A26 Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells Cycle Route – Consultation Report


The Tunbridge Wells Borough Cycling Strategy, adopted in March 2016, identifies the A26 between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells town centres as a priority cycling route. The route benefits from some separatecycle lanes at presentbut this requires further improvement to provide a higher quality route and encourage more cycling.

The proposed designs for the route were published for a six-week consultation beginning on7 November to 18 December 2016. The consultation feedback and updated proposals were also considered by the Tunbridge Wells Joint Transportation Board.

The consultation feedback showed significant support for the proposals and key comments made by respondents are included in this report, along with clarifications and response from Kent County Council(KCC) and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC).

The responses to the consultation, summarised in this report, have been considered by KCC before reaching any decision on implementing the proposals.


The Cycling Strategyand proposed A26 route improvements link to TWBC’s Five Year Plan including:

Objectives -‘A Prosperous Borough’ and ‘A Green Borough’

2.4 Challenges -“Addressing transport congestion: improvements to our local network and alleviating traffic congestion are crucial in order to encourage growth and improve ease of accessibility to Tunbridge Wells”.

6.3.3 A26 (Southborough & London Road) - Next Steps: “Work with Kent Highways Services to implement proposals put forward in the draft Transport Strategy to further ease traffic congestion in the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells and secure funding from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership”.

In addition the proposed A26 route links to Kent County Council’s Active Travel Strategywhich hasthe following aim:

‘to make active travel an attractive and realistic choice for short journeys in Kent. By developing and promoting accessible, safer and well-planned active travel opportunities, this Strategy will help to establish Kent as a pioneering county for active travel.’

TWBC adopted its new Cycling Strategy in March 2016. The Strategy encourages active travel and identifies the shared commitment of TWBC and KCC to provide an enhanced cycle route network. It acknowledges that levels of cycling in Tunbridge Wells are relatively low at present, and that whilst the Borough has some cycle routes that link Royal Tunbridge Wells town centre to suburban areas, these are either incomplete or require further enhancement.

The Cycling Strategy identifies a network of routes within the urban areas of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Southborough, Paddock Wood and Cranbrook which require implementation and/or improvement. These are set out in priority order. Route 1 - Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells town centres via the A26 is the highest priority as it is an inter-urban corridor that connects Royal Tunbridge Wells town centre with Southborough, other prominent residential communities and secondary schools. Once complete it is hoped that the route will link with Route 8 - A26 London Road to Dowding Way via Barnetts Wood as well as Route 5 – 21st Century Way.


The A26 is a main inter-urban road that is subject to heavy traffic flows, especially at peak times.

Much of the route is also a designated Air Quality Management Area. A solution is required to encourage more cycling use along the route which would contribute towards congestion relief, improvements in air quality and health.

The scheme proposed improvements of the existing cycle route, between Tonbridge (Brook Street junction) and Tunbridge Wells (Grosvenor Road junction). The original plans can be viewed on our website

The scheme has been split in to three sections / phases:

  • Proposal 1 (phase 1) – Grosvenor Road to Yew Tree Road
  • Proposal 2 (phase 2) – Yew Tree Road to Bidborough Ridge
  • Proposal3 (phase 3) –Bidborough Ridge to Brook Street


The six week consultation ran from 7 November until 18 December 2016.

The consultation included a number of elements as follows:

  • Publication of the route proposals on the KCC Consultation Portal along with a questionnaire for people to provide feedback.
  • Two drop-in evenings held at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys on 14 and 28 November between 5pm and 8pm attended by TWBC officers and consultants DHA Planning.Approximately 40 people attended the first drop-in and over 50 people forthe second.
  • Promotion of the consultation via social media.
  • Leaflet drop to all properties (residential and business) along the A26 between Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells town centres – with details of the events and the online questionnaire.
  • Signs on lamp columns along the A26 to inform about the consultation.
  • Direct mail-out to relevant bus companies and discussionswith Arriva at the Quality Bus Partnership meeting.
  • Direct mail-out to local schools.
  • Officer attendance at meeting of the Tunbridge Wells Access Group.
  • Direct email to relevant contacts that have expressed an interest in the project.


