OPINION

We all need safer streets – and that means making changes

Posted On 13 Sep 2020 at 12:05 am

The pop-up cycle lanes in Brighton and Hove have met with opposition, with some drivers saying they increase congestion and pollution and make access hard for those who have no choice but to use a car.

Bricycles – Brighton and Hove Cycling Campaign – busts a few myths.

Congestion and pollution are dangerously high across the UK, most of which does not have cycle lanes. Inactivity costs the NHS £1 billion a year. And the majority of adults in the UK say they feel our roads are too dangerous to cycle on.

Despite initial claims they were increasing congestion, cycle lanes in London now carry up to five times more people in the same space as car lanes and are key to reducing congestion.

In pedestrian areas, retail turnover is generally higher than in non-pedestrian areas.

Covid has put daily transport needs for all into sharp perspective. The government has directed, via its Cycling and Walking Plan and the review of the Highway Code, that making streets safer for walking and cycling must be a priority for all councils. Communities need to work together to make our streets safe and accessible for all.

“If you’re stuck in traffic, you are the traffic.” This is true for many right now. However, for some people, car use is essential.

We need to reassess the way we travel. If we don’t, essential car users, including some disabled people, much of the emergency services, some keyworkers and some businesses won’t be able to get where they need to be.

In Brighton and Hove, 40 per cent of households don’t have cars – plus covid means that buses have been running at 50 per cent capacity. We need a range of ways to get around.

According to cycling charity Wheels for Wellbeing, 65 per cent of disabled cyclists describe their bike as a mobility aid, so space for cycling and other wheeled mobility aids is an equality issue.

The more cars on our roads, the less safe people feel cycling, so the more likely they are to drive.

Fortunately, the reverse is also true. Thanks to the pop-up lanes, cycling in Old Shoreham Road alone has increased by a dramatic 61 per cent.

And when space is reallocated from cars to other uses, around 15 per cent of traffic evaporates as drivers switch to alternative means of transport or drop unnecessary journeys.

Our city has made a start on safer streets, but there’s a long way to go. In The Drive and on the seafront, you’ll see eight-year-olds and 80-year-olds cycling safely on protected lanes. We need all our roads to be like that.

Chris Williams

Portslade has some of the city’s lowest cycling and walking rates. It’s no coincidence that it’s sliced in two by a treacherous dual carriageway, which, in many places, has no pedestrian crossings.

Portslade also has high levels of deprivation and those who can’t afford a car are often left isolated.

Cities that are safe for cycling are more attractive places to live, with lighter traffic, leaving more room for people who depend on their vehicles.

The Netherlands, known for high rates of cycling, also has the world’s highest driver satisfaction.

We all want a healthy, prosperous city, with flourishing shops and services and healthy people.

People need a range of transport choices – and that means all our streets must be safe for cycling and walking as well as cars.

The risk, if we do nothing, is that every street will resemble a car park.

Chris Williams is project officer at the Brighton and Hove cycling campaign group Bricycles.

  1. DJ Reply

    This is really important, I want my daughters to grow up healthy and safe. Segregated bike lanes will help them and other children do that. They have been using the Old Shoreham road lane, which is a great addition because here in South Portslade we have very little access to cycle lanes to get into the city. When I have driven this route to transport my mother I have not seen much stationary traffic, I think it is possible to have space for both cars and bikes here. The seafront bike lanes only go as far as the lagoon and force my daughters to cycle on pavements for the remainder of the journeys. A fully integrated cycle network across the city would give the option to cycle to a lot of bike curious people across the city but it takes time and understanding to find the best solution for all road users. Pop-up bikes lanes give us a chance to try different options to see what impact they have, as traffic modeling is not an exact science. We should be considerate of each other and try to find ways of making our city a safer, healthier and more pleasant place to be.

  2. Nathan Adler Reply

    Absolutely no planning and no consultation has meant that cycle lanes like the OSR are the right idea in totally the wrong place. If we take the figure as 60% as true, (and I believe shortly we will see independent data that shows it is not), that is still only 2% of the entire usage of traffic on the OSR about 18 bikes each way per hour – and yet 50% of a major arterial route is given over. This does create extra congestion and pollution, (and as we saw in London even XR activists understand this).It also displaces the traffic elsewhere with rat runs making streets which were benefiting from the OSR as an arterial road now suffering. I cannot understand why these cycling fanatics are so defensive over ‘temporary’ cycle lanes – the word means they are not permanent. Both sides of the argument think they are the popular opinion so lets get on with a proper local consultation – see what local residents and businesses want and settle this once and for all.

