Published: 06:00, 05 June 2020
A 20mph speed limit could be imposed on a main route in Ashford as part of plans to encourage more walking and cycling.
Bosses hope to cut the 30mph limit on Hythe Road between the Mace Lane roundabout and railway bridge by the Norton Knatchbull School.
It comes as Kent County Council secured £8 million from the Department for Transport to make roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Funding is yet to be obtained for the Willesborough scheme, but the project has been included in Ashford Borough Council’s 10-year ‘cycling and walking infrastructure plan’ which was approved by the authority’s cabinet last week.
Ashford council's deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) is confident the cash can be obtained for the works, which will cost £275,000.
As well as cutting the speed limit, new crossing points and ‘public realm improvements’ are also planned.
Cllr Bartlett said: “The 20mph limit is a proposal at this stage, but I think it has a reasonable chance of being delivered.
“It goes past the Norton Knatchbull so that helps delivery as it will facilitate additional crossing points for pupils - it’s not just 20mph signs.
“The route has the only speed camera in the town so it’s a known area where speed is an issue.
“There is not enough highway width to install segregated cycle facilities but streetscape improvements would improve the overall environment for pedestrians and cyclists and these could be delivered with modifications to existing kerbside restrictions.”
Since lockdown was imposed on March 23, Kent Highways has recorded a 300% increase in the number of people cycling.
Cllr Bartlett says it is important that trend continues once lockdown is fully lifted.
“There will always be objections to anything that changes, but I think the proposed speed limit is a good thing and sends the right message to motorists around the town,” he said.
“If we want to promote walking and cycling, we have got to make it easier for people.
“I think there is a very good case for having the lower speed limit there.
“The time it takes to drive from the railway bridge to the bottom of Mace Lane isn’t long.”
In ABC’s ‘cycling and walking infrastructure plan’, it says the works will cost £132,930 between the railway crossing and Esso petrol station.
The stretch from the petrol station to Mace Lane roundabout will cost £143,010.
If given the green light, Cllr Bartlett says the works will be carried out in two separate phases to minimise disruption.
“You have got to try to make the best of what has happened with Covid-19,” he added.
“You need to encourage people to stick to the modes of transport they have been using during lockdown.
“A lot of previous speed campaigns - like ‘20’s plenty’ - have fallen on deaf ears.
“But I think now is the right time to seize the opportunity.”
Elsewhere, a radical redesign of high streets and a rethink on the school-run could take place across Kent to reduce car use and allow more space and safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
With many cars off the roads, lockdown has led to cleaner air and quieter streets as well as seeing the surge in cycling and walking.
More by this authorDan Wright
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