A total of 212 people and organisations responded to the consultation via the online or paper questionnaire. Of these82% were local residents.

Overall the majority of people that responded either strongly agree or agree with the proposed route designs at 67%. This compareswith24% of respondents that either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the proposals and 9% that neither agreed nor disagreed.

There is a substantial level of support for the scheme amongst the respondents, but the consultation also raised a number of issues/concerns and these are set out in the table below with a response to each:

Issue / Response
The proposals will create more congestion on the route / The intention of the scheme is to encourage more cycling and reduce the overall number of car journeys on the A26. The proposals do not significantly reduce junction or link capacity and will therefore have a negligible impact on motorist’s journey times.
Concern about removal of bus lane on Southborough / This concern is understood. However, removal of the bus lane is required to provide a cycle lane northbound on this uphill part of the route (where cyclists are vulnerable). This is a very short stretch of bus lane and therefore has a limited impact on the overall journey timesfor buses along the A26. It is not the intention to remove other longer stretches of bus lane that provide greater benefits to buses.
Concern about 20mph restriction in Southborough / There is no opportunity to provide cycle lanes through Southborough due to the width of the carriageway, therefore a speed reduction scheme is proposed to provide safer conditions for cyclists.
Lack of physical separation for additional safety / This has been considered carefully but it is not possible to provide physical separation on the route. This is due to the width and character of the road but would also add significantly to the cost of the scheme.
No cycling infrastructure provided between the Hand & Sceptre and Mabledon / This has been considered carefully.Unfortunately, there is no opportunity to provide cycle lanes on this stretch of the A26 due to the width of the road. A scheme to widen the road or provide a shared pedestrian/cycle route on the eastern side of the road would be cost prohibitive at present due to the significant change in levels and the proximity of private property boundaries. This does not mean that this could not be re-visited in the future if significant funding became available.
Removal of parking bays between Beltring Road and Southfields Road in St Johns / Concern about this aspect of the proposal is understood. However, removal of these bays is required to provide a continuous lane along this section of the route. The presence of on-street residents parking isunusual and not appropriate on a strategic route such as the A26.

Further consultation feedback and the relevant responses are included as Appendix A to this report.


An Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) was carried out as part of the development of our proposals. The EqIA provides a process to help us to understand how the proposals may affect people based on their protected characteristics (age, disability, gender, gender identity, race, religion/belief or none, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership and carer’s responsibilities).

TheEqIA was available as one of the consultation documents and was used to help shape the consultation process.

Analysis of the questionnairehas been undertakento identify any other issues that would impact a particular protected characteristic group. However, this did not highlight any additional impacts that had not yet been identified in the EqIA.


Following consideration of the consultation responses, feedback from Tunbridge Wells Joint Transport Board and further engagement with key stakeholders the decision has been taken to proceed with phasesone and three and a small section of phase two.Revised plans are available to view on our website or on request.

Phase one, which covers Grosvenor Road to Speldurst Road will proceed as proposed.

On six of the side junctions we will be introducing slight ramps otherwise known as ‘table tops’ to slow traffic as it approaches the

A26. We are changing the material type from the proposed grey block paved to a red asphalt surface. Along the length of the cycle route KCC have decided to also apply light segregation as shown on the revised plan.

Subject to a statutory consultation on the traffic regulation orders, we are aiming to start constructing this phase of the scheme in May 2018 and for it to be completed by August 2018.

The Public Notice for the traffic regulation orders statutory consultation will take place in February. More information can be found on

Phase two between Yew Tree Road to between Victoria Road will not be built at present due to the amount of construction work taking place in the area. We will only be introducing a small section of phase two, the installation of cycle lanes on the A26 from junctions with Pennington Roadand Church Road.

Phase three between Birchwood Ave, Tunbridge Wells and Brook Street, Tonbridge will see the construction of a shared pedestrian/cycle route as proposed. This will provide a safe route for cyclists and improved foot path for pedestrians.

