Friday, 25 February 2011

Cllr Mary Mears says she's "not anti-cycling" - safety is reason to scrap cycle Lane, but admits safety improved

Councillor Mary Mears
25 February. Earlier today Conservative council leader Mary Mears said the reason for the plans to demolish The Drive Cycle lane was for safety, and she expected the cost to be less than the £1.1m budgeted.

Cllr Mears said: "I am not anti-cycling by any means – I think that the seafront cycle route is a fantastic resource for example and is used by thousands every day. We are also actively looking into the possibility of a ‘Boris Bikes’ type cycle hire scheme here in Brighton & Hove as we fully recognise the health and environmental benefits that cycling can bring.... However, my primary concern as Council Leader has to be ensuring the safety of residents."

These safety concerns are contradicted by the statistics she quoted in her blog.

I checked Cllr Mears blog on the advice of the Council Press Office when I asked for clarification today. Cllr Mears makes 5 main points:
1. The cycle lane was not devised under her administration, it was agreed by the previous (Labour Admin). (It came out of the 2000 Local Transport Plan to promote sustainable transport).
2. She says the lane is not well used though does not back this up.
3. She says the Drive Cycle lane is unsafe. But she contradicts this in the next sentence: "There remain serious safety concerns with the cycle lane. Thankfully, the number of accidents have dropped slightly over the last couple of years but there were still 42 casualties between 2008 and 2010. For what was originally sold as being a safe segregated space for cyclists, to me this is completely unacceptable."
Dedicated readers of this blog will already know that the Argus printed the casualty figures which showed a 20% drop in accidents along the drive since the cycle freeway was built.
between 2005 and 2007 there were a total of 41 accidents and 52 casualties along the entire stretch. Between 2008 and 2010 this dropped to 32 accidents and 42 casualties’ Brighton Argus
To make matters worse for Councillor Mears' safety argument, this significant reduction in casualties comes over a period when cycle casualties have been rising in the rest of city. This is partly to be expected as cycling increased by 27%, but also due to the haphazard provision of cycling facilities in the city. Cycle lanes disappear in the most dangerous places, in pinch points.

Points 4 and 5 deal mainly the money to demolish the lanes - she thinks it will cost a lot less than £1.1m  and that includes provision for £300k they might not have to repay to Cycling England because she says, "the quango is about to be abolished", and it is a one-off payment.

Mears makes it clear cycling is not something she does. "All of these issues beg the question as to why the cycle lane was installed in the first place. Bricycles stated in their submission to the consultation at the time that ‘Grand Avenue is currently not a difficult road to cycle in for people with average cycling skills.’ And cyclists have told me that this complete segregation is actually counter-productive as it makes both drivers and cyclists less aware of each other, particularly at the road junctions and where driveways cross over."

Cllr Mears does not refer to the argument in favour of segregated cycle lanes - they are there to encourage the less able cyclists, the young or timid in a country where cars have priority on the urban roads (unlike the on the continent).

Cllr Mears says the route is not well used, but doesn't supply figures. According BH Council website: "Monitoring in June 2008 indicates around 250 cyclists per day". This is set against thousands who use the seafront route. But the Drive route was never fully implemented, eg safe crossing at Old Shoreham Road (OSR) not installed, OSR cycle route cancelled altogether.

She does touch on what is probably the real issue for her car driving constituents: cyclists coming at speed down the cycle free-way make it hard for cars to come off the road and into their driveways. They've got to wait for a gap. And if the cycle free-way takes off, with cyclists flying up and down the route from South Downs to the sea, this can only get worse.

So far as being "not anti-cycling" goes - my blog entry of earlier shows that the Conservative admin is at least pro-car and wants to reverse sustainable transport policy. They are happy with cyclists so long as they do not affect the rights of the car.

