Safer walking, horse riding & cycling in the South Downs
In the summer of 2020, the Government published its plans to get Britain cycling and walking, entitled: Gear change: A bold vision for cycling and walking. Earlier in May 2020, the UK Government had announced an emergency active travel fund because of the Covid crisis. In November 2020, the government announced further funding for cycling and walking infrastructure across England, ”to make local journeys safer for all.”
However, very little funding is filtering down to rural communities! This is despite the fact that rural roads carry 40% of road traffic but account for 62% of road fatalities (as reported by the Government in 2015. See ‘Facts on Road Fatalities’). The report goes on to say that accidents which occur on rural roads are more likely to be of a fatal nature than those on urban roads, and that rural roads have a much higher average speed than urban roads. This problem continues to be the case in more recent years. The RoSPA say in their report of 2018, “More deaths occur on rural roads than on urban ones. In 2016, there were 1,015 fatal accidents on rural roads compared to 593 on urban roads.” The problem of deaths on rural roads comes into sharper focus when we consider that only 17% of the population live in rural areas. See Defra Official Statistics Rural population 2014/15 (Updated 27 August 2020).
Something has to be done to protect pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in rural areas. So what do we do?
Of course one must continue to campaign for a fair share of the millions of pounds going to urban areas but there is one trick up our sleeve… The use of a little-known piece of legislation called the Quiet Lanes and Home Zone order (2006).
A Quiet Lane designation linked with a 20mph speed limit would be an ideal way of helping rural communities benefit from government support for what they call ‘active travel.’ Many minor lanes in the countryside are too narrow to be able to construct a path for cycling and walking but, with the support of the local council, such designations could be the very thing that helps local residents and tourists alike use their bicycle or get out and walk rather than using the car. A Quiet Lane designation is a clear message to motorists to respect the right of passage of walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Connecting up existing paths with Quiet Lanes could provide a network for people to confidently walk and cycle without the fear of being hit by a vehicle.
In Quiet Lanes and Home Zones, objectives for improving and maintaining the quality of life for local residents take precedence over general objectives to ease traffic movements. Roads in a Quiet Lane network or in a Home Zone are places where prescribed local activities may be carried out as well as being public thoroughfares. The speed of vehicles must be low enough to permit such activities to be enjoyed safely by people of all ages and abilities.
The South Downs Network aims to put forward proposals to the county councils and to the South Downs National Park framework for designating Quiet Lanes. We will look for minor rural roads or networks of minor rural roads to achieve this objective.
If you are interested in helping us produce a schedule of lanes or have any suggestions, please send us a message. Thank you.
In choosing what lanes to put forward to the authorities we will be guided by the excellent document produced by CPRE entitled, ‘CPRE’s guide to Quiet Lanes.’