OPINION

Labour is abandoning its climate change manifesto commitments with calls to scrap cycle lane

The Old Shoreham Road cycle lane


In May 2019, both Labour and Green parties went to the electorate with bold, visionary manifestos centred around action to tackle the climate emergency.

Labour’s manifesto declared: “Our current generation has to seriously address the issue of global climate change. To fail to confront this emergency would leave our families and children in a perilous position.”

It promised “a transport system with a focus on moving people not vehicles” and “a fully co-ordinated Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan.”

In similar vein, the Green manifesto asked us to vote for “a city which leads the way on tackling the climate emergency “ and which is “walkable, cyclable and crisscrossed by affordable electric buses”.

Both parties shared an ambition to deliver a carbon neutral city by 2030.

The response of the people of Brighton & Hove to these proposals was a resounding yes. Between them, the two progressive parties attracted two thirds of the popular vote and secured 72% of the available seats.

Brighton & Hove City council had already declared a climate emergency, and despite resignations and changes of administration it seemed that the impetus for real action on climate remained strong.

But when, almost a year after the election, the Covid-19 pandemic hit us, we saw what an emergency response actually looks like. Suddenly, both the council and the community swung into action.

Rough sleepers were found somewhere to stay, shielding residents were helped out by their neighbours, and extra space was made for active travel, as public health measures emptied the buses and school closures dramatically cut the level of car traffic on our streets.

A further year on, both Covid and the climate remain very much present dangers. The council’s mandate for decisive action on cycling and walking has been further strengthened by the fresh thinking of the Climate Assembly – a randomly chosen panel of 50 local residents, whose top recommendation was for a car-free city centre.

They also said: “cyclists should be prioritised over cars through well-designed dedicated cycling networks that are safe and practical for day-to-day use as well as leisure.”

So why has the Labour group on the council betrayed both their principles and the people who voted for them, by calling this month for the removal of the temporary cycle lane on the Old Shoreham Road?

Does the Labour group truly believe there is a climate emergency – demanding an emergency response at least on the scale of our response to covid – or are they full of hot air?

In an emergency, we expect our elected representatives to take swift action, to show some leadership. A consultation process spanning months, followed by vague promises of further consultation in future doesn’t look like an emergency response to me.

As a member of the Labour Party, I was particularly horrified to see councillors from my party fall into the trap of pitting “cyclists” against “drivers” in their attempt to score points against the other two political parties on the council.

This is no time for political game-playing. Labour councillors surely understand that the main beneficiaries of protected cycle lanes are not members of the despised minority group “cyclists” but people who previously did not cycle due to the danger of mixing with motor traffic.

The council’s own consultation report shows that 36% of the people who had used the temporary cycle lane would previously have made their journeys along that road by car, and monitoring shows substantial increases in cycling since the temporary lane was introduced.

To achieve the kind of substantial changes called for by the city’s voters and the Climate Assembly, we need councillors who are prepared to stand up for what’s needed, even if it’s unpopular with some.

I find it shocking that my own party’s representatives seem to be struggling to grasp the principle clearly laid out in the Conservative Government’s Gear Change policy:

“Physically segregated bike tracks on main roads, including at junctions, are the most important thing we can do to promote cycle use. They give people the confidence to cycle and dramatically increase the numbers of people cycling . . . They can be separated from traffic using a kerb, or lighter-touch materials which take less space, such as wands, stepped kerbs or planters. But they must be physically separated – not just on links, the stretches between junctions, but at junctions themselves, the places of greatest danger for cyclists. The routes must be direct. They must be continuous, not giving up at the difficult places. They must serve the places people actually want to go . . . and the journeys they actually want to make. If it is necessary to reallocate roadspace from parking or motoring to achieve this, it should be done.”

Above all, we need a proper network of safe, direct, protected cycle routes. Which is why it’s ludicrous to suggest, as the Labour group has done, that a cycle route should be located on Portland Road or Church Road instead of Old Shoreham Road.

People who want to cycle to the shops or other places on Portland Road and Church Road should of course have a safe way to do so, but this must be in addition to a direct cycle route on Old Shoreham Road – the only way to make cycling a feasible way to get to school for hundreds of children in the west of the city.

The heatwave in north America, and devastating floods in Germany and Belgium are yet another sign of the urgency of the crisis we face.

The people of Brighton & Hove are crying out for real change – when will our politicians find the courage of their convictions?

  1. Max Reply

    Safe, direct cycle lanes are needed otherwise people won’t use them. It’s the same for all ways of travelling. When Councillors realise this they will recognise how important cycle lanes are on the Old Shoreham Road. There are so many communities who will benefit.