Since the consultation KCC are proposing to incorporate an additional length of shared surface cycle route and footpath along the A26 from junction with Birchwood Ave to Marbledonby widening the existing footpath.

This proposal will be subject to consultation launching on 12 February when the plans will be available for feedback on our website


Issue raised in consultation / Response from TWBC/KCC
1 / No infrastructure proposed between Hand & Sceptre and Southborough / The section of the A26 north of Southborough Common is typically 8m wide. A 10m minimum width is required for two 2m cycle lanes and two 3m general traffic lanes. 2m wide cycle lanes are required on this stretch because of the higher traffic speeds in this location. At present any scheme that widened the road to allow cycle lanes on either side or provided a shared pedestrian/cycle route on the pavement would be cost prohibitive, due to the significant change in levels on the eastern side of the road and the proximity of private property boundaries. This does not mean that this could not be re-visited in the future if significant funding became available.
2 / Not a continuous cycle lane and not wide enough for more than one bike / The proposals provide for a cycle lane wherever possible between Tonbridge & Tunbridge Wells. Wherever there is space the lane is mandatory (i.e. a minimum of 1.5 metres wide and shown by a solid white line). It is not possible to provide lanes that are wide enough for more than one bike.
3 / Design of floating bus stops: conflicts with pedestrians and will cause more traffic congestion (and pollution) / The proposals follow suitable design guidelines and will also be the subject of an independent Road Safety Audit. It is considered that the proposed bus stop by-passes will have a negligible impact on overall journey times for motorists. They have been implemented successfully in London and Brighton in recent years.
4 / The proposed scheme is a waste of money – there are not many cyclists / The consultation on the Cycling Strategy identified the most prominent reasons why respondents don’t travel by bicycle at present. These include concerns of road safety (34%) and lack of dedicated routes (29%). The Strategy seeks to address these matters through its actions and route proposals. The aim of this scheme is to improve the cycle route to encourage more people to use a bike for appropriate journeys. Part of the funding for the proposed scheme will come from an under-spend on the recent signalisation scheme on the A26 at Yew Tree Road/Speldhurst Road and needs to be spent in the financial year 2017/18. The money could be lost from the Borough otherwise.
5 / Physical segregation is required to keep cyclists and motorists apart and to stop drifting into lane by cars / This issue has been considered carefully but unfortunately it is not possible to provide physical segregation on the route. This is due to the width and character of the A26 which is a busy route for a variety of modes. It has lots of pedestrians both along the pavements and on crossings and also requires motorists to be able to access the many side roads and adjacent property, as well as buses to access bus stops. Physical segregation would therefore be impractical and would also increase the cost of the scheme significantly due to the need to provide new drainage infrastructure – this would involve both additional construction cost and increased on-going maintenance costs.
6 / This is an anti-car initiative / This is not an anti-car initiative. The Council works hard to try and get improvements to the road network to reduce congestion for motorists where this is possible (e.g. the recent A26 Yew Tree Road / Speldhurst Road signalisation scheme, Longfield Road at North Farm and the A21 dualling between Tonbridge and Pembury). However, a corridor study has been undertaken for the A26 which shows that there are no further deliverable options that would significantly increase capacity for motorists. Therefore there is a need to explore other options that could reduce the number of cars on the road to the benefit of all. This will also have a positive impact on air quality along the corridor. It is considered that the proposals that are being put forward will have a negligible impact on motorist’s journey times along the A26, as they do not significantly reduce junction or link capacity.
8 / Can the pavement be used by both pedestrians and cyclists / Shared use paths should be a minimum of 2.5 metres wide (and ideally 3.0 metres wide) to allow pedestrians and cyclists to pass safely. There is not room on the pavement to accommodate this along the majority of the A26.
9 / The proposed 20mph speed limit through Southborough will not be enforced / There is no opportunity to provide a cycle lane through Southborough owing to the narrower carriageway in this location. Therefore a speed reduction is being proposed to provide safer conditions for cyclists. 20mph schemes are being introduced across the country with success using just lining and signs in appropriate locations to signal slower speeds.
