Friday, 7 December 2012

Shurdington: a typical English village

This blog is London-based, and so nearly all the cycling discussion on it is about London. I have often thought of, and intended to write, articles concerning more rural areas, but I never seem to get round to doing them, because other things happen, locally or nationally.

However, I was reminded of something when I read, through Twitter, on Wednesday, this very brief and sketchy news of the death of a cyclist in Shurdington, near Cheltenham:
A cyclist has died in hospital following a collision on the Shurdington Road in Cheltenham yesterday afternoon. 
The collision happened at approximately 3.05pm at the traffic light controlled crossing between Cotswold Van Hire and Shurdington Car Sales and involved a cyclist and a red mini. 
The cyclist, an 87-year-old local man, was taken by ambulance to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol but sadly passed away a few hours later.
This gentleman was probably the 115th cyclist to be killed on the roads of the UK this year. What I was reminded of was the fact that I visited Shurdington last year. I cycled there from Cheltenham Station, and I took a few pictures, with the idea of writing a blogpost about the standard UK rural or semi-rural  environment for cycling, and what needs to be learned from Dutch planning if we are ever to improve it. This sad death, though potentially unrelated to my points, brought this back to mind.

Shurdington is a village in the Cotswold Hills between Cheltenham and Gloucester, four miles from Cheletenham town centre. The only way to get to it from Cheltenham is on the A46. There is little more than a mile of green belt between the edge of the Cheltenham suburbs and the beginning of the village. Then there is only another mile of so of the A46 before you come to villages that are suburbs of Gloucester. The A46 is the only way to get there also. All this is so typical of so many villages in England: sandwiched between larger centres, preserved as marginally rural by the preservation of tracts of green gelt but part, in reality, of a much larger urban sprawl. Exactly the same could be said about most villages in the denser parts of the Netherlands. The overall population density is probably similar.

Map of Shurdington, from Google

Here is a Google Streetview picture of the location of the fatal crash, according to the report. It's where it says "Cheese Rollers Inn" on the map above, on the A46 towards the bottom of the map.

Since we have no information as to the causes of the crash, I will not comment further on it. The rest of this post consists of my pictures, and thoughts about Shurdington, based on my one-day's visit in Autumn 2011.

It's a nice enough village, with a very pointed church spire, a village green, and charming, almost traffic-free lanes (because they lead nowhere) that would be fine for cycling.

But what's wrong with Shurdington is the classic thing found in a thousand and one English villages: it has as it's spine, one straight, not very wide, heavily-trafficked through-road with narrow pavements: the A46. There's no other way to get anywhere,  and no alternatives for cyclists, walkers and horsesriders; there is no space for cycling, and absolutely nothing to physically slow traffic down, just "30" signs, "slow" signs, and red painted "slow" markings on the carriageway.

It's horrible to cycle on. The next picture includes the only other cyclists I spotted on my trip. The pavement is not officially "shared", but I cannot blame them for cycling on it.

In the village itself there are narrow footpaths on both sides of the road. But in the green mile between Shurdington and the outskirts of Cheltenham there is only a footpath on one side. These photos show the edge of the village, where you need to cross the road to continue on the other footpath, if you are walking into town. Note the space wasted by the centre hatching.

As can be seen, in the gap between the village and the town, there's space by the road to provide another footpath, or to provide a cycle path instead, but this is not done. In the village itself the properties are close to the road, and it would not be possible to create cycle paths.

The reaction of any English local authority to this deficiency of safe pace for cycling, if it considered it at all, and tried to remedy it, would almost certainly be the creation of shared-use pavements as defined in the 1980 Highways Act. In other words, it would just legalise, with signs, what the man and child on bikes in the picture above are doing. But this, the standard UK approach, the only one the government really empowers and encourages local authorities to adopt, would be the wrong approach.

For one thing, though not too bad on the fringes, where the man and child were when I took the photo, you would get issues in the village centre (where the crash occurred), with the many crossovers and other activities. For another thing, this would not  address the real issue: the untrammelled domination of the village by through-going motor traffic often, or perhaps usually, doing over the speed limit.

I visited Shurdington just after I had been on the study tour in Assen, in the Netherlands, run by David Hembrow, author of A view from the cycle path, with other members of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. It struck me as a salutory comparison to we had seen of the Dutch semi-rural environment on that tour: so typical of the UK, and so unsatisfactory by comparison. I've shown these pictures before, but here they are again, to make that comparison.

