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Recently approved plans for the redesign of St Mary’s junction fail to include enough high-quality provision for walkers and cyclists, according to local cycle advocacy group CycleWight.

The group raised numerous concerns during the consultation process and provided a range of suggestions for ways in which pedestrians and cyclists could be better catered for but despite CycleWight’s best efforts to engage in the process, the final plans have changed little in terms of infrastructure for those travelling on foot or by bike.

CycleWight were so keen to see the scheme deliver improvements for all users that they commissioned a review of the new project by a highly-qualified independent traffic engineer. The review recommended a series of design changes that would make the layout more inclusive and encourage more local trips to be made on foot and by bike, namely:

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• The construction of a shared pedestrian/cycle path on the east side of the Medina Way between the main hospital entrance and the pedestrian underpass linking Hunnyhill. This could form the basis of improved cycle and pedestrian infrastructure right along Medina Way and into Newport town centre, as and when funding becomes available in the future.
• Pedestrian and cycle infrastructure designs that are based on “desire lines” as opposed to ones that make users take convoluted and lengthy detours
• Wider pedestrian refuges
• Narrower traffic lanes and tighter corner designs that slow traffic and make crossing the road on foot less stressful and dangerous.

Crucially, all of the recommendations in the report are achievable without any loss of traffic capacity or increase in costs. All Cabinet members were sent a copy of the report in advance of last week’s Cabinet decision, but it would seem the recommendations have thus far been largely ignored.

Tim Thorne, chair of CycleWight, said:

“While we cautiously welcome Cllr Ward’s reported comments that additional cycling infrastructure will be considered, we are concerned that this excellent opportunity to build a scheme that gives equal priority to all users will be lost unless changes are made. We urge the Council to consider the report we commissioned, to engage with us and to share our vision of an urban realm that properly meets the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and people with limited mobility –  as well as the needs of motor vehicles.”

The review of the St Mary’s scheme commissioned by CycleWight comes on the back of a study, published earlier this year, into ways of making cycling and walking in Newport easier.  It highlighted how the hospital, college and adjacent industrial estate suffer from poor quality cycling and walking infrastructure and a lack of sustainable travel connectivity with the town centre and Newport’s residential areas.

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Tim Thorne has continued:

“We absolutely agree with the Council that steps need to be taken to reduce congestion around Newport. Enabling people to switch some journeys to walking or cycling can be a huge part of that effort. Recent research showed huge public support for improved cycling facilities in Newport, with 76% of people saying they wanted to cycle more than they currently do and 84% supporting the creation of protected cycle lanes.”

“If the Council is committed to sustainable transport, as it declares, incorporating CycleWight’s proposals could be the first steps in a programme to create a higher standard of provision in our County Town and elsewhere on the Island. This will support the wider aims of regeneration and sustainability and, in cycling terms, reinforce our claim to be the “Bicycle Island”.

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