We congratulate the successful candidates at the recent local elections. What better way for them to make an immediate impact on the town’s traffic congestion and pollution than to promote active travel as a healthy and environmentally-friendly alternative to motorised transport?
For too long Farnham has been stuck in a time warp while more progressive towns have successfully created a safer, healthier and more vibrant experience for residents which has delivered positive economic benefits.
Now is the time for our elected representatives both new and experienced to stand up and deliver to create a positive legacy for our wonderful town.
I can’t imagine there is anyone who hasn’t noticed the horrendous road congestion in Farnham recently. However, what’s less obvious is its effect on the survival of the shops, cafés and galleries in Farnham town centre.
The West Street roadworks undoubtedly added to the congestion at the start of the road closures, although the effect of closing off West Street from the A31 beyond Crondall Lane as we near the end of the roadworks is again less obvious.
We can only wait and see what happens at the end of this month when the water main to the new Coxbridge housing estate is completed.
As a result of the congestion, the average speed of car traffic drops to 1mph, with drivers often spending one hour in a one-mile tailback in several places across the town.
So has there ever been a better time to try out the idea of walking or cycling into town?
There is a lot to be said for knowing exactly how long it will take to complete your journey – and this also means you can cut out the ‘safety margin’ of time that most people allow for town-centre car journeys. Walking and cycling journey times are predictable because even when the cars are backed up, a bike is allowed to filter past them and not wait in the queue (Highway Code rule 151) and almost nothing can delay someone walking into town.
If you have a bike then shopping is easy as with two panniers (for example, from Halfords) – you can carry 20kg or five bags of shopping, which is more than enough for most of the journeys into town.
So why not try walking or cycling? Each person who does will take a car off the road, increasing their fitness, saving petrol, reducing air pollution and carbon emissions. So, not only do they benefit, but everyone around them benefits as well.
Finally, whether the current road closure on West Street beyond Crondall Lane is really causing cars to tail back up Castle Hill and from Homebase is anyone’s guess.
But what is more certain is that the huge number of houses that are being built in Farnham over the next couple of years is going to bring more car drivers, because mostly they are out of walking distance from the town centre.
So I would like to ask our councillors what they are planning to provide as alternatives to the car.
The Farnham Infrastructure Programme (FIP) proposed a network of cycle routes but it was more of a ‘not-work’ as the plan included The Borough and South Street and this roadspace was shared with cars.
These are clearly not suitable if we want to tempt parents and kids to leave their car at home for the school run – and reduce car congestion.
But we have to give our councillors credit as they did listen to our complaints and announced at their last FIP meeting in March that an Active Travel Working Group would be set up.
However, it’s now late May and we don’t even have a date for the first meeting of the working group.
It would seem the county, borough and town councils are not in any hurry to provide cycling as an alternative to the car.
So just what are they planning to do to fix the traffic?
They need to do something, and quickly, because Farnham is beginning to feel more like a city than a town.
By Peter Goodman
Farnham Cycle Campaign