Allowing people to cycle on Bridge Street has caused a bit of a stir! I thought it would be helpful to provide some background as I see it.
In May 2020 the Government issued a statutory notice that demanded local councils submit proposals that would encourage more journeys to be taken by walking or cycling. This notice was issued when the Government was planning to bring the country out of lockdown and realised that the capacity of public transport was severely diminished.
Along with the statutory notice, the government was offering to pay for the proposals which was split into two tranches. Tranche1 was for temporary measures and tranche2 was to make those the temporary measures that were successful to be more permanent and to add further measures to encourage the take up of walking and cycling. The requirements for funding were quite strict. The measures had to be significant or in the words of the Government “alter the status quo” The measures for Tranche1 had to be started within 4 weeks and completed within 8 weeks. If a local authority failed to meet the requirements, the Government reserved the right to claw back funds allocated.
Tranche2 was for more permanent measures, however, if the Government felt that these measures were not sufficiently ambitious, they would allocate 0%, 25%, 50% or 75% of the requested funds. Some councils were so ambitious they were awarded over 100% of what they requested.
Cheshire East were awarded 100% of their request which amounted to £155K in tranche1 and £619K in tranche2.
Given the measures had to alter the status quo and be completed within 8 weeks it is difficult to see what Cheshire East could do in Congleton. Some councils created pop-up cycle lanes. In Congleton it is difficult to see where a pop-up cycle lane could be added other than Mountbatten Way. That could have been an alternative to what was chosen which was to change the status of Bridge Street. The council closed the road to through traffic except for access and allowed cycles to be ridden, stressing to “share with care”.
These measures are allowed by law through a process called a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) which permits local councils to make temporary changes for up to 18 months without consultation.
Congleton Town Council suggested that Cheshire East implement a 20mph zone in the town centre and add advanced stop lines on the Mountbatten Way crossroads. Although 20mph is in the suggested list from the Government they do say that 20mph on its own would not be sufficient to alter the status quo.
In summary, to be awarded funds of over three quarters of a million pounds, Cheshire East had to do something to encourage walking and cycling that was significant and quick. The decision they made was to allow cycling in Bridge Street, which may well be the least controversial measure they could have taken.