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“When can I ride on the roads?”

The new Labour Administration in Brighton & Hove has a huge amount of work to do to make active travel a safe and accessible option for families in our city.

My youngest son is excited to have mastered his first bike with gears. He’s nearly 7 and has been asking me for months when he can ride on the roads. He remembers when his older brother was that age and got to ride his own bike all the time.

That was 2021 and the temporary cycle lane on the Old Shoreham Road was still in place. We could set off from our house, straight onto a wide segregated cycle lane where my eldest could ride his bike safely. It’s about 2 miles from our house into town and the whole route was on cycle lanes that kept my son separated from traffic. 

Since Labour and Conservative councillors voted to remove the temporary cycle lane in 2021, my eldest son has rarely ridden his own bike. The current network of cycle lanes in Brighton & Hove is extremely patchy with access to safe cycle routes inaccessible to many families like ours. 

The new Labour Administration in Brighton & Hove has a huge amount of work to do to make active travel a safe and accessible option for families in our city. What we really need is the rest of the cycle network as laid out in the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). It is of huge concern that Labour has just voted to halt construction of a fully funded, fully designed scheme along the seafront in Hove. 

We urgently need to make walking and cycling the easy option and encourage more people to leave their cars at home. Roughly 30% of carbon emissions come from transport. Public Health England estimates that air pollution leads to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year and that physical inactivity is associated with 1 in 6 deaths in the UK, estimated to cost £7.4 billion annually.

It may not seem essential for a 7 year old to be able to ride his own bike but he is perfectly capable. The lack of safe routes is the only thing standing in his way. By this age he’s too big to be ridden in a bike seat on a standard bike and the other options are a trailer or a cargo bike which can be unaffordable for many. 

A couple of weeks ago my eldest was at a birthday party so we had an afternoon just with our younger son. With 2 adults on hand I finally gave in to his pleas to have a chance to ride on the roads.

We had to start our journey on the pavement as without the temporary cycle lane the Old Shoreham Road is no longer safe to cycle along. Since the cycle lane was removed we actually head West from our house in the ‘wrong’ direction to access quieter roads. Once we turned down Aldrington Avenue we could let him cycle on the road, riding 2 abreast to keep him safe from traffic. 

We cycled through the Aldrington tunnel and onto the quiet roads of Poet’s Corner then spent a long time waiting for a safe moment to cross Portland Road and Church Road. We were only happy to attempt crossing these busy roads with an adult on either side of my son to protect him.

When we hit Kingsway we crossed the 4 lanes of car traffic at the pedestrian crossing and finally made it to the cycle lane going East where we could relax and watch our son enjoying his freedom. We had cycled a bit over 1 mile by this point to get to a safe, segregated cycle lane.

We made it as far as the Peace Statue and stopped for an ice cream. My son had a great time and was so happy to be riding his own bike ‘for real’. Sadly this is something we will rarely do. If we had both children with us we wouldn’t feel confident to keep them both safe on their own bikes.

Works on the Seafront A259 Active Travel Scheme were due to start on 12th June 2023. The design would have created more space for cycling and walking, reduced the number of traffic lanes, improved crossings for pedestrians and cyclists and increased the number of disabled parking bays. Delaying the project is estimated to be costing nearly £19000 a week in charges by the contractor.

The new Labour Administration says they will redesign the scheme ‘to deliver both a two-way cycle lane and keep current traffic lanes.’ The costs of terminating the current contract and any redesign are currently unknown. According to the council’s own report additional funding will be required for a design of this nature. There is also a chance that future funding from Central Government Active Travel Fund could be at risk if the project isn’t implemented. This is money that could have been spent on other active travel projects in the city.

Cllr Trevor Muten, chair of the council’s Transport and Sustainability Committee says “Cycle lanes are hugely important to our city and are a crucial part of our travel and sustainability plan.” I really hope this pause to the A259 scheme will be just that and that this administration is able to make good progress with delivering the LCWIP.  Many more new cycle lanes are urgently needed in the city.

Parents often ask me for advice on what bike they should buy to transport their kids. They would love to be doing more journeys by bike and leaving the car at home. They know how important it is for the planet, the local community and for their own health and wellbeing. The majority of people who I speak to don’t go on to buy a cargo bike. I don’t blame them when there are no cycle lanes in our area for them to ride on.

At the end of this council’s term in office my son will be heading off to secondary school. I know that he will want to be able to cycle to school but at the moment there is no safe route. This Labour administration has an opportunity in the next 4 years to change this.

27 December 2023 A link in this story has been changed because the original link (https://www.brightonhovelabour.com/2023/06/20/labour-announces-exciting-new-proposals-for-redesign-of-seafront-road/) has stopped working since Brighton & Hove Labour Party redesigned its website. The new link (https://web.archive.org/web/20230924175338/https://www.brightonhovelabour.com/2023/06/20/labour-announces-exciting-new-proposals-for-redesign-of-seafront-road/) is to a page on the Wayback Machine’s archive of Brighton & Hove Labour Party’s website.

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