Friday Facility no.12 – The High Street, Guildford

This year’s Tour Of Britain will finish on Guildford High Street, in Surrey. It promises to be a fantastic spectacle, with the riders racing up the steep cobbled hill, surrounded on both sides by thousands of fans.

Throughout the rest of the year, you can cycle up and down the High Street, as it forms part of National Cycle Route 223.

Except… you can’t between the hours 11am and 4pm during weekdays, 9am and 6pm on a Saturday, and 12pm and 5pm on Sunday, because at these times, the High Street is fully pedestrianised.

The High Street is very wide, and there really shouldn’t be any cause for conflict between pedestrians and cyclists. Even at Christmas, when there are plenty of shoppers about, I cannot see any reason why this space shouldn’t be shared.

The only problems would come from anti-social cycling, but the proper response to that is to use the police, or street wardens, to fine and censure the wrongdoers, not a blanket ban on an activity that, in principle, should be harmless.

Worse, even when it is legal to cycle here – outside of the restricted hours – you can only cycle up the hill, because it remains a one-way street.

Both these restrictions mean that cycling around this part of Guildford is quite inconvenient.

How about providing some useful cycle lanes in Guildford? This might encourage cycle use. Anyone who wants to cycle is usually quite happy to provide their own bike, but might be put off by the fact that to cycle from the top of the High Street to the station, university, hospital or Research Park has to fight with one-way systems, 4 lanes of traffic and the bus station. 

This 4 lane one-way system.

There are paths underneath this gyratory, but cycling is banned there too (in places with good reason, because the pedestrian underpasses are quite narrow. And there are lots of steps, in any case).

Thankfully it appears that the ludicrous situation of cycling being largely impossible on a major through-route in the town is coming onto the political radar, although a PCSO seems to have completely the wrong idea about what needs to be achieved.

The mention of Surrey County Council’s hope to improve cycle routes into and out of Guildford, making existing routes contiguous, excited a short exchange of views on cycling on the High Street and other one-way routes. One PCSO asked if the council’s plans would help reduce the amount of cycling, the wrong way, down the High St. A St Catherine’s resident, a regular cyclist, pointed out that there was little practical alternative for cyclists if the dangerous gyratory was to be avoided.

There is no need to stop cyclists going ‘the wrong way’ down the High Street, because there shouldn’t be any such thing as a ‘wrong way’ on a bicycle. It’s only an absurd traffic arrangement that has created this situation, and it needs to be remedied.

Both Cyclists in the City and christhebull have commented, before me, on this topic – I’m not the only one

This entry was posted in Friday facility, Guildford, One-way streets, Pedestrianisation. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Friday Facility no.12 – The High Street, Guildford

  1. Barnie says:

    Surely allowing the cyclists to cycle both ways will meet the PCSO’s aim perfectly by guaranteeing to reduce the number going the wrong way to zero.

  2. As it seems that I was the orignial “inspiration” behind this post, I think one ought to comment.

    Last Sunday, when my flatmates were in bed, I rode to the Clifton Suspension Bridge for the Vintage Velo (a Tweed Run esque fundraiser), where I enjoyed a somewhat soggy ride (I need to re-proof my Barbour jacket) to Shirehampton in the company of various other cyclists riding old Moltons, Sunbeams, Raleighs, and such like (as well as a modern Pedersen which is something of a rarity). As well as going past the University of Bristol halls in Stoke Bishop down a path far too steep for rod brakes in wet weather (I *only* had a rear coaster brake which is technically illegal…) ; for a short stretch, we used a shared use pavement that was only barely satisfactory for a large group of cyclists, which I moaned about to a nice lady cyclist next to me, mentioning the illegality of the NCN route in Guildford. I then told her what I studied and asked her what she did. It turned out she worked for Sustrans (not a huge surprise considering this was in Bristol), and I then became somewhat apologetic about the Sustrans originated NCN and blamed the local council for not co-operating with them (which is probably true to a large extent).

    The point I wish to make is that if a transport planner were to submit the current road layout in Guildford as a piece of coursework for Architecture and Planning (my course) or Town and Country Planning, they would probably have to resubmit it the following year having completely redone it or else be thrown off the course. Also, Guildford High Street was part of the original route of the A3, the main trunk road between London and Portsmouth, before the bypass was built in the 1930s (originally single carriageway). Therefore, any argument that Guildford High Street is too narrow for contraflow cycling should be regarded as an example of cognitive dissonance.

  3. Mike says:

    Sustrans sadly lost the plot once the NCN was awarded the grant money. Up till then they had set high standards…

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