Radical changes to Reading’s roads are set to be introduced during the pandemic with new cycleways and one-way systems throughout the town – and they may become permanent.

Reading Borough Council’s policy committee will meet on Monday, May 18 to discuss making Sidmouth Street, Westfield Road and part of Gosbrook Road one-way with new cycle lanes introduced, along with removing a lane from Reading Bridge to create cycle lanes in both directions.

The three new projects are: 

  • Making Gosbrook Road one-way (westbound) between Westfield Road and Prospect Street and the whole of Westfield Road one-way (southbound) with new cycle lanes on both. The target date to implement is June 22.
  • Making Sidmouth Street one way (northbound) but turning the current southbound lane into a contra-flow cycle lane. Target date to implement is June 29.
  • Removing one of the two inbound lanes from Reading Bridge to create cycle lanes in either direction. Target for implementation is unspecified but likely to be in June.

All three schemes could become permanent and all will incorporate social distancing measures.

The moves are a result of Government guidance from the Secretary of State that councils should bring in new cycle and pedestrian provision while lockdown is still in force.

The guidance goes on: “Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect.”

Car use in Reading is down by two thirds as a result of the pandemic and lockdown.

In addition to the major schemes the council is proposing bringing forward implementation of a number of permanent smaller ones already earmarked in the current Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan. These are:

  • Oxford Road: Delivery of new cycle and bus lanes, previously consulted on as part of the Oxford Road corridor study.
  • Whitley Street Local Centre: Remove one traffic lane outbound and reallocate it to cyclists, alongside other improvements for pedestrians.
  • Southampton Street / Silver Street: Introduce cycle lanes through removal of existing road hatching. Plans already developed through the university and  hospital area study.
  • Redlands Road: Introduce southbound cycle lane (uphill) and cycle priority measures at Christchurch Green junction.

Cllr Tony Page, lead member for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: “While the long term effect of the pandemic is yet unknown, we do know that in the short term people’s travel behaviours have of course changed. It is important we move to accommodate that and make it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle as they continue to socially distance.

“These proposals are a combination of major new schemes and initiatives which were already in development, that we now think are appropriate to bring forward. Once implemented we would of course monitor their success carefully.

“It is very likely schemes will need some adjustment over time before we can then consider making them permanent.

“Looking further forward, car use is down in Reading, whilst air quality is up. It is possible these trends will remain, with more people opting to work from home.”

If approved, the changes will be paid for from the council’s capital programme and the council will then bid to claim back the money through the Government’s Active Travel Fund.

Image (Google) shows Gosbrook Road junction with Westfield Road in Caversham where two of the key changes will be.

See also: Pedestrianisation and cycle paths plan for central Oxford

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