Scrapping the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane could put future active travel schemes at risk.
West Sussex County Council has been told it is not allowed to bid for funding from the active travel fund this year because it took out the Upper Shoreham Road cycle lane.
The active travel fund is part of the Conservative government’s huge bid to promote walking and cycling.
The Decarbonising Transport paper published last week said £2 billion will be spent nationally towards measures allowing half of all journeys in towns or cities to be taken on bike or on foot by 2030.
Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris said other authorities would see a reduction in their allowances for similar reasons.
Locally, Conservatives have consistently been opposed to the Old Shoreham Cycle Lane, in contrast to the strong steer in favour of segregated cycle lanes from the national government.
Although it was installed while Labour were in power, its councillors have just said they now support removing it, despite the risk of future schemes not being able to go ahead as a result.
The chair of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability (ETS) committee, Councillor Amy Heley, said: “We were disappointed that West Sussex County Council removed their temporary cycle lanes and that they have now been excluded from seeking further active travel funding from the DfT.
“We know that other councils have also had their funding reduced based on the delivery of their bids.
“Clearly we would not want to see that happening here. But sadly that is a major risk everyone needs to be aware of when considering the future of new cycle lanes.
“When allocating funding the government looks at a council’s track record in successfully delivering projects the government has previously funded.
“A strong direction of the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund (Tranche 1) – for which we received over £660,000 – was that councils needed to demonstrate they can deliver on the projects they bid for.
“So far we’ve had a strong track record. This is reflected in the successful additional funding award of £2.37m received from government to progress Tranche 2 (Active Travel Fund).
“To meet the requirements of the bid, and our vision for active, sustainable travel for all our residents, the Environment, Transport and Sustainability (ETS) committee report sets out how we aim to make positive improvements to the temporary schemes using the consultation feedback and continue to monitor schemes as travel is still in a state of change.
“Failure to deliver projects would inevitably have a negative effect on our reputation with the government, as well as our ability to meet our own commitments and priorities, including the Local Transport Plan 5 vision, outcomes and principles as agreed at the June ETS committee.
“Through the funding it has provided this time round the government has made clear its support for our ambitious plans for improving active travel in the city.
“These plans for use of the Active Travel Fund will be discussed in detail at committee next week.”
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “We have been clear from the start that residents must be consulted and have their say, and they have told the council in no uncertain terms that the temporary cycle lane on the Old Shoreham Road is not working.
“For this reason, we will be asking officers to remove the temporary lanes on Old Shoreham Road and work with residents on finding an alternative route, such as on Portland Road or New Church Road.
“We are not just seeking to scrap the experimental cycle lane, but rather to relocate it so that it works for all road users, and we do not anticipate this having an adverse effect on government funding.”
The report before this week’s ETS committee says it would not be possible to reallocate the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane funding to alternative routes because of the timescales needed to design, consult and implement the schemes by the March 2022 deadline.
The consultation showed a clear majority of car drivers opposed to the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane, which has been blamed for increased congestion along that stretch of road.
However, two independent seven-day surveys of traffic between Lullington Avenue and Benfield Way in 2020 and 2021 showed no change in average speed along the route.
Cyclists who responded were generally in favour, with some saying they had switched from driving to cycling along the road.
The schemes which officers propose bidding for 2021/22 funding – and which could be at risk – are a new cycle lane along Marine Parade, making the widened pavements in The Lanes permanent and a feasibility study on improvements between St Peter’s Church and Preston Park, including Stanford Avenue and Beaconsfield Road.
However, even if the city misses out on funding this year, it is likely that more cycle lanes will be built around the city within the next decade.
Last week’s Decarbonisation Strategy said: “More than 300 cycling and walking schemes have already been delivered on the ground.
“Polling and the recent local election results have consistently shown that they are supported by the public, and court challenges to them have failed.
“Thanks in part to these schemes, millions of new people have found the confidence to get cycling.
“Cycling on roads has risen by 46 per cent in the last year, the biggest rise in post-war history and possibly ever.
“In the next few weeks, we will set out further policies to cement the growth of cycling and ensure that its success continues.”
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