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Orcas coming to Thatcham to help promote cycling and aid with social distancing

Rubber blocks will be installed throughout the town

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886633

Orcas could be coming to Thatcham's roads 

ORCAS will be installed in Thatcham as part of a scheme to encourage cycling and promote social distancing.

Councils have been urged to bring in changes to roads to encourage other modes of transport and to help with social distancing 

In Thatcham, West Berkshire Council has said it will be pressing ahead with installing Orcas – rubber blocks used to separate cycle lanes from the rest of the road – to provide greater protection to cyclists. 

The council had considered trialling Orcas on Benham Hill between Tull Way and Henwick Lane, but has now said it will roll them out through the town, from Tull Way to Gables Way.

Cycle lanes will also be made mandatory, meaning that vehicles are not permitted to enter them. 

The council has said the Orcas will be temporary, but could be made permanent.

Town councillors had cooled off on the idea earlier this year, saying that placing the Orcas on the short stretch of A4 could confuse people.

It also raised safety concerns and wanted to wait for the outcome of a petition to lower the speed limit from 40mph to 30mph.

But discussing the announcement at a meeting last week, Simon Pike (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said the scheme was “more ambitious” than first thought and would help promote Government guidance. 

Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said: “They were not popular for all sorts of reasons.

“The idea of them being run all the way through town is completely inappropriate.

“If we were against them before we should be against them again.”

Mr Pike said that the trial sectioin of road started in an unexpected position heading out of Thatcham for a short distance.

He said the longer stretch would allow drivers to get used to the Orcas on a less problematic piece of road. 

Mr Crumly said: “What about the cost? If they are not successful or popular then they have got to be removed.

“They want to do this at the end of lockdown – hopefully we are coming to the end of this and returning to normal and the roads will be full of traffic once more and this proposal will not be necessary.” 

Mr Pike replied: “They probably fit in very well with the guidance. I think they are a lot more ambitious than we thought was feasible when we set the proposal at the last meeting.

“It shouldn’t necessarily be about cost as they are implementing Government guidance.” 

A proposal for the town council to promote a safe cycling scheme was suggested by Ellen Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central). She said that cycling could be dangerous as anyone could buy a bike without needing training, insurance or safety gear. 

Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said he was in favour of the district council’s approach to promote cycling, but said councillors had safety concerns.

He said a key requirement for safe cycling was to lower the speed limit and that the 40mph limit at Henwick needed to be lowered to 30mph.

“I don’t think it’s correct to have large HGVs passing within inches of the cycle lane,” he said.

Councillors heard that the Orcas were scheduled to be installed on July 6 and take approximately two weeks to complete.

The cycle racks should be installed by the end of June. 

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