Here we have the road to Loon, a village near Assen. This road has far lower traffic than the A46, but, between the towns, where there is space, wide, excellent cycle paths are provided on both sides, well separated from the road. They could be walked on, but they are not engineered as pavements on which cyclists are allowed to ride (UK-style shared-use paths), they are engineered as cycle paths on which people are allowed to walk (or use low-powered mopeds, mobility scooters etc., a very important use of these paths, as Bicycledutch explains).

In Dutch villages, like English ones, often properties are too close to the road to allow separate cycle paths to be fitted in. The Dutch solution is not to give up, it is to control cars. Cyclists are re-introduced to the road, and they must share space with motor vehicles, but things are done differently in the Netherlands, and the effect on the perceived and absolute safety of cycling is very different.

The cycle path can be seen on the other side of the road here, at the point at which it enters the village of Loon. The cycle paths on both sides of the road are taken comfortably round the traffic-calming feature. Cyclists are integrated into the carriageway on the other side of this. The pinch-point, with considerable deflection, forces cars to slow down. The limit is 30kph, 18mph. The change in road surface, to the tiles, which make it slightly noisy and rough to drive a car at a greater speed, emphasises the change in the nature of the space. This contrasts with a road like the A46, which blasts through the village of Shurdington with almost no change in character between the inter-urban sections and the residential sections, and with nothing to make traffic to slow down other than optimistic signs, which even if they work will still allow traffic to travel at the excessive speed of 30mph.

The problem with making these sorts of comparisons, as we found in the Cycling Embassy group, is that British people will always say, of a place like Loon, "Well this is different, isn't it? This is not a comparable location. This is out of the way, and traffic levels are far lower here – you can't really compare it". It is very hard to compare, because four decades of radically different transport planning in the Netherlands has made everything different. There is far less traffic here, though this is a comparable village to Shurdington, in a comparable relationship to the towns of Assen and Groningen as that of Shurdington with Cheltenham and Gloucester, and this is is the comparable road to the A46 in the Assen/Loon context.

Why is there far less traffic here? It's in part because the alternatives to the car for local travel have been made accessible and attractive to all. It's also in part because the longer-distance traffic, between Assen and the other towns in the region, has been deflected onto other, bigger roads, by determined, systematic policy.

And here is the other part of the UK planning failure for rural roads. We have built the motorway and trunk-road alternatives, but we have kept the rat-runs open unaltered. The A46 is the old road between Cheltenham and Stroud. It should and could have been completely bypassed by the construction of the M5 motorway.

Traffic can get from Cheltenham to Stroud using the A40, the M5 and the A419. There is no reason to keep the old, narrow A46 through the villages of Shurdington, Coopers Hill and Painswick going as an alternative continuous through-route, with a minimum speed (not enforced) of 30mph. These villages could all be accessed by car through the grid of bigger roads. This is a fundamental difference between British and Dutch planning: the British usually allow a number of alternative through-routes between centres, and allow all the routes to fill up with traffic, no matter how unsuitable they may be, while providing no dedicated cycling alternatives. The Dutch both provide the alternatives and  restrict the motor through-traffic to the most appropriate routes, by means either of actual road closures, or re-engineering to change the character and attractiveness of the roads as through-routes, with lower, better-enforced speed limits.

It's a long way from the flatlands of the Netherlands to the rolling Cotswold hills, from the bricks of Assen and Loon to the honeyed sandstone of Cheltenham and Shurdington. There are fundamental differences in the land that mean that England will never be like the Netherlands. But there are psychological differences that are not so basic. With a long enough period of intelligent transport planning, I believe we could make cycling in the English countryside almost as attractive as cycling in the Dutch countryside – more so, if you like hills!

Quality cycling infrastructure, better planning, and a better general quality of our public built environment is desperately needed in English cities for the future health of our nation – but if there's one place it's even more needed, it's in the English countryside.

In case commenters are tempted to go down such roads, I'm not interested in pernickety debate about how big various settlements are, or in exact population densities, or how things in one place are not quite the same as in another for reasons people of a certain disposition are good at pointing out. Such debate will not invalidate the general points, so I will ignore it.


  1. Hi David,

    Thanks for posting this. I live in Cheltenham and travel this route (by car) every day, though rarely at rush hour on account of my shift work.

    This must be one of the most unpleasant roads in the area to cycle on. Much of it is just the 'right' width for motorists to try and squeeze past cyclists without slowing, despite oncoming traffic.

