LETTER: Walking and cycling paths help reduce number of cars on the road

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In response to last week’s letter complaining about the roadworks for the new cycle path to the station, can I add a different view.

I really welcome the building of a new off-road link which will allow families and residents to walk and cycle safely from the train station all the way to Somersall, and eventually to the Peak District. 
This missing link, which is being funded partly out of Government funds, will link up with the already well used Hipper Trail that runs through Queen’s Park and behind Ravenside Retail Park.

Many surveys have shown the overwhelming support for off-road walking and cycling paths like this – the latest survey shows that 75 per cent of the public, albeit a silent majority, want government to invest more in making cyclists safer. Many people would like to cycle, or would like their children to cycle, but are too afraid of traffic on our busy roads. For example the school run is a major cause of congestion with one in five cars on the road during morning peak traffic taking children to school. This is despite the fact that the average primary school journey is less than one and a half miles, which is a distance easily manageable on foot or by bike by many pupils. Many more parents would let their children walk or cycle to school if it could be made safer. No-one wants traffic gridlock but by providing safe and pleasant cycle routes we can get more cars off the road which is better for everyone.

Many people, including those writing in to your paper, have a common misperception about cyclists not paying ‘road tax’. Road tax, a ringfenced pot of cash raised by motorists to be spent on roads was actually abolished in 1937. Then-Chancellor Winston Churchill, who opposed it, predicted: ‘It will be only a step from this for (motorists) to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created.’

Instead we now have vehicle excise duty (VED) which is graded according to how much carbon dioxide a vehicle produces.

Those vehicles producing no carbon dioxide, eg electric cars pay no duty at all, which is only fair, given the catastrophic consequences of climate change. Motor vehicles are also responsible for huge health costs associated with air pollution, casualties etc. Parts of Chesterfield are currently exceeding safe health limits for air pollution. Incidentally most cyclists are also drivers, so will in practice be contributing towards VED.

So despite the temporary disruption of traffic I really look forward to when this new walking and cycling link to the station is open and think this will be a great asset for Chesterfield.

L. Hopkinson