    • Peter Challis Reply

      Except the OSR are not a direct cycle lanes that riders want to use. They prefer flatter Portland Road and New Church Road where there are no cycle lanes, or the A259 on the pavement.

      That is why we only see 1 cyclist using the OSR cycle lanes very 4 minutes and many continue to cycle on pavements to avoid traffic lights, and avoid crossing the queues of other traffic.

      Who are these communities that will benefit?

      BTQ – have you ever travelled along the A270?

      • Chris Harding Reply

        That’s rubbish!

        Every morning while I ride to my daughter’s school with her there are lots and lots of parents and children using the OSR bike lanes in both directions.

        I rarely see cyclists riding on the pavement, and when I do they’re most often school children who probably feel safer riding there instead of the road next to buses, lorries, vans and cars — all of which could kill them if, through inexperience, do something wrong.

        What communities does it benefit to provide 2 lanes of motorised traffic along Old Shoreham Road instead of 1?

        The cycle lanes along Portland Rd and Church Rd (which are both a huge way off and a significant investment in their own rights) should be in addition to the OSR one, not instead of.

      • Lindy Harper Reply

        These communities will benefit hugely from having a two-lane road again, as it should be through a residential area. They’re further away from a source of pollution.

        Cycle lanes are not about servicing existing demand. They’re about increasing demand by giving normal people (ie not lycra-clad racers) a chance to cycle. There will only be a boom in demand once north-south routes are made safe for cycling.

        I know you nimbies don’t like to believe it, but induced demand is a fact.

        You’ll still be able to drive everywhere, Peter. Nothing to fear there. You’re doing your best to narrow other people’s options.

        • val Reply

          The thing is, the council’s own figures show the Old Shoreham Road lane has seen reduced demand from cyclists, not induced demand, and the bike share numbers are down too. If the council consulted people, like it said on the BBC radio this morning, it might have come up with something cyclists wanted to use. We’re supposed to live in a democracy, not a dictatorship. But obvs you know what’s best for us!

  2. Steve Reply

    The headline is misleading. Labour has seen how the Council has created a road where pollution levels have increased. The pollution levels have increased there because as the Council’s monitoring shows, almost all the existing motor traffic has now been squeezed from two lanes into one.
    Previously, the route was congested at the morning and evening rush hour. Now there are traffic queues beside an empty and little-used cycle lane for many more hours every day.
    Sadly, the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane showed what happens when a Council acts without consulting the people who know best, e.g. the local residents, the people who use the existing road, and local cyclists. Most cyclists in Portslade and Hangleton head South to the flatter routes, like Portland Road.
    The 36% cited in the article is 36% of a very small number. Others might call it statistically insignificant, because almost everyone, the overwhelming majority, still drive. They don’t do it for the sheer fun of it. They drive because they need to get somewhere and, for now, cycle lane or no cycle lane, they need to use a car or van (an increasing number of which are electric).
    The poorly-designed Old Shoreham Road cycle lane has also displaced traffic to other routes like Portland Road, where pollution levels will also have increased.
    It is admirable to want to ensure there are better and easier ways to cycle around, but if the Council inflicts its ill-thought-through ideas on the people without talking to them, you get this sort of mess. I can only guess the author lives miles from the mess created by the Council. Perhaps counter-intuitively, there will be less damage to the environment once this cycle lane is gone. Well done to those Labour Councillors who have had enough sense to realise this.

    • Adrian Hill Reply

      Congestion as a whole in Brighton is down. The pollution figures have not yet been released. However, motor traffic is further away from residents, waiting bus users, cyclists & pedestrians and that will lower their exposure. There are more people choosing sustainable transport. For those reasons, I believe that pollution will have reduced. If over time cycling increases to London’s levels, this will ease congestion and pollution in the long run. NICE, DfT and Public Health England all recommend better active travel infrastructure.

      • Peter Challis Reply

        Nice Try.

        Is congestion down? Where are the figures to confirm this? Is it everywhere?

        The traffic data that the Greens claim supports a lack of congestion on the OSR is only by the old Jaguar showroom and only after the cycle lanes went in. They don’t include the areas by LIDL or Olive Road or have emission data anywhere along the OSR yet.

        And great that you “believe” pollution has reduced – again until the data is released how do we really know if this is the case or where it is occurring?

        And what to you mean by pollution, and has the increased congestion on the OSR actually made the overall situation worse there?

        Won’t moves to EVs and newer Euro 6 engines have a bigger effect on CO2 and NOx, and isn’t the main cause of particulates the wood burning stoves all the eco-activists purchased?

