I was grateful to be allowed to speak in the debate on the Old Shoreham Road cycle lanes and the competing petitions last week at the full council meeting.
I found Councillor Pete West’s comments at the end of the debate worrying in as much as he seemed to be saying that the cycle lanes would be made permanent.
This is not what I would expect from the co-chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee.
It has yet to be debated there and he needs to keep an open mind on this issue.
Interestingly, Worthing Borough Council has also installed temporary lanes but made it clear that they will be monitored and removed if not used enough.
Many other councils have also installed temporary lanes including in Greater Manchester where they have now had to uninstall two lots of lanes.
This is far too pressing an issue to wait for the end of September when the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee next meets because the lanes have been in place since the middle of May.
We need an urgent decision now and that decision, in my view anyway, should be to remove the lanes.
After that, any consultation on cycle lanes needs to be limited to local people, well publicised and also needs to reach all residents, not just those who use the internet.
This is about local democracy and ensuring that all voices are heard.
We were assured by the council’s head of traffic management back in May that the lanes would be monitored closely but this has only just been put in place.
We keep hearing about the government telling us to install cycle lanes but they are not telling us to install them where they are clearly not wanted and of no use, ie, the Old Shoreham Road.
So here we are with cycle lanes in both directions from Hangleton Road to Sackville Road causing huge congestion at certain points at certain times of the day. And this without our schools being fully open. And for what? A small number of cyclists who may not even use these lanes in the winter.
A colleague monitored the usage of the lanes over a number of days and arrived at the figure of almost 98 per cent cars and just 2 per cent cyclists.
These lanes are simply in the wrong place and no amount of flag waving by various lobby groups will change that.
They are causing enormous disruption, were installed with little or no consultation and we had an online “survey” which excluded people who don’t use the internet – often older people who may well still drive.
I am a firm supporter of cycle lanes but they have to be properly planned, designed and consulted on. The temporary Old Shoreham Road lanes do not meet any of those requirements.
In the five years that I have been a councillor I have never received such an avalanche of complaints – many from residents who are cyclists themselves.
What also worries me is the damage that we are causing to the relationship between drivers and cyclists, with varying degrees of anger and vitriol being expressed – all caused by these badly planned lanes.
They need to be uninstalled. We can’t wait until the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meets at the end of September.
The congestion, inconvenience and disruption is such that action needs to be taken now.
Peter Atkinson is a Labour councillor for North Portslade on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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