This is a guest post from Maidstone On Bike.
Maidstone doesn’t have an organisation representing cycling in the town. Therefore when a proposal to remove the only safe river crossing for cyclists in Maidstone is approved, I need reinforcements to fight this.
By Dutch standards, the segregated cycle path on St. Peters Bridge is very poor. The surface is bad, sometimes it turns into shared use and therefore leads to conflict with pedestrians. However, compared to the busy gyratory it runs alongside, it is very attractive.
Not great design, but far better than the gyratory next to it
This path is my only safe access into the town centre by bike. Therefore I use it regularly, and I often come across other cyclists here. The bridge is also regularly used by pedestrians, who would also have to find an alternative route to cross the river. The removal of this path will mean I either have to cycle on a busy gyratory, or dismount and use the pavement on another bridge. This will be disastrous for cycling in Maidstone, at a time Maidstone Borough Council is trying to get less people to drive into town, in a meeting I am speaking at on Tuesday.
The reason for removing the path is the development of the Powerhub building in Maidstone. The Powerhub building is very run down, and the first building many people will see when arriving into Maidstone on the train from London. Redevelopment is needed here, and I’m not against the principle of this.
Not a good first impression on arrival in Maidstone
The reason the path is being removed is to cope with the extra traffic expected at a new shopping centre. Residential roads are also going to be widened by chopping down very old trees and removing a footpath to create an extra traffic lane at the other exit to the redevelopment scheme.
The area of St. Peters Street already has a large ASDA, a Homebase, Hobbycraft, Wickes, and a Travelodge. All have only two exits, which are heavily unsuited to large amounts of traffic. The congestion here is already terrible, and adding a new superstore while removing any access to it by bike is wholly inappropriate and downright damaging for the town.
While Maidstone Borough Council objected to the project, they took too long to respond. Therefore the decision went to the Planning Inspectorate. They asked Kent County Council for an opinion, and they found no objection to the transport plans of the scheme. (See the latest response from Kent County Council's cabinet member for Environment and Transport, David Brazier.)
The Planning Inspectorate, by the way, is a government agency, part of the Department for Communities and Local Government. You many know the minister in charge of this. His name is Eric Pickles. He is very keen on cars, being able to drive into town centres and being able to park anywhere you want to. For a local government minister, he seems very keen to destroy the attractiveness of town centres as a place to be.
While the proposals have been approved, it shouldn’t be too late. I have started a petition at change.org. Whether you cycle in Maidstone or not, please, please, please sign the petition. It doesn't take any more than a few minutes to sign, and it will prevent the reckless decision to kill off cycling in Maidstone.
This could be any town in the UK, and if we can prevent it here, we can prevent it in other towns too.
Thank you very much.