Thursday, 25 February 2010

Brighton cycle lane scheme scrapped - good decision, bad reasons

The Old Shoreham Road (OSR) Cycle Lane Scheme was scrapped last week. The scheme promised to deliver an important cycle lane linking Brighton, Hove and Portslade. But the Tory controlled Council Cabinet for the Environment scrapped it, giving no reasons and offering no replacement.

Last year I wrote about the scheme (2 Nov 2009). I quoted Green Councillor Ian Davey saying it was "next to useless" for its intended purpose: getting 7,000 school children to cycle to school every day. He was right to say that. The unprotected and broken lanes in the midst of heavy traffic would have meant the scheme was either going to cause casualties, or would have been a waste of £600,000. The money would be better spent on a smaller, more effective scheme, than wasted on window dressing or lip service.

Thirteen children and 141 adults were killed or seriously injured on the city's streets in 2008-9, and cycle casualities rose by 6.8% in Brighton and Hove last spring.

Ideally, the OSR Cycle Lane Scheme should have been extended to provide safe cycling. The scheme was part of Brighton's status as a 'Cycling City'. It is also in line with Government policy to get children to cycle to school. Every morning we can see children attempting to do this, and they end up cycling along the pavements, which is against city bylaws. If we are going to achieve our objectives, serious transport planning has to be undertaken, not lip service.

The Conservative Party in control of the Council Cabinet is pro-motor car compared to the other parties. They lost control of the Council when they lost a by election ward last year. But they retain control of the Council Cabinets due to the constitution. The Tories did not initiate the Cycle Lane scheme; it was a Labour policy in place when they squeezed into power in 2007. In my opinion the inadequacy of the cycle lane scheme was due to the Conservative controlled council's lack of serious interest in sustainable transport in the city. It was a half-measure doomed to failure.

Sustainable transport and safe cycling schemes are possible; look at Copenhagen and Amsterdam. The reason this one failed is because the Council didn't plan it properly, and that is ultimately due to lack of political will.

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