    Your comments on how the Dutch would treat this road made me think about my own use of it as a driver. Since the 'upgrading' of the A417 to the south, Shurdington Road seems to have become a primary access route to the M5 and the south/east sides of Gloucester. At rush hour it is horrendously busy. Incidentally, there used to be a 40mph limit here, but this was reduced over 10 years ago.

    The alternative route to the M5, Gloucester and Stroud (for me at least) would be via similar roads through the Hatherley area towards Jct.11. Not impossible, but I dread to think what this route would be like with all the A46 traffic on it as well!

    Shurdington Road still seems popular with cycle commuters, presumably because it allows a fairly direct route into Gloucester. This is despite having to contend with a major roundabout on the A417 junction. It could be a wonderful cycle commuting route if decent infrastructure was provided. That might also allow the residents of Shurdington to reach shops and schools in Cheltenham much more easily by bike.

    I'd love to see it happen, but the idea that bicycles can be used as transport for more than 1/2 a mile or so still seems unimaginable to our local authorities.

  2. Just a curious question from a curious dutchman: Do the people of Shurdington have anything to say about how this road looks like?

    Traffic calming and cutting of unnecessary through routes in the Netherlands is, as far as I know, usually done because the villages themselves ask for it. Not because of the bicycles (although it might play a role), but because of the general perceived safety and comfort in the village. If your children walk there, or if your house is next to the main road, you'd much rather have low volumes of slow traffic, than high volumes of fast cars whizzing by. Just ask for it next time the road is resurfaced... As soon as one village has these measurements, all others want them immediately; because it's slowing you down when it's not close to your home, but it's nice to have when it is, so villages tend to start playing tit-for-tat with speed bumps and such...

    Who owns these roads?

    1. Good question Jan. The County Council owns these roads. It does sometimes happen that villagers, through their residents associations or Parish Councils, lobby county councils to traffic-calm roads through their communities. The result, in the most successful cases, as well as markings on the road (which Shurdington does have) will be some kind of constriction or "gate" to the village (which will make things worse for cyclists as these gates do not have cycle bypasses).

      Traffic humps just are not used on "A" or "B" class roads in the UK. So far as I know there is nothing in law preventing it, but the emergency services tend to oppose suggestions of humps on roads that they define as their priority routes, and it is just not the "done thing" in the UK. It is difficult enough to get humps on small roads in towns and cities. You never get them on this type of road.

      "Ask for it the next time the road is resurfaced" sounds very sensible and Dutch, but again, that is not how it is done in the UK. On the rare occasions on which roads are resurfaced, they are put back as they were before. Projects to modify roads always seem to be scheduled separately. It sounds mad. It is mad.

      It would be hard to prove, but I just feel probably that Dutch people are much more concerned, engaged, and pro-active about this kind of thing. The British don't complain much about their environment. Most people are apathetic or believe nothing can be changed, or that there is no money to change anything (you see this on comments here). I think this is at the root of the big differences between the UK and NL.

  3. What effect does/should/could satnav have? I don't actually have it, but whenever I've borrowed one, or used google maps etc, it directs me in a "straight" line, often down winding country lanes (that I'd enjoy cycling on) or A/. I'd prefer to go as far as possible on a motorway/dual carriage way doing (if I'm honest) 80.

    Seems this is likely to get worse - anecdata alert - the narrow lane in the Cotswolds where my brother lives in frequently blocked by jackknifed lorries sent that way by satnavs.

    So "encouragement" Dutch style to go on main roads might not be enough. On a more optimistic note, maybe satnavs could do the job, encouraging people to go on the main roads?

  4. OK, so this probably won't get published as it sort of relates to population density , but here goes...

    Defeatist arguments about density seem to go two ways - either "we" (UK, New York, wherever) don't have space for cycle paths because we're so jam packed, OR cycling here (UK, US wherever) is different to NL because we travel so far compared to NL. Make your minds up.

  5. Thanks, David, for highlighting the plight of the semi-rural cyclist. You are right to point out the absurdity of the central cross-hatching. This has the effect of discouraging white van man from straying out of the lane when overtaking cyclists, which leads to some very uncomfortable, close calls.

    It's pretty unlikely that much will be done to address the situation. The cost of laying cycle lanes on the verges would run into millions of pounds – transport funding which isn't available. The best hope for improved cycling provision is a greater focus on provision in the suburbs – better routes for cyclists between their homes and amenities like shops, schools, doctors, libraries, churches, etc. within a three mile radius.