        And according to BBC News cycling and car journeys are now returning to pre-pandemic levels, much to the chagrin of groups like Sustrans – perhaps time to review where we place cycle lanes to get the best usage – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-57314807

        • Adrian Hill Reply

          Action needs to be taken on wood burning stoves for sure. Did you know that Brighton is the largest city in England without a city wide Smoke Control Area?

          The levels of particulates from motor vehicles are now around 50% from tyres, road dust & brake wear compared to exhaust emissions. EVs are generally heavier so likely to produce more non exhaust emissions. Some of the harm actually comes from noise pollution too and there is more harm from accidents of course. However, if we can reduce the diesel particulates by another 50% that will be great. Vehicles on the roads get replaced by around 6% each year so it will be a long time before they are clean and, considering BEV sales are still fairly low (10%), it will be a very long time before we have a fully EV fleet. One way to speed up the process of getting the most polluted vehicles off the roads would be to implement a city wide ULEZ / Clean Air Zone (or at least on the most polluted central areas in Brighton). That scheme reduced NOx by 36% in London (and likely particulates too). I personally, due to the emissions scandal, don’t fully trust euro 6 to be as good as they say but it does look better. During the real world tests, it is the manufacturer who drives the car around and they won’t drive the car to the same level of inefficiency as a boy racer! They may also know more about the optimal conditions to reduce emissions than a standard user.

          Yes, absolutely, I agree, wait until the data is out and measure. Had we have done that more with the emissions scandal rather than trust the motor industry then we might have stopped selling dirty diesel vehicles much sooner.

          Pollution levels have been doing a lot of harm in Brighton for far too long and we have become very complacent. We shouldn’t accept the illegal and toxic air we have in our city. They need to come down a lot before they are healthy. I think even if pollution levels were to increase a little bit, I think it would be right to factor in possible reductions in the future after more people find they can switch to cycling & walking. People really need to get on their bicycles and feet a bit more!

          Brighton still has lower congestion than 2019 and it hasn’t returned to pre pandemic. Congestion is about 10 to 15% less according to tomtom and has remained that way for the last few weeks. Council officers also confirmed there is no evidence of increases in congestion. I can’t find any evidence of it going up apart from observations; my observations have been that the road is clear during rush hours.

    • Chris Harding Reply

      Steve,
      The latest statistical analysis from Brighton and Hove council’s own monitoring show that there has not been an increase in congestion adjacent to the cycle lane.

      I quote directly from that report:
      “There is no evidence of a change in average speed along this route since the introduction of cycle lanes.”

      Your claim of increased pollution is simply not true.

      • Peter Challis Reply

        Nice try Chris – the traffic data that Green councillor Amy Heley
        claims support a lack of congestion on the OSR is only by the old Jaguar showroom and only after the cycle lanes went in. They don’t include the areas by LIDL or Olive Road or emission data anywhere.

        Perhaps verify your sources rather than naively believing was a politician tells you.

        • Chris Harding Reply

          Nice try Peter (if that is your real name).

          But you need to do some basic geography before you slam my data research.

          Yes, Lullington Ave is where the old garage was but Benfied Way is around a quarter of a mile away from there and one of the most heavily used areas of Old Shoreham Rd. Just up from Olive Rd — which, if you’ve done your research, has always been a massively congested cut through for motor vehicles. Traffic on OSR in these two places has always been heavy, even before the cycle lanes were introduced, because of volume of cars backing up to get down Olive Rd or down Boundary Rd.

          I doubt the figures for the Lidl would give anyone much information due to it being opened after the cycle lanes were introduced — so what would you be proving here? Certainly not that bike lanes around supermarkets and industrial estates increase congestion.

          Show me data from other sources if you have them before slamming research that you don’t believe in.

          • Madeleine

            Oh dear, Chris! How do the deliveries reach the industrial estate, or the trading outlets where the football ground was? How do the goods then get delivered to customers or taken away by those same customers? Not by bike. I don’t need research to know that. It just requires common sense. If the Council had only consulted the common people before throwing money away on an unwanted scheme, it could have spent it somewhere better instead, like Portland Road and New Church Road, and put in a cycle lane that cyclists actually want to use.
            Besides, Lidl was already on the cards when the cycle lane was put in along the Old Shoreham Road. The Council knew it was going to open and roughly when. It has unsurprisingly added to the car traffic.
            Your attack on Peter Challis is, sadly, typical of the zealots and disablists. He is very much real and more inclusive than you seem capable of imagining, let alone being. Are you real? Maybe you are, but you’re not *for* real!