    • Peter smith Reply

      Nathan Adler absolutely agree

  3. K. Smith Reply

    ”According to cycling charity Wheels for Wellbeing, 65 per cent of disabled people use a cycle as a mobility aid, so space for cycling and other wheeled mobility aids is an equality issue”.

    I’d call rubbish on this. I know of many with disabilities that can use a form of assisted bike/ trike but literally for short distances, (less then 50 meters), and certainly not along major roads. Yes it’s a mobility aid but if you are seriously arguing those with the most severe mobility issues benefit from the OSR cycle lane you are deluded. Plus with 13500 Blue Badge holders nearly all of these are unable to cycle – it is not an option they need the roads to work.

    • Heidi Reply

      K. Smith: thankfully, you’re wrong. Many (not all) Disabled people can and do cycle, and distances far further than 50m. Trikes, handcycles, bikes, tandems, wheelchair hand-cycle attachments etc all allow Disabled cyclists to stay fit, healthy, mobile, and independent, and are able to go as far as an able-bodied cyclist (on main roads if they feel safe doing so). Just a couple of examples:
      https://metro.co.uk/2020/09/07/handcycle-wheelchair-commute-to-work-13211641/
      https://wheelsforwellbeing.org.uk/amanda/
      https://wheelsforwellbeing.org.uk/ricks-journey-into-handcycling/
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=houR3B2b27I

      • K. Smith Reply

        ‘Many’ = a few. It’s great that some with disabilities are able to cycle but the campaigning group you site here supports only a 1000 people (in the entire country). I work in a special needs school in the East of the city and for 98% of those pupils these cycle lanes deliver no benefit they simply would be not safe without assistance and the distance and topography would be far to many for nearly all. It’s great to see them on there trikes/ bikes in the playground but it is hugely disingenuous to call it an ‘equalities’ issue. This seems to only have come up after disabled groups called out the diabolical planning of some of these temporary schemes and the complete lack of consultation. I would be very interested to know the exact number of disabled cyclists that use the new cycle lane along the A270.

        • Heidi Reply

          Yes, Wheels for Wellbeing does only support a small number of people directly, but giving that it’s a very small organisation based in London with only half a dozen members of staff, it’s hardly suprising that it doesn’t directly support Disabled people nationwide. There is scope for more Disabled people to cycle than currently do: Sustrans found that 31% of Disabled people would like to cycle if given the opportunity. One aspect of creating this opportunity is developing safe and accessible infrastructure – this is consistently cited as the main barrier to cycling by Disabled cyclists (the other being the cost of cycles). This could allow some of your pupils (in addition to other groups who can’t cycle without assistance) to cycle with others on an adapted tandem. For Disabled people who can’t cycle (or any other trips that can’t be done by cycle), better cycling infrastructure is still beneficial, as if more people cycle, fewer short trips are made by car, and congestion is reduced.

          It is an equality issue, and it’s not a new issue that’s only come about recently. Wheels for Wellbeing and Beyond the Bicycle have both been campaigning for better inclusive cycling infrastructure for several years. COVID and lockdown has made good cycling infrastructure more important for Disabled cyclists, as Disabled people are more likely to have been shielding (with a detrimental physical and mental health impact) and cycling provides an opportunity to exercise and rebuild fitness in a safe environment. Some Low Traffic Neighbourhood/Streetspace schemes can be poorly thought through, and can create access issues, but the solution is to engage with the whole Disabled community to adjust the scheme and resolve the issue, rather than simply remove the whole scheme. Part of the thinking behind LTN is to create infrastructure that prioritises active travel over private car use, thereby discouraging unnecessary car journeys and reducing congestion. However, this can only work if the trial scheme is left in place long enough to see if people’s behaviour changes. This doesn’t preclude small adjustments, but that’s not the same as removing it entirely. The number of Disabled cyclists who have used the new cycle lane to date might be low, but this might increase as Disabled cyclists feel able to start cycling more often (it may also be the case that a Disabled cyclist is using a standard bicycle, and therefore doesn’t ‘look’ Disabled).

