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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge Column - 23 May 2018 - Cycling

Over the past 20 years, the number of people owning a car has risen dramatically. This has of course brought some positives; often improving people’s independence, giving people in remote and rural places a life line, and making far flung places of the country more accessible. But at the same time, more cars has meant more problems. Vastly increased congestion, potholes, and air pollution are all now common place on any drive, and with the number of cars on the road increasing further, they’re not going away anytime soon. 

If we look to our friends in Europe, many cities are already embracing a car free world. Cycling is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to travel. Everyone knows Amsterdam as the cycling capital of Europe, but many other cities such as Copenhagen, Ghent, Strasbourg and Malmö, are quickly increasing the amount that they travel on two wheels, rather than four.

And we’re not far behind. Over recent years, the number of cyclists in the UK has slowly risen, but in London and other cities the number of cyclists has increased steeply thanks to the introduction of Boris Bikes and new cycle paths. Of course, reducing the carbon footprint is also one of the many benefits of cycling in London, and in summer it can be nicer than being stuck underground. 

While we sadly don’t have any Boris Bikes, we do have a brand new cycle path, and hopefully soon a few more. The weekend before last I attended the official opening of the A21 Pembury to Tonbridge Cycle Path, and even tried it out – it could have been tiring on what turned out to be a wet day, but I was kindly lent an electric bike which made it much easier! I wasn’t cycling alone, alongside Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, Cllr Michael Payne, Deputy Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste at Kent County Council, and lots of members from the fantastic Tonbridge Bicycle Users Group (TBUG), we set off from one town to the other. This new cycle route is a fantastic new addition to our local area and will no doubt make a big difference to people travelling to Pembury, and Knights Park. I know a lot of people have currently given it a go, and I would encourage everyone to visit the other cycle paths nearby too. 

You may well have heard the name TBUG popping up over the past couple of months. As the name suggests, they are a local cycling group who are encouraging safe cycling in Tonbridge and Malling; they want to reduce the number of polluting cars and congestions on our roads, in favour of a healthier lifestyle. It's a brilliant idea, created and run by some very hard work and dedicated local residents. They have some brilliant ideas for how to make Tonbridge more cycle friendly, and I look forward to meeting them in a few months to discuss how we can work together to get as many as possible out of their cars and on their bike - at least in the summer!  

Looking at alternative ways to travel is so important for the future, and cycling is a fantastic way to do this. Being so close to a number of large towns, Tonbridge has real potential for becoming a cycling hot spot and leading the way to a congestion free, environmentally friendly, healthier future. 


Georgie Welford