Wed, 12 Feb 2020
TOWN councillors have cooled off on an idea to improve cycle safety on the A4 – as they want to wait on the outcome of a motion to lower the speed limit first.
Councillors met last Tuesday to discuss trialling Orcas – black and white rubber blocks used to separate cycle lanes from the rest of the road – to provide greater protection to cyclists.
West Berkshire Council is considering trialling Orcas at Benham Hill between Tull Way and Henwick Lane.
Floating the idea to councillors, district council highways officer Josh Kerry said that Orcas were used across the UK and Europe.
“They give cyclists a buffer to give them a sense of safety and it would deflect vehicles out of the cycle lane,” he said.
Mr Kerry added that mini Orcas could be put in front of driveways and crossing points.
Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said that something was needed as “going through Thatcham you can see vehicles going in and out of the cycle lane”.
But he added: “There’s a danger that if the car hits this it’s going to cause damage to the car.
“While I’m in favour of protecting cyclists, I thought this could be something that caused a danger to drivers.”
Mr Kerry said that vehicles should not be driving in the cycle lane by Henwick as the road was wide enough to separate cyclists from traffic.
He said: “We wanted to put in a mandatory cycle lane with absolutely no cars.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get the political support for that as people wouldn’t know what they were and it stopped deliveries pulling in.
“We wouldn’t put them in absolutely everywhere.
“Cars shouldn’t be in the cycle lane, there’s enough space in the road.”
Safety concerns were raised by Keith Woodhams (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) who said: “Younger cyclists might see this as an opportunity to ride over them and in and out of them as well into the main carriageway, which is currently travelling at 40mph.
“The risk, I would say, is quite high for that age group”.
“I guess that’s a situation that might occur,” Mr Kerry replied
“It’s a worst case scenario. It would just be reckless behaviour.
“They are used elsewhere across the country.”
Mr Lister suggested putting in cat’s eyes and asked the district council to consider other options.
Ellen Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) added: “I certainly think they are going to be hard to see at night-time, pedestrians are likely to trip over them in the dark or even for a cyclist to ride into it.
“I think the idea of cat’s eyes should be looked into.”
A bid to lower the speed limit from 40mph to 30mph from Henwick Lane to the Tull Way roundabout has already been submitted by town and district councillor Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West).
West Berkshire Council has agreed to conduct a speed survey of the stretch of road.
But Simon Pike (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said that installing Orcas a trial period could conflict with the speed survey.
Instead, he suggested trialling Orcas elsewhere in the town where there was a “slightly less complex situation” than at Benham Hill.
Mr Kerry said: “I’m not a spokesman for these, it may be a half-way house.
“Another good location might be Siege Cross, around there between Pipers Way and Francis Baily School.
“I’m happy to take directions on this really.”
Supporting the cat’s eye call, Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said: “The Orcas I was looking at could be a challenge to some cyclists with the sloped edge.
“These items, if they are installed, will be narrowing the carriageway one way or another for cyclists and motor vehicles and I don’t think the road is a fit and proper place for that kind of experiment.”
Committee chairman John Boyd (Lib Dem, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) closed the discussion by saying: “I think we would be best placed to wait and see what the outcome is to Jeff Brooks’ motion.
“I think possibly if we were to notify West Berkshire Council we are a little bit cool on Orcas and will wait and see what happens with Jeff Brooks before we go to the expense of putting in Orcas.”
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