  4. Rolivan Reply

    If Bricycles could come up with Cities with the same topography as Brighton and Hove that have found a successful way to get around on a bicycle then I would be the first to congratulate them.Surely giving over narrow roads to bicycles could be a solution in places like Hanover where the majority of residents are Students so do not need a car.Places like New Church Rd and all of the Avenues especially near Hove Town Hall are ideal for the introduction of cycle lanes.
    There is a Cycle route right along the coast (including the south side of Aldrington Basin so all it needs is to provide access along the way at intervals for those heading North.

    • Idgie Reply

      Maastricht

    • Asterixobelix Reply

      You clearly do not live anywhere near Hanover. The majority are not students and we live up some of the steepest hills anywhere in the city and there is only one bus that comes up here once an hour. So yes we do need our cars although we all walk whenever we can.

  5. Tintin Reply

    There has been a cycle lane along Hove seafront for several years. So why was it necessary to provide yet another one, running parallel with it, but in the main road? Also, why are the “temporary” (that’s a laugh for a start) cycle lanes in Old Shoreham Road so wide? I recently saw an ambulance, which was unable to overtake other vehicles, having to drive into, and out of, the cycle lane., which fortunately, as per usual, was unnocupied by cyclists. Luckily the driver managed to avoid the silly, pointless and hideous poles, and get back into the main traffic when it was convenient. There are dangerous and confusing places all around the junction with Nevill Road, as a result of this badly thought out arrangement.

    • Idgie Reply

      The cycle lane on the seafront is not fit for high levels of two-way traffic- with the exception of the short stretch between the peace statue and the i360, it’s dangerously narrow. This was observable for much of the spring and summer as the lane was clogged and busy, making it dangerous for cyclists and for pedestrians trying to access Hove Lawns. The seafront lane is both popular with tourists unfamiliar with the city and with people who are not habitual cyclists and have trouble controlling their bike, so it needs to be extremely accommodating in ways it currently is not.

      The new lane is supposed to be for westbound cycle traffic with the existing lane being used for eastbound, however this is incredibly poorly integrated and signposted so many people are travelling in the wrong direction on both lanes.

      As your anecdote aptly demonstrates, Tintin, cycle infrastructure can also be a very useful mechanism for emergency vehicles to navigate roads that would otherwise be completely blocked by people making unnecessary car journeys. I’ve seen dozens of emergency vehicles stuck in traffic on Brighton roads with no way of getting through and attending the situation where they’re needed. Maybe if people thought more of others and left the car at home sometimes- or maybe if we made it as easy as possible to travel by some means other than by car- it wouldn’t happen so often.

  6. Dave Churchill Reply

    Two comments from me.
    If cycling on OSR has increased by 61% there must have been no-one cycling in the first place judging by the cyclists I have seen.
    As for the comments that no congestion has been seen why do I now have to avoid the area at rush hours as I didn’t need to prior to the temporary cycle lanes?

  7. Billy Reply

    This is obviously an article from a cycling lobby group.
    It’s unfortunate that they have to resort to lies to argue their (our) cause. There’s nothing worse than unwanted cycle lanes that are in the wrong place.
    I’m a cyclist but I’m also a van driver and I commute to Lewes at the moment, leaving Hove via the Old Shoreham road.
    There are never any cyclists on the new old Shoreham road cycle lanes. Most cross city cyclists will drop down to level ground like Portland Road.
    As for road safety, you just have to look at the mess the new duplicated cycle lanes have made of our seafront to realise there is no benefit in terms of road safety as it’s now chaos for residents and visitors trying to cross the road through the multiple disorganised lanes. The traffic jams created also mean more pollution, and a worse city transport infrastructure.
    I use the old seafront cycle lane on several days per week and at weekends and prefer to be on that original section rather than on the road. Most cyclists seem to be ignoring the new section.
    If you want to argue for cycle lanes – and for better public transport – then fine. But we deserve better than this current stupidity, as imposed by an ideology-driven cultist council.

  8. Max Reply

    There’s nothing more dangerous for vulnerable road users than traffic. That’s the problem – there is too much traffic but you can’t blame drivers because road design has been favouring motor vehicles for decades. It discriminates against people who would like to walk or cycle. That choice has been taken away.
    Of course, to walk or cycle are cheaper than using a car so people with less money are more likely to want to travel by foot or bicycle. The upshot is that by designing roads in favour of motor vehicles, people with less money have less choice about how to travel safely.
    And if they can’t afford to travel safely, they have fewer opportunities to get work or enjoy what the city offers.
    Everybody wants the roads to be safer for everybody. Let’s start by giving everybody choice about safe ways to travel. Let’s give vulnerable road users a fair chance.

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