Active travel is the way forward for much of this city and pursuing such an aim is the right thing to do. So why would getting rid of the Old Shoreham cycle lane help with that?
We were told back in May 2020 that the cycle lane was “temporary”. Officers and councillors would monitor its usage and impact and decide if it would be kept.
We now have a “consultation” to assist them with that decision – and I would encourage everyone to fill that in, regardless of its flaws.
Initially, we were told the cycle lane would help to encourage active travel and Brighton and Hove City Council trumpeted the 61 per cent increase along the temporary stretch – even if that only meant 11 cyclists each way an hour.
Now, after a recent “freedom of information” (FoI) request, even that figure is becoming unpicked.
The comparison is with data over four years old. Data has been lost. And looking at the actual usage figures on the new part of the lane, it’s around half the average of the entire road.
Encouraging cycling is looking very tenuous. Are there perhaps better routes for the west of the city?
Secondly, we were told that this cycle lane was for safety issues but when you drill into the council’s own data, there has never been a serious or fatal accident with a cyclist on the temporary part of the lane in the past five years. And that is over 440,000 journeys, using Department for Transport figures.
In fact, looking at accidents, money would have been better spent on protecting pedestrians. So is there a safety issue or, again, would the lane been better placed elsewhere to protect far more cyclists?
Of course, the third popular reason is about improving the environment. But with no environmental impact assessment, we have no data to look at. There is no evidence one way or the other.
All we can do is listen to the very vocal local residents and look at the videos that show traffic standing in long queues as what were once quiet side streets are used as rat runs.
The planned extension could also have a worrying impact on harbour traffic coming down the A293 on to a road with just one lane and not two.
Let’s hope the traffic modelling has been done correctly for this, unlike the seafront roundabout cycle lane fiasco.
Again, is the cycle lane actually a benefit for the environment? Or could it actually be detrimental?
Finally, does this scheme have popular support? Well, polls in the local press, the size of certain online groups, the council’s own survey and the way Conservatives seem to be targeting the four Labour Portslade councillors – I think they smell blood if Labour backs this – show the vast majority who live by the Old Shoreham Road are against the cycle lane.
Other schemes simply do not get the reaction the A270 scheme seems to illicit.
If the council wants to encourage active travel and truly engage with the local population, it needs to ensure that schemes actually work and they are supported.
An ill-thought-out, badly planned, terribly monitored and poorly used scheme like the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane, which the council steadfastly refuses to remove, means that no one will ever trust the word “temporary” again – and the electorate will remain suspicious of all future active travel plans.
It could indeed scupper the future Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan consultation.
It’s far better to say that we tried, we listened and it didn’t quite work so let’s look elsewhere.
Rob Arbery is the moderator of the Remove the A270 Cycle Lane Facebook page.
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