OPINION

Cycle lanes future should not be decided by just three councillors

Posted On 07 Jul 2021 at 9:51 am

On Tuesday 21 July, just three councillors – one from each of the three parties that are represented on Brighton and Hove City Council – are to decide all of the big cycle lane questions that have divided residents locally over the past year.

A meeting that should take hours is to be compressed into a fraction of that time, with just a few people speaking and a handful watching at home.

While my shoulders are broad enough to take such a decision, as one of the three councillors, it just doesn’t feel right.

The cycle lane debate/debacle affects all of us in the city to some degree and should therefore involve as many residents as possible.

On the table for discussions are four key cycle routes – the most controversial of which are the Kingsway and Old Shoreham Road cycle lanes. The other two are in Western Road and on the A23.

Also for discussion, slipped in at the last minute, is the possibility of a park and ride scheme in Westdene.

Debate on these controversial topics has raged for over a year now with numerous petitions being submitted to the council and various principled protests being held.

Public involvement at this latest stage is all the more important given the way in which respondents were not given a fair opportunity to express dissatisfaction when filling out the council’s own consultation.

The Conservative group wishes to see the meeting immediately revamped to include all 10 members of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, along with as many members of the public as possible.

If a democratic approach is not embraced, we will have little choice but to call an emergency general meeting of the council and go from there.

Whatever form that it takes, the meeting will be interesting. We go into the meeting knowing that the Labour group has reversed its position on the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane after much cajoling from me and Conservative colleagues.

They now wish to see the cycle lanes removed – only six months of increased traffic and pollution too late.

Some will welcome the change but all will see it as an unprincipled U-turn rather than the adoption of any sort of principled position.

Jams have become more common since the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane was extended

I will be making clear the Conservative position on the various components of the meeting over the coming days.

As a keen cyclist, I can’t help but feel that the Green administration has let the city down in a big way by introducing change in the most divisive way possible.

I am confident that a more grown-up approach to improve cycling facilities could have been found – one that did not involve upsetting a majority of residents in Brighton and Hove.

Coucillor Robert Nemeth speaks for the Conservatives on Brighton and Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee.

  1. Jonathan Simons Reply

    But your party were in favour of reduced size committee meetings on public health grounds….

    • Peter Challis Reply

      As of 19th July all restrictions will be removed, and they still seem to be keeping to 2m spacing in meetings, when 1m+ could probably be acceptable now.

      Don’t you want decisions made in the city to follow proper democratic procedures?

  2. Adrian Hill Reply

    NICE guidance on ‘outdoor air quality and health’ ng70 asks councils to consider such improvements such as a Clean Air Zone, better active travel provision, distancing traffic from pedestrians cyclists & bus stops, vegetation barriers, support a general shift from motor vehicles to more active travel, reductions in driver speed, setting buildings further back and many other recommendations.

    I’d like to see the proof that air quality and congestion have worsened. My source says that congestion for the whole of Brighton is lower for the same period compared to 2019 (ie it hasn’t increased like so many have claimed).

    Air pollution harms the health of the elderly, children, pregnant, those at risk from heart disease, those suffering with lung disease or asthma. Those who have the highest levels of exposure are most likely to be pedestrians, cyclists, children and bus users which often includes many from the most vulnerable groups. Thank you for raising air quality as an issue. I sincerely hope that air quality is taken seriously and the argument is not abused in political fights for power or by the motor industry. I hope the guidance is followed intelligently and the need for good air quality is recognised and acting upon swiftly.

  3. Nathan Adler Reply

    Not sure why Labour decided to scrap the OSR cycle lane, (politics or pragmatism), but it is the right decision and welcome. Perhaps in future all councilors will commit to not just putting in something prior to any consultation no matter what Government wants – its far more hassle in the long run.

  4. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    Cyclists often work out interesting routes. In 2010 – in a month of evenings – I got from Hove to Patcham – via Hove Park – in half an hour to pioneer a crucial area for Caroline Lucas (that is ninety minutes by ‘bus). And on Election Day itself I was there for telling at 7am, when Geoffrey Theobald, who arrived twenty minutes late in his Jag., was surprised to find me there (though, to his credit, we had jocular talk). Patcham vote proved to be Caroline’s majority of 1200 that year. A good time.

  5. James Reply

    Councillors generally don’t come from a background of successful careers. Why we should trust them to successfully delivery change is beyond me.

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