          • John S

            Well, I’ve heard Peter Challis being interviewed by the BBC.
            I hope that Chris Harding might consider being kinder in his responses rather than trying to undermine the personal credentials of someone like Peter Challis.
            Incidentally, I used to love cycling before I came off my bike on holiday one summer and suffered internal injuries which mean I now rely on a car. I’d really rather not, but that’s the reality of my life.
            My disabilities aren’t visible to most people, but I’m uncomfortable with the way some people judge the way I get around. I was lucky in as much as I was able to buy an electric car.

          • Peter Challis

            Thanks for the support Madeleine and John S

            Seems Chris knows little about traffic in Hove and Portslade. He thinks Benfield Way is by the cycle lanes (it’s in Portslde) and confuses Church Road with New Church Road.

            I surmise he has never even travelled along the A270, but is another out-of-town pro-cycling anti-motorist activist.

    • Samantha Buksh Reply

      Any evidence for increased pollution? Didn’t think so.

      Given that the source of the pollution is cars, not bicycles, it’s the cars we need to get rid of, not the bicycles.

  3. Nathan Adler Reply

    Obviously Danni is unaware of Labour Party policy they plan to remove and relocate the lane so NO net loss. If Danni looks at the figures the lane is not encouraging cycling, (in fact according to the last count a 23% reduction). So in reality its making things worse and not better. Right idea, wrong place. As a city we need to critically get on board and understand that claiming every cycle lane works is as false as claiming every cycle lane is bad.

    • Gill Sykes Reply

      Huge net loss. Getting rid of the current lanes means losing the money spent installing them. Relocating them is not possible. What Labour are talking about is constructing new lanes elsewhere. This will take years, and thousands of money on consultation, and there will be just as much backlash – if not more, because parking will need to be removed.

      It also means losing out on round 3 funds of the ATF, which are conditional on correct use of previous rounds. Shoreham have just found this out at their expense, having ripped out a cycle lane after just 8 weeks because local drivists whinged.

      It’s lose-lose. Labour are likely to lose more votes than they gain.

  4. Chris Harding Reply

    This post echoes so many of my own thoughts and feelings about the Old Shoreham Road bike lane.

    If Labour continues to call for it to be scrapped they’re betraying:
    – people who are making active travel choices,
    – their own policies and manifesto,
    – voters who believed they would deliver on their promises,
    – the environment
    – the children of our city who rely on safe, active travel and a right to a clean, pollution-free city.

  5. Chris Harding Reply

    Steve,
    The latest statistical analysis from Brighton and Hove council’s own monitoring show that there has not been an increase in congestion adjacent to the cycle lane.

    I quote directly from that report:
    “There is no evidence of a change in average speed along this route since the introduction of cycle lanes.”

    Your claim of increased pollution is simply not true.

  6. Mary B Reply

    This is one a growing number of posts in favour of a Cycle Lane hated by those who have to live with it, and its effects. Those defending it always seem to be from somewhere else. If they lived where I do, they could see the congestion with their own eyes, and how few cyclists use it, and they could taste the extra pollution on their own tongues.
    I’ve never commented on here or the Argus before, but whoever runs this website seems to be setting themselves up against the people of Hove! They’re reflecting the views of a vocal and zealous minority, and not reflecting their readers views, concerns or wishes!
    Some of my neighbours have been more vocal, but I haven’t emailed the Council or any Councillors, or spoken to them, and I didn’t take part in the consultation, as I’m not usually very political.
    It’s obvious though, even cyclists shun the Cycle Lane for the flat roads further South, and so do I when I ride my bike into Brighton.
    One thing’s for sure, unless Labour ditches the horrible mess that the Council’s made outside my house, I won’t be voting Labour ever again. This Cycle Lane is doing more harm than good to my health and to dealing with Climate Change!

  7. dree Reply

    Labour will be fulfilling its climate change manifesto commitments if it votes to scrap a cycle lane that has led to more traffic congestion and where cycling is almost non-existent, especially if it opts for a better alternative on a flatter road nearer the sea, like New Church Road!

  8. Gina Jones Reply

    Once again, a story that’s long on invective and short on facts. I am a cyclist. Like most of my neighbours I cycle and drive. The writer is wrong, this is not about some despised minority. This is about evidence, common sense and an unpleasant reality created by the Council.
    I regularly rode along parts of the Old Shoreham Road before the cycle lane was there and I’ve ridden along there quite a few times since, although less than before, because I’m working from home a lot more.
    It’s good the Aldrington tunnel is easier to cycle through now. But the truth is, what ever the Council report says, the Old Shoreham Road is more congested more often. It’s doing more damage to the environment than the way the road was before. I bet Dani Ahrens doesn’t live in Hove!