    1. Well this is funding that "is not available" because the DfT chooses not to make it available. Their budget is £13 billion. They could reallocate some of that to make a start on serious cycle infrastructure for rural areas. Local Authorities don't have the money at the moment, but this comes down to the discussion we were having on the previous thread about localism versus central government intervention. This is really why the Cycling Embassy was formed, and it is the focus of our activity (e.g. see the case we have just made do the APPCG enquiry). We formed the Embassy because we saw that local authorities are almost powerless, and we needed a national body to lobby the government for a reallocation of resources towards quality cycling infrastructure. It's a political question; as a nation we do have the money. The job is to win the argument that it is worth spending on this.

    2. In theory you're right. But with cycling currently accounting for 2% of the modal share, it's an impractically ambitious demand. We have a coalition government facing an election in 2015 and none of the main parties has much appetite for taking risks on what are perceived as peripheral policies. When we compare the UK with the Netherlands we are looking at the outcome of four decades of investment. Interconnecting bike routes between semi-rural settlements and towns/cities will be a natural consequence of making those larger settlements more cycling-friendly, as measured by higher modal shares.

      The way forward for cycling in the UK is to push at the open doors. The major cities are the areas of greatest opportunity. London always grabs more headlines, but there are signs of progress in the right direction in Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow. This year has given cycling a huge increase in momentum – the Times campaign has raised the issue of better infrastructure and the Olympics/Paralympics have boosted the public's motivation to cycle. As activists and campaigners, our priorities should be first to win the battle of persuasion with councils to upgrade the dangerous junctions in our city centres, secondly to make conditions on existing cycle routes more welcoming and hospitable for cyclists of all abilities and make cycle routes more convenient than any other mode and thirdly to get the same quality of provision for cycling in the suburbs.

    3. Seeing as politicians often have an extraordinary ability to squander huge amounts of cash on vanity projects (eg the Emirates Air Line, a cross river cable car in East London) that often form far less than 2% of all journeys in the area, I don't think that starting from a low base is that much of an issue in regards to finances. Nobody is using a guided bus in Bristol at the moment, and yet it was still proposed (although our new mayor wants to scrap the scheme).

      Having said that, the Cycle Superhypeways *are* vanity projects in the sense that they cost too much and are of doubtful quality. in London we already have a few cycling schemes where money is being chucked around, the challenge is to make sure that the actual design and implementation improves and that this can be spread out nationwide outside the obvious locations to places like, say, Middlesbrough or Liverpool.

    4. @azor_rider - interesting comment, but I couldn't disagree more when you say that our first two priorities should be cities, and our third priority should be suburbs. There are wins to be had all over Britain, in rural and urban areas both.

      Here on the other (Oxfordshire) side of the Cotswolds, we suffer many of the same conditions that David has noted in Shurdington. But it doesn't necessarily take a million pounds to make a difference. The single best thing that could be done to encourage utility cycling in our area is under a mile of new cycle path along the busy, twisting rural A road - not that different from the A46 mentioned here - from Bladon village to Hanborough railway station. Hanborough is the fastest-growing station on the fastest-growing line in the West of England. The county council and railway company's response has been to purchase land for, and build, a new car park. Fine, but the new car park at Charlbury, one stop up the line, is already full after just a month. At some point, even here in a rural area, it becomes a necessity for cycling to enter the equation: there simply is no other option.

      Looking more widely, there is huge untapped potential in "orbital" towns/villages; rural settlements with a strong attachment to a parent city. Eynsham to Oxford, Wellesbourne to Warwick, Highworth to Swindon. All of these already have numerous cycle commuters despite (in each case) truly terrible A-road connections, but could have so many more. Even standard-issue shared-use paths here would be transformational.

      Boris spending money on cycling in London doesn't preclude Gloucestershire or Oxfordshire county councils spending money on cycling in rural areas. We can have both, and we should.

  6. An interesting choice of road, and, unfortunately, not unique in Gloucestershire. Not, in my opinion, the worst one either (alas). The main routes from Stroud to Gloucester are in a similar state for much of the way. Stroud has quite a lot of cyclists despite the hilly Cotswold terrain, and this is an obvious cycle commute route: the journey to Gloucester varies from 8 to 12 miles depending on the route taken, which is a reasonable commuting distance offering an advantage over the rush-hour queues of traffic. However, the roads are so offputting that yet again only the sportiest, most risk-proof riders seem to make the journey regularly.

