Since the start of the pandemic, have you noticed any changes to the streets in your area, to help with social distancing, or so that you can feel safe to walk or cycle when public transport seems too risky? Thought not: Essex Highways has done almost nothing to tackle this emergency across most of our district.
So we wrote the following letter the Councillor Kevin Bentley, who is the member of the Essex County Council Cabinet with responsibility for highways and infrastructure. You might like to ask your county councillor to follow up and find out what’s going on.
Dear Councillor Bentley
Cycling Strategy & Emergency Active Travel Funding – Epping Forest
We are writing to ask for your urgent attention to the implementation of the Essex Cycling Strategy in Epping Forest District, and for an explanation of the bids that the County Council has so far made to central government for Emergency Active Travel Funding.
The Phase 1 bid ignored Epping Forest District entirely; the Phase 2 bid implemented a small (but welcome) project in Epping town, yet ignored the two larger and more urbanised settlements of Waltham Abbey and Loughton. Other areas of the district were similarly ignored.
None of the schemes in the district’s Cycling Action Plan have been addressed by the emergency funding.
The Essex Cycling Strategy does not seem to have been considered in the planning of any recent road schemes in the district.
There is no sign of a Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) for the area.
However there is a great deal of local support for safer walking and cycling in Epping Forest District:
- a petition calling for the urgent experimental implementation of better cycling infrastructure in Loughton and Buckhurst Hill was signed by 171 people and presented to the Council by Cllr Chris Pond in July;
- Epping Forest District Council recently ran a substantial public engagement, reaching at least 760 people, and the most frequently-mentioned actions that respondents felt could make their situation more safe were –
Slow down traffic – 71
Reduce speed limit – 57
Restrict vehicle access – 36
More space for walking – 35
Keep the pavement clear – 30
All of the above require action by the County Council, and that action is urgent if the economy of the district is to recover from Covid-19 unimpeded by congestion and pollution-related poor health.
There is much that could be done to create low-traffic neighbourhoods, protect schoolchildren, decrease speeds, and provide the infrastructure that would make cycling and walking feel attractive compared to using the car. The costs are relatively very little, and the now-substantial government funding available would make a transformational difference to people’s quality of life.
It is not acceptable that the entire district of Epping Forest has, to all intents and purposes, been omitted from Essex County Council’s plans so far.