Cllr Mears has not mentioned what might replace this cycle route, but from what she says, quoting Adam Trimmington's piece in the Argus "it is ‘the wrong lane in the wrong place'" it sounds like she has got it in for the whole cycle lane from the South Downs to the sea. No plans to replace it with any kind of cycle route. Not even sensible talk of making it a mixed use. The wrong lane in the wrong place? What is the right lane in the right place, to give access to the Downs and the sea and connect both with Hove station? We need a cycle free-way.


  1. I posted a comment on Councillor Mears blog:

    Dear Councillor Mears,

    Thank you for the post. I do have a personal interest - I am a cyclist and am committed to green issues - but I think we all want to see a lovelier Brighton and Hove. This is not just about one cycle lane, its about a cancellation of two other important cycle lanes other last year or so, and your moves to repeal council's commitment to sustainable transport - in favour of increased facilities for cars.

    Seems to me there is a gulf in understanding. Surely we all agree it would be better if more people used buses and cycles to get to work and school? Do you really think they will do this if the roads remain choked and dangerous with frustrated private cars? Even now school kids have no choice but to cycle to school along the pavements (Old Shoreham Road).

    How can this situation be changed? By "modal shift" - if more people use public transport, or walk, cycle to work (like 27% of people in Holland vs 2% in UK do), then there will be less traffic on the roads, and traffic will flow easier, and both buses and cars will move faster and air pollution will reduce.

    This is apart from the strategic importance of the cycle freeway connecting South Downs to the Sea via Hove Railway station.

    Lastly, please note, your safety argument doesn't work - as you note, casualties dropped after this cycle lane went in so we can only presume they will increase after you remove it - if you succeed with your plan.

    There are issues with driveways crossing the lane. They haven't resulted in increased casualties, they reduced them.

    Please, this is an opportunity for visionary thinking! Think of a better cycle freeway before you destroy this one.

    Russell Honeyman

  2. this is a good article.
    I think what you describe as "the real issue" is probably correct. That is "car driving constituents:" who have to focus more on cyclists coming at speed down the cycle free-way make making it hard for them to come off and on the road and into and out of their driveways."

    I think this is what has resulted in the lack of accidents over the past years because
    the cycle lane forces the car driver to concentrate twice as much they did before when entering and leaving a stream of traffic.
    Without the cycle lane a driver leaving it's drive way and entering traffic would simply have 2 things to worry about. Namely pedestrians and oncomning traffic but the cycle lane forces the driver to be extra cautious almost vigilant. Now the driver has 3 things to look out for. Pedetsrians, cyclists in the cycle lane and the oncoming traffic from the main road.
    This may seem a lot to think about and may seem uncomfortable and frustrating for a driver that is so used to simply pulling out from his driveway into traffic but we can argue that this cycle lane forces drivers to slow down and concentrate when entering and leaving the stream of traffic and lifts them out of complancency which they may have fallen into in the past.

  3. The 'accident' figures are interesting, especially as you point out the 27% rise in the number of cyclists in the city. Without the cycle lane I would therefore expect a possible 27% rise in accidents on the 2005-07 figure: from 41, to 52. However, we see that there have been just 32 accidents since the building of the cycle lanes. I would therefore forecast a 60% increase (from 32 to 52) in accidents should the cycle lanes be removed. I hope I got my maths right, maybe you could check for me. Richard Sothcott.

  4. There are options to allow drivers safe access to their driveways. They can install a "shop" mirror on the drive so be able to see the lane and any cyclists.

    Also on-street parking can be removed in favour of a decent multi-storey style car park. This too will aid visibility.

    At particular junctions you can even install lights to warn of cyclists approaching. We have these in Southampton:,+Southampton&aq=0&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=12.948388,43.198242&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Saltmarsh+Rd,+Southampton+SO14+3,+United+Kingdom&ll=50.897809,-1.391444&spn=0,0.021093&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=50.898466,-1.392294&panoid=NeENAQXTUGZXuZ32-CmTlQ&cbp=12,44.83,,0,10.58

    Sorry for the link.. Its the sign over the bollard on the right. It senses movement or is triggered via magnetic sensors (not always ideal)

    The best option is generally to remove on-street parking... but to remove cyclists would just be daft.