Kendal’s LCWIP is approved – now the real work starts!

Recently Cumbria County Council’s Local Area Committee met to discuss, amongst other things, cycling provision for Kendal in the form of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). 

Thanks to the wonderful response of local residents it was far more of a discussion that perhaps was expected.

Firstly, when the councillors arrived at County Hall Liz was waiting for them! 

Liz Boothman - Kendal Cycle Path Protestor

If they didn’t realise that the people of Kendal take their cycle infrastructure seriously, they were hopefully beginning to find out! 

Once the meeting started there was up to 30 minutes allocated for “Public Participation”. 

This takes the form of formal questions, statements or petitions submitted by members of the public. 

There were eight submissions including:

  • a petition from the residents around Sedbergh Road for traffic calming measures
  • an explanation of why a town wide 20 mph speed limit would benefit the town on so many levels
  • detailed questions about the plans for the Kendal Northern Access Road (KNAR) and why the LCWIP is tied to this unfunded and unapproved scheme
  • questions about the content and ambition of the LCWIP 

My favourite submission was from Luke Mellard, who I think summed it up with this sentence in his really impassioned statement: 

We don’t have to wait for global changes in markets, infrastructure and trillions in investment. It (cycling) offers win win health benefits and taking cars off the road drastically improves our local area and experiences.

The one over-reaching benefit of the pandemic lockdowns in a sea of negative impacts was the reduction of cars on the road and the freedom we all felt on foot and on our bikes as the ever present danger of motoring was reduced and we felt safe to ride with our kids. That’s a feeling I can’t forget and I’m saddened that this council clearly favours increased car use over active travel.”

Each submission was followed by CCC’s response – as you imagine they were rather bland and just repeating that CCC are committed to getting more people cycling and walking. 

You can read all the statements and Cumbria County Council’s responses here.

The chair, Cllr Cotton (Lib Dem), then informed the meeting that there had also been an unusually large number of emails to local councillors about this issue (with him copied in).

So, a big thank you to everyone who submitted to the committee, and who emailed their local councillors (and of course Liz for the placard).  

All this meant that when agenda item concerning the LCWIP came up, there was a really good debate about the contents, and in particular how is doesn’t go to local schools or residential areas.

Should we be allowed to have our voice heard? 

Cllr Chris Hogg (Lib Dem) asked that due to the length of time this public participation had taken the Public Participation Scheme be reviewed.

Karen Johnston, the CCC Area Manager, reminded him that public participation was usually related matters being discussed by the Committee and Cllr Cotton encouraged the public’s right to participate in local democracy proceedings.

Hurray!

We may get another chance to get our voices heard.  

Discussion about the Kendal LCWIP

I’ve tried to capture the main focus of the discussion around the LCWIP, together with the main outcomes and commitments. 

The LCWIP was presented by Nicola Parker, the really patient CCC employee who in her role as Senior Programme Manager for Cycling and Walking has to deal with a lot of the complaints from the local cycling community, and sadly doesn’t have any budget to deliver real change.  

It must be so frustrating to have to plan for something that may never ever get built, and have people shout at you that your theoretical plans aren’t good enough! 

Show us the money

Cllr Chris Hogg (Lib Dem) raised the issue of what local budgets were available to get things moving, rather than having to wait for other sources of funding (it’s important to note that there is currently NO funding for delivery of anything in the LCWIP). 

He also raised issues around disability cycling, access to all and the use of scooters as well as cycles for children getting to school. 

Cllr Jim Bland (Cons) expressed the view that enough money had already been spent on consultants and that future funding must be spent on delivery. He also asked for safe, shorter routes to ensure children could get to school safely. 

Cllr Matt Brereton (Cons) asked whether the recently allocated £200,000 Local Environment Fund could be used to facilitate delivery. Cllr Cotton confirmed this would be a suitable use, and that members should consider suitable schemes in their areas. 

Cllr Brereton also stressed that more needed to be done by the new authority, especially to improve active travel connectivity to schools and local businesses and that he would like to see similar measures rolled out to smaller towns and villages. 

Cllr Roger Bingham (Cons) spoke about changes to rural public footpaths since the 1960’s plus the Queen’s Silver and Platinum Jubilees. Cllr Cotton noted this was nothing to do with Kendal’s LCWIP.

Where are the safe routes to school?

Cllr Judy Fillmore (Greens) expressed concern that children were not at the heart of the LCWIP and noted that if behaviour change could be made at a young age then it would set up a pattern of cycling into adulthood.  

Cllr Cotton explained that there had been a big reduction in the resourcing at CCC to produce School Travel Plans in recent years.

Instead he advised that schools would be asked to come up with their own ideas with PTA / Governors / Parents / Pupils telling the council what they wanted. He asked councillors to work with local schools on this. 

My guess is the reply is going to be “Safe routes to school” but you never know……

Public consultations

Nicola Parker explained that the level of response to the public questionnaires far exceeded anywhere else in the region, despite the smaller size of Kendal.  This was particularly impressive because it was a complex survey that required people to feedback on their ideas for improvement, which people had done in great detail.   

BIG THANKYOU TO EVERYONE WHO RESPONDED TO THESE CONSULTATIONS! 

Cllr Bill Wearing (Cons) disagreed and said that the response rate (at over 600 people) was far too low to make decisions around, and that if the consultation had taken place in Grange there would have been at least 1,000 responses from a much smaller population. 

We need to ask Cllr Wearing to help with getting responses for the KNAR public consultation that is coming later in the year, as he’s obviously managed to get a very motivated population in Grange. 

