We are close to securing the extension of the Honeybourne Line, to help boost walking and cycling in Cheltenham.
If we’re going to tackle the twin crises of public health and the climate emergency, active travel will be at the core of what we must do. Reliance on car use for short trips encourages inactive lifestyles, which leads to obesity, reduced muscle mass and chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma. Cars are also polluting and even electric vehicles consume energy – much of which is still sadly being produced by fossil fuels.
Locally, there are things we can do. But we know that people need support to switch away from cars and some of that support needs to come in the form of better infrastructure.
Cheltenham Borough Council’s Connecting Cheltenham report sets out our ambitions for not just people friendly streets and cycle paths, but much more besides. It’s positive to see Gloucestershire County Council making strides with cycle infrastructure – some of it in line with our aims. I’m pleased to say that a key part of this is starting to come together with the long-awaited extension of the Honeybourne Line.
I’ve signed off on a plan for the Borough Council to manage the extension between the railway station and Shelburne Road – a desire of local campaigners for almost as long as I’ve been alive! Sometimes these things seem simple, but this project involves the Borough Council (which put the link on the agenda years ago), the County Council, the LEP, GWR and Network Rail. We are finally almost there.
And it’s important that we do get there. The alarming stats show that somewhere around 70 per cent of car journeys here are shorter than 2km. Of course, not everyone can drop the car for 2km journeys. Some people simply can’t move that far under their own steam and nobody would seek to bully anyone in a vulnerable position. But for the vast majority walking or cycling that 2km instead of driving will make us happier, healthier and more productive at work. And for the shopkeepers there’s good news too – people who walk or cycle are more likely to visit local shops more often.
This is one small link. We need more, but we’re heading in the right direction.
- Councillor Max Wilkinson, Cabinet member for the Climate Emergency