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THE HERALD FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 30 2016


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rating’ of 166.6% - the fifth highest of any in the UK. One highly noted incident occurred in June 2014, where four passengers died in a head on collision, but there are other incidents which still remain in the consciousness of local communities, and which still leads local residents to call for improvements in the road’s safety and development. It’s hugely important for the Mid Wales economy that this road is improved. It is heavily used by articulated lorries and it is therefore important that there are sufficient safe overtaking opportunities for other vehicles. It’s time this road became a priority for Welsh Government.” Elin Jones also asked the Cabinet


Secretary for specific details of what the Welsh Government plans to implement in order to develop safety for the whole stretch of the A44 between Aberystwyth and Llangurig, the highest-risk road in Wales. Elin Jones told The Herald: “The A44 is a vital and unavoidable route for many people in Mid Wales and safety on this busy stretch of road is paramount. I hope that the Cabinet Secretary will make moves to increase that safety, and I am prepared to work with him to secure this.”


CYCLISTS: PROPOSE NEW ROUTES NOW!


For a number of years, a group


of cyclists in Aberystwyth undertook a monthly critical mass bike ride to campaign for cycle routes in the town and safer cycling. Disheartened by the lack of progress and, indeed, public support,


the cyclists eventually gave up their protest. Interesting, then, that one idea that seems to have passed most people by was an invitation made earlier this month for cyclists to propose new bike routes. It is a requirement of the Active Travel (Wales) Act that our County Councils map existing walking and cycling routes. They are then supposed to begin improving and linking up these routes. Although some councils have reportedly performed their task poorly, the mapping stage is now complete and everyone has the opportunity chance to propose new routes. But how many Ceredigion residents have seen our council’s new map of walking and cycling routes? How many of us are aware of the opportunity we have to propose new ones? Crucially, as long as it helps


people to get to work, to school or to go shopping, the council must map every route that the public propose. Sustrans Cymru and Cycling UK are keen that people support the Act and get involved, otherwise they fear the legislation will end up simply gathering dust on County Council shelves. The important thing, according to Chris Roberts of Sustrans Cymru, is what happens next. Cycling UK’s Chief Executive Paul Tuohy points out that, although politicians must respond to proposals from the public, they are not obliged to actually do anything! The Herald notes that this appears to be the hallmark of many contemporary political initiatives which seek to make claims about public consultation and participation. The Active Travel (Wales) Act


began as a petition from schoolchildren to the Welsh Assembly. From there it was adopted into Welsh Labour’s manifesto and was made law when that party was elected to government. It is legislation that makes sense from many perspectives. Absorbing 48% of the Welsh Government’s budget, health is the single area of greatest expenditure. Rebecca Evans, Welsh Minister for Social Services and Public Health, said: “I know how excited people are about this Act and the change that it can make if we get it right. This is about supporting local authorities now, to be able to discharge their new duties under the Act fully, so we’re aiming to give local authorities the utmost support that they need in order to do that.” Good intentions are one thing, but


Sustrans Cymru and Cycling UK point out that the budget for implementing the Act is just £14m. Distributed among 22 County Councils in Wales, this is a woefully small sum. Cycling UK’s Paul Tuohy again: “Politicians are spending a lot of money on transport, it’s just a question of priorities and percentages.” Tuohy admits that he gets tired of reiterating that in places where active travel works, where cycling and walking are popular, politicians have championed the cause and serious money has been spent to promote these activities: “In terms of pound for pound, boy is it going to pay itself back. When you think of the money it takes to build just one mile of motorway and compare how many miles of cycle routes and walkways you can get for that, it’s just a no-brainer.”


Councillor Alan Williams


responded quickly to The Herald’s questions about the map of walking and cycling routes and the public’s opportunity to propose new ones. After consulting with Gari Jones, the Ceredigion County Council officer most involved with the Active Travel Act, Alun informed the Herald that, with assistance of Sustrans, the council had undertaken an audit of existing active travel routes in July this year. There will be a further


consultation next year. Although the Active Travel Act gives people the right to ask for cycle routes, the council has no obligation to act and no money is provided from the Welsh government for that purpose. There is a scalar threshold for towns to be subject to the act set at 2,000 residents. In Ceredigion, this meant that only Aberystwyth, Lampeter and Cardigan are involved. Alun Williams told The Herald that there was a very strict timetable within the Act that the council are working hard to comply with. So far, the council has managed to keep to the timetable and are in the process of setting up an Active Travel page on their website. Whether Ceredigion residents


judge it worth their while to participate in yet another public consultation that seems, with no money allocated to implementation, designed to fail, remains to be seen.


(SAFER) ON YOUR BIKE! Meanwhile, West Midlands


Leave 1.5 metres: Motorists must give vehicles a safe passing distance


Police have taken meaningful action on cycling that should inspire constabularies in Wales to follow suit. Cycling groups have praised West Midland Police for becoming the first force in the UK to proactively target ‘close pass’ drivers who endanger cyclists. The law stipulates that motorists should give cyclists at least the same space as vehicles when overtaking. A safe passing distance is considered to be a minimum of 1.5 metres or around five feet. Any driver who gets closer to a cyclist can be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention. This is not just the case in the West Midlands and cyclists in Ceredigion who are cut up by motorists should take the vehicle number and report the incident to Dyfed-Powys Police. Be prepared to persist with your complaint, however, as the past experience of cyclists in Aberystwyth has sometimes been that local police have a tendency to ‘blame the victim’ in regard to incidents where cyclists and motorist come into conflict. If Dyfed-Powys Police force is not going to follow the West Midlands example off its own bat, only via the public taking responsibility to report dangerous


driving might we force the long arm of the law. West Midlands Police have put more officers on bicycles and these officers call-in the details of any close-pass driver who is then intercepted by a police car. West Midlands Police said:


“We must do our upmost to protect vulnerable road users and show that anyone who puts them in danger through poor driving will be dealt with. Cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces or obstacles like drain covers so it’s important to afford them plenty of room when overtaking. We know through our work with the Birmingham Cycle forum that close passing is the single biggest deterrent stopping more people from taking to their bikes. We’ve attended some horrific scenes where cyclists have been wiped out by drivers.” Between 2010 and 2014, there


were 530 KSI crashes (killed or seriously injured) in the West Midlands involving bicycles. The vast majority, 84%, of those involved cyclists being hit by cars. Road Safety Wales records that there were 138 KSIs of cyclists in Wales in 2014. Over the last five years, cyclists in the 30 to 49 age band experienced a large increase in the number of KSI’s (239%) and total casualties (54%).


HEATHROW EXPANSION GOOD FOR WALES?


Finally on transport, Facebook


users have probably found themselves invited to try an online calculator that claims to answer the question ‘How will Heathrow expansion benefit Wales?’ Obviously funded by Heathrow Airport, for a Ceredigion postcode, the calculation is that: Up to 8,400 jobs created by 2050; Up to £6.2bn created in total economic benefits; Manifesto commitment to buy only British steel (supporting Welsh steel communities); Direct rail links to Heathrow from Cardiff, Newport and Swansea reduced by up to 40 mins (pity about getting from Aberystwyth). No doubt, Heathrow are also employing this kind of faux statistical approach to marketing beyond social media. Without needing to be an economist, the statistics quoted are clearly based on the tried and trusted principle of: ‘Think of a number, double it…’ The network Reclaim the


Power offer some alternative data that Herald readers may wish to compare: “If UK aviation expansion continues at the current rate, it will use up most of the carbon reduction targets by the year 2050, rather than being used for the power sector, agriculture and other vital industries that should take priority. 70% of UK flights are taken by just 15% of the population.”


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