Until recently I was a regular cycle commuter in the district, covering 40km per working day, and you’ve asked in last week’s paper what people think about the cycling provision in the area.
Look at a map of the National Cycle Network as a cyclist and you’ll be struck by two things; the town, and district generally, are disconnected and isolated from the national network, and the only major cycle route which passes nearby is a recreational one, the Downslink. Nice for a ride on a Sunday morning, not much use to get to work on.
Look at map of cycle routes in the town and you’ll find yet more disconnected and isolated lines, most of which, in reality, on the ground turn out to be meaningless paint full of parked cars, broken glass and manhole covers.
The Missing Link campaign seeks to address a real need; the desire of people to use a bicycle for transport instead of a motor car. The A264 is already clogged, with regular long tail backs at the Crawley end, so most motorists using the road between Horsham and Crawley would probably be grateful if some of those cars stayed at home and their drivers, who are so often the sole occupant of the vehicle, literally ‘got on their bikes’ and reduced the motor traffic.
But only the bravest, most committed cyclists, like your reporter Berny Torre, choose to ride on the A264, one of a number of local roads which are desperately unfriendly to cyclists.
So unfriendly in fact that some of your readers probably regard folk like Berny, who ride on dual carriageways, as foolish, reckless even, and see his presence on ‘their’ road as a nuisance and an irritation, and thus fair game for a close pass, or worse.
Were the Missing Link to be closed, and the gap in the local
cycle route filled, cyclists would have a safer alternative to the A264 by way of the otherwise splendid route created by WSCC some years ago.
But for the moment it is all but unusable because, somehow, our intrepid rider has to get across the A264 bypass in the face of four lanes of fast moving traffic.
The Missing Link would also allow for great recreational use of the splendid network of country lanes north of the A264 as families, individuals and groups could exit the town on their bikes in safety.
These small, relatively, quiet lanes are ideal for cycling on and an asset to the district.
They should not solely be the domain of those who wear lycra.
Horsham is a small town, you can circumnavigate it on foot on the excellent Riverside Walk in 12 or so miles and in doing so you’ll never be more than a couple of miles from the town centre.
In theory it is the perfect sort of small town community that should be ideal for cycling in.
The number of cyclists does appear to be increasing but at peak times the sheer volume and speed of the motor traffic is still a huge obstacle to greater uptake. I want to see a town where ordinary people, wearing ordinary clothes, are able to use a bike for transport to and from the town centre, and to and from the surrounding villages without fear, anxiety, and without putting their well-being at risk.
At present cycling for transport in and around Horsham simply requires too much machismo and too much testosterone for all but a tiny few to do it.
It should not have to. Cycling to town, to go shopping, should not have to take guts to do, nor should it require cyclists to take to the pavement to ensure their own safety.
The safety of cyclists, through the provision of good infrastructure, should not be a coda or afterthought in urban and highways planning nor, indeed, should it be the missing link.
Hurst Road, Horsham