Walking and cycling made easier

8 Mar 2024
two adults and a teenager cycling on a cycle path in a field

After taking the leadership of Wokingham Borough Council in 2022 one of the Liberal Democrats’ first acts was a public  consultation on a long-term plan for improving walking and cycling in the borough.

We had supported the previous Conservative administration in the preparation of a plan but they had inexplicably declined to finish this and share it with the public. The plan, known as the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, was adopted by the Lib Dem led council in March 2023 and is now being used to set priorities for new designs and delivery.

This year we will start to deliver the Woodley to Reading scheme for which central government money was awarded. Design work is underway on a Winnersh to Wokingham Town route, also funded by government grant, alongside a public consultation.

This will be our second major new route to make local walking and cycling safer and easier. A new Greenway has been opened through the Woosehill development which has become a popular route for school children, people walking to Wokingham Town and leisure users. We want step-free access over the Tan House / Carnival Hub rail bridge, which Network Rail was unwilling to include in their rebuild of the bridge, and have influenced the design so that it can be retrofitted and budgeted for the design work. This year we also plan to pilot a first School Streets project, improving safety for school children, for which we first needed to obtain the legal powers.

The extreme financial pressures on the council are a limiting factor in how quickly we can progress our plans. In 2023 the Conservative government withdrew hundreds of millions of pounds previously promised for walking and cycling across England. This was against a backdrop of the Conservative Party deciding there may be electoral advantage in concocting a “war on drivers” narrative. Until funding streams are restored, other than the schemes we have in hand, we are focusing on local ‘quick wins’ where small amounts of maintenance funding can be used to remove barriers to walking and cycling. We will publicise these as they are selected with public consultation where appropriate.

As Liberal Democrats we are fully committed to giving people genuine choice for how they travel locally. As well as maintaining and improving the road network, we have supported and extended options for bus travel by obtaining government grants and
securing investment from Reading Buses, and we will make it safer and easier to walk and cycle.

These measures will reduce congestion on the roads, reduce long-term costs for the council, improve our environment, support our local businesses, and give people the opportunity to improve their mental and physical health. All of this is laid out in our draft Local Transport Plan for the next 15 years on which public comments were recently sought. You can read the draft plan at https://engage.wokingham.gov.uk/en-GB/projects/a-new-local-transport-plan-for-wokingham-borough

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