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About these cycle lanes…

A lot has changed in our city recently, and people understandably have questions. We all need to get around, and we need to make sure everyone feels safe, however they travel. Here are a few things people have been wondering about the cycle lanes.

Why do we need these cycle lanes? Why was there no public consultation?

Covid has changed everything. We need to get around while socially distancing, and will do so for some time to come. Public transport is running at reduced capacity, and many people are scared to use it. The government has put in place legislation to quickly install protected space for cycling and more space for walking and provide funding for it. The measures taken are temporary and open to review.

It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money!

Money for this scheme is from central government, which has recently announced it wants cycling to become mass transit. We all pay for our roads, through central taxation. Cycling infrastructure is far cheaper than the rest of the road network – because bicycles are light, wear and tear on cycle paths is minimal.

Why can’t cyclists just use the road?

66% of UK adults don’t cycle because they don’t feel safe on our roads. Protected space allows more people to cycle. This is particularly important for children, older people and disabled people, many of whom find it easier to cycle than to walk.

Why are the pop-up cycle lanes on the Old Shoreham Road so wide?

In places where cycle lanes could not be accommodated alongside vehicle lanes, a vehicle lane has been reallocated to cycling. There’s no point in having dead space between the cycle lane and the vehicle lane, so at these points, the entire width has been incorporated into the cycle lane.

No one uses the cycle lanes on the Old Shoreham Road.

According to preliminary traffic monitoring data, cycling along the Old Shoreham Road has increased by 61% since the pop-up lanes were installed.

Usage will further increase once they link to the planned cycle lanes from Shoreham along the A270, providing a safe, direct cycle through Shoreham, Fishersgate, Southwick, Portslade and Hove to Brighton. Once children return to school in September, families will need a safe route to cycle to school.

Many roads that connect to the Old Shoreham Road are still unsafe to cycle along. Once these have been made safe, more people will be able to access it by cycle.

These cycle lanes are causing congestion and pollution!

There’s no evidence to suggest that cycle lanes cause congestion or pollution. This accusation was levelled at the east-west cycle lanes in London as a reason to remove them. Cycle lanes in London now move five times as many people as vehicle lanes and are an extremely efficient use of space. It’s worth remembering that the new cycle lanes on the A270 are only 1.7 miles long, of which roughly 1 mile comes from reallocated vehicle lanes. This contrasts to the hundreds of miles of road network in Brighton, much of which provides at least two lanes of moving cars, two lanes of parked cars and no protected space for cycling.

Congestion and pollution were a huge problem before Covid, across the city. Increasing space available to cars just brings more cars onto the roads.

There are already cycle lanes along the seafront. Why do you need more?

The existing lanes were very narrow – much too small for overtaking, and for cargo bikes, bikes with trailers or adapted cycles for disabled people. This meant that people were often forced to cycle on the pavement – dangerous for them and for pedestrians. The old lane is now eastbound only, while the new, on-road lane is westbound. The current arrangement is temporary. Longer-term, we need full-width cycle lanes, and they need to be separate from pedestrians and motor vehicles so that everyone is safe.

What about disabled people?

It’s essential that our cycle lanes are big enough to fit all kinds of cycle, including adapted cycles used by disabled people. At the moment, many parts of the seafront cycleway have no access from side roads, except by lifting your cycle over a kerb, which is impossible for anyone with mobility issues, or for users of adapted cycles and cargo bikes. The current arrangement with floating disabled spaces is not ideal, and we’ve put this point to the council, who have said that due to the constraints of this temporary scheme, it’s unfortunately the only option right now.

Parking spaces have been reduced along the seafront.

Some parking spaces have been removed to make way for the new cycle lanes. The number of disabled spaces is the same as before. There are still thousands of parking spaces across Brighton and Hove, many of which are close to the seafront.

What’s so wonderful about cycling anyway?

Cycling is often the quickest, easiest way of making a short journey. You don’t have to worry about parking or getting stuck in traffic. You’re out in the open air, keeping fit and generating endorphins, the body’s natural happiness chemical. You can easily stop for a chat with friends or neighbours. You’re not adding to congestion or pollution. Cycling is second only to walking as the cheapest form of transport.

You can’t carry a grand piano on a bike.

You also can’t fit an elephant into a Renault Clio. Different needs call for different transport solutions. You can, however, fit a trolleyload of shopping on a cargo bike. Or a double bass.

I don’t want to cycle.

You don’t have to. At the moment, all our city’s roads are safe to drive on, but many are unsafe to cycle on. This means that many people who would like to cycle are unable to. Currently, around 3% of journeys in the UK are made by bike. If we got that figure up to just 20%, there would be a huge reduction in pollution and congestion, freeing up vital road space for essential purposes and leaving more space on public transport for social distancing.

I’m still not convinced by this cycle lane malarkey. What can I do?

Because of Covid, things are changing very rapidly. The schools have not yet gone back. Many people are still working from home. Public transport is running at reduced capacity, and probably will be for quite some time. There has been huge change, and there will be more change to come. Let’s wait and see how things pan out.

If you still find yourself writing to councillors to say you don’t like the cycle lanes, please be as specific as possible about what you don’t like and consider how else Brighton & Hove City Council could increase cycling and walking in line with government guidelines.

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