10 / What is being done to control development/population along the A26 which is adding to the number of cars / Development is controlled via the planning process. The Local Plan sets out locations for growth and the new infrastructure that is required to cater for this growth. The Development Management process (decisions on planning applications ) includes a consideration of the traffic implications of new development and secures mitigation where appropriate. This regularly includes measures to encourage the uptake of walking, cycling and public transport.
11 / Allow motorcycles to use the cycle lanes also / It is not appropriate for motorcycles to use the cycle lane.
12 / Need to ensure there are adequate parking facilities for bikes within the town centre / Agreed. New cycle parking has been introduced recently as part of the Fiveways improvements and also a new 2 tier cycle rack at Tunbridge Wells station. The Council will seek opportunities to introduce more cycle parking as further works on the public realm progress in the town centre and as new developments come forward through the planning process. The Council will also encourage businesses to provide cycle parking for their employees.
13 / Cyclists cause more air pollution by creating congestion / The proposals are aimed at encouraging more cycling and reducing the number of cars on the road which will be beneficial for air quality. It is not considered that they will create additional congestion on the route.
14 / The scheme is not enough to encourage parents to let their children cycle to school / Parents will need to decide if they are happy for their children to cycle along the proposed route. It is not possible to create a completely traffic free facility along the A26.
15 / Raised block paving not necessary and could be dangerous for vulnerable pedestrians / Raised block paving encourages motorists to slow down at side road junctions with the main road, to reduce the risk of conflict with pedestrians and cyclists. They are not considered to be dangerous for pedestrians and the scheme will be subject to an independent Road Safety Audit to ensure that this is the case. These features have been installed successfully in many other UK towns and cities.
16 / Better to have cycle lanes away from the main traffic routes / It is generally recognised that the majority of cyclists want to use the most direct route possible – particularly for utility cycling (e.g. commuting or shopping). There are no obvious routes via side roads that would not mean additional distance travelled and many of the side roads are congested and/or are heavily parked making them also quite difficult for cyclists to negotiate.
17 / Ensure enough signage to make motorists aware of cyclists / One of the key aspects of the proposal is that the cycle routes will be a different colour to the general traffic lanes. This will give a significant visual cue to motorists that there are likely to be cyclists present. In addition, signs will be placed at key locations along the route to inform motorists that there are cycle routes and to prevent inappropriate parking, although partners are mindful of the need to reduce unnecessary signage clutter wherever possible.
18 / Objection to removal of parking on A26 in St Johns area (between Beltring Road and Southfields Road) / Concern about this aspect of the proposal is understood. However, there is a need to remove the parking here to improve the safety for cyclists and provide a continuous lane. The number of spaces to be removed is small (approximately 5). The provision of on-street parking is unusual in this location and is not appropriate on a strategic route such as the A26.
19 / Removal of the bus lane penalises bus operators and customers / It is proposed to remove a very short section of bus lane adjacent to Southborough Common in order to accommodate a cycle lane northbound in the same location. As this section of road is up hill, cyclists are particularly vulnerable here and currently have no dedicated provision. Observational surveys undertaken at this location suggest that the impact on the overall journey time for the buses will be very limited. There is no intention to remove bus lanes in other locations and TWBC is keen to support bus services across the Borough. Indeed, along other sections of the route, it is proposed to increase the duration of bus lane operation from 12 to 24 hours a day.
20 / A whole network of routes is needed to encourage more cycling / The Tunbridge Wells Cycling Strategy sets out a network of routes and the Borough Council and its partners (e.g. KCC) will continue to seek funding to implement these routes. Indeed, design work on the 21st Century Way route, between the town centre and North Farm, is progressing at present and a public consultation exercise is planned in early 2017.
21 / Will the cycle routes be maintained adequately / KCC will maintain the cycle routes.
22 / Do the proposals meet the highest design standards / The following design standards/guidelines have been utilised in developing the proposals:
-Local Transport Note 2/08 – Cycle Infrastructure Design
-London Cycling Design Standards
-Sustrans Design Manual – Handbook for cycle-friendly design
Interim Advice Note 195/16 Cycle Traffic And The Strategic Road Network has also been checked for any design updates.