. An external company was

used to sell the advertising space at a time when the trust was offering redundancy to 5,000 employees to savemoney. A trust spokesman said the

new brand of MTW was de- signed to increasingly become a sign of the trust’s expertise in NHScancer, surgery, diagnostic, therapeutic and medical care. The aim is for patients to

make the connection between their care and theNHShospitals at a time when a major new hos- pital and medical campus is being built near M20 Junction 7.

Solar consent CHRISTOPHER Clarke has been given planning permis- sion to install a ground- mounted solar photovoltaic array containing 40 panels at Peppercorn House, Leeds Road, Langley.

You can e-mail the Downs Mail — South 47

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