    We have another problem that perhaps isn't quite so pressing in the Netherlands: hilly areas with narrow winding roads, often with restrictions on overtaking. Thus, if cyclists brave the main roads they risk huge driver frustration as cars are held up behind slowly-ascending cyclists on steep hills, and incredibly risky overtaking as drivers lose patience and go for it despite the restrictions. I generally do what I used to do when I had the misfortune to be towing a caravan: pull in at suitable places to let people get past. But the absence of pavement for many of these roads doesn't help; often there are no such places.

    What Azor_rider describes as the semi-rural cyclist is, I guess, the situation for many commuters. The fact that people living quite close to towns can't *walk* in either (no continuous footpath, or else not maintained) just adds to the problems. I'm very impressed by the Dutch approach to village traffic management, but a wholesale change to a similar system here would be incredibly expensive. I wonder if perhaps some dedicated cycle routes (e.g. some of the quiet rural roads) with clear priority for cyclists and appropriate signage to join them to cycle paths in built-up areas, might be worth a try, esp. if a few judicious short cuts were added to ease the extra length this would add to journeys. Controls on speed and priority would simultaneously benefit local residents and farmers needing access, both of whom get seriously inconvenienced by rat-run drivers. Without using dedicated/re-prioritised separate routes, or shelling out a fortune to create new ones, it's hard to think of ways round the problem without causing even more frustration.

  7. Here where I live, our city road officers put the central hatching in because "it slows traffic speed on urban roads". As somebody else has pointed out it also brings the cars nearer the cyclist because the motorists try to avoid crossing the hatching even though its broken line nature allows you to cross it.

    Any changes here are going to require a massive re-education of the road officers in councils up and down the land.

    1. There has been research done showing the exact opposite - the central hatching separates traffic from the vehicles approaching in the other direction and so makes drivers feel safer (from collisions) and hence drive faster.

      It's removing road markings that generally slows drivers (that's not to say that the Exhibition Road shared-space project was implemented well)

  8. Excellent post David!
    As you say, this is a problem of culture; and culture changes very slowly.
    There is a complete lack of courage in this country, to do the right things. Only if there is a major disaster, authorities are willing to do something radical and tragically the drip, drip nature of the slaughter of cyclists and pedestrians doesn't register as a disaster.
    The only hope is if some enlightened Local Authority starts to do things differently, and its success then spreads.

  9. Interesting as ever.

    We have a an ancient village which is like a frontier between the edge of London and the next county. The village is stretched along a couple of miles with a single classified road through it and so takes lots of traffic - I reckon many people commuting from the rural fringes of the county into London - i.e. most is non local and long-distance.

    The trouble is that there is no parallel road for the traffic and the only diversion would put traffic through other villages in the county area. Traffic calming has been tried and tweaked, but never satisfactory and so how do we reduce the traffic make the area better for the villagers and indeed cyclists who flock to the area for leisure. Can't see any money for a bypass soon.

  10. It is an interesting question to ask what would happen if the residents of a village spoke out about what they want. We don’t have much of a track record of local people lobbying for local issues, as David observes, and that might well be because people don’t believe, often on the basis of experience, that the local government will take any notice. Whether the new concept of “localism” will change that remains to be seen. In my town, frankly I doubt it – so far it is well set to be sewn up by the usual cabal of local worthies, the chamber of trade and a couple of conservation societies, with any deviant views expressed by the man in the street being quietly ignored.

    And in any case, I am not entirely sure that meeting local demands is always a good idea. The demands which get heard in local government are those of the noisiest and most strident lobbyist groups. In my town for example, that means the local parking action group, which is an unholy alliance between small shopkeepers and a handful of local residents who have bought houses without front yards or garages and who then seem surprised and outraged when they find that the cars which they already own might not be conveniently accommodated on nearby streets, for example because they cause an obstruction or interfere with the rights of more immediate residents. The shopkeepers, for their part, cling like members of the flat-earth society to the notion that control of, or charging for, on-street parking will do irreparable damage to their businesses when in fact the real existential threats they face are like anywhere else – predatory competition from chainstores, rapacious landlords or – you guessed it – a high street environment which is deeply unattractive because it is dominated by cars.