  9. Rob Arbery Reply

    What was the point in a consultation if political parties do not listen to it? There is no ambiguity in the opinion of local residents-it is so clear the council have abandoned the extension. As to the actual data, the last cycle lane usage count was down 23%. If you average all 3 counts we are still seeing 1 cyclist each way every 4 minutes. I noticed the writer also proclaim 36% of those using it had switched transport. So in 14 months that is a grand conversion rate of about 120 people. If that is a measure of success then active travel in the city is doomed. Brighton as a city can do better.

  10. les Reply

    The Tories also promised to “promote activities such as walking and cycling” under their (then) leader Tony Janio, who is a regular cyclist. They promised to sort out the obstacles to a park and ride and install many more electric vehicle charging points. So all the parties promised broadly similar measures to tackle climate change, except the Greens on park and ride.
    The thing is, you still have to get the design right, and the detail, and get the public’s buy-in. And the reality is this badly-designed and little-used cycle lane is a waste of time and space and money. I wouldn’t use it. I love cycling, but this cycle lane gives cycling and all cycle lanes a bad name. It’s been nothing short of a disaster.

  11. Mark Reply

    Cyclists have voted with their wheels. They don’t use the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane. They cycle along flatter roads whenever they can.
    The council’s own consultation, despite being worded in a way which was designed to rig the outcome, still resulted in a massive rejection of the cycle lane, including by those describing themselves as cyclists.
    If democracy means anything, and the council wants the public to support measures to tackle climate change, the council really needs to listen.

  12. Jenna Reply

    My husband and both sons cycle to work from just north of Old Shoreham Road. One son works in Shoreham, my husband and other son work in Brighton. None of them use the new cycle lane. One son heads down to Manor Hall Road, while my husband and other son go into Brighton along New Church Road, and then the seafront. They’re not all-that-impressed with the new lane there either. I don’t understand why the council didn’t talk to real cyclists before all this. It sounds like they just listen to the usual suspects, with the loudest voices, spouting theory, but with no idea about what happens in practice in real people’s lives.
    We’re a Labour-voting household (for now), but we’ll be watching which way Labour votes later. As the only driver in the house (I’m not able to cycle any more), I’m especially upset by the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane, but I can assure you my whole family, all avid cyclists, are 100% agreed.

  13. KJ Reply

    My partner is a nurse looking after women who’ve had severe prolapses. She encourages patients to be active, fit and healthy, but many are simply unable to cycle. She encourages those with less serious conditions to try moderate cycling as it really can help, but a surprising number of women are prevented from cycling for genuine reasons around pain and discomfort, physical injury and potential further harm. Almost none of those women would be comfortable sharing the reason why they drive, because prolapses and everything that goes with them can be embarrassing for them. And I should add, some even struggle to drive. I admire the enthusiasm of many cyclists, but I wish they would understand other people’s genuine health needs in a population where the level of physical disability is surprisingly high, before you even get to the often-invisible issues that can also restrict people’s mobility.

  14. Sue Reply

    I get the feeling local Labour is going the way of Labour at a national level – don’t seem to have any policies or principles, just want to position themselves in relation to others and worse still, fuel a cyclists vs motorists culture war. As far as I can see Councillor Nemeth has done more to promote active travel around this area than Labour, with his petition for a crossing and discussion of 20mph limits on Portland road which would also improve safety for cycling as well as walking

  15. Della Reply

    Labour’s actually getting it right re the Old Shoreham Road today. At last. The consultation results back up the poor take-up from cyclists. Nice idea, but just in the wrong place.

  16. Dave Reply

    I voted labour, I didn’t vote for these cycle lanes. Nothing is green about creating traffic jams and having traffic at standstill so 2 cyclists an hour have a lane to themselves.

    The way the greens are going about this issue is disgusting and undemocratic and I’m sure they have lost a lot of future votes over this. Now that the majority of councillors have listened to the electorate and decided to remove this OSR cycle lane the greens are behaving like spoilt children, running to every press site to try their hardest to gaslight the issue, shameful.
    Build a park and ride and stop messing up the roads, the money can be spent on public transport instead.

  17. Austin Reply

    What everyone needs to realise about the council provided data, is that it is there only to “prove” their narrative. How was this data collected? All that has been provided is that the data was collected over a 16 hour period over 7 days. So what was it? ANPR and average speed cameras? Two people with speed guns? What? I’ll tell you now – is that, with that brief I could collect valid data and present in such a way that satisfied, no change, increase in average speed, or decrease in average speed – depending on which narrative you wished to “prove”. And this is the crux – BHCC desperately wanted to “prove” their narrative. And as we all know, they have in the past, employed very deceitful methods to achieve this.

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