In 2020, everything changed. Covid severely reduced public transport capacity, and the government responded by encouraging people to walk and cycle more to avoid gridlock. However, the majority of UK adults don’t feel safe cycling in traffic, so the government gave money to local councils through the Active Travel Fund to implement temporary cycle lanes and widen pavements (known as Tranche 1), and promised more money for longer-term projects (Tranche 2).
This has happened at the same time as the gradual realisation that our car-centric transport system is broken. Our roads and lungs can’t cope with the existing numbers of cars, and congestion, emissions and inactivity-related diseases have long been increasing. Given that 40% of urban journeys are under 2 miles, many journeys could be easily made on foot or cycling.
Before the pandemic, the government encouraged councils to develop a Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) in order to make streets easier and safer for cycling and walking. The LCWIP for Brighton & Hove is in its planning stage, and the public will be consulted on it soon.
Meanwhile, the council has been awarded £2.367 for projects under Tranche 2 of the Active Travel Fund to be delivered later in 2021, following a thorough public consultation which will begin in February. These projects include:
- Old Shoreham Road A270: westward extension of temporary cycle lane
- Kingsway A259: westward extension of temporary cycle lanes
- London Road A23: upgrade of cycle lanes and safety measures for junctions
- Western Road –permanent improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and bus users
- Madeira Drive: more room for cyclists and pedestrians and more disabled parking spaces.
The changes we’re undergoing in Brighton & Hove are part of a global trend. From East London to Lisbon, Seville to New York, planners are redesigning streets to make it easier to walk and cycle and reduce the need for short car journeys. The result is safer, calmer, more lively places to live and visit, where vehicle transport – including buses, emergency vehicles and private cars – is more reliable.
In Brighton & Hove, we’ve still got some way to go. Cycling rates along protected routes have steadily increased, but many feeder routes – such as Sackville Road, which runs from the cycle lanes on the seafront to the ones on the Old Shoreham Road – are still unsafe. Although it’s sometimes possible to use alternative routes, new government guidance says that cycle routes must be as direct as possible, and must be physically separated from dense traffic to keep people safe.
This year, we’ve seen just how many people enjoy cycling. The biggest barrier is safety. If just 25% of journeys in our city were made by bike, the positive impact on everyone else – including those who will never get on a bike – would be enormous.