Three went to Kings Hills – what’s in store for North of Horsham?

Liberty, the developer for North of Horsham, invited us to the Kings Hill development near Maidstone in Kent. Forum chair Ruth Fletcher offers her thoughts.

Three Horsham Cycle Forum members went to Kings Hill to see how Liberty’s development there was working for cycling, and what lessons there might be for us in Horsham when they build their new development in North of Horsham.

Kings Hill’s roads are attractively laid out with wide grass verges, paving stones, granite setts and planting. At first glance it seems this might be a good place to ride a bike: cycle lanes are very much in evidence and you can avoid the many roundabouts by riding on shared-use pavements.

But in practice the cycle lanes don’t work well for anyone: they give up suddenly at the junctions, just where they are needed most, and paint offers no real protection from vehicles.

Paint offers no protection for people on bikes – current guidance says roads like this need separate cycle tracks

At roundabouts, cyclists are faced with a choice of going slowly and awkwardly round on the pavement or moving out of the cycle lane and merging into the main traffic flow.

Cycle lane stops short at roundabout – it doesn’t work for anyone

Roundabouts are some of the most dangerous places for cycling, but they don’t need to be. Since Kings Hill was designed, new regulations have made it possible to build roundabouts with protected cycle tracks which are far safer for cycling whilst still keep the rest of the traffic flowing smoothly. The compact design is space-efficient too.

Will we see new, safer roundabout designs like this in North of Horsham?

Kings Hill is very much designed around the car and it was evident that the cycle lanes haven’t proved an effective way of getting more people cycling. We saw big car parks and long queues of cars outside the primary schools as parents waited to pick up their children. Impatient drivers jostling in and out of parking places coupled with the narrow pavements meant that cycling home was out of the question for most children.

Kings Hill School has plenty of space outside the gates, but there’s no cycle route for children here – just a steady queue of cars

North of Horsham is a spacious greenfield development. Instead of using the space for the car parks and queuing traffic we saw at Kings Hill, Horsham could choose to build car-free cycle tracks to the schools. Our children could then be active and independent – just like in the Netherlands where most children cycle to school.

What a contrast with this primary school in Assen, NL, where a traffic-free cycleway means even the youngest children can ride safely to school

We liked the way that the centre of Kings Hill could be crossed both on foot and by bike. In the central pedestrian area there were signs saying ‘Slow. Pedestrian priority zone. Considerate cyclists welcome’ making it easy to ride up to the shops and load any heavy bags directly onto your bike. This is especially important for older or disabled customers who would struggle to carry their shopping. We did however notice a distinct lack of cycle racks.

Cycling in the centre of Kings Hill – it works well and the residents like it

For busier parts of town an alternative approach is to make a clear distinction between the cycle paths and the pedestrian areas. Older people, the visually impaired and those with young children have their own space – and people on cycles pass safely and more freely.

Direct cycle path through pedestrianised area, with clear separation between walking and cycling (Amsterdam, NL)

One of the good features of Kings Hill is that people’s homes do not front onto the major distributor roads, which are generally free from parked cars. On the residential streets, it’s a different story. Although there are some parking bays, there is widespread pavement parking which obstructs people with mobility scooters, walking frames, buggies and those trying to walk side by side.

Elsewhere, on-street parking restricts the road and makes it necessary to negotiate with oncoming traffic – an extra risk that deters cycling. Most families in Horsham have at least one car and finding space for all these cars is a growing problem. We must ensure that North of Horsham isn’t also blighted by parked cars.

Where cars were parked in bays, cycling was stress-free

 

But, elsewhere, anti-social parking was widespread

If cycling is going to be a realistic choice for short trips, people also need places to park their bikes – including covered and secure cycle parking at the front of their houses, not just a space in the shed at the bottom of the garden that’s impractical to get to.

We loved this cycle track on the main road to Kings Hill – just what’s needed on the A264

 

There was no cycle path on this stretch of 50mph dual carriageway in Kings Hill – moving into the right hand lane to get to the next bit of cycle path was a test of nerve

The North of Horsham development is a chance to design for the future and to create a safe and attractive place where people of all ages will choose to cycle for short trips. We will all benefit from better health and from fewer cars clogging up the roads. There are proven designs that work much better than the outdated painted cycle lanes we saw in Kings Hill.

We want to see Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council learning the lessons from Kings Hill and insisting that Liberty designs to the latest standards.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Excellent help for the developer. Let’s hope they listen.

  2. Commenter says:

    You’re on the right (bike?) track, but please do a bit more research on safe roundabout design! I know you just called this diagram ‘safer’, not ‘safe’ per se, but the geometry needs to be much tighter (you’re giving way WAY too much space to cars – they’ll race through at high speed), the bike tracks need to be physically separated from the traffic lanes (that’s how you use that space instead) and cyclists should never have to cross two lanes at once!

    Why two lanes on the roundabout itself? Is there that much traffic in this built-up area, and if yes, why?

  3. Lorenzo says:

    Loving the picture of the cycle path next to the dual carriageway. Couldn’t agree more. It’s only about 5km from the edge of Crawley to the edge of Horsham but few would want to cycle this route.

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