Accessibility for all

Cllr Will Clark (Lib Dems) sought confirmation from Nicola Parker that vulnerable users would be taken into account and that routes would be accessible to all.

Nicola Parker responded that everything that was built would be designed with accessibility for those more vulnerable members of society.

Unfortunately in the next sentence she cited the very new provision on the path between Burton Road and Natland Road as one of the good things happening in Kendal.   

Unfortunately, as this video clip shows, this stretch is terrible designed and not accessible at all! 

I am not sure how anyone in a wheelchair, adapted cycle or with a double buggy is going to be able to use this path. 

I’ve tried and failed to cycle up it several times.

Do give it a go and let me know how you get on. 

Kendal as the most cycling friendly town in the UK?

Cllr Chris Hogg (Lib Dem) asked that any submissions for funding highlight what’s special about Kendal for cycling including:

  • Kendal Cycle Club – one of the country’s biggest cycle clubs
  • The number of older people who cycle in the town
  • Wheel For All disability cycling 

Cllr Matt Brereton (Cons) suggested that there should be an aspiration to make Kendal one of the most cycling friendly towns in the UK, referencing what has been achieved in other areas of the country such as Cambridge.

His fellow Conservative councillor Jim Bland thought this impossible, and cited the bad weather and steep hills as reasons why this would never happen here. 

He obviously hasn’t seen the volume of bikes being ridden to the local schools all year round, regardless of rainfall or temperature.   

I and another public participant had already mentioned e-bikes and other technologies making active travel more accessible, but I’m mentioning it again. 

E-bikes make cycling much easier up hills. E-bikes are getting cheaper and more popular every year.

Approval of the Kendal LCWIP

Cllr Filmore (Greens) proposed that the LCWIP be brought back to a future meeting for approval, after improvements to reference children and safe routes to all schools was included.

This was overruled by the Chair (Cllr Cotton) who explained that the LCWIP was a live document which would allow for changes to be made. 

Nicola Parker must have been getting really quite frustrated by this point, and asked the councillors in no uncertain terms to approve the LCWIP in its current form so she could start working on the more detailed plans and apply for funding. 

And there in lies the conundrum – do we want something that’s not brilliant, to at least move forward with, or have nothing at all? 

In the end it is important to remember that the request to send the plan back was overridden because the document is a “live document” that can be updated, and this has been minuted. 

This opens the path for future discussion around ensuring the plans for Kendal evolve rapidly to keep pace of what’s required to get proper change quickly. 

This is only the START of the process, not the end.  OH JOY!!!! 

Cllr Hogg (Lib Dems) proposed that the LCWIP be approved. 

Cllr Geoffrey Cook (Lib Dems) seconded this, but asked that it be amended with the addition that children and young people be central to the LCWIP be added to the motion.

Cllr Hogg did not agree with this as the LCWIP should be for everyone, not just children and young people. Cllr Cotton agreed that the LCWIP did not exclude anyone, and special mention was not need.

The LCWIP was therefore agreed with no amendments. 

Afterwards Cllr Shirley Evans (Lib Dems) said she would, if re-elected, work hard to improve cycle infrastructure. I didn’t have the quickness of wit to ask why she’d backed the painting of no-cycling signs on the footpath by Queen Katherine School, rather than actually sorting out the issue that’s causing people to ride on the footpath. 

Sorry folks! 

What about the KNAR?

This was my big learning from this meeting. 

There was so much wrong with the LCWIP that the issue of the Highland Stricklandgate route being tied to the KNAR wasn’t discussed.

This dependency was referred to a number of times in the public questions and statements, but not as the one “big issue”. 

There is no chance for members of the public to interject so I was sitting there desperately wanting to shout out “What about Highgate / Stricklandgate? We don’t want to wait 15 years or more to get a better route through town!” 

It’s worth noting that there was a discussion about the KNAR scheduled for after the formal meeting was over, and members of the public were excluded. 

What about the 20mph speed limit?

Some good news on this – albeit slow moving (quite apt really!)

This was covered by another agenda item – I’d left by then but the minutes state that:

“It was agreed for Officers to engage in next steps progressing a way forward for a 20mph scheme in Kendal to be through discussion in a working group initially led by Kendal Town Council with membership of other wider stakeholders, with regular updates to the Working Group as it develops.”

So it’s not agreed, but it’s not been thrown out and moves slowly, slowly, slowly onto the next phase of yet more meetings.  I suspect there’ll be a couple more surveys and studies, before another round of meetings, a public consultation and then something not really all that great gets implemented, but you never know.  

One day, at some time in the distant future, Kendal may catch up with what progressive towns around the world are doing in terms of active travel and urban design. 

Just don’t hold your breath. 

What next?

It’s local elections coming up on Thursday 5th May.  When people come calling to your door asking for your vote, you can ask their views on active travel.

Ask everyone what their view is on the current traffic situation.  Ask them what they plan to do to ease congestion and pollution, and over what timescales.  

If they’re Liberal Democrats, ask them why, after so many years holding the majority in Kendal at various council levels, we don’t have a joined up cycle network across the town, and why the 20 mph limit is taking SO long to be agreed. 

If they’re Conservatives, ask them why their government promised a cycling revolution, yet there’s nowhere near enough money for cycling infrastructure and every penny has to be bid for in a convoluted and ridiculously expensive way. 

All other parties, ask them what they propose around active travel and how they’re going to ensure it’s delivered if they get elected.

Ask everyone whether they want the KNAR, and what benefits and drawbacks it will bring. 

And keep safe out there when you’re riding your bike – change surely has to happen at some stage. 

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