Getting Around in Maidenhead

local concerns in a word cloud

The results of MNF’s latest survey – Getting Around in Maidenhead – are now available.

368 people responded and 176 left detailed comments – thank you.  I’ve provided a few comments about the results in this post, but local mobility is a large subject and we will return to the data in future as the neighbourhood plan work develops.

Soundings

We call these surveys “soundings”.  They’re indicative of the public mood but it cannot be claimed the respondents are perfectly representative. Inevitably, it is the civic-minded, the angry or the less-busy who take part, and there is no way of reaching the people who will move to Maidenhead in future years to live in 8,000 new dwellings.  But you’ll see that the range of people reached and the opinions expressed are quite diverse, and there is no-one else – the Borough, other civic groups, campaigners – doing soundings as carefully and dispassionately as MNF.  The survey results are all reviewed for unconscious bias before publication.

Do they make a difference? I think they do in a number of ways, particularly as the response rates approach 1% of the town's adult population. Good councillors listen but it is hard to make sense of the cacophony without the structure and focus that these surveys offer.  They help MNF to build its mandate - to produce the neighbourhood plan and the other things the public may wish us to do.

Mobility today

One key message is that Maidenhead has serious issues with mobility today. Town centre parking is difficult and recent changes to the road layout are not viewed positively. There is a lack of viable alternatives because the buses are slow and infrequent, cycling has too many impediments and walking is not viable for some far-flung estates.

Today, 62% of people with cars rarely park in town.  Is that good? Or is it symptomatic that the challenges of driving and parking weaken the town centre offer. People fully expect electric vehicles to become part of the transport mix, perhaps quite quickly, but there is low support for giving up cars altogether, via car clubs, taxis and more buses.  There is little evidence that demand for town centre parking will decline as we de-carbonise.

The town’s population is likely to grow 45% by 2032 and regeneration of the town centre will require some careful sequencing of schemes to even maintain current levels of accessibility. The survey finds that Maidonians have an average 1.7 cars per household, with the flat dwellers amongst them averaging 0.7. Yet developers are assuming much lower provision for residents’ parking will be possible.  The Borough aims to offer “no net loss” of visitor parking during the regeneration works, but that doesn’t address current perceived constraints or rising demand from a growing population.

One paradox is that it would be better for the climate change agenda to encourage driving into Maidenhead in place of driving to more-distant towns, but less good for the anti-pollution agenda.

Cycling

A second key message is that there is a pent-up demand to be able to cycle.  Cycle usage is very low, and Maidenhead is hillier than Cambridge or Amsterdam, but perhaps by giving people a viable choice of modes, that is the carrot to roll back on car usage and the need for parking.  The road layout is unfriendly, with cycle-hostile underpasses, an unsafe ring-road, lack of separate lanes, too few cycle-racks, recurring problems with theft.

Buses

Recently released data has rural Rutland overhauling RBWM to leave us the lowest local authority area in England at 9.3 journeys per head,  and declining faster than all but two.  The geography of the town is not ideal for buses, there are no bus priority measures and meandering routes make the services uncompetitive time-wise.  Yet people say they would use them more if they were more frequent.

Next steps

MNF is still pending designation to prepare the neighbourhood plan with a decision from RBWM imminent. In the meantime, please comment on our social media posts. To read all the comments captured by the survey, please go to the separate Appendix.

Maidenhead Advertiser report

Maidenhead Advertiser 30th January 2020