OPINION

Changes to Valley Gardens will be good for cyclists and pedestrians- now let’s get on with it

Posted On 31 Jan 2019 at 11:51 am

The Valley Gardens project offers an opportunity to better connect many central green spaces with their surroundings and to create a more pleasant city centre.

At present, many of these areas feel cut off and are little used by residents or visitors unless there is an event on.

The project will vastly improve things for people who want to walk and cycle and for the first time connect Lewes Road with the seafront cycle lane.

This could have a transformational impact on cycling in the city. With the upsurge in cycling over the past couple of decades and the popularity of Brighton Bike Share, there is an urgent need to complete this missing link.

Pedestrians currently suffer narrow pavements, staggered crossings and miles of railings making the area feel unwelcoming.

The new plans sweep away many of these restrictions, with new paths and crossings where people need them.

People will also benefit from new public areas around the Old Steine and in front of the Palace Pier, including a wider promenade which becomes very congested, even in the winter.

Buses will see improvements with new priority areas and there will be a new stop near the King and Queen pub to provide better access into the North Laine for the library and Prince Regent swimming pool.

However, there are concerns that the scheme doesn’t do enough for them. This is a difficult one to resolve.

The current layout may not be perfect but the issue is the amount of available space. With the need to provide two road traffic lanes in each direction, this limits what can be done.

Fundamentally, there are too many cars, and cars are the least efficient way of moving people around a city in terms of the space they require.

As with all change some people are unhappy, claiming phase 3 of the plans will harm tourism, threaten people’s health and increase congestion.

However, many of these concerns are unfounded. Ever since I’ve lived here, tourism bosses have predicted the impending collapse of the city economy every time some minor restriction on cars was made. Nearly 30 years on and the city is in rude health and still functioning.

On air pollution, we’re not convinced the scheme will make things worse overall, especially as buses and cars get cleaner. In any case, enabling more people to walk and cycle will bring many positive health benefits.

The revised preliminary plans for Valley Gardens phase 3

While congestion may get marginally worse, those opposed to the current plans haven’t come up with any viable alternatives.

Their suggestion to keep the Aquarium roundabout and route pedestrians and cyclists through Pool Valley to the seafront is fraught with difficulties, even with the buses removed from there.

Any cycle track here would have blind corners, narrow gaps and sharp turns all in areas that pedestrians would be tempted to use, putting them in danger.

The latest plans released by Brighton and Hove City Council show significant changes in response to concerns raised.

While there are still some details to resolve, the plans are 90 per cent there. They will bring significant benefits to the city centre and make it a far more attractive place to be. Now we need to get on and make these improvements.

Chris Todd is a member of Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth.

  1. Billy Reply

    Another pile of crap written by someone who clearly doesn’t need drive a car on a regular basis for work.
    I am a cyclist and a pedestrian and I welcome most of the valley gardens proposals. But the complaints are about the way the needs of the motorists – including delivery vans, traders vehicles, buses, taxis and car owners on essential journeys – have been sidelined.
    As a van driver, I can tell you there are few ways across the city from west to east or vice versa, and the seafront A259 is one of the last remaining options. If you live in outlying areas – from Seaford to Shoreham – you’ll also know that the seafront road is often the ONLY route for the daily commute to work. So using the Palace Pier junction is unavoidable.
    Sticking pedestrian crossings right next to it is therefore dumb because there is no chance of getting across the junction without stopping and, under the new proposals, triggering the lights at the junction stops all the traffic in all directions, creating city centre log jams, frustration and extra exhaust pollution.
    Similarly, there has been little thought about bus routes through the new scheme. Where there is no lay-by for the bus all the traffic has to stop while passengers get on or off.
    On the plans I have seen, the cycle lanes also go right past the bus stops, leaving no room for bus shelters and setting up points of conflict between users.
    There is a lot of good about the plans but they still need tweaking to keep the traffic moving. If you hate traffic, as most of us do, then you might also like to pedestrianise the M25, putting out chairs and plants and opening coffee kiosks. But the point is that roads are still needed. As a tradesperson, I can’t carry bags of tools and sheets of plywood on a bicycle.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      By starting with “another pile of crap”, you take yourself out of the discussion. It does not sound as if eggs over easy is a part of your diet.

      • Billy Reply

        Christopher, yes, apologies for the initial language but I am so angry about this.
        It always amazes me how people can’t see the other point of view and in this case we get those who are lucky enough not to drive failing to understand why others have to.
        I support the idea of there being less cars on our roads and most of my friends who live in the city centre don’t need cars. But families with kids often do, and deliveries still have to be made. As a tradesperson, I still need to transport tools and materials all across the city.
        Above all, the public transport service needs to be quick and efficient (and affordable) for people to use it.
        The Valley Gardens scheme has been drawn up as an improvement for pedestrians but without thought about essential traffic. As a cyclist, I’m not sure about the cycle lanes either within these plans. However, with a bit of tweaking, the new scheme could work for all.
        So, I’ve just repeated what I said earlier.
        And, by the way, since you mention it, I don’t eat eggs.

        • Christopher Hawtree Reply

          Thanks for the reply! And, your early comment’s contents (interesting) were overshadowed by that opening sentence. Still, onwards!, it occurred to me later that a factor in all this will be the underlying, and complex, subject of driverless vehicles and automation. If managed well, and this is the crux, that could bring the chance for people to relish the greater things that brief life can bring. To walk along the Promenade from Hove is a joy, there is so much talk (as there was today), an easy-going spirit. And that is missing from the Steine area, which feels like a No Man’s Land. People often talk of how great Brighton used to be, but when one looks at photograps of that time, one is struck by how few automobiles are in sight. Good to hear from you.

  2. Keith Reply

    I remember when buses pulled over into a lay by. With Lewes Road and Dyke Road now having a place where buses stop is causing unsuspecting motorists to stop on the roundabout, which you should not enter if your exit is blocked.

    This is why the 7-dials roundabout is bad, traffic is building up as it was during the roadworks for it. The roundabout had space for 2 vehicles to stop side-by-side to go left and the other to go round. Removal of the railings means pedestrians cross at the roundabout and even stop on the brickwork, which is permissible for vehicles to go over it.

    Why do cyclists need to go first if they are just going to continue into a cycle track/lane?

    We need to educate them, not come up with stupid work arounds for their stupidity.

    The traffic lights at the Palace Pier – there are some there already, so how long will there be a red?

    I see so many traffic lights where they take forever to change, or change my route to red, so when I pass, no-one was ever there. Grr

  3. Rolivan Reply

    Why use Pool Valley why not East St via the small lane to the South of Marlborough House?

  4. Peter Challis Reply

    We should remember these changes are being made to improve access for pedestrians and cyclists is at the expense of motorists, and in the name of sustainability and reducing emission levels.

    No additional road capacity or alternatives (such as a real park and ride) are being provided and whilst “special interest groups” (such as BriCycles) were involved in the planning, there was no special input from anyone representing motorists was obtained.

    Much is mentioned about the benefits of reducing emissions, even though those in the town centre are below limits and were probably due to the older diesel (and chip fat) buses that are now being replaced with Euro6 and battery buses. Where there are apparently issues, such as in Trafalgar Road Portslade, nothing is being done.

    We also need to realise that the ever increasing parking fees from visitors is used to pay for concessionary bus fares and subsidise cycling facilities. As such the attack on motorists, and any impact of journey times (which it is unclear whether they will be monitored to see if modeled delays will occur) might lead to even more residents and visitors avoiding Brighton own centre and going to other nearby locations where they are welcomed which must really please businesses such as the i360 and Churchill Square

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