The controversy surrounding cycle lanes along Old Shoreham Road – and now their removal – could paradoxically become a massive turning point for cycling in the city.
The debate is now properly out there with the city’s people. It is no longer just in the domain of a select few council peeps and agenda groups.
Almost everyone in the city has a viewpoint on it. Before it wasn’t something people gave much thought to.
I think most people in the city would like see more cycle lanes. It adds to the progressive uniqueness which we pride ourselves on as a city. They just need to be in the right places.
The debate has now moved on from having cycle lanes just for the sake of having them, the agenda tick box exercise they became.
There is now the opportunity to look thoughtfully at their introduction. Not only with residents backing them but so that introduction could possibly be led by them.
The debate has moved to properly integrating cycling into the patchwork of the city’s transport needs. It is no longer something to set motorist against cyclist – it can be made to work for both.
This can happen if it is properly discussed rather than a forced implementation. It will probably put certain councillors’ noses out of joint because they tried to make political capital out of the issue and it backfired.
They lost momentum and trust, especially after it was suggested they were manipulating the data and giving out false information as truth – and that they knew it. That was a massive own goal and got people riled.
Looking at it from an apolitical standpoint, viewing what each party can do on the issue, the ones who potentially can make the most political capital out of cycling is now the Conservative group.
If they put forward seriously thought-out options for new cycle lanes, they can grasp the initiative away from Labour and the Greens.
I’ve noticed the methodical way Councillor Robert Nemeth has been reacting to the significant increase in accidents on Portland Road, gauging public opinion and putting forward potential solutions that have had a strong positive reaction with people in that area.
If the Conservatives take that strategy forward and apply it to integrating cycle lanes across the city with local people’s consent, they could be on to a winner.
Similarly, having back-pedalled so furiously over Old Shoreham Road when they realised it was a local vote loser, Labour too is likely to learn from this and put forward new ideas in the hope of distancing themselves from the Greens’ imposition of cycle lanes.
I think it is fair to say that the Old Shoreham Road cycle lanes have dented people’s belief in the Green Party.
They stuck to dogma and pursued it relentlessly in the face of reason. The questionable use of statistics and being seen as careless with the truth was the start of their undoing.
But that’s the past and they need to move on from it. They too will need to create new initiatives as cycling is a natural policy for them.
Yet they will have to play it cautiously, making sure they have residents on board this time. Any attempts to force issues on an unwilling public will create a massive target for Labour and the Conservatives to exploit. There are less than two years before the next council elections.
So as I see it, all parties will have to look at introducing cycle lanes across the city and to consult properly and do away with the loaded survey forms designed to give a certain response.
Cycling could become the big winner on the back of this.
Yes, the council has been planning a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) for over two years as well as working on the Local Transport Plan (LTP) but again this has been done behind closed doors – and again by small numbers of council people and certain invited agenda groups.
They are not really involving the public or communicating with people to get them onside. It is such a missed opportunity not to do so.
We have to be honest here, council surveys over the past decade have been worded to give them the results they wanted and not a true understanding of what the city’s residents and businesses wanted or would be ok with. This is true regardless of whichever party has been in power.
The parties need to realise that things move faster if you are open with people, if you engage with the city’s residents.
This is a great city and additional cycle lanes in the right places will really enhance it – but you need to carry the people with you if you want it to happen effectively.
Mark Stack is an Old Shoreham Road resident.
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