    Like others here, I suspect that the development of a proper cycle infrastructure will need to be led by action in the big cities, starting with London. This is partly for the obvious reasons about population density and traffic congestion, large numbers of potential cyclists and relatively short average journeys etc. It is also because big cities are generally run by professional politicians. Say what you will about Boris Johnson, he is a professional, with Westminster experience and a fairly developed political philosophy. He, and his GLA members, are paid to be, substantially, full-time employees of their electorate. So far his policy on cycling and roads issues generally has been disappointing, but he is at least someone who one might bring around with evidence and logical argument to a position which he knows will inevitably offend some of the powerful interests he has to deal with. I would expect the same of other full time paid mayors, where they exist, notably in Bristol where the new Mayor is a former Sustrans staffer.

    At shire county level, where roads are managed, or at borough level, where offroad provision would likely be provided, it is entirely different. Most local and county councillors are amateurs. A great proportion of them are retired which is good in that they have time for the role but bad in that they do not truly represent their electorate which is largely much younger, and there is a distinct generational divide between the baby-boomers and their successors. They are likely to have little interest in bcycles and a great deal of interest in cars – see the Sunday Times feature today on changes in spending habits by age band which shows spending on cars declining or stagnating up to about 35 and increasing dramatically above 65.

    As amateurs, their views and policies are less likely to be informed or trained, and they are much more likely to be influenced by dog-whistle politics – and the whistle is being blown mainly by older people, again because younger ones are too busy working to make ends meet.

    The result is that while my town is not actively cycle-hostile – thanks to its historic settlement plan and to the georgraphy rather than to anything donws by the council – it is anything but cycle friendly.

  11. Parking. Hmmm, might be a subject of a blog...

    Age profile of councillors is interesting. In my part of London, we have quite a lot of retired people and a few middle-aged "professional" councillors. But, there is quite a few younger ones coming through and they are getting cabinet positions. You do find that some younger ones are interested in cycling, so perhaps things will change?

    The trouble when asking people what they want, the questions tend to be leading. In a recent "spring clean" survey, dog poo came out as the biggest concern, but the age profile was distinctly "older" and with the highest response from a ward noted for quite an ageing population (I bit generalistic I know).

    The survey has spawned an anti dog-mess campaign and loads of new bins (amongst other things) and £250k has been shifted out of the highway maintenance budget to fund this work (and there are no more people to empty the bins).

    Put this against another more comprehensive survey undertaken last year (about all services)and "safe roads and footpaths" and "congestion" come out at position 1 and 2 - seems like dog poo is the soft option (pun intended!)

  12. Thanks for the comparison with Loon near Assen. Some as you say, may point out that the road through Loon is much less important than the A46, and they'd be right, but they'd also be wrong.

    I reckon that road used to be just as important as the A46, for it's the only direct historic route out of Assen in a NE direction, leading to Annen and Veendam (which is about as big as Stroud). That old road is no longer important because the Dutch have built two entirely new main roads in that area: the N33 and the N34. These roads are unlike anything in UK short of a motorway. Both are on entirely new alignments that leave existing roads intact. The N33 goes 70km all the way to the North Sea whilst the N34 provides a 50km link between the A28 and A34 motorways.

    The nearest roads in a Cheltenham and Stroud context are the A417 and A419. But apart from bits, these are not on new alignments. They are the usual British fudge, pieced together out of bypasses and interrupted by roundabouts, so that the old road is completely spoiled for slower local traffic and neither is the 'improvement' entirely satisfactory for through traffic. The A417 isn't bad actually. Some stretches even have a half-decent cyclepath! But the A419 surely satisfies nobody - not until it's joined by the A417 near Cirencester.

    And look at Cheltenham itself: a bigger town than Assen, but with no ring road! So all the people who live on the SW side of Cheltenham and want to go to Stroud will of course take the A46 through Shurdington. For even if they ultimately intend to reach Stroud via the M5 and A419, lacking a ring road to channel them into junction 11, they'll go to 11A via the A46.

    Compare any comparable parts of UK and NL and you'll find more new-alignment roads in the latter as well as more cycle paths. They can narrow old roads to make room for those paths because they've built enough new ones.

    But I don't really want a lot more new roads in UK and don't suppose that's even on the cards. Instead we shall just have to wait for traffic to reduce. Apparently it's happening already. Peak car was 2006 so I read. Unfortunately the process is rather slow. Things should happen quicker once our debts become unservicable